Inside the meteoric rise of Mikayla Nogueira, the TikTok mega-influencer whose reputation for authenticity may soon come crashing down
Over the past year, Mikayla Nogueira has become one of TikTok's most beloved beauty influencers.
She developed a reputation for authenticity and honesty, earning her a following of 14 million.
But in recent months she's been involved in a series of controversies that could change everything.
Beauty influencer Mikayla Nogueira skyrocketed to fame, but the tide appears to be turning.
It's April 2022, and Mikayla Nogueira is one of the biggest emerging names in the TikTok beauty world.
With a reputation for posting make-up reviews with a personal feel and her signature Boston accent, she was dubbed "the realest influencer on TikTok" by Glamour Magazine, who interviewed her at the time, when she had amassed an impressive 11 million followers
Nine months later, Nogueira's time as the internet's favorite beauty guru may be running out.
In a rapid turn of events, involving a controversial sponsored post for a L'Oréal mascara and accusations that she edited photos of her body (which she has since denied), she has spiraled out of favor in the online beauty community. Fans who once held her to a standard of honesty and openness have turned against her and accused her of deceiving followers.
Here's how 24-year-old Nogueira skyrocketed to fame as an influencer, and began to fall from grace.
Nogueira avoided pursuing a career as an influencer for years, she previously told Insider.
@mikaylanogueira Definitely don’t go swimming with me on the first date #fyp #foryoupage #makeup #beautyguru #oops #foryou #beforeandafter #coronavirus #quarantine ♬ My Heart Went Oops - Tiagz
"Growing up, I was never encouraged to pursue a career in the beauty industry," Nogueira told Insider in an interview published in April 2022 as an as-told-to essay.
The influencer told Insider that she felt out of place growing up in Boston, Massachusetts, where her love of big lashes and glitter did not feel as common as it might have been in LA or New York.
Before launching her TikTok account in 2020, Nogueira had been posting beauty content "for fun" on Tumblr and YouTube for over a decade (these accounts appear to no longer be publicly available), but she did not pursue content creation as a career because she felt discouraged by family members who did not understand the beauty industry, she told Insider.
The influencer's love of makeup came from a place of insecurity, she said.
In an October 2022 interview with Allure Magazine's Brennan Kilbane, Nogueira described her childhood, saying she experienced bullying in school because of the way she dressed and looked, adding that she had a more "masculine" appearance as she was growing up.
She told Allure she initially started wearing makeup because she wanted to fit in and felt self-conscious about her appearance.
"People always ask me, 'Where did you get your start with makeup?' And it's like, 'I started wearing makeup because I hated myself," she told the outlet.
The influencer elaborated on her "dark" past in her interview with Allure.
Nogueira told Allure's Kilbane that she was raped at age 12, and then "experimented with self-harm" and became involved in a relationship, which she described as abusive, with an 18-year-old when she was 13.
Nogueira said in the interview that her life did not begin to turn around until she went to college, having secured a full scholarship to Bryant University. She said she felt more able to express herself in her new environment, and became known as "bold eyeshadow girl" because of her colorful makeup.
"College was the best four years of my life," she told Kilbane.
During the pandemic, Nogueira took a chance on TikTok and found success quickly.
In March 2020, not long after she finished college, Nogueira started a TikTok account and began posting beauty transition videos, where she would film a makeup transformation with a trending sound in the background.
"Uploading during the pandemic led me to the realization that I would be extremely unhappy if I didn't attempt a career in makeup, knowing it was my passion," she told Insider in April.
She said she felt making short-form content came naturally to her and that she noticed her videos were becoming increasingly popular on the app.
Within six months of starting her account, she had a following of 1.7 million people, according to analytics-tracker SocialBlade. In October, she made a commitment to doing TikTok full-time, she told Insider.
@mikaylanogueira DAMN this beauty mode filter REALLY works. We love a drastic transformation! Watch till the end. #beauty #makeup #beautymode #fyp #foryou #foryoupage ♬ CEO of beauty mode - Marky Marx
Nogueira became known for trying and reviewing makeup products on the platform, and her positive reviews would often cause those products to go viral and become immensely popular. The influencer also often shared tutorials and makeup tips, and in August 2022, she coined "the sticky method" — a technique of using primer and concealer to cover acne — which became a hugely viral technique on TikTok as dozens of users tested it on the app.
While many beauty TikTokers make videos using a voice-over, or without speaking at all in their clips, Nogueira became known for her boisterous personality and thick Boston accent, and fans have often commented that her unique voice is one of the reasons why they enjoy watching her.
