Beauty Interview

Interview with Janelle

Today’s interview is with a fellow blogger and YouTuber who I have long admired – the fantastic Janelle from Elle & Ish. I’ve followed Janelle’s blog for years – her’s was one of the first I ever read that combined fashion and personal finance (amongst a whole bevy of other topics!). I have always admired Janelle – she is incredibly creative and talented, with a keen eye for style and decor. She is also both resourceful and responsible – a great inspiration on the personal finance front.

In this last year Janelle started a YouTube channel which has already met with great success, with hundreds of thousands of followers added in 2013 alone. Enjoy meeting her!

Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

Hello!  I’m Janelle.  I’m an engineer, a blogger, and (more recently) a nail art YouTuber.  I live in California in Silicon Valley.

I love your home. How did you decorate it, and what are some key pieces that you love? How did select and find these pieces?

When I found my first job after college, I decorated cheaply by visiting Craigslist, IKEA, thrift stores, vintage flea markets, garage and estate sales.  At this point in my life I don’t see myself spending gobs of money on furniture.  Perhaps if I buy a bigger place I’ll look into it, but I’d rather be saving that money instead.  A few of my favorite pieces:  A discontinued white IKEA console from Craigslist that currently sits in my living room, my office bamboo chippendale chair from the Alameda Antiques Fair (we spray painted it a glossy black), and my mismatched living room gallery wall.


Can you share some advice about how to decorate your living space on a budget?

It’s important to find your own personal decorating style before you make any big purchases.  Pinterest and home decor blogs are the ultimate resource for inspiration.  Search on Craigslist often and use Craigseasy to view multiple listings with images.  Go to antique fairs, consignment stores, and thrift stores in cities with a lot of history.  I find that estate and garage sales have the cheapest prices, but estate sale items will be much more interesting than those from garage sales.  When it comes to art pieces, D-I-Y!  Spray paint works wonders.  Art work doesn’t have to be expensive; I print out my own photographs, I frame greeting cards, and I buy cheap art prints online at Etsy.


You are a personal finance blogger…AND a fashion blogger. How do you balance these two interests?

I regularly check my spending on at least a few times a week.  I avoid spending in cash whenever I can so I can have a record of what I’m buying.  To keep myself accountable, I share my overbudget spending on my blog at the end of each month.  Half of my blog subscriptions are related to personal finance…Reading personal finance blogs helps me stay grounded, whereas fashion and beauty blogs tempt me to shop.


Can you share some of your favorite fashion splurges? 

Splurges! Oh boy.  I bought a black caviar 2010 Chanel Outdoor Ligne tote with silver hardware in 2011 and a 1997 Chanel black caviar, flat-quilted jumbo with gold hardware in 2013…I still love them both and I don’t regret my purchases.  Both were from eBay.  I make sure to get them authenticated first (I recommend Etinceler) or buy from a reputable seller before I buy.  Buying pre-owned or vintage is my preference. It’s easier on the wallet, you don’t see everyone carrying it, and you don’t have to be afraid of breaking anything in.


What are some of your favorite items in your wardrobe?

I love my Hudson and J Brand jeans!  I love the quality and they still look amazing after many washes.  I’m a regular clearance rack shopper and I try to buy luxury brands on the cheap. My jeans are usually from eBay or discount stores like Neiman Marcus Last Call.   Aside from the Chanel, I use the Alexander Wang Diego bag regularly as well as my small Longchamp Le Pliage in black with long handles.  When its cold outside you’ll probably see me in my Northface WindWall jacket. I wear it nonstop in the fall and winter, and I love it so much that I bought the same style for my boyfriend and younger sister.


What’s a piece of advice about style and shopping that you’ve learned over time?

When it comes to shoes, bags and accessories, you really do get what you pay for.  In college I bought cheap items in multiples because of the price.  I don’t have any of those items anymore because they didn’t last.

You recently began a YouTubechannel and have had  great success! Can you share a little bit about how you started, and how your channel has evolved?

During the 2012 Christmas season my computer died.  My replacement desktop had a few software editing programs built into it, and I like doing my nails as a hobby, so I decided to learn how to edit videos and document the process.  I asked Justin for a software editing book for Christmas.  Here I am 7 months later, and I am amazed at how quickly my channel has grown!  My greatest challenge has definitely been recording voiceovers.  For my first few tutorials I had a lot of complaints.  I didn’t realize at the time that viewers wanted commentary to be instructional and enthusiastic…similar to a radio voice.  I’m trying to make each video an overall experience. I try my best to make the audio, the animations, and the nail art compliment each other.  And I’m still learning every day.


One of Elle’s nail art creations

Screen shot 2013-09-15 at 5.27.30 PM

How do you balance all of your responsibilities – especially since many people do YouTube alone as a full time career? Do you ever consider doing this as a full time job..and why or why not?

