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New face of CoverGirl a familiar one

Filed in Archive by on October 24, 2016

Students and teacher in classroom jcharles-1He may have spent a few days earlier this month filming a commercial with pop superstar Katy Perry and Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara, and saw himself profiled by every news outlet worldwide (like this one from The New York Times), but the newest face of CoverGirl is back in the classroom here in Bethlehem. He is James Charles Dickinson, a Bethlehem senior who is also cutting-edge makeup artist and online influencer known in the Twittersphere simply as James Charles.

It was Tuesday, October 11 when CoverGirl, one of the world’s most recognizable names in makeup, announced James would be joining a long line of famous faces to promote the cosmetics line. We caught up with James recently in Jim Smith’s economics class.

“Economics is one of my favorite classes,” said James, the first male to ever be selected to represent the makeup brand. “And Mr. Smith is the best.”

On this particular day, James was one of several students in the class – all seniors – to take part in a hands-on experiment designed to demonstrate the law of diminishing returns. All played the role of workers on a “production line” who were assigned by Mr. Smith to cut one-inch strips of paper from a large sheet. As workers were added one-by-one, production of the paper strips increased at first but slowed as the workers ran out of adequate space and equipment to work efficiently, revealing to the class that the the basic economic principle does indeed ring true.

It takes less than a few minutes talking with James to realize he has a unique understanding of economic principles developed through years of business experience that belie his 17 years. 

“I’ve always been entrepreneurial,” says James. “When I was in elementary school, I began selling stuffed animals and friendship bracelets at school (even though I wasn’t supposed to).”

James saw greater opportunities on social media, when at age 11, he amassed 70,000 followers on Twitter with an account (made possible with the support of his father) featuring inspirational quotes.

From there, he moved around and tried out new ventures.  Tumblr, back to Twitter, to YouTube, where subscribers to his channel on which he posts makeup tips and tutorials are nearing 120,000 and to Instagram, where he now has more than 700,000 followers.

“I have only had my Instagram for a year but I put a lot of work into it,” said James. “When I want to do something, I get it done. I do not come to play.”

He says he approaches school the same way.

“I have a high GPA and a lot of credits so I have been able to work with the Counseling Center and Mr. St. John to make sure my schedule fits my needs,” said James. “I travel a lot but I make sure I get my work done.”

James traveled to Los Angeles earlier this month to film the commercial for CoverGirl and routinely travels to both the west coast and New York City. He said he is not sure when the commercial will air, but said it could be as soon as November.

James said his deal with CoverGirl will include a mix of traditional advertising and social media promotion. In a story about the company’s choice of tapping the first male spokesmodel to promote its products, Fortune called it “genius marketing” saying it was a savvy move to capture relevancy among the newly-emerging Generation Z. Gen Z, as it is known, is used to define those born between 1995 and 2010.

In between promoting CoverGirl and continuing his wildly popular makeup tutorials on YouTube, James is considering what his next steps might be academically.

“I am applying to college but I am unsure what might happen at this point,” said James. “There is a lot to think about. We were talking about opportunity cost last week in economics class and I totally understand it because I am weighing the opportunity costs of a lot of things these days.”

James said no matter where his path may take him, he will have the backing of his parents who have been incredibly supportive of his business and creative efforts. His father, he said, built him a salon in the family house where he creates his latest makeup looks. When he returned from his recent trip to California, he found his mother waiting for him at the airport, in a lounge where a TV had just aired a story about her son’s breakthrough CoverGirl announcement.

“There were other people in the waiting area and she told them ‘that’s my son, that’s my son,'” said James. “All these strangers were hugging me when I got off the plane.

“My parents, they are my biggest fans,” said James.

It is safe to say that fans of the homegrown CoverGirl are everywhere these days. When he was spotted among a group of Participation in Government (PIG) students at the October 19 school board meeting, James was singled out by Superintendent Jody Monroe and presented with an “Eagle pin” by Board Vice President Lynne Lenhardt and congratulated by board members in attendance.

“I predict that in the very near future you will be an inductee in the BC Hall of Fame for something remarkable, even beyond your current success,” said Board Member Joanne Cunningham.

Editors of Delmar-based weekly The Spotlight not only chose to highlight James’ accomplishments in sealing the deal with CoverGirl but also took the opportunity to feature him in their most recent editorial lauding him for being bold enough to “walk the road less traveled.” 

James is standing, jumping, dancing, screaming against conformity,” they wrote. “Where older generations defined their environment within the walls of their respective high school, James has done what many younger men and women do today. They push out into the internet. Their world is no longer defined by the hallways they walk in between classes. They’re bold enough to declare the world as the environment they navigate through.”

Read The Spotlight editorial – October 19, 2016.

As for James, he is eager to continue his business trajectory and has been busy working on Halloween designs to share with his followers and YouTube subscribers.

“It has not been an easy journey, but I can’t wait to see what happens next.”