As of Janaury 2023, Nogueira has more than 14 million followers on TikTok, and she has become one of the first beauty creators to build such a large following primarily on the app, while other prominent influencers — such as Jaclyn Hill and James Charles, who initially rose to fame on YouTube and have since developed followings on TikTok — continue to upload content across multiple platforms.
As Nogueira's career in the beauty industry took off, she started to develop relationships with celebrities.
As Nogueira's TikTok following grew, she was offered more opportunities to work with brands, including product collaborations with makeup brand Glamlite and skincare company Glow Recipe.
In January 2021, Nogueira shared a video sent to her by Selena Gomez, where the singer appeared to be a fan.
Nogueira told her viewers she was shocked and excited that Gomez knew who she was, and the pair appeared to develop an online friendship over the next few months, as Nogueira shared a clip of Gomez wishing her happy birthday in June. In September, Nogueira was given the opportunity to meet up with Gomez to promote the singer's brand, Rare Beauty, in a TikTok video the pair filmed together.
In April 2022, Insider reported that Nogueira was invited to meet and film with Rihanna at an event for the singer's make-up brand, Fenty Beauty.
@mikaylanogueira WHEN IS THE ALBUM QUEEN #rihanna #makeup #beauty #fentybeauty ♬ original sound - Mikayla Nogueira
Nogueira flew from Boston to LA to attend the event, and interviewed Rihanna, asking her questions about her favorite makeup products. She posted a series of videos about meeting the singer, and two of them became her most viewed videos at the time, receiving a combined total of 110 million views.
The influencer told Insider that the opportunity sparked attention among Rihanna fans who started watching her content as a result, and that she gained 100,000 followers after posting the TikToks.
"The journey I've been on has been really mind-blowing, but I never thought I'd have the opportunity to meet Rihanna," she told Insider at the time.
Nogueira has said that being an influencer has caused her to experience self-hatred and confusion about her identity.
Sharing what’s on my mind ❤️
♬ original sound - Mikayla Nogueira
In an August 30, 2022, TikTok, Nogueira shared that her self-hatred had "truly exploded" over the past couple of months. "What I mean by that is: I hate myself," Nogueira told viewers. "I have zero confidence, I hate how I look. I haven't felt beautiful in months."
Nogueira linked the experience to her career as an influencer. "I don't know why this is happening to me," Nogueira said. "Well, that's a lie, I do. It's this job."
"When you have a job that requires you to stare at yourself all day long, you begin to hate everything about your face, and your body, or whatever," she continued. "Not only because you're picking yourself apart — but because your audience, viewing the video, is also doing the same thing."
Nogueira said she'd changed her makeup style to keep up with trends, and said she was opting instead to revert to her preferences — like dark eyebrows — in this TikTok, as she spoke of her personal experiences with burnout and pressure.
"The worst part of it is I have completely forgotten who I am," Nogueira said. "I feel like I do not know who I am. I feel very lost and I feel extremely confused about myself."
Top comments from the time are largely expressions of support for Nogueira, including viewers asking Nogueira if she could take time off, writing, "we will understand."
Nogueira's first big controversy came as a result of resurfaced comments she made about how hard it is to be an influencer.
Amid a broader backlash against influencers for being unrelatable, Nogueira personally faced intense scrutiny in September 2022 for a resurfaced and contextless clip of the makeup artist complaining about her job.
In the viral TikTok, Nogueira said, "Literally just finished working, it's 5:19 — try being an influencer for a day, try it," before footage cut to a slideshow of Nogueira showing viewers designer bags, shoes, and sunglasses. Critics — including fellow influencers — criticized Nogueira for being out of touch with reality.
In the original clip, Nogueira had outlined her schedule, starting from a 6 a.m. wake up to her 5:19 p.m. video, in response to a comment telling the influencer to try working a nine-to-five job.
A few days later, TikTokers began to circulate what appeared to be screenshots and screen recordings of the comments section of 2018 Instagram posts by YouTuber Jacklyn Hill. The purported screenshots showed comments made by an account under Nogueira's username, saying "must be nice to be rich and all you do is film videos for YouTube" and "yikes." The comments do not appear beneath Hill's posts currently.
A little over a week after the clip went viral, Nogueira announced in a nine-minute TikTok that she would be taking a break from social media to focus on her mental health, and told viewers it was unrelated to the recent controversy.
Nogueira agreed that being an influencer was a "fucking sick ass job" and that it comes "with an extreme amount of fucking privilege, and blessings, and gratitude." She clarified that she didn't believe she worked harder than "everybody else," such as a "neurosurgeon" or a "teacher."
"I don't want to lose myself completely, you know? So, I'm going to go away for a while," she told viewers about her decision to take a break. "I'm going to get treatment. I'm going to get help because my depression is just not good."
