Internet Celebrity seems to be an aspiring career for many Gen Z’s by pursuing careers as Instagram models, YouTubers, and even Tiktokers. These Internet Celebrities have acquired their fame through social media platforms like Vine, Youtube, Instagram, or Tiktok. The craze to be Internet Famous is nothing new, so it is common for a new Internet Star to pop up regularly. But the question is how permanent is this fame? Are internet celebrities able to maintain the same success they received at the start of their careers? I will be exploring YouTubers—David Dobrik, Lilly Singh, and Tyler Oakley—on whether they have been successful at keeping their internet fame permanent.
David Dobrik: Viner turned Youtuber
David Dobrik is a Slovak-American YouTuber who started to make Vines in early 2013. By late 2014, he had created his own Youtube channel revolved around comedy sketches and prank videos. And by 2015, he started to make his iconic 420 vlogs, which are videos that lasted only 4 minutes and 20 seconds and was an attractive detail to bring in the 420 pro-marijuana contingents. These vlogs garnered his internet fame. He vlogged about hanging out with his friends and produced scripted sketches and pranks. The length of his videos provided a safe recipe such that people could laugh just long enough without overdoing it. He was able to attract an audience, a big audience. By August of 2016, his channel had reached 1 million subscribers.
His audience grew and grew, to which he currently has 17.1 million subscribers. But the fame he has accumulated from 2015 till now is considered permanent? Firstly, he’s still a proactive Youtuber who makes a video per week and still has a proactive audience since per video gains between 10-15 million views. Secondly, as seen on Social Blade, which is a website that tracks social media statistics and analytics, he is ranked in the A grade which is considered very good for Internet Celebrities. According to Social Blade, this year his channel had gained around 100,000 subscribers each week. His channel receiving this amount of new subscribers and views is astonishing especially for someone who has had Internet Fame since 2015.
In addition to having a proactive audience, Dobrik was able to maintain his fame by pursuing other jobs. He had co-hosted the 2019 Teen Choice Awards, he voice acted the role of Axel in The Angry Birds Movie 2 and is one of the judges on a Nickelodeon TV Show America’s Most Musical Family. He started to strive away from the Youtuber label and broaden his brand by starting his podcast Views, having his clothing line, and releasing an iPhone application David’s Disposable Camera. Also, his content is evolving as he brings celebrity guests such as John Stamos, Justin Bieber, Charlie Puth to appear on his vlogs.
To put it simply, Dobrik’s internet fame is permanent because his audience has been consistently growing since 2015. His approach to becoming more than a Youtuber has helped his fame prosper. A big reason for his committed fanbase is that he gives back. The sponsorships he receives from popular brands like Honey, Dollar Shave Club, SeatGeek, has allowed him to give back to friends, family, and even his fans. In his latest video, he had received a sponsorship to which he was able to donate large amounts of cash to families who had been negatively impacted by COVID-19. This is why his fame is still permanent because he still has an audience that craves his evolving content.
Lilly Singh: Youtuber turned Talk Show Host
Lilly Singh is an Indian-Canadian YouTuber who initially gained fame as the Youtube personality “iiSuperwomanii”. But now she is recognized as the talk show host for “A Little Late with Lilly Singh”. After graduating from NYU in 2010 she had gotten a job at a collections agency but hated it. In an interview with People’s magazine, Singh said “I didn’t have any goals and made an ultimatum that either I continue feeling this way or do something to change my life.” This was when she discovered YouTube and uploaded her first video in 2012. Her style of content consisted of rants, comedy skits about everyday scenarios, and acting out weird hypothetical situations. After being on Youtube for three years, her channel had gained 1 million subscribers and now she is close to 15 million subscribers.
Her rise to fame started when one of her videos titled “How Girls Get Ready” had garnered almost 30 million views. After that video, her fanbase grew and instantly became a popular YouTuber. The sudden fame she had received allowed her to broaden her brand, just like Dobrik. Between 2015 and 2016, she had begun her world tour called “A Trip to Unicorn Island” and was recognized as Variety magazine’s Top 10 Comics to Watch. By 2017, she had won a People’s Choice Award for “Favorite YouTube Star”, released her book How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life which reached No.1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and ranked 10th on the Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid YouTube stars. The various projects she had taken part in furthered her fame and made it seem permanent at the time.
