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Photography and interview by Lauren Engel

If you’ve been around Instagram and the YouTube scene for beauty or fashion videos you will for sure know Karen Yeung aka IAMKARENO. For four years she has been putting out lot of creative and inspiring videos, each one so delicate. From her hair tutorial videos to nostalgic videos, we love each one, so we had a chat with her in LA about her upbringing, personal growth and future.

 

You were born in Hong Kong?
My entire family including my parents and younger siblings were born in Hongkong, and we moved to LA in 1998. I just revealed how old I am! That’s okay though. (laughs)

What made your parents move to the States?
I think my parents wanted better opportunities. They understand how hard it was in Hong Kong to be a student. My parents already saw that I was creative since kindergarten, pre-school and to allow me to succeed they needed to make this happen by moving.

Are they creative people as well?
My dad is. When I was a little girl they actually had their own clothing store called Apple Town. It was very 90s because it was back in the 90s. It was trendy back in the day and I remember my dad would draw his own pictures and I would draw my own sketches and give it to him and he would bring to China and bring back the clothes that I designed. My love for fashion probably started at a really young age. I think I was really lucky to have parents who are supportive but even since day one they wanted me to be realistic of my creative vision. I promised them that when I quit my job at Yelp that I would give myself three months to make it. I had mini goals for myself. They weren’t extravagant. Like in 3 months I was going to make X amount of dollars and X amount of brands. I made sure that happened no matter what. I think by that time I quit work I was on YouTube for about a year and probably at 40-50K subscribers. I remember sitting in my cubicle at Yelp and I was like wow I really want to be outside and live my life how I wanted to live it and not be constrained by the hours, the office. My mom said if you don’t try then you won’t get it.

 

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“I found who I am as a creative person and embraced who I am. It’s still kind of a work in progress with what I want to do with my channel but right now I want to focus on creating more clean and artistic pieces, really refining my style.”

 

What do they do now?
My parents are actually in Guangxi, they have an orphanage there and rehab centre for low income families with cerebral palsy. They doing great work, thank you parents!

How would you describe yourself in high school? Were you a scene girl?
I had scene hair and was into pop punk. I think I felt emo on the inside because of all the raging confused hormones as a teenager. My thing about going to high school was just to not be seen by anyone. Just getting past it, get through it. I liked being invisible in high school.

How do you think you’ve changed since then?
I embraced my creative side less before. Ever since I started my YouTube channel I grew into who I was meant to be. When I was in high school though I was still the same goofy person, not too different to now but not as secure as I am now. Confused, teenager years for sure.

Did you go to internet school?
Oh! I did go to internet school! Good job. I went on two years of internet school when I was with my parents in China when they started the orphanage. It’s recently turned into decade.

About their orphanage, did they do it for themselves or is it for a religious purpose?
My parents are actually devoted Christians. They’re missionaries out there. I interpret religion in my own way, like I believe there’s God and a being that created all this and there’s a purpose in everything we do. I also believe that we are called, every single one of us, but it’s whether or not we answer. I don’t really subscribe to religious activities but I do believe.

 

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“I’m human, I get beaten down and there are definitely days I wish I could disappear, not be on the internet anymore and do whatever the hell I want and start all over and come in with a new narrative.”

 

At college you studied International Relations, was that something you wanted or did your parents guided you that way?
When I first started college I wanted to do design and my parents and some other family members told me that artistic people don’t make money. You should be practical and go into business. I got into International Relations because I lived in China for high school for two years so I was curious about the world and how it worked. Also, that was the only major in my school that didn’t require me to take calculus. I wanted to do this major because I only needed to take statistics. My parents wanted me to do International Relations, I wanted to do design but at the end I graduated with an IR degree. But look at me now, it doesn’t really matter.

