You don't watch "Murder, Mystery, and Makeup" for the looks that Bailey Sarian creates. That's not to say they're not fierce, because they are. Whether it's a silver, glittery cut crease or expertly winged eye shadow, her viewers do love to see her go from no makeup to full glam in every episode of the series. But what they're really tuning in for are the aberrant, heartbreaking, and morbid stories of true crime and urban legends as relayed by Sarian while she applies a full face of glamorous makeup.
The 31-year-old started her YouTube channel in 2013, where she mainly produced makeup tutorials and shared tidbits about the industry. In 2019, she made the leap to include more nonfiction storytelling. And as the makeup-storytime hybrid continues to trend across YouTube, Sarian has been hyper-aware of the first impressions her unorthodox "get ready with me" (GWRM) videos give off.
"I've heard from people before they started to watch that automatically they thought, 'Omigod, this is the most disrespectful trash I [will] ever see!" Sarian says, laughing. "But then they watch, and they're like, 'Oh, OK. I get what she was trying to do.'" Over the phone, the makeup artist sounds exactly like she does in her videos — even when describing those gruesome crimes. She's bubbly and comforting, with little bits of humor in-between.
"I don't ever want to come across as disrespectful toward the victims," Sarian explains. "I try to state that numerous times because what I do continues to be questioned, as far as my intentions. I just want to talk about this."
And a warning: the "this" in "MM&M" is often devastating to hear. As true crime's salient traits are triggering words and details, to alleviate any further distress, Sarian rarely includes gratuitous photos in episodes. "I'm also giving [the viewers] something to watch [by doing my makeup]," she says. "A lot of true-crime videos on YouTube are people talking to the camera, but they aren't necessarily doing anything. That's great and works for them. But I didn't want to do that."
Her first "Murder, Mystery, and Makeup" video, about Chris Watts murdering his family, got over 100,000 views in 24 hours. Though she had previously polled her then-subscribers on whether or not they would like to watch her break down a news story while she applied her makeup (they did), Sarian was still surprised by the enthusiastic response.
"[The Chris Watts story] was the first true-crime story in a while that I became obsessed with and later had all this built-up knowledge about, and nobody to tell it to," she said. "[After it went live], I kept seeing comments asking to make ["MM&M"] a thing. I didn't think it was going to be permanent on my channel." The synthesizing of true crime and makeup is bizarre but, for her cultish fanbase, also addictive to the point that many viewers say it's become bonding time as a family or couple.
The merging has been years in the making. Before Sarian's freelance career in makeup — a trajectory that involved being a cashier and cast member at Sephora, working at Urban Decay, and assisting makeup artists like Jill Powell on music videos (such as Demi Lovato's "Cool for the Summer") and commercials — she was a little girl whose mother, a 911 dispatcher, sometimes brought her along to work.
"We laugh about it now. Like, why did she take me in the first place? But I wanted to go. It was fascinating to me. Everyone calls 911 because they need help in some kind of way," Sarian says. Once given a set of headphones, she would listen in on those incoming phone calls. One particular call embedded itself in her memory and, she believes, is probably what started her interest in true crime.
"A girl around my age called because someone had broken into her house. She was scared. My mom was telling her to go and lock herself in the closet and hide there and stay on the phone until the police arrived. The fear in her voice was so scary to me," Sarian recalls. "Dispatchers also never get closure. So when the police came, [my mom] hung up [which is protocol]. I still wonder what happened to her. It drives me nuts. These stories can stay with you forever."
At home in Los Angeles, with a palette or two and brushes in front of her, Sarian films alone. She usually starts with an introduction to her channel, occasionally and lovingly telling her dog, Saint, to shoo out of the room, and providing life updates before getting into her latest clip.
Back in March, she filmed her first video since returning from a brief hiatus spent in Europe and disclosed that after having done so many "MM&M" episodes (65, since last January) — and all requiring a wonkish dedication to research. Even with the assistance of a research partner she recently hired, there have been times she'd felt spent.
"[Nowadays,] I pay attention to what mood I'm in. If I'm already feeling down, I'm not going to research a new case because it does mess with you," Sarian says. She has asked fans to stop including graphic details and images when sending requests of the stories they'd like for her to cover. "Over the last year, I've cut out all crime podcasts, and I don't watch as many crime shows because it's like, when do I get a break?"
Her channel gets a break, too. While Mondays remain designated for "MM&M," on Saturdays, she uploads content outside of the series. She posted a Hilary Duff-inspired tutorial over Easter weekend. And the following Saturday, Sarian posted a GRWM in which she shared her thoughts on the emotional rollercoaster we've all been on during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A common throughline in the "MM&M" videos is that many of the victims and occasional survivors are women and the miscreants, men. It's an all-too-familiar and sensationalized pattern that mirrors real-life statistics. As recently as November 2019, the United Nations noted that a third of all women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and that violence against women is as common a cause of death as cancer. The New York Times reported that once COVID-19-related stay-at-home orders were announced in March 2020, domestic abuse hotlines worldwide reported a surge in calls and that the majority of those seeking help were women.
"It's so rare to find a story in which men are the victims, although they're out there,” Sarian said. One such case, which Sarian hasn't covered, was 71-year-old Thomas Burchard, who was murdered in March 2019 by the boyfriend of his 25-year-old sugar baby Kelsey Turner. Since making headlines, both Turner and John Kennison have been charged with the crime.
"I always feel like if it's a woman that kills, it's more of a crime of passion. They do it because it's personal. Someone has truly upset and hurt them. Though I'm not trying to justify it [and] I’m not a doctor. This is pure observation," Sarian says. “Whereas men [while targeting women] will just kill randomly, which is scarier. And then you think about the '60s and '70s, therapy wasn't a thing. No one was taking care of their well-being. It's like [these killers] were trying to be heard and made their voices heard by killing people. Here I am, and here are all of my victims too.”
After a year of filming MM&M," Sarian's gained a lot of unique insights from her earnest attempt to understand and get to the bottom of all the crimes and mysteries she's covered. Though she didn't set out to be an activist, she's hopeful that her controversial series will bring about awareness on many fronts, such as the concept of nature versus nurture and our ongoing recognition and acceptance of talking about mental health.
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Originally Appeared on Allure