Having clocked over 19 million views and 236,000 subscribers, vlogger Stella Cini is Malta’s undisputed queen of youtube. here, she talks to Iggy Fenech about life, dealing with social anxiety while being in the spotlight, and the next step in her career.

Black velvet blazer: Mango - €59.99. Black velvet trousers: Mango - €69.99.Black velvet blazer: Mango - €59.99. Black velvet trousers: Mango - €69.99.

I meet Stella just outside our digital cover shoot’s location. She arrives wearing black harem pants and a black tank top. Her hair – a black, waist-length wig she’s meticulously glued on – is held back by a headband that frames her face, which she has made-up herself for the shoot. 

What immediately strikes me is just how much of a paradox Stella’s image can be: on the one hand, her hair and make-up demand to be admired; on the other, her choice of clothes and her demeanour are more about blending in and not being in the spotlight.

This is something that quickly gets addressed during our interview: “I’m very, very shy,” she tells me. “I think a lot of people think that I’m very outgoing because I create videos and post so many photos on social media, but it’s different in real life.

“I often get social anxiety, and it’s part of the reason why I don’t always make an effort with people or events. It really scares me to be in a crowd and I’d much rather do solo activities or be with the people who I’m close to…”

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That, of course, is not always possible for the half-Maltese, half-Hungarian YouTube star who has – in just five years’ time – gone from a kid with a camera uploading rather amateur videos on how to tie high buns and create zig-zag braids to one of the most in-demand vloggers on the Island. 

Indeed, Stella’s career has taken off so quickly that now, aged just 19, she’s a full-time YouTuber uploading videos every Monday and Thursday to her YouTube channel; and juggling collaborations with world-renowned brands like MaxFactor and Tommy Hilfiger… All this, while also finding time to star along with her boyfriend, Daniel McLean, in Ira Losco’s music video for One in a Million.

“When I was 11, I watched a video of a girl braiding her hair and I decided to try it out,” she recounts. “The more complex it got, the more fun I had. This was literally the only thing I thought I did well, but it was an area that hadn’t really been ventured into in Malta…”

For the first two years, Stella never spoke on camera, opting instead to let her actions and hair-creations do all the talking. As her following grew and Stella came into her own – it’s easy to forget that she was just 14 years old the first time she uploaded content to the video-sharing platform – her work also became more intricate. Fashion wigs started making an appearance and, following two short hairdressing courses, Stella also started dying and cutting her own hair on camera.

When I was 11, I watched a video of a girl braiding her hair and I decided to try it out

At the time, Stella only did this as a hobby, and joined MCAST to pursue a career in hairdressing. Yet she was on the cusp of becoming a certified YouTuber as her video ‘How to: Black Roots Silver Grey Hair’ reached one million-views – a landmark in any YouTuber’s career.

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Deciding to pursue this full-time, there was still one hurdle that needed to be overcome: Malta, along with Cyprus, was not part of the YouTube Partner Program, meaning that Maltese YouTubers could not monetise their content.

“Creating these videos is a time-consuming task,” she explains. “Recording can take up to 12 hours for each video as I would go about creating my looks, taking shots from different angles, and, obviously, explaining what I’m doing… Sometimes, there will be multiple takes for each.

“Then, I would need to edit that down into a three- or four-minute video, which takes around half a day’s work. But once I’ve posted it, I also need to disseminate it onto my social media channels, which need to be kept constantly updated to ensure engagement and reach.” Understandably, the idea of doing this full-time for no compensation would not work. But, thankfully, this March, everything changed.

“I was asked to present a YouTube seminar here in Malta, during which it was announced that, as of this September, Malta would finally became part of the YouTube Partner Program!”

Now, Stella is looking to take her career to the next level, and is currently refurbishing a space in her hometown of Mellieħa into a studio-cum-salon that will unite her two passions. Here, she will have an even better space to continue creating content for her 230,000-strong subscriber-base, while also giving followers the chance to get their hair done by the young vlogger.

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“We’re almost there,” she says when I ask her when she’ll be opening the space, which, so far, remains unnamed. “I’m very excited, though. It’s got everything I need for my work… The full YouTube- and Instagram-package with backdrops and professional lighting. It’s all very exciting!”

At just 19, Stella is still in the early days of her career; but her commitment to her followers – most of which hail from the USA – has resulted in a loyal fanbase that continually supports her endeavours. How Stella will continue to evolve over the years remains to be seen, but she is definitely one to follow.

Follow Stella on YouTube or Instagram (@stellacini).

Go behind the scenes of Stella’s shoot by downloading the digital edition of Sunday Circle through the TOM Mag app!

Photography
Matthew B. Spiteri

Styling
Kristina Abela

Hair & Make-up
Stella Cini

This feature first appeared in the Sunday Circle magazine. Browse the magazine for free using the TOM Mag app, available for download in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. 

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