She also called the resurfaced comments under Hill's posts "karma," acknowledging she'd left messages like that on Hill's account, or on the posts of "whoever I idolized," because she was "extremely fucking jealous," adding that "jealousy ruined my life for a long time." Nogueira also said she'd apologized to Hill personally "months ago."
"Cancel culture doesn't fly on my page," she said. "We support growth, we support redemption, we support apologetic people. We support each other with kindness."
A server accused Nogueira of being rude to her at a restaurant, sparking another controversy.
@sophbabyslay #stitch with @becccamooore @Mikayla Nogueira ♬ original sound - Soph
In mid-December, a TikToker said she was working as a waitress in a restaurant when she served Nogueira, and accused her of being rude during the exchange. She also said the influencer's signature Massachusetts accent was fake. Nogueira originally apologized in since-deleted comments threaded beneath her video, blaming social anxiety for her behavior and describing her dad as a "sarcastic asshole," as Insider's Geoff Weiss previously reported.
However, on December 16 she posted another video in which she accused the server of "fucking lying," saying she had "twisted and dramatized everything."
"I am definitely a Masshole," Nogueira told viewers. "But I am not rude." Nogueira also took issue with the TikToker not responding to her apology.
The creator later said she had been blocked before she was able to reply, and called Nogueira's backtracking hypocritical.
Nogueira returned to TikTok at the end of December after a two-month hiatus.
In a December 28, 2022, Instagram post, Nogueira said that she'd begun "psychiatric treatment, therapy, eating disorder recovery, and medication," having just taken a break from posting on social media for nearly two months.
"My life changed in those two months," Nogueira's caption read, in part. "The happiness I feel today is new, and something I am still getting used to."
In a January 2023 interview with E! News, the influencer reflected on her time away from the public eye, saying she felt she was letting social media and online comments "consume" her life.
The influencer also said that she found negative comments significantly impacted her emotions, even when most of the remarks on her videos were supportive.
"You could see 999 really sweet, nice comments," she told the outlet, adding, "And then that one comment, it can just throw you off."
She told E! News that despite all the life-changing experiences she's had as an influencer, including meeting Rihanna, she feels that the downsides to the lifestyle have taken a toll on her.
She said in the interview that people "don't necessarily see the bad that can come with it. Like the media attention and the negativity and there's eyes on me 24/7. I feel like I have to be so careful about everything I do and say. So there is a lot of pressure."
Nogueira became involved in an explosive feud with a drama YouTuber in December.
In late December, a drama and commentary influencer called Rich Lux responded to a TikTok posted by a woman who appeared to suggest she used to date Nogueira's fiancé. In his video, Lux wondered aloud if she would "spill some tea."
It followed a prior run-in in June 2022 when Nogueira told viewers she would donate half the earnings from her Glamlite collection to pro-choice causes following the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade. Lux posted a video doubting Nogueira actually made the donation as she hadn't posted a receipt.
After Lux's comments about the woman he thought was Nogueira's fiancé's ex, Nogueira posted an Instagram story that's no longer available to view, but has been reuploaded elsewhere, telling viewers she now preferred to call Rich Lux "Rich Sucks," because he posted sensationalized videos about Nogueira's life that lacked "any sort of media literacy and no research."
"You suck, dude, I fucking hate you," she added.
Nogueira mentioned her fiancé was previously in addiction recovery and asked Lux not to post about him. She also told viewers he had met this ex-girlfriend while they were both seeking treatment, according to what appear to be screen recordings of the story.
Some viewers criticized Mikayla for seemingly "outing" her partner and his ex-girlfriend. Lux said he didn't know their history with addiction or sobriety before posting, and would have honored a request to avoid talking about him had she reached out to him initially.
Later, Lux invited the supposed ex-girlfriend of Nogueira's partner onto a livestream. In a clip that has been reuploaded to Reddit, the woman can be heard saying, "If you're gonna speak on recovery, make sure you have permission to speak on it."
Lux told viewers he had been blocked by Nogueira's account.
In January, Nogueira denied accusations that she edited images of her body.
On January 1, Nogueira shared a TikTok of her New Year's Eve outfit. That same day, she posted a series of comments under the video, saying people had accused her of editing her body, which she denied.
In a January 3 TikTok, Nogueira filmed herself before and after putting on shapewear to further address the accusations.
"I'm going to teach you how to be beautifully fat, gorgeously fat — but snatched," she told viewers.
"I actually love my body," Nogueira added, "which I never used to be able to say."
Top comments expressed support for Nogueira, including a note calling her a "gorgeous queen and a real one" from Selena Gomez and a "legend," from fellow TikToker and comedian Benito Skinner.
