On the face of it, there is absolutely nothing remarkable about 26 year old "girl next door" Lauren Luke. Growing up in the North East, she had a tough time at school - became a mother at 16, and until two years ago was a telephone operator at her local cab rank.
However, Lauren is without doubt truly remarkable - in fact she is what Charles Leadbetter refers to as a "Pro Am,” an enthusiastic amateur, who pursues activities to professional standards that has an increasingly important role in our society and economy.
And, Charles is right...Lauren began selling makeup on eBay, and uploading accompanying makeup tutorials to YouTube. It was these tutorials that caught the online publics imagination. Lauren's YouTube channel, panacea81, has drawn more than 4.5 million viewers and is one of the UK's most watched YouTube channels.
Lauren is a classic example of a "bottom up hit", starting at the very end of Chris Anderson's "long tail", and rising through word of mouth and grass roots support, a marketplace of vast variety and increasing power.
Now she's a YouTube sensation, she's video blogging for the Guardian, has just featured in a BBC documentary, is working with Anomaly to produce her own cosmetics line due in stores worldwide at the beginning of April, and a book being published in October, not forgetting a forthcoming game on the Nintendo DS.
For Lauren, make up is a passion; she is completely focused and utterly dedicated towards her make up tutorials and has posted hundreds of videos out of nothing more than love.
Charles Leadbetter describes pro-ams as, "amateurs who work to professional standards. These are not the gentlemanly amateurs of old – George Orwell’s blimpocracy, the men in blazers who sustained amateur cricket and athletics clubs. The Pro-Ams are knowledgeable, educated, committed, and networked, by new technology. The twentieth century was shaped by large hierarchical organisations with professionals at the top. Pro-Ams are creating new, distributed organisational models that will be innovative, adaptive, and low-cost."
Lauren bridges the professional and amateur divide. She isn't a professional make up artist, even though she spends all her time with make up and earns her living selling makeup on eBay. She uploads and posts YouTube videos because she loves it; not for the money. Yet Lauren is not an amateur: she pursues her make up with professional dedication and judges herself against professional standards.
Mac, No7 and many other make-up retailers could upload make up tutorials, but as Clay Shirky quite rightly observes they "take on the cost of an institution.” "First of all, when you form an institution, you take on a management problem, right. No good just hiring employees. You also have to hire other employees to manage those employees. Secondly, you have to bring structure into place. You have to have economic structure. You have to have legal structure. You have to have physical structure. And that creates additional costs. Third, forming an institution is inherently exclusionary."
Lauren, doesn't incur any of these costs, she just uploads her videos, mistakes and all. Her tutorials cover all niches, all music tastes, all skin tones and are delivered with by an honest and genuine girl who just loves what she's doing. My wife and I have watched, in total admiration, a couple of Laurens tutorials - her down to earth manner is very relaxing, and totally believable.
Moving forward, Lauren has committed to becoming part of an institution - she has relinquished her 100% control for the opportunity of a greater gain.
As a fellow Geordie, I'll admit that I do have a soft spot - and I hope that Lauren has the success that she deserves & that she is supported by honest individuals who don’t take advantage of her good nature and naivety.
Good Luck Lauren, you're a pioneering Pro Am!