On every beauty blog, an updo impossibly defies gravity. On every cooking blog, there is a recipe for an unmakeably delicate rosemary-heirloom button mushroom tatin. On every lifestyle website, there is a false promise that you can paint that Ikat nail art yourself. On every Pinterest page, there sits a mystically twisted braid, with no beginning or end, like a pile of bifurcated snakes eating their tails.
“Just the Tips” is a response to the culture of Internet tips and DIY from Katie Feo Kelly (always on the left, 33) and Katy Ansite (always on the right, 33), a pair of best friends who’ve known each other since they were 7 and 8 years old respectively. They now live in Texas and California, and they’ve turned their long-distance friendship and shared sense of humor into a web series and new website (hello best friend!) about DIY gone awry, gamely road-testing all the tips the Internet has to offer.
Their projects have ranged from Hunger Games makeup, to Super Bowl facepaint, to a Home Depot Christmas, to following the guidelines from “The Easy Way to Make Your Favorite Fancy Dress Work for Day.” They’ve attempt to make SWANTS (pants sewn from sweaters), and they’ve adorned gourds as instructed by marthastewart.com. Thirteen videos in, their success rate hovers around 8 percent (a GOOP sweatshirt panned out).
I spoke with Katie and Katy about Pinterest, sincerity, and moms.
Tell me a bit about how the series got started.
Katie Feo Kelly: Pinterest kind of exploded. Magazines have always been like that, but I think Pinterest has made it just insane. Online you can find the whole gamut of this sort of best-life, self-improvement stuff. It felt right to be like, Whaaat? Hold up a mirror to it.
Katy Ansite: There’s so much out there, it’s easy to just look at everything and be like, I couldn’t possibly have time to make my own chutney and to make my own clothing on top of that.
Are you trying to convey a particular message?
Kelly: I don’t necessarily want to say it’s a waste of your time, but if you have a full-time job and you do everything you’re supposed to do …
A trap that women, more often than men, [fall into] is that you’re in a constant state of self-improvement. You’re always looking to be self-improving. [Right now] the interesting narratives about self-improvement that are always hurled at women coincide with Internet culture. We are only really possible on the incredibly low budget that we’re operating on because of YouTube, right? That’s also where you find all this crazy advice.
So you’re playing into that structure in order to criticize it?
Kelly: I think that the funny thing about the show, and probably the hardest to believe for viewers, is that we’re coming from a place of real earnestness and sincerity. We’re not looking to be snarky about anything. And we want to kind of approach things always from a place that has (1) optimism and (2) general absurdity and silliness, but never cynicism. We’re genuinely excited to try these recipes, which is hard to believe. I think we’re equally disappointed in ourselves as we are in the actual activity of the craft. Everyone approaches these things with a sense of optimism in their heart.
Has this been a particularly bonding project for you two?
Ansite: I think we’re both pretty surprised by how rewarding it’s been to work together as adults in creating something.
What’s the editing process like?
Ansite: We’re pretty “amateur hour.” We can kind of edit ourselves, but if you were to put us on any sort of camera for just an interview, I don’t know how we would keep it together.
Kelly: Just thinking about it, I just got sweaty. Just from saying it out loud.
Are you actively seeking out material for Just the Tips, or does it just come to you in your regular media consumption?
Ansite: I’m fed a lot of material unwittingly. My mom sends me this kind of stuff constantly. And again, some are real crazy: “You should do this. You should totally have some friends over and just glue these things on that thing.”
Kelly: I consider myself part of the demographic that I would be trying to reach if I wasn’t me. I think consumers are smarter than they’re presumed to be and I think everyone kind of has this skepticism all the time. You can both be excited about something and also be like, Eh, nah. We’re never like, Boy, these are for dummies. We’re like, No, these are for us.