A 16-year-old with vision beyond his years has gained a massive following on Instagram for his makeup artistry, posting looks ranging from the whimsical to the haunting.
“IÆm inspired by people and things all around me,” James Charles Dickinson — known simply as James Charles on social media — tells Yahoo Beauty. “My looks include many different styles, from super glam to avant-garde and abstract looks, so I wouldn’t say any one thing inspires me. If I see something that catches my attention, usually my first thought is: How can I make a makeup look out of that?”
The Bethlehem, N.Y., high school junior works as part-time as a hair stylist and makeup artist. He recently reached a whopping 200,000 followers on Instagram, was profiled this week in local newspaper the Albany Times-Union.
In that article, Dickinson spoke about coming out as gay at age 12, wearing makeup to school, and the product-review deals he has with brands that include Make Up For Ever and Too Faced. He also reminisced about when his Instagram followers increased fourfold in February after a video he posted of himself applying makeup while wearing a Denver Broncos T-shirt went viral.
“It was insane,” he told the paper. “I hashtagged it as #SuperBowl without thinking, and a lot of male football fans saw it and came to attack, which is kind of why it blew up so much.”
But Dickinson says he’s not fazed by insults, and has found surprising support in his local community. “It’s not as hard [here] as one may think!” he says. “For the most part, the people in my town are really proud and supportive of me, which is awesome. Some people have been rude, but I don’t let them get to me. I’ve made tons of friends here, but I think I definitely belong in a big city.”
The teen says he’s got the support of his parents, too. “It was definitely a rough experience at first, just because there was a lack of understanding, and it was something new for them,” he explains. “Now that I’ve been working hard and have had some success, they’ve realized I truly care about this and are doing everything they can to help me!”
While Dickinson starting out honing his skills by watching online tutorials, he now sticks to “practice, practice, practice,” along with looking for inspiration from some of his favorite influencers, including Jaclyn Hill and Jeffree Star. His most beloved products of the moment, he adds, are Anastasia Brow Wiz ($21), LA Girl Pro Concealer ($5), and Morphe brushes.
Despite his growing legion of fans, Dickinson has his sights set on a practical future. “I plan on going to college to get a business degree, just in case this whole thing doesn’t work out,” he says. Still, he adds, “I want to get it over with as soon as possible so I can fully immerse myself into the industry and work with no interruptions.”
Read This Next: Why Jeffree Star’s Makeup Palette May Be Your New Cult Favorite