When you think about military life, a great set of eyelashes or the latest lipstick don't often come to mind, but soldier-turned-social media influencer Jackie Aina is proof you can wear the uniform and complete the mission with a perfectly arched eyebrow.
Aina joined the Army Reserve during her sophomore year in college. She was studying to become a pharmacist, but she was miserable, she said. Her boyfriend at the time was serving in the Army and encouraged her to join. The suggestion piqued Aina's interest and just six months later, she joined the Army Reserve and went on to become a 92Y unit supply specialist.
Aina says those years in the Army taught her a lot about leadership.
"I learned how to command a group or teach a class and do it with confidence. I learned a lot about challenging myself," Aina said.
Aina began posting YouTube videos about makeup during her time in the Army. She'd post beauty tutorials and videos about how to wear makeup while staying within military regulations. Aina's transparency in sharing the ups and downs of her life helped her develop a YouTube following. She credits her Army skills for preparing her for online success.
"I didn't know if I would fail. I didn't know if I would succeed," Aina said. "A lot of that is reflective of my job now with social media. You don’t know if you're going to make money tomorrow. You don't know if you're going to be relevant in three years."
Aina says her military service has made her more grateful.
Aina said the three things she learned during her military service were gratitude, leadership and perseverance. She served in the honor guard, an experience that Aina says was humbling and really filled a void in her life.
Her military experience led to a civilian position on an airbase in Kuwait that helped her focus on the next step of her career. During that year of civilian service, Aina worked the night shift then would come home and work on her makeup vlogs.
She encourages service members who have hobbies outside of the military to find time to dedicate to those passions.
"You will find a way to make it work. You just have to find a way to monetize your time a little bit smarter. Don't overwhelm yourself," Aina said.
Affectionately known as "Auntie Jackie" to her fans, Aina now boasts nearly 5 million followers across her social media platforms, with nearly three million subscribers on YouTube alone.
It isn't just lip gloss and pretty pictures for Aina. She uses her platform to talk about real-world issues, like politics and diversity in the beauty industry. Aina believes representation matters both in the beauty world and in the military.
"When I joined the Army, I had no idea that anybody who looked and acted like me could join the military. I never thought I had a place. I didn't know what I was getting myself into but I thought, 'I'm just going to try,'" Aina said.
Aina's desire to see greater representation in the beauty industry has opened many doors for her. She's become one of the industry's most influential vloggers, inking product collaborations with major cosmetics brands, like Too Faced and e.l.f. Cosmetics. Her "Born This Way" partnership with Too Faced expanded the company's foundation range to include more shades for people of color, something Aina is deeply passionate about.
Aina's digital footprint is growing. She's now expanding her empire to create more online content about a variety of topics in addition to makeup.
Videos by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class J. E. Veal
Follow Aina online: YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.