interview by JANA LETONJA

Beauty content creator Leilani Green has cemented herself as a fresh-faced trendsetter, Gen-Z beauty expert and one to watch for in Hollywood today. As a Gen Z icon and go-to influential tastemaker, she emphasizes the importance of being a role model to young women by touching on topics of authenticity, confidence and living boldly through the joys of beauty and fashion. Most recently, Leilani has been highlighted in Forbes’ ‘Top Creators: Fashion 50’ list.

Leilani, how did your social media career begin? Have you ever anticipated becoming a rising leader in the digital beauty space?
I had every intention of becoming a public figure that had a big enough voice to help inspire those who were like me growing up. Growing up in a single parent household with my two sisters, I was surrounded by women. Easily influenced as a child, I wanted to make sure I could be an example for kids growing up like me. Someone that they can look at and see that you can be your true self and stay happy, along with succeeding in your art. My social media career started in middle school when I would post videos of me lip syncing songs as if I was the artist. Being that this is around 9 years ago from now, it’s crazy to see how just exercising what you enjoy doing alone can push you that much further in what you’re meant to do here on this earth. 

Why is creating meaningful content so important to you in this oversaturated digital age we live in?
If you are trying to be exactly like someone else, you are already making the biggest mistake. Inspiration should fuel your goals and help you want to reach them. Some people mistake trying to be something they are not as ‘inspo’. They are two completely different things. The reason I create my content the way that I do is because I’ve made videos for so long that I finally found what nobody was doing and made my own path. Of course, inspiration along the years helped pave my way, but when you have the touch of uniqueness that only you bring, and you got that from nobody but you, that’s where the magic comes in.

More importantly, how do you manage to stay true to yourself in this oversaturated digital space?
Staying true to yourself, I believe, will keep you with true happiness. Knowing and really understanding that you did not shift your morals from the very beginning because of something materialistic, will keep you sane, happy and the same all the way through. Once you give up being true to yourself, everything else feels false and then things begin to crumble. 

You have worked closely with top beauty brands, such as YSL Beauty, Rabanne Beauty, Clinique, Sephora, etc. How did working on these collaborations and receiving paid partnerships impact your content creating process?
Working with huge name brands that I have used throughout my entire life leading up to these moments has of course reminded me throughout the process that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do. No matter what you do as a career, everyone needs a little push and reassurance that what we are doing is right. Working with these brands is nothing but a reminder to keep it going because you are doing it right.

Your partnership with Instagram Reels helped establish what you are most well-known for today: short-form videos that embody the ‘wow’ factor of transforming from no makeup to a glamorous look in seconds. How do you look back on that moment that helped gain your recognition?
I was almost 100 % going to turn down the opportunity that ended up changing my life forever. When Instagram asked me to partner with them on their new feature, Instagram reels, I told myself that it would be too much to film during the week. I was going to take the easy way out. I slept on it, woke up and said “What can I lose?” I vividly remember challenging myself. This is pure proof that nothing comes by taking the easy route. I think about this weekly, what would my life look like if I took the easy way out and said no.

Where do you personally feel more at home, with no makeup or with a glamorous look?
I feel more at home when I have makeup on, not because I think I look better, but because makeup is my therapy, the way I express and the way I communicate with myself. Without it for long periods of time, I start to slip into a sadness sort of, like you are hiding who you truly are.

What are your absolute favorite Fall/Winter 2023 beauty trends?
One of my favorite trends this fall has got to be the ‘espresso’ eye makeup trend because I love brown shades. And for the winter, the ‘cold’ makeup trend where you rosy up your cheeks because I am absolutely obsessed with loads and loads of blush. Can never have too much.

With approaching holidays, what usually inspires your holiday beauty looks? Do you have any special inspiration for this year’s festivities?
I don’t feel like I ever overdo it for the holidays, but I will whip out the red lipstick. Holidays are the only time I wear a red lipstick, as I am fearful of the red lips since I used to walk into my 5th grade classroom every single day with a not-so-perfect L’oreal red lipstick smeared on me and getting very strange looks from teachers.

Why is being a role model for young women by prioritizing authenticity, confidence and living boldly in one’s everyday life something that is very important to you?
Being authentic is the biggest thing that I feel the impressionable young women and men need to see more of because it’s almost invisible now. Watching social media is extremely deceptive because it is almost like taking an actress or actor seriously. Lots of people are not their true selves on these short videos, so being a real human is sometimes reassuring.

Being from Hawai’i, what do you love most about living in the Aloha State?
Funny to be talking about Hawai’i, as I just got back home right now from Hawai’i. Whenever I visit Hawai’i, it always reminds me that family is absolutely everything. Surrounding yourself with people you resonate with, agree with and feel close to will keep your mental state stable, along with helping you stay your truest happiest self. I believe that you should only fill your timeline with people that make you feel happy just like family does and normalize unfollowing and removing people that don’t. Happiness over everything.

What can you share with our readers about your upcoming projects
I would love more than anything to get more into the commercial space, filming professional ads to make the big break out of my beauty room. As you ask, God answers, and I am filming an iconic commercial this week.

photography JONNY MARLOW
interview JANA LETONJA