The first time I met Moya Mawhinney was during my Erasmus in Paris. A group of us were pre-drinking the cheapest bottles of wine we could find in the closest newsagents, on a warm summer evening in the courtyard of our student accommodation block. One of my friends had brought her mate from Uni – the interviewee in question – along for the night out, and we all got talking utter garbage about god knows what. One of my (admittedly few) takeaways from the night was that Moya had spoken about her YouTube; she said she’d started it while on her year abroad in NYC, that making the videos was fun and briefly mentioned her accumulation of a “small following”. Fast forward a month or so later, we’re all locked up indoors petrified of a virus that was “nothing to worry about” weeks ago, scrolling and consuming every form of social media possible. Who pops up on my feed? You guessed it, Moya – and that “small following”? Well, it was growing astronomically by the second.
Fast forward once again and here I am interviewing “Moya Mawhinney: certified influencer / YT star” with a cult following of a meagre 362k – that’s right, three hundred and sixty two thousand – for UTOPIA The Edit.
As someone who has experienced such an influx of attention (an increase in followers and subscribers) at such a rapid rate, how did you cope / are you coping with being catapulted into the spotlight?
I think because my channel really grew during covid, it didn’t really feel like anything major had changed. In my head I was just making videos in my childhood bedroom and not really taking into consideration that there were people on the other side watching. It was hard to process the reality of online interactions during a time when we were all so isolated but I really feel like we all got each other through it together. I’m so grateful for the community I’ve built online, everyone I’ve met in person and online has been ridiculously sweet and so many of my good friends now came from YouTube.
I assume you’ve experienced the classic misunderstanding and begrudging that seems to come hand in hand with success (particularly in the creative industry) how did you find the motivation to continue on your career path through this?
Honestly I don’t think I would have been so confident with continuing making videos after returning home from New York if we weren’t in lockdown – not having to see anyone or hear any backhand comments helped me focus on just doing what I love and not taking other people’s opinions into consideration. I’ve definitely experienced people in my life who have not been super supportive but at the end of the day I know I have a close network of friends and family around me.
I understand you largely eat plant based when you can and / or want to, and that you generally lead a sustainable lifestyle. I’m of the opinion that none of us need to lead 100% sustainable lives, I definitely don’t, but as TESCO says – every little helps. What would you say to those who don’t believe these small actions make a difference?
I did veganuary last year and stuck with it for a year – bearing in mind I was in college in lockdown so every single meal I could just prepare at home. Now I still only cook plant-based at home but every so often when I’m eating out I’ll order something vegetarian or pescatarian. I’m spending the summer in Paris and Florence and the thought of not being able to fully try the local cuisine kind of makes me sad so I think it is important to not be so strict if you don’t want to be. I started eating plant based purely for environmental reasons – well I am slightly lactose intolerant now – but I still love seafood. It’s hard to make huge life changes all of a sudden – I went from pescatarian to vegetarian to plant based and now my parents mostly eat plant based too. But we’re not perfect and as that person on twitter said, it’s about everyone being imperfect. At least that’s what I think.
What are your favourite eco-friendly / sustainable fashion, skincare and beauty brands of the moment?
Ren Skincare is my go to for everything – I’ve been using their Vitamin C cream for the past 4 years and it’s my favourite product ever. The Foundationals make the best sustainable basics – I wear their tank tops nearly everyday and they’re such good quality and perfect for a capsule wardrobe. Susamusa is a small business based in London and her pieces are so dreamy – very timeless yet on trend and all the fabrics she uses are so good.
The fast-fashion industry is largely fuelled by influencers being gifted large PR bundles alongside discount codes, encouraging hauls and refusing to rewear the same outfit. As someone who works within this industry – but who has successfully avoided falling down this rabbit hole – did you find it a difficult thing to navigate?
As much as I avoid doing hauls and receiving excess PR, I do get a lot of really nice gifts from brands I love. My management understand my ethics so will only propose brands that align with my values and for the most part, all the businesses that reach out to me via DM are really amazing small sustainable businesses that I would love to promote and support. I didn’t really have that many clothes growing up, my mum taught me the value of shopping second hand and rewearing and styling which has definitely carried on into my adult life however even with narrowing down the PR I get offered I still feel like I could be less materialistic. I think I’m still developing my personal style but before I move out of my flat I’m going to do a huge clear out and give things to friends / family that I don’t need or haven’t used in a while.
Did you always dream of becoming an influencer and do you see a way of / have interests in incorporating the rest of your interests / talents into this career down the line?
I mean, not really? I’ve definitely grown up watching YouTube so it’s always been part of my life! I loved making little videos in school of my friends and whilst I was travelling so the idea of starting a YouTube channel had been on my mind but I don’t think it was until I was studying abroad and then being in lockdown which gave me the motivation to really go for it. I definitely don’t see myself as an influencer and don’t really like that label as it carries a lot of weight and pressure to either be selling something or be a “good influence”. I genuinely just love making videos and love sharing snippets of my life online. I can’t see myself doing this full-time for long but I do imagine it will be part of my life for a few years – I love this girl on YouTube Rachel Ngugen who kind of dips in and out, sharing moments like she’s catching up with old friends. In the next few years I really want to focus more on art and finding my creative path outside of social media. I’ve been doing a few drawing classes in London and will be spending the summer doing more art classes abroad which I’m so excited about. I really see myself having a little studio someday painting or creating something. I just want to make art that succeeds me and is more tangible than an online presence.
What are your tips and tricks (if any) for maintaining a clear, positive headspace in general, but also when it comes to the environmental crisis we’re in?
To be honest it’s hard – I use my journal more as a brain dump these days so at least my more negative thoughts can stay there and not in my head.