YouTube star Michelle Phan is known for her beauty videos, but lately she’s applying her artistic eye to her first original comic, The Enchantress, announced earlier this month. The series, which is set to debut on the digital platform LINE Webtoon, will be a 26-chapter story about a songstress who comes into her true power with the help of her protector and alchemist, BeBo (see sketch below).
Phan herself admitted then that the career move might come as a surprise as most people know her as a “makeup guru,” but she explains that The Enchantress is a passion project that has been brewing for more than 15 years. Here, Phan tells Entertainment Weekly about the origins of the project, her passion for storytelling, and why this is an exciting time for female storytellers in particular.
The idea for The Enchantress first came to her when she was 11 years old, playing at recess. “I was with my friends and we were bored, and one day I decided to create this game where we all had different superpowers,” Phan says. “One girl would be in charge of plants, another would be in charge of water, fire, elemental powers, earthly powers. We played make believe, and this make believe inspired the story.”
From there, she wrote and illustrated the first chapter, but she never expected to become a comic book artist. Her mother, who immigrated from Vietnam, wanted Phan to become a doctor. “She wanted me to have a better life than her, so she thought me going to med school would validate what I did and would help me bring in a better income,” Phan explains. “[Art] was just a hobby. I never thought it would make money. That was why this passion project was left on the back burner for so long.”
Just last year, the 28-year-old digital phenom visited home and discovered a box that her mother had kept with her old drawings. “When I opened it, it was like unleashing the feels all over again,” Phan says. “I was reading the story and I couldn’t believe that I made this universe.”
She jokes, though, that her original version was written from a tween perspective, with prom and graduation being some of the biggest concerns. The updated version, meanwhile, will be revamped with Phan’s perspective on the world that she’s acquired since her youth. It will also be very hands-on, with Phan doing all the art; she might seek the help of an illustrator with the story and paneling, but she plans on finalizing all the details.
As for new perspectives, a major one that Phan has gained, of course, is in the digital realm. She blogged for years and is still going strong with her YouTube channel, which features beauty and lifestyle videos (she’s invested in a number of other ventures as well). So it seems like her channel and forthcoming comic are most clearly connected by the fact that they exist, or will soon, in the digital space. But Phan has a different perspective on the biggest connection between these two endeavors: “This is just another extension to my storytelling abilities.”
She adds that she hopes her new pursuit will inspire others — especially women — to use a platform like hers to make a career out of storytelling. “This is an exciting time to be a female storyteller,” she says. “Now that we have the tools and the resources and the platforms readily there, any girl and woman can write and create something and bring it to life.”