Meet Stephanie and Melissa Valenzuela, long-time Arizona residents and fashion enthusiasts, and, oh yeah, twins (the fraternal kind). The 24-year-old sisters — known to their YouTube followers by their collective name, The Fashion Citizen — upload videos three times a week in the form of thrift hauls, DIY tutorials, OOTWs (outfits of the week), and vlogs (video-logs of their everyday lives). Since they began their YouTube channel in 2011, their audience has grown to over 302,000 subscribers (followed by their Instagram with 58,500 followers and their Twitter with 8,400 followers).
Any casual viewer of The Fashion Citizen's videos will notice that they’ve developed a charming sister-speak. As twins and roommates, their lexicon is peppered with shorthand – they call Starbucks “Starbies” and McDonald’s “Mackas;” Stephanie calls Melissa “Smell” and Melissa calls Stephanie “Punk.” Poised and confident (the result of years in front of the camera), they often talk in unison, perhaps without noticing. Style-wise, Melissa says she is the Ashley Olsen to Stephanie’s Mary-Kate.
New Times sat down with the Valenzuela sisters on a recent afternoon at Sip Coffee in Scottsdale to talk about thrifting in the Valley, personal style, and being themselves on YouTube.
Where are your favorite places to shop in the Valley?
Melissa: Goodwill is one of our favorites, but we have specific locations that we like. There are two we always hit up on Guadalupe – one in Mesa and one in Tempe – so it's really convenient.
Stephanie: Yeah, we always say, let’s go to the ones on the “Guad.” The one on McClintock and Southern is good, too. Students seem to donate a lot to Tempe thrift stores. We also like the Savers off of Raintree in North Scottsdale.
What’s the first section you head to in the thrift store?
Melissa: Recently, for me, it's been home décor, because Stephanie looks for clothes for the both of us.
Stephanie: Outerwear, because it’s getting colder, and skirts.
Do you find that thrifting in Phoenix is better than other big cities?
Both (in unison): Definitely.
Stephanie: We get comments from people in L.A. asking how we do it, because their stores are picked over or junky. Our thrift stores are clean in comparison. We are privileged here.
What do you think is special about Arizona?
Melissa: We used to be very anti-Arizona when we were young, but we’ve grown to appreciate everything the Valley has to offer. We’ve met new people and discovered cool local things.
What's your first fashion-related childhood memory?
Melissa: As twins, we were always dressed in different-colored matching sets.
Stephanie: I was put in pink a lot, but didn't really like pink.
Melissa: Also, our mom was a thrifter. She was ahead of her time. A lot of things we own of hers we see everywhere now. We were influenced a ton by her, even if at the time we didn’t realize it.
What do you each love about your sister's style?
Melissa: I think Stephanie takes more risks now. She tries new things.
Stephanie: I like how elegant her style is. She always looks put-together but effortless.
From whom, or what, do you draw fashion or style inspiration these days?
Melissa: Inspiration is so accessible now. You used to have to buy a magazine, but now there are images everywhere. I often look through Instagram’s Explore page for inspiration.
Stephanie: Also, our surroundings and the desert have shaped our style.
Would you consider yourself hoarders or minimalists?
Melissa: We are definitely hoarders right now. We’d like to get to a happy medium. It’s not even clothing, just stuff.
What's the best/worst part of being YouTube famous?
Melissa: We never like to associate the words “YouTube” and “famous” together; we consider ourselves "YouTubers." The best thing is that we have our own creative platform. It's our own place on the internet where we can make whatever content we want and our audience will be open to it. They’re smart and they’ve grown with us. When we first started our channel (four years ago) we tried to be like everyone else. It took us a while to step back and realize that people appreciate our being true to ourselves.
Stephanie: I don't feel like I have to appeal to teenagers, which is a huge audience on YouTube. Our followers are roughly our age, 18-24 year olds, so they connect and relate to us. Some see us as friends or family members. We want to remain down to earth. We want to be us; we are not going to change in any way.
Have you been approached by any companies for sponsorships?
Melissa: We work with some companies on occasion, but we are picky. This year alone, we’ve only done two or three sponsored videos. It has to be the right company: something that we align with and that our audience aligns with.
Stephanie: We partnered with Savers recently, and we always shop at Savers, so for them to approach us was amazing.
Describe your style in 3 words.
Melissa: Eclectic (my first go-to word, because it’s a catch-all). Feminine. Comfortable (as I’ve gotten older, I’ve geared more towards comfort than trends).
Stephanie: Minimal (I wear a lot of black and not many prints). Conservative (I don’t often reveal my skin or wear clothes that cling to my body). Functional (I wear sneakers if we are planning to walk.).
Is there a fine line between clothes that are ugly and those that are epic?
Melissa: Sometimes, I can’t tell. I have a bright pink top with a huge ruffle around the neck that is a hit-or-miss piece. It ultimately comes down to the person. Even if other people think it’s crazy or tacky, if I wear it and feel confident, others see that I'm comfortable in my skin.
Stephanie: If you wear something with confidence, people generally respond well.
What are some of your favorite recent thrift finds?
Melissa: A dusty rose faux-suede duster coat.
Stephanie: All of my turtlenecks. We’ve been buying so many. It's hard to find nice ones at the thrift store that have life left in them. I'll buy some that are a bit out-there and strange. They hide a double chin and keep my neck warm.
What's your advice for thrifting in Phoenix?
Melissa: If you’re going to thrift here, find out when the sales are.
Stephanie: Look through everything and go in with an open mind. Don't get us wrong; thrifting can be hit-or-miss, but that’s the thrill of it.
What's a current fashion trend you can't stand?
Melissa: Athleisure – trying to look active when you aren’t. I’d never wear leggings as pants.
What are 5 versatile items every woman should have in her wardrobe?
Both: A denim jacket, a good pair of dark denim jeans, an elevated white top, a classic leather (or faux leather) moto jacket, and a pair of ankle boots.
Melissa, how do you wear so much white without spilling on it?
Melissa: The funny thing is I tend to not get stains on my white clothing, but I stain other colors all the time. I just stained an olive green bomber jacket. I guess I'm just careful when I wear white pieces. Many of them are from the thrift store, so I look for good fabrics and take care of them.
Stephanie: We never dry clean. I could never be a person who goes to the dry cleaners.
What are your ride-or-die wardrobe pieces?
Melissa: A denim jacket. A turtleneck. Ankle boots. And I always carry a tote.
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Stephanie: We are really into distressed denim. A backpack.
What are your goals for the future?
Melissa: We want to start creating content outside of ourselves. We know our audience likes to see us, but we want to work with other people, too.
Stephanie: We have cool friends who do things all over Arizona, and we want to share that. Personally, I like working behind the camera more.