You don’t watch “Murder, Mystery, and Makeup” for the looks that Bailey Sarian creates. That’s not to say they’re not fierce, because they are. Whether it’s a silver, glittery cut crease or expertly winged eye shadow, her viewers do love to see her go from no makeup to full glam in every episode of the series. But what they’re really tuning in for are the aberrant, heartbreaking, and morbid stories of true crime and urban legends as relayed by Sarian while she applies a full face of glamorous makeup.
The 31-year-old started her YouTube channel in 2013, where she mainly produced makeup tutorials and shared tidbits about the industry. In 2019, she made the leap to include more nonfiction storytelling. And as the makeup-storytime hybrid continues to trend across YouTube, Sarian has been hyper-aware of the first impressions her unorthodox “get ready with me” (GWRM) videos give off.
“I’ve heard from people before they started to watch that automatically they thought, ‘Omigod, this is the most disrespectful trash I [will] ever see!” Sarian says, laughing. “But then they watch, and they’re like, ‘Oh, OK. I get what she was trying to do.'” Over the phone, the makeup artist sounds exactly like she does in her videos — even when describing those gruesome crimes. She’s bubbly and comforting, with little bits of humor in-between.
“I don’t ever want to come across as disrespectful toward the victims,” Sarian explains. “I try to state that numerous times because what I do continues to be questioned, as far as my intentions. I just want to talk about this.”
And a warning: the “this” in “MM&M” is often devastating to hear. As true crime’s salient traits are triggering words and details, to alleviate any further distress, Sarian rarely includes gratuitous photos in episodes. “I’m also giving [the viewers] something to watch [by doing my makeup],” she says. “A lot of true-crime videos on YouTube are people talking to the camera, but they aren’t necessarily doing anything. That’s great and works for them. But I didn’t want to do that.”
Her first “Murder, Mystery, and Makeup” video, about Chris Watts murdering his family, got over 100,000 views in 24 hours. Though she had previously polled her then-subscribers on whether or not they would like to watch her break down a news story while she applied her makeup (they did), Sarian was still surprised by the enthusiastic response.
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“[The Chris Watts story] was the first true-crime story in a while that I became obsessed with and later had all this built-up knowledge about, and nobody to tell it to,” she said. “[After it went live], I kept seeing comments asking to make [“MM&M”] a thing. I didn’t think it was going to be permanent on my channel.” The synthesizing of true crime and makeup is bizarre but, for her cultish fanbase, also addictive to the point that many viewers say it’s become bonding time as a family or couple.
The merging has been years in the making. Before Sarian’s freelance career in makeup — a trajectory that involved being a cashier and cast member at Sephora, working at Urban Decay, and assisting makeup artists like Jill Powell on music videos (such as Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer”) and commercials — she was a little girl whose mother, a 911 dispatcher, sometimes brought her along to work.
“We laugh about it now. Like, why did she take me in the first place? But I wanted to go. It was fascinating to me. Everyone calls 911 because they need help in some kind of way,” Sarian says. Once given a set of headphones, she would listen in on those incoming phone calls. One particular call embedded itself in her memory and, she believes, is probably what started her interest in true crime.
“A girl around my age called because someone had broken into her house. She was scared. My mom was telling her to go and lock herself in the closet and hide there and stay on the phone until the police arrived. The fear in her voice was so scary to me,” Sarian recalls. “Dispatchers also never get closure. So when the police came, [my mom] hung up [which is protocol]. I still wonder what happened to her. It drives me nuts. These stories can stay with you forever.”