The Peruvian YouTube star is here to take you on a journey around the globe — while also teaching you how to boost your confidence.

Por Eliza Thompson
Junio 25, 2020
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Courtesy Katy Esquivel

Since she was a little girl, Katy Esquivel has been interested in fashion and beauty, sneaking sprays of her mother’s perfume and trying on her clothes. Now, as the host of the popular YouTube channels What the Chic and Katy Travels — which combined have nearly 7 million followers — she’s made it her career. “When I discovered YouTube, my life took an unexpected turn,” says the 30-year-old.

Born in Peru, Esquivel moved to Los Angeles to study merchandising and marketing at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and hoped to work as a buyer after graduation, but in 2011, the internet came calling. “It really was by accident,” she says. “I met another YouTuber and she recommended that I do YouTube videos because I was very shy. It started like therapy. I felt really comfortable with this small community of 20, 30 people who would watch my videos and talk to me in the comments.”

At first, Katy recorded her videos in English, but once she switched to Spanish, her viewership took off. “The Hispanic YouTube community was really small then,” she says, noting that one of her first viral successes was a clip about how to walk in high heels. “People wouldn’t stop asking me to make a video about it,” she recalls. “I thought to myself, ‘This is so weird. Everyone knows how to walk in heels!’” Apparently, they didn’t, and a star was born.

Her videos range from the humorous — her boyfriend reacting to her Halloween costume, for example — to the useful, with tips on everything from covering up under-eye circles to effectively getting your bikini line ready for summer. “The purpose of my lifestyle channel is to educate women about self-confidence in an entertaining way,” she explains. “Loving yourself is not only accepting who you are, but also taking care of your body and mind. I like showing that beauty and fashion can also be used as a layer of confidence to feel beautiful inside and out.”

Though she’s still super-active on What the Chic, her main focus at the moment is Katy Travels, the sister channel where you can find her sharing tips from locales like Cancún, São Paulo, and Dubai (Oman and Japan are two of her recent favorite destinations). She almost always travels with her boyfriend of more than two years, Christian LeBlanc, a fellow YouTuber whose own channel boasts 1.5 million subscribers. “We do share a lot of ideas, we go on trips,” she says. “We basically go everywhere together, but we do keep our businesses completely separate.”

When they’re not traveling, they return to home base in Bali, though when we speak, they’re making their way across Canada. They got stuck in Vancouver while visiting LeBlanc’s family just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, so when lockdowns started to lift, they decided to make the best of it by renting an RV and driving across the country.

Katy in Norway.
Courtesy Katy Esquivel

Before the pandemic, the couple hoped to spend part of 2020 traveling through Africa — Antarctica is another bucket-list destination — but while that’s on hold, Esquivel is making plans for her next offline moves. “I don’t want to be too attached to my YouTube channel and depend on it,” she explains. I do it because I truly enjoy doing my travel and lifestyle videos, but I want to expand beyond digital media.” She’s got a handful of top-secret projects in the works, and once COVID-19 subsides, she plans to head back to Peru to continue leading workshops for students who want to learn more about the business of being a YouTuber. “Many people think that doing social media is super easy — ‘I get to travel the world!’ But it’s a lot of hard work, and people don’t see that because they only see the final result.”

And while the final — gorgeous, joyous, and often helpful — result is of course why fans love Katy, she also has some useful advice for appreciating the raw moments, whether you’re an influencer or just a person taking pictures for friends back home. “Something amazing happens and you have your phone in front of you instead of using your eyes,” she says. “It’s important to disconnect from those things. So I forced myself to take days off, no matter where I am, and that has had a really positive impact in my life.”

Katy in Portugal.
Courtesy Katy Esquivel

For more with Katy, pick up the new issue of People en Español, on newsstands now.