Her story reads like a screenplay – something in the vein of Brit films like Brasssed Off or The Full Monty. As a teenager bullies made her life miserable, calling her “fat” and “ugly”, and ultimately she left high school early and without any qualifications. Fast forward to the present day and Lauren Luke is a single mother with a ten-year old son, living with her mother, sister and nieces in South Shields, Tyneside and working evenings in a taxi office. Over two million people have watched one of her videos on youtube. And she has her own column in The Guardian’s Weekend magazine.

Sounds unlikely? Lauren Luke is the internet (and South Shields’) latest celebrity. She started out selling cosmetics on ebay, and instead of showing images of the packaging, she added photographs of herself wearing the makeup. Users began to contact her, asking her to show them how she had achieved the looks. So from the comfort of her bedroom, Lauren started posting videos on youtube under the nickname panacea81, showing step-by-step demonstrations. Luke’s videos gradually grew in popularity, despite the fact that her clips were unedited, filmed in her bedroom and often poorly lit. Background sound in her videos is a faint buzz and the sound of the television or her dogs, rather than a slick soundtrack. The fact that she doesn’t edit the clips means that when she makes a mistake, or forgets to sharpen an eye pencil, viewers see this. Nevertheless requests have poured in from all over the world asking her to how to achieve Britney’s sexy, wide-eyed look, or Amy Winehouse’s killer eyeliner flicks. Lauren’s friendly, down-to-earth demonstrations seem more like advice from your best friend than complicated techniques from an unapproachable make-up artist, and this explains in some ways her success on the internet. But her popularity is also due to the fact that she is good at what she does, and knows how to break down the seemingly unachievable trends into easy to follow steps. She is someone that users feel that they can relate to. She looks directly into the camera, using it as a mirror, rather than applying makeup to a model, so it feels a lot more personal.

Her success on youtube has sparked industry and media interest. In late 2007, Barry M signed her up to present video tutorials on their site using their products. A couple of weeks ago, the ever new media-savvy Guardian began to feature Lauren’s tips both in print and on their site. She will launch her own line of cosmetics in March and later this year Nintendo DS is to bring out a game featuring an avatar of Lauren. It makes you wonder how long it will be before someone starts offering tutorials on how to achieve the “Lauren Luke” look…