Youtube started out as an online video-sharing platform. It has since ballooned into a masterful service of music and entertainment.
As record labels and tv networks battle it out, Youtube provides an alternative passageway for creatives to hone their skills and make whatever content they want. With much less creative restrictions, this opened up a portal for creatives to get as crafty as possible to be seen. Who knew investing more time in self-made videos could one day provide more exposure than any college alumni networking session? Who knew, one day, the film-yourself platform had the potential to be more lucrative than a college education? Today’s top social media stars make upwards of $14 million while many who’ve gone the traditional route are shrouded in college debt. This unconventional route has given permission and opportunity to make a name for oneself in a space that otherwise would shut them out. Many of today’s top creatives built their own success, captivated viewers, and subsequently secured the bag while shattering glass ceilings.
Youtube isn’t just for watching cat videos or looping Scarlet Takes A Tumble, but a place where creatives can actively share their vision uninterrupted until it lands them their dream job with a major tv deal, their own show, or finally their voices being prioritized.
Here are some of the top YouTube stars who’ve gone from online fame to household name.
Indian-Canadian YouTube comedian Lilly Singh is the latest online celeb who recently made the move from online to broadcast TV. The 30-year-old creative will launch her after dark talk show on NBC in September, appropriately titled A Little Late with Lilly Singh. Singh’s show essentially replaces Carson Daly’s 1:30 am slot Last Call with Carson Daly and while Busy Phillips and Samantha Bee are also women of late night, Singh is the only woman to host a show on one of the four major television networks. And she’s Indian, so let’s get that representation! Singh’s major success did not come easy, though. After college, Singh struggled with depression and purpose for her life, so she created videos imitating her Punjabi parents. 15 million subscribers and two books later, it’s safe to say Singh has earned her spot and found her calling.
Issa Rae’s incredibly popular HBO comedy Insecure is another success story pioneered from a web series on YouTube. Rae’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl followed J, a 20-something-year-old as she encountered new relationships, friendships, and Blackness in the most…. well, awkward of fashions. Rae, who went to Stanford, studied Sociology and African-American studies while creating her first digital series Dorm Diaries which showcased her Black friends and their blackness without it being the sole essence of the show. Sound familiar? This is essentially the same framework behind ABG and eventually Insecure. The fame of ABG paved the way to Rae’s HBO-hit that brilliantly highlights the Black community’s struggles and successes while being relatable to millennials of all backgrounds. Rae has since become a CoverGirl ambassador and received a slew of accolades including an Emmy nomination, two Golden Globe nominations, two BET Awards nominations, and two MTV Movie & TV award nominations for Insecure.
Ashley Blaine Featherson
Countless others have found major success from launching their own web series’ or even participating in someone else’s. Dear White People favorite, Ashley Blaine Featherson, built her acting chops and fan base on the Lena Waithe-directed web series Hello Cupid on Black & Sexy TV. The show tackled colorism in the online dating world. At the time, Featherson’s friend, Justin Simien, would direct his first feature film Dear White People, in which she auditioned for CoCo. While she didn’t get the part, she’d later be cast in the Netflix series of the same name as Joelle Brooks.
Numa Perrier, creator of Black & Sexy TV, executive producer of Hello Cupid and Roomieloverfriends was just announced as one of the directors in the fourth season of OWN show Queen Sugar, again proving that YouTube is where it’s at.
In today’s creative landscape, crafting your own content and building your own audience has never been more accessible and valuable. Singh, Rae, Featherson, Perrier and so many others are just living proof of how one can truly build their own success. Maybe your career is waiting for you online. Who knows, you just might be the next host of Late Night.