It has been difficult.  I have a hard time balancing a full time job, cooking at home, cleaning up the house, making videos and going to the gym.  There are not enough hours in the day!  If one day my YouTube earnings eclipse my full time job earnings, then I will consider doing it full time.  But it’s a tough decision…I’d have to give up some benefits.  I was brought up to study hard, attend a good college, and find a traditional 9-to-5 job with good pay.  YouTube is a completely different path.  It’s novel and exciting especially as a full time career.  But I’m not sure if making videos is a sustainable source of income in the long run… Will I be making videos in my 40’s and 50’s?  Who knows what the future will bring?

I of course have to ask – what are some of your favorite and most worn polishes?

I love mint, coral and glitter polishes!  And lately I’ve been wearing neon shades on my toes.  Some of my favorites:  China Glaze Too Yacht to Handle, China Glaze Celtic Sun, Revlon Minted, and L’Oreal Sparklicious.



Janelle's sewing station, via

Janelle’s sewing station, via

What are some of your other passions and hobbies? 

I started out as a personal finance blogger… and I still love it!  I’m still keeping track of my finances regularly through  I used to have an Etsy shop and sewed regularly by hand and with a machine but I don’t do that very often anymore.  I love fashion, interior decorating, and traveling on the cheap using miles and points.  And Buddy!  My “little old man” Yorkie.  He’s my world…Buddy is getting older and I want to give him the best life possible.


Finally…please share something surprising about yourself!

My Chinese parents were born and raised in Manila, Philippines and I used to spend many summers there as a kid.  I even asked my parents if I could go to high school there and I took a few admittance tests but ultimately they thought it was best for me to go to school in the States.  I wonder what would have happened if I had stayed there!  Filipino food is one of my favorite foods to eat and I’d like to go back one day!


I really enjoyed learning more about Janelle’s thoughts on home decor, style, YouTube and more. Having followed her for so long and also having shared a curry lunch together, I can say that she truly deserves all the success she has received, and more. I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring. For more of Janelle, you can visit her blog, and her YouTube channel. Thank you Janelle for being here today.

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  • Adele
    September 26, 2013 at 9:10 am

    I loved reading about Janelle, what an amazing multi talented lady. Adore how she has styled her home & as for the nail art, I’ll definitely be visiting her YouTube channel!
    Have a fab Thursday Katherine xoxo

    • Katherine
      September 26, 2013 at 9:53 am

      Thank you! She is amazing!

  • Elaine
    September 26, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Katherine, thanks for introducing all these amazing and fabulous bloggers. Janelle is so multi talented and inspiring 🙂 Can’t wait to dive into her blog and youtube chanel!

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  • Revanche
    September 26, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Thanks for doing this interview, both of you! I’ve been reading both of you for a while and I love fashion blogs that are PF conscious. They’re much more relatable, for me, anyway, and you’re both inspirational and motivational 🙂

    • Katherine
      September 26, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind words Revanche! I’ve also been a long time reader and fan of your blog as well 🙂

  • Jessy
    September 26, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Yay! I loved the interview. I’ve been following Janelle for a while now and have always appreciated her kindness. Her nail channel is so creative!

    • Katherine
      September 26, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Yes Janelle is one of the kindest bloggers out there 🙂

  • Diana
    September 26, 2013 at 10:23 am

    My college roommate! Haha. 🙂

    • Katherine
      September 26, 2013 at 10:49 am

      Hi my friend! Thanks for commenting, such a small world!! 🙂 Hope to see you soon.

  • Elna
    September 27, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Wow! Janelle seemed has a piece of the Philippines in her heart. She should visit soon. Now I miss Philippines 🙂

    • Katherine
      September 29, 2013 at 9:48 am

      I would love to go back and visit the Philippines one day for fun, and spend some time on a beautiful island too 🙂

  • Naaj
    September 28, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Such an inspiring interview and great tip to keep a log of the spendings. Love the fact that Janelle speaks from the heart and is straight forward and realistic when it comes to dealing with things.

  • Anna
    September 29, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    My favorite type of blogger- well versed in luxury but won’t throw her life away to own the latest Louboutins. I can relate to her (and you for that matter) it his regard. I have aggressive saving goals but I absolutely love designer items. I recently bought four pairs of shoes (1 Louboutin, 2 Givenchy, 1 Sergio Rossi) for less than $500 because I just happened on a DSW sale 🙂 I also have items from Celine, Alexander Wang, Burberry, Equipment, etc all gotten at steep discounts.

    I’d love to see more examples of responsible consumption of luxury!

    • Katherine
      September 29, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      Wow that sounds like a great DSW sale! I have to check there more often 🙂 Thank you for your kind words and I completely agree on Janelle!

      • Marlene @ chocolatecookiesandcandies
        September 30, 2013 at 4:30 am

        I couldn’t agree more with Anna. I love seeing bloggers like Janelle who are well versed with luxury products but are sensible and think about their future. They’re so few of them around. It’s either one end of the spectrum or the other. Can’t wait to check out her blog and YouTube channel.