Our exclusive interview with Nikkie de Jager (a.k.a. NikkieTutorials)
After her coming out, Nikkie de Jager made an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and her dream of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest also came true. But then COVID-19 came along. We got the chance to talk to her exclusively for &C Magazine, and want to know how she's doing.
There are so many things to talk to you about. Would have been nice to be able to start our chat with the Eurovision Song Contest, but that got canceled. How do you feel about these crazy times?
'I'm doing well personally. Of course I think it is a pity that the Eurovision Song Contest will not take place, but that was to be expected. I am healthy, but my mother is ill. Now the question is: is it a cold, the flu, hay fever or corona? She does have some of the symptoms. They don't test here anymore. I haven't seen her for a week and a half now, and that's heavy shit for us.'
I understand you're worried about your mom. Can you keep a cool head?
'In general, I am very level-headed. I think it is important to try to stay calm, because hysteria gets you nowhere. But now that it is getting so close, I do think: Jesus. There are no lung diseases in my family and we are all healthy people, so I assume it will be all right. But of course there is reason for panic.'
Your schedule will also look very different in the coming months.
'Yes, it is a bit of a switch to go from a very full to a very empty schedule. I haven't had that in years. I should be in LA right now because I had won an award and was invited to the ceremony. But after the travel ban they said: we can no longer fly you in, so you have not won the award either. Haha.'
Well. Keep it yourself then!
'I will just continue with my own videos now. I also want to make sure people have fun right now. I spent a lot of time at home, but now even more. I honestly love it because I just moved in. But I do have a bad tic: if there's something I am not allowed to do, I really want it. So now more than ever I feel like going to LA or London or eating out. I want it all.'
Everyone only talks about one thing, you are fairly aloof when it comes to corona. You do that intentionally?
'Yes. I don't want you to think about it when you click on my content, that it's a distraction. We've been hearing corona this all day, corona that. Now it is coronay. Haha.'
Must see: Nikkie backstage during her shoot for &C Magazine
How are you feeling now, after your coming out?
'It depends on how I wake up. One day I'm insecure and I don't dare to face the world, the other day I think: fuck it. It is mostly going well, but I still have dark days now and then. I went to the doctor because I have trouble sleeping. 'You have a post-traumatic stress disorder,' he concluded. 'Well, well, we shouldn't make it bigger than it is,' I said. But still: all my symptoms indicate towards PTSD. All I can do is give myself time to give it a place, he said. So I try that, although it is still difficult at times.'
Are you talking to someone? Therapy maybe?
'Not with a therapist, but I talk a lot with my mother, Dylan (Nikkie's fiancé, red.) and my manager. I have to, because when I start bottling everything up, it's the end of it. I also find it difficult that every news item is opened with: 'She recently came out as transgender.' Or people who say something about it on the streets. Very sweet and they mean well, but that keeps reminding me.'
Do you have thick skin?
'Well, I was bullied a lot. That has given me a thicker skin. So before my coming out, everybody could say whatever about me. I didn't care. But it has been different since I came out. The response has been very positive, but it is still a bit scary. How do people react outside? What kind of jokes will they make? I am used to being criticized about how I look. But criticizing who I am is much more personal. When I see comments from some people on social media, I sometimes think: God, you are so mean. But in the end I can laugh about it. '
What is the sweetest response you've received?
'The reactions of people you don't expect, such as Dylan's football friends. I was afraid it would totally overwhelm them, but they were so sweet. You see, when it affects someone close by, people react very differently.'
Have you turned down many interview requests?
'Everyone asked me, but I didn't want to do anything in the Netherlands. I noticed that everything I said in my videos suddenly became a news item - even now. Jesus, it is all about me again, I thought. I just got tired of myself. I didn't feel like sitting somewhere and talking about it here at home. But if I had chosen someone, it would be Eva Jinek (Dutch talk show host, red). I would have trusted her to be able to calmly tell my story.'
When you are everywhere, it also feels like you are peddling your own problem. There are people who supposedly want privacy, but call radio stations in the morning.
