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Fashion forward: Nikki Phillippi

Local woman uses YouTube to answer questions, starts her own business

Posted: February 5, 2013 11:18 a.m.
Updated: February 5, 2013 11:18 a.m.

Dan and Nikki Phillippi watch her YouTube fashion channel at Nikki's home office in Valencia.

 

Nikki Phillippi, 25, looked up into the camera and paused, breaking into a smile that was all teeth and pink lipstick.
She tilted her head slightly to the right and let her sleek, black curls fall off her shoulder. Her eyes, lined with thick black lashes, widened as she decided on her answer.

“I’m a full-time YouTuber!” the Valencia resident said, describing her occupation to the team of cameras encircling her.

In her small spare bedroom popping with fluorescent fashion, Phillippi was at work.  

When she started in November 2010, Phillippi wasn’t given a title. She isn’t confined by a job description.

She and her husband, Dan Phillippi, 26, have crafted their career with equal measures of hard work and unbridled creativity. Mixing their explosive charm and willingness to risk it all, the Phillippis established a YouTube video career popular enough to support their comfortable lifestyle in a Valencia apartment.

“It just means that I make a lot of YouTube videos,” Nikki said, swaying her shoulders and laughing with her characteristic giggle.  

Seven days a week, the Internet personality couple edits and uploads YouTube videos to two channels: a weekly lifestyle channel featuring beauty, fashion, health and wellness tips; and a daily video blog, or vlog, which features the couple’s thoughts and daily life.

Starting this Wednesday, Nikki will also be featured weekly on Signal Multimedia’s website, signalscv.com, in a show called “Nikki Goes Shopping.”

The video series will feature the Phillippis shopping at Westfield Valencia Town Center.
Nikki will share her favorite products in clothing, accessories, makeup and home decor, providing a localized version of her lifestyle channel on YouTube.

“I don’t claim to be an expert. It’s going to be like shopping with a friend. I’ll share the stuff that I like and hope that other people like it, too,” Nikki said.

On Wednesday’s episode, Nikki will walk viewers through a Valentine’s Day gift-buying guide, providing tips and ideas for men and women.

With their Internet career taking off, there are more than 22 million total video views and over 350,000 subscribers between their two YouTube channels alone. The couple has snagged enough virtual attention to require a manager.

“It’s like an agent or a manager for an actor, except for YouTube,” Nikki said.

Big Frame, a prominent YouTube talent agency, represents the Phillippis and manages their contract with that Internet venue.

“We have some of the biggest talents on YouTube, and I would definitely count Nikki as one of them,” Lisa Filipelli, the Big Frame talent manager that represents the Phillippis.

Filipelli expects “mainsteam deals”— television appearances, commercials, endorsements and product lines — for the couple within the next year, as long as they continue to grow their YouTube presence.

The Phillippis already have a solid fan base that shows up to events and conferences to take pictures with the couple they feel they know so well, Filipelli said.

“I never thought in a million years I’d be doing this,” said Dan, who assists with all aspects of production.

About a year ago, Nikki did not expect that the Internet and her daily life would combine to create a family business.

Homeschooled in Valencia, Nikki grew up dancing, acting and singing professionally. In addition to commercials, she worked her way through surrounding theme parks and secured a dancing gig with Universal Studios in Singapore in 2010.

“We gave up everything to go,” Nikki said.

While abroad, she reinjured her knee, and the risk seemed to dismantle their lives.

Returning home, they moved into Nikki’s parents’ house, and Dan found work with a local steel company.

If they hadn’t lost everything, including her future as a dancer, Nikki would have never found YouTube, she said.
Waking up one October morning in 2011 with YouTube on her mind, Nikki picked up a camera and took her first shot.

“Within 10 minutes, I took it down. I thought, ‘This is stupid,’” Nikki said. “I was so embarrassed.”

One month later, she repeated the same pattern. Finally, inspired by a radio show guest that created a career on YouTube, she posted a video and told no one.

From that point on, she was all in. Spending up to 18 hours a day on research, Nikki was consumed by site traffic, searchability, social media and branding.

“Too many hours,” Dan said under his breath, provoking an amused, sidelong pout from his wife.

Each day, she spammed thousands of viewers, and her daily antics acquired a following.

“Once it started growing, it was like a snowball,” Nikki said.

Brimming with encouragement and plans, she reached out to Big Frame and monetized her website with advertisements.

Today the couple receives monthly payments for each new view of the channel’s total videos. The price per thousand views, or the CPM, is paid by Google Adsense and varies widely by channel, video and season. Higher-traffic seasons, like the holidays, pay more per view, Dan said.

Roughly, a single YouTube video can generate $2,000-$3,000 per million views, though the number varies widely, Nikki said.

Their channels grow by day, acquiring 2,000-3,000 subscribers on a good day, Nikki said.

Six months ago, the couple made enough money for Dan to quit his job to edit and produce videos full time.

Capitalizing on her background in entertainment, Nikki is working with a studio in Los Angeles to write and record music for her channel, she said.

“I want to continue the growth of our brand,” Nikki said. “Eventually we want to have products.”

Looking at her husband, she paused in her plans.

Behind the couple, Nikki’s face moved across a computer screen, flashing between the amused expressions characteristic of her animated storytelling.

She made fun of her video persona, a personality so closely matched to the girl on the chair that more than 350,000 subscribers have tuned in to watch Nikki do laundry.

“We live and breathe this stuff,” Nikki said.

Caught in fast-paced banter with Dan, she described their typical morning conversation topics: content ideas, subscriber numbers and CPMs.

The couple moved to the kitchen, and Nikki sat down on the counter, bare feet swinging and hands folded in her lap. Dan stood next to her, fiddling with a camera.

“I’ve got my dream job,” Nikki said, allowing the video persona to fade from her face.

“But it’s still a job,” she said, leaning back on her hands to smile at her husband.

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