But according to Variety, in 2018 Singh had decided to take a break from posting on YouTube since she wanted to restore her mental health and creative energy. She indicated how “mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting” it was for her to produce videos consistently for the past eight years. A key reason for the hiatus is that her Youtube channel isn’t as successful as it was 8 years ago. As seen on her Social Blade, Singh is ranked in the B+ grade which is alarming for a YouTuber with almost 15 million subscribers because it means she isn’t gaining the same number of new subscribers and views as she did in the past. This year alone, she hasn’t received any new subscribers except on March 30th her channel had gained around 100,000 subscribers. But on April 6th she had lost around 100,000 subscribers. The number of views she is getting on her videos is also decreasing. These factors are a reason why she doesn’t post on Youtube anymore because her content isn’t attracting an audience.
But she found other outlets to express her creativity. In 2019, NBC announced Singh would host a new late-night talk show A Little Late with Lilly Singh. A key reason why Singh got this job is that NBC wanted to diversify its network, stating “inclusive storytelling and authentic representation is incredibly important to the network.” Her content was inlined with this message since most of her YouTube videos were centered around her Punjabi heritage. Singh goes from being a YouTuber to now a Talk Show Host shows that fame can be permanent. Even though she is a well-known figure in the Youtube scene, she isn’t as proactive in producing videos as she was in the past. She has tried evolving her content, but it resulted in a negative backlash where people called her new content “unauthentic” and it felt she was only “hungry for views.” When she had decided to take a break from Youtube to pursue a new career on television, she started gaining a new audience. Her story shows fame on one platform isn’t permanent, rather seeking creative outlets that expose them to a new audience can further their fame.
Tyler Oakley: Youtuber
Tyler Oakley is an American YouTuber known to be an activist for the LGBTQ+ community and social issues including health care, education, and the prevention of suicide. He is considered a veteran in the Youtube Scene because out of Dobrik and Singh, he started producing Youtube videos in 2007. His style of content is based around queer politics, pop culture, and humor. He started his Youtube Channel while he was attending Michigan State University, intending to communicate with his family and high school friends through videos. He garnered fame when his first-ever Youtube video called Raindrops had received 518,543 views on YouTube. Back in 2007, acquiring around 500,000 views was equivalent to becoming internet famous. But these days YouTubers can get up to 15 million views on a video. After that video blew up, his channel started to grow and now he has around 8 million subscribers.
His success on Youtube allowed him to pursue other jobs. He had his show called The Tyler Oakley Show, competed in the 28th season of The Amazing Race, and collaborated with Former First Lady Michelle Obama regarding education issues in the US. Tyler Oakley has utilized his fame to pursue new projects to make himself well-known. But the question being asked here is whether his internet fame is permanent? If you ask Gen Z who is their favorite YouTuber they would name David Dobrik, Mr.Beast, or James Charles. But the name Tyler Oakley seems to be phased out because his type of content isn’t relevant these days. In his Social Blade, he has a B grade which isn’t great for a YouTuber who has almost 8 million subscribers. The number of new subscribers and views his channel garners is very low. In the past, he used to gain between 1 to 5 million views per video, and now he only gains around 100,000 views. This year alone, he hasn’t gained any new subscribers.
Definitely like Dobrik and Singh, Oakley has taken advantage of his Internet Fame and sought out other opportunities. But these opportunities haven’t kept his fame permanent rather he is slowly being pushed out of the limelight. It has been a challenge for older generation creators to maintain their status whilst the internet evolves constantly. As the years go by, it seems as though his fame isn’t prospering. Some reasons are that the content he creates isn’t evolving like his audience, so he gradually loses viewers. The outside opportunities he had received never lasted and were just one-hit wonders. Oakley still tries being a proactive YouTuber, but he doesn’t get a similar number of viewers as he did before. His story shows how unlucky he is because he tried making new content and pursued other jobs to further his fame, but he struggles to maintain an audience.
The examples of these three YouTubers show a common trend that to keep their fame permanent they pursue other jobs to engage a new audience which further their fame. They all pursued non-typical influencer jobs to transition from being an Internet Celebrity and (trying) to become a Traditional Celebrity. It seems that internet fame by itself isn’t permanent because as audiences acquire new taste in content, these creators have to evolve themselves. Sadly, those who don’t evolve endure a loss in fame. When I asked Senior EJ Park regarding this topic she commented on how “there is a fear for many old generation YouTubers, like Shane Dawson, Tyler Oakley, Jenna Marbles, since they are afraid of losing their audience because their content isn’t relevant anymore.” For David Dobrik this may not seem to present a problem but for Lilly Singh and Tyler Oakley they have voiced out how they struggle to keep up with the constant evolution of the Internet. Internet fame alone isn’t going to give creators lasting success; rather it’s how they take that fame to acquire new opportunities that allow them to grow their fame.