In college you realized you had ADHD? (note: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
It’s so funny one of my ex-boyfriends also had ADHD and said Karen you have ADHD symptoms, you should go to the doctor to see if you do have it. I went to the doctor and normally they make you take a whole bunch of tests, call your family history, and a whole big ordeal but within one session she was telling me that I have it for sure. It makes sense why I never understood things first thing around when I was in school. I was always like what are they saying (laughs). I think it helps a lot in this particular industry because media is a part of ADHD, people need to be stimulated all the time, so me being bored with my own works helps me a lot. I need to be inspired, do something with my own channel. I continue to make content to evolve all the time because of my ADHD-ness.

Did you have mentors when starting your YouTube or someone who guided you?
No, not really. I was a lost cloud for sure and I did a lot of research online but when I went to conventions like Beauty Con you see people who you look up to related to this industry and you can ask questions in order to learn from people with experience. Claire Marshall was one of those people, she answered some questions to me in the beginning. Obviously now I have Michelle in my life she’s been such a great help.

With your YouTube how do you think you have progressed since you started it and where do you see yourself with it in the future?
When I first started my YouTube it was because I was an IR major and needed a creative outlet. I also did business, I was in a business fraternity. It was very rigid for me and went online. I just needed an outlet. But now I think since this entire journey, I found who I am as a creative person and embraced who I am. It’s still kind of a work in progress with what I want to do with my channel but right now I want to focus on creating more clean and artistic pieces, really refining my style.

 

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“I want to be remembered for making people happy, inspiring them to do things that make themselves happy.”

 

Is it difficult being in the beauty fashion industry because you’ve made some videos about LA or the people in the industry..
I’m human, I get beaten down and there are definitely days I wish I could disappear, not be on the internet anymore and do whatever the hell I want and start all over and come in with a new narrative. If I want to start something like my own fashion brand like how I started with my YouTube channel I could have totally made mistakes and it was okay because nobody saw it but now the pressure is higher, so many people are watching me doing something that I have never done before like making clothes. Also, I feel like I was just really naive about everything, I started off my channel in my own apartment, no one was around me and I did it like that for two years. When I came to LA it was a bit of a culture shock to me. I’ve been in LA for a year and a half now so I found my place and my friends so it’s a lot easier now. I think that’s what it is in LA though, if you find your own group of friends then you’re solid. It takes a little bit of maneuvering and shedding off the BS people.

With YouTube you also want to do your own fashion line right? How long has that been in your thought process?
I’ve always wanted to do that because of my parents. It wasn’t because of YouTube. YouTube just became a platform that allowed me to do that. Even when I started YouTube videos it was just because I like it. It was always a natural progression.

Did you always know that you were going to get married young?
I guess it’s not that young actually I feel like it’s kind of normal, I see a lot of my friends getting married now. I was never the type that daydreamed about my wedding. Even to this day now that I am engaged I have not started planning my wedding. I’m not a planner. I just go with the flow but that’s why I need to hire a wedding planner.

Were your parents always chill about moving in with your BF before marriage?
Oh my gosh, they were not always chill. They were only chill when my dad asked Leo if he was going to marry me and Leo was like, ya I love her very much. That was pretty late though, like four years in but we weren’t living together up until I moved to LA, not officially anyway. The first time Leo met my parents was at a fundraising dinner for Silver Lining, my parent’s organization. We had a bunch of leftovers with duck and this stack of to-go food. We were in college and super broke at the time so when we got free food we were like, hell yea!

From the onset did you know he was the one?
I did, maybe like two years in I knew that I really like him and that I don’t see myself compatible with a lot of other people who understand me the way he does. The next three years I was like wassup Leo, wassup (laughs).

Was the proposal still out of the blue even though you kind of knew?
No because he sucks at surprising. I was like, why is my cousin from the Bay Area staying with me right now. Why are two of my clothes friends also here in LA. I’m like why are they here! Why! And finally he cracked. It just didn’t make sense.

Last question, what do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for making people happy, inspiring them to do things that make themselves happy. I know it’s so cheesy and vague but really that’s it. The way I feel about my life right now and why I made it to where I am now within four years is because I was like screw what everyone says about me and therefore I could find this joy. I want everyone else to find it too.

 

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