'You say A, but you do B.'
Are you deliberately careful with what you share about your private life?
'If I share something, I prefer to do it on my own channel, with my own audience. Then I have control and can use my own words. And I keep an eye on balance. When it comes to personal things, I'm like: we've heard all that before. If you refrain, it also won't be a fuss. I do want to share things, but also some privacy.'
You did fly to LA to be a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. A bit of a disillusion, you said in DWDD (Dutch talk show, red.).
'Call me naive, but I kind of expected to be welcomed with confetti cannons: 'Welcome to The Ellen DeGeneres Show!' But instead I was greeted by an angry intern who was a bit overworked. I was expecting a Disney show, but got Teletubbies after dark. Every guest at Ellen's had a private toilet, but I didn't. I was not allowed to use the nearest toilet, because it was reserved for the Jonas Brothers. Why do they get a private toilet, I thought. But in the end my item had eight million views afterwards and theirs two million, ha!'
Were you happy with the item itself?
'It was a great summary for people who didn't know me, but people who already knew me expected more news. Fuck, I should have just sat with Eva, I thought then.'
But still, in the future, you can say: I was with Ellen DeGeneres in LA.
'Exactly. I am happy with the experience.'
How do you feel about the moment of your coming out? Do you ever feel: wish I did this earlier?
'Difficult to say afterwards. My biggest fear was that it would no longer be about my work, but about who I am. No longer about makeup, but about what used to hang between my legs. Fortunately, that turns out not to be the case. But I do get more personal questions than before, I still have to find a balance in that.'
Do you weigh your words before you say anything?
'Very much. I think three times before I say anything. Now even more. I also find it exciting to see what my roll will be now, after my coming out. I'm not sure about that yet. Am I going to stand on a boat at every gay pride? I found that difficult at first, but now I think: why not? Even if there's only one person out there who thinks: I can achieve that. Yes, that's who I do it for, for the other little Nikkies out there.'
You mention your mother a lot, but you never really talke about your father. Is he in your life?
'I do have contact with him, but I am really a mommy's girl. From childhood on I have an incredibly strong bond with her. It was always mommy, mommy, mommy. And what plays a part is that my mother's family accepted me more than my father's family, so that attracted me as a child. My father is very proud of me, he follows everything I do and we text, but I have a very different relationship with my mother.'
She texts or calls you every day: 'Nik, what's up?'
'Not just once! She watches everything, shares everything and is very proud of everything. I feel it when she disagrees with something. Recently I was on a TV show with a bun on my head. When I was talking to her on the phone later I felt something was off. 'No, nothing,' she said. So I start trying to figure it out. My outfit? No. My makeup? No. My hair? And then she was silent, haha. She didn't like my bun.'
And how does she feel about you using botox and fillers?
'Oh, she thinks that's a real shame. But there is a turning point now, because I recently took her with me and she now also has some fillers.'
Hahaha. Is she okay with you sharing that?
'She is fine with that, she is so happy with it. Every time I see her, she proudly says: beautiful, isn't it? When I started, she said: don't do that sweetheart, what are you doing to yourself? But now she asks: when are we going again? Haha.'
Is your mother the reason you live in Uden?
'I was born in Wageningen, but a few years after my parents divorced, my mother met my stepfather and we moved to Brabant. So I am an import Brabo. My ex lived in Uden; I moved there when we were together. When we broke up I decided to stay, because I was fine with it. I live comfortably in the forest, wonderfully quiet.'
Do you ever see yourself moving abroad?
'No, not now anyway. Maybe when I'm older. Many people expect me to go to LA, but the mentality is so different there. I like that for a week.'
How did your fascination for beauty start?
'I remember my mother always used a duo eyeshadow from Hema (Dutch chain store, red.), in taupe and champagne. I found that fascinating. I just thought: I want that too. I could also watch my barbies for hours. Where other people tore their heads off and cut their hair, I just thought: they look beautiful.'
And as a child did you already think: this is what people will know me for?