Later that month, she shared that her struggle with body dysmorphia had led to her putting off wedding dress shopping.
@mikaylanogueira Replying to @geminii683 ♬ original sound - Mikayla Nogueira
In a January 21 TikTok posted less than six months before Nogueira's wedding, she told viewers she'd been putting off wedding dress shopping for "as long as I could," and said she had experienced body dysmorphia.
"I feel like, growing up, little girls — they look forward to a day like this, right?" Nogueira told viewers. "But I feel like it's different when you have body dysmorphia and an eating disorder, and you're really insecure."
She also told viewers she didn't feel like she fit the influencer mold. "I don't feel like I fit in as an influencer in general," she said, "because I am not like the fucking beauty standard in any way."
@mikaylanogueira And just wait until you see what I did pick… #wedding #weddingsdresses #makeup #beauty ♬ Love Me Like You Do - From "Fifty Shades Of Grey" - Ellie Goulding
While she put together a bridal makeup look, Nogueira told viewers she hadn't even looked at wedding dresses online, adding that her appointment was at the first wedding dress shop that came up on a Google search.
"Hopefully it's a good place," she told viewers, "because I have no idea." Commenters expressed support for the influencer, leaving words of encouragement and details of their own experiences trying on wedding dresses with body dysmorphia. ("There is something magical about wedding gowns, you will feel like a princess," a top comment read).
In follow-up videos, Nogueira shared dresses she tried on and didn't pick, as well as a vlog about her experience at a wedding dress shop, which she said she chose because "they had the style I liked and they had a lot of it." Under the wedding dress montage TikTok, Jaclyn Hill commented that Nogueira looked "so beautiful."
Some commenters expressed skepticism about Nogueira's initial description of her feelings about wedding dress shopping, interpreting Nogueira saying she'd chosen a store to visit as a contradiction to previously saying she hadn't even browsed wedding dresses online.
Other commenters pointed out Nogueira could have picked her first store at random, found a style she liked, and continued searching at a place with that particular style. Nogueira did not address the speculation at the time.
Shortly after, Nogueira was accused of wearing false eyelashes in a sponsored post, igniting a huge wave of backlash as other influencers weighed in on the drama.
On January 25, Nogueira posted a rave review of a L'Oréal mascara as part of a partnership with the brand.
In it, Nogueira swiped on a coat of mascara, showed viewers the lengthening effect, and said she was going to apply a second coat. Then, the footage cut to a different angle, showing visibly longer and fuller lashes.
Nogueira told viewers the mascara creates an effect that "looks like false lashes," but many speculated she had actually used fake eyelashes to get the desired result. Nogueira responded to comments under her video reiterating that the effect was from multiple layers of mascara.
The video has since been viewed 48.1 million times and ignited huge backlash, with many of the 70,000 comments casting doubt on Nogueira's assertion.
Fans accused Nogueira of "lashlighting" — gaslighting them about the real effects of a $14.99 mascara — and many other users have stitched the video and added negative commentary.
Huge names in the beauty influencer community, including Jeffree Star and James Charles, also weighed in on the drama. In the week following, a plethora of amateur sleuthing and experts weighing in videos have flooded social media.
A quieter contingent did come to Nogueira's aid, commenting that "every beauty company uses false lashes in mascara ads. Why single her out???" and suggesting, "maybe she deserves a break."
Representatives for Mikayla Nogueira and L'Oréal did not respond to Insider's request for comment at the time.
Nogueira has since returned to TikTok but she does not appear to be addressing the controversy.
@mikaylanogueira You know what time it is….❤️😍💋💕 #valentinesday #love #romance #vday ♬ original sound - Mikayla Nogueira
On February 1, over a week since she posted her mascara video, Nogueira returned to TikTok with a Valentine's day-themed makeup tutorial.
"I'm sure we all know why we've all gathered here today," Nogueira said in the clip, after she exhaled deeply, implying she would address the controversy.
However, she went on to say, "It's the month of love bitches," before showing viewers how to create a pink eyeshadow look.
In a four-part series posted in the same day, Nogueira did not address the accusations that she used false eyelashes in her previous video, and it appears that she is going back to posting regular content.
It remains to be seen whether Nogueira can bounce back from "MascaraGate" — her biggest controversy to date. In her comments section, pressure is mounting for her to address the accusations as many viewers say they want "closure."
But among them are her fans, flooding her videos with positive feedback and telling her to "slay" and stay "unbothered."
"What's funny is everyone with a problem is STILL watching, STILL commenting," read one comment on a recent video, adding, "And she STILL getting paid."
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