Mindy and Shaun McKnight started taking pictures of their twin girls' hair in 2008 to share styling ideas with family and friends. Now, with the recent release of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," this Utah mom's hairstyles have hit the big screen.
The McKnight's channel, Cute Girls Hairstyles, is packed with hair tutorials that Mindy does on her daughters, racking up millions of views on YouTube. But recently, Cute Girls Hairstyles reached more viewers than ever before when it had one of its hairstyles featured in the popular film "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."
Mindy first got in contact with the hairstylists for the blockbuster movie, Linda Flowers, after she created a tutorial for the Katniss braid featured in the first movie.
"I saw it off the movie posters before the first movie came out, and so I replicated the Katniss braid and put out a video of it," Mindy said.
"It started getting a lot of traffic and doing really well, and apparently somewhere in the process Linda Flowers saw (the video). ... So, she contacted us and said, 'Hey, I'm actually the lady who did that braid. Would you like to chat with me, and I can show you exactly how I did it.'"
Ecstatic that their video had been viewed by the creator, Mindy accepted Flowers' offer. Mindy Skyped with the stylist and kept in touch off and on, that is until Flowers contacted Mindy to let her know she had been watching some of her videos and was going to use some of her hairstyles, specifically the "Bow braid" for the character of Prim in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."
"We were tickled. We were so excited," Mindy said. "I knew it was very unique to me and my channel, and I knew that it would be one that would kind of stand out too — it wasn't like a French braid that anyone can do — but it was one that I knew my audience would recognize and be excited about seeing in the movie."
Mindy and Shaun were invited to fly to Atlanta and be on set for a day, but they had to keep it all a secret.
"We went out last October to Atlanta, so we've known for a year. It was top secret," Mindy said. "It was so hush-hush."
On set, Mindy and Shaun met Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, the film's co-stars, along with many of the "tributes" in the second movie.
"We had so many funny experiences, like watching Jen film and be all serious, and then she'd be doing armpit-fart wars off to the side," Mindy said. "Just little things like, 'This is so weird, we can't believe we're really here watching all these people.'"
Initially, Mindy and Shaun thought there might be a chance to bring their kids with them on set but were eventually told it couldn't happen.
"They had a couple of things happen before we went on set, and they kind of tightened the set limitations, so they ended up nixing all young kids," Mindy said. "They were so excited for us, but they were super sad they didn't get to go."
Although the McKnights didn't publicize braid's appearance in the film, once the movie was released, many of their fans began contacting them about the bow braid they saw on Prim.
"On Twitter and Instagram, we had tons of people commenting, saying, 'I saw this in the movie, and I know it's your hairstyle,'" Mindy said.
"Then of course when we announced it, it was like, 'Yes, you may have been seeing this, and, yes, it was from our hairstyle.' ... They'd say things like, 'I was so excited when I saw that in the movie because I knew that hairstyle, and I knew how to do it.'"
But this isn't the first time Mindy and her family have been featured outside of their YouTube channel. Cute Girls Hairstyles is now a contributor to the Disney Style Channel, where Mindy demonstrates how to mimic hairstyles for Disney characters. Her most recent Disney Style hairstyle features Elsa's French braid from "Frozen."
The past five years have been a whirlwind for the McKnights, and hard work has played a crucial role in their success.
"There's always an element of luck and just having to meet the right people at the right time and the right place," Mindy said. "But there is definitely more, so just a ton of hard work and also just being really true to who we are. ... I think just being really true to who we are and keeping it real and open has been really endearing to people."
Mindy also expressed that, above all, the best perk of her job and what she's most grateful for is the ability to work with her family.
"Not only do I get to work from home and run my own business and work my own hours, but I get to do it all with my family," Mindy said. "It's definitely a family business, which is really a unique thing."