'I don't know why, but that was always there. I was never on the background. If we had a playback show at school, I would be the first on stage. When I was bullied, I started to hold myself back a bit more. I figured: if I stand out less, I will also be bullied less.'
Did you dress differently?
'Well, I made myself small. I always walked bent, so I still have shoulder problems. I did it unconsciously, until a friend of my mother said, 'Why is she walking like this? She looks like Quasimodo.' Since that day I correct myself: bam, shoulders back.'
There are millions of beauty bloggers who aspire to your success, but who fail. Why are you succeeding?
'The market is now very saturated, I think I got there in time. Of course I've been doing this for a long time, twelve years. But I've also had times when I saw people passing me left and right very fast with subscribers and I thought, why don't I have that? Because my makeup skills were much better than theirs.'
How did you persevere?
'I thought it was too much fun to give up. I started my channel at a time when I was super insecure. I already thought twenty views and seven comments were fantastic - that people bothered to respond at all. It became my own world, where no one knew I was transgender and was bullied. It was also a mirror. When I saw that I was bent while editing, I sat up straight next time. I ended up doing that outside the camera as well. That's how I coached myself. '
Did people ever take advantage of you during your career?
'Oh yeah. I've seen plenty of managers and brands offer horrible contracts. People who want to piggyback on your success. Fortunately, I have always said no to that. I notice things like that quickly.'
Is success important to you?
'Important in a healthy way, I think. I think you should always do the best you can. You should not compare yourself to others, but set a bar for yourself and try to match it. Of course success is important to me, because it pays the bills. But sometimes a video just isn't working.'
How do you cope if a video scores less well than hoped?
'I used to find that very difficult. If a video didn't hit my target, I was crying. Now I can still be disappointed, but I also think: if it has been going well for twelve years, who cares if one year is a little less great? It makes sense that it stagnates or drops sometimes.'
What was such a video that made you cry?
'The most painful ones are the videos that you really believe in. Like with my Spiderman look. I had spent six hours in the studio, I was very proud and I was sure: this is going to be a blast. I put it online and saw a 70 percent drop. During that period I normally got 130,000 views in the first hour, now 43,000. I was on vacation in LA with Dylan and I was really sad. Anyway, I survived, haha.'
And Dylan as well I hope?
'He did, thanks.'
Do you also see your success as a fuck you to the past? To the people who didn't believe in you?
'Yes, now even more, after all the reactions. Not that that was my goal. But I do think: good for you.'
What else is on your bucket list?
'Adele. Although after Ellen I figured, don't meet your idols. Haha.'
Are you someone with a ten-year plan?
'No, I don't work like that. I experienced with my brother (Mikai, died in May 2018 from cancer, red.) how fast things can go. Since then, I have been thinking about everything: maybe I'll be dead tomorrow.'
Did that change you?
'Yes, I am different in life. I think about things differently. Home is sacred, no one can touch that. When I have to choose between something cool in terms of work or an evening with family, I often choose my family. If I drop dead tomorrow, I'd rather spend my last evening with family than work. I used to fly to a different place every week. Now I'm like: how soon can I be home again?'
How's your mom dealing with it?
'Mom is doing well. With occasional dark days. But she's smiling again.'
You talk a lot about emotions?
'My mother does, my stepfather a little less. I have a big mouth, but I always bottle things up myself and think I can do everything alone.'
What about the upcoming year?
'Before 2020 started, I was really looking forward to it. Then there was a dark page that made me think: 2020, I can wipe my ass with that. It will suck. But now that my coming out is over, I can say that it will be an exciting, surprising year.'
The corona crisis has been going on for a few weeks now. We have no idea what's to come. If all gets well, what else will 2020 bring you?
'I'm going to sing. No, just kidding, haha. Better not. Actually, I can't say anything about it yet, but 2020 will be one for the books. Ask me about 2017 and I don't remember what I did. But in ten years I will say: 2020, that was a year for me.'
Some lows, with very high highs.
'Yes, that's the theme. And from now on only highs, I hope.'