I don’t know about you, but I spent the majority of my preteen years listening to emo music, reading angsty books and watching YouTube. Most of my friends did the same. We’d run into school the day after a new video from our favorite ‘creator’ dropped, watching and rewatching for days on end, until the next one came out a week later. These people were like modern day rockstars with adoring fans and copious amounts of money. They even created an entire convention dedicated to letting 13-year-olds live out their dreams of hugging their 20-year-old idols.
When you put it like that, it sounds kind of creepy.
To be fair, it kind of was. Trying to explain the concept of YouTube to our parents was nearly impossible, but that didn’t stop us from soaking up every minute, and by every minute, I mean every minute. YouTubers in more recent years have found the happy medium between ‘social media life’ and ‘personal life’, but that didn’t exist in 2013. A lot of Content Creators used YouTube as more of a diary, which, of course, didn’t end well.
It was a social phenomenon with millions of people tuning into creators such as PewDiePie to watch his next installation of Amnesia or Tyler Oakley’s next collaboration in August 2015, but where are they now? What happened to our most beloved creators?
Well, I’m here to tell you.
Since English YouTubers were all the rage, I’ll start with the British Invasion:
Zoe Sugg, known online as Zoella, started in 2009 as a beauty channel. She mainly focused on reviewing fashion and making “favorite makeup” videos. Throughout the years, she has gone through a myriad of channels ranging in genre from lifestyle to vlog and to a collaboration channel with her younger brother Joe Sugg.
In 2015, she was criticized for using a ghostwriter for her novel Girl Online. In the years following, she released two sequels to her first book. She also worked with ColourPop to create a palette inspired by the 1970’s, collaborated with two other YouTubes to develop two apps to edit photos for Instagram, and became a director for ZS Beauty Ltd.
Most recently, Zoe was on the chopping block for a joke made in one of her videos with her boyfriend, Alfie Deyes, saying that she likes to ‘call for help’ out of her bedroom window. Domestic abuse activists have been voicing their concerns, and both YouTubers apologized after taking the video down.
Alfie Deyes, known as PointlessBlog on YouTube, also had his beginnings in 2009. He gained the attention of millions of subscribers in his early years by collaborating with many big names in the British YouTube community. He has also had his fingers in many different genres, even delving into a very short-lived gaming channel.
In late 2013, he was named the top “Online Entrepreneurs to Watch,” but hasn’t seemed to stray very far from the YouTube scene since then. As YouTube Red premiered, Alfie was fairly involved in many of the short series that blossomed from the new opportunity, but he hasn’t tried to move any further into the movie scene.
In 2014, at the height of his success, Alfie published The Pointless Book, part journal and part activity book. It also integrated social media, prompting people to get involved using their Twitter and Instagram.
Alfie and Zoe’s relationship became publicly known in 2012. Although they have not tied the knot, and don’t seem to plan on it anytime soon, they have been living together since 2014. They adopted a black pug named Nala.
Dan and Phil
It’s not very fair to group them together, but it’s hard to deny that they have become a unit.
Dan Howell, who used to be known as DanIsNotOnFire, got his start in 2009 as well. In the beginning, Dan was still attending college for law, before he dropped out to pursue YouTube and move to Manchester and then London with his close friend, Phil Lester. They both ran a radio show with BBC and took part in YouTube series across the board.
In 2017, Dan changed his screen name, much to the dismay of his viewers, to Dan Howell and started to post less. In more recent years, in the videos he has posted, he has been very candid about his mental health issues, creating a series called Internet Support Group, where he gave advice and talked about relatable struggles.
In June 2019, Dan officially came out. After hinting for years and a lot of speculation from internet communities growing, Dan released a 45-minute video, talking about his struggles growing up in a smaller town and coming out.
Phil Lester also created his channel in 2009 (noticing a pattern?). In 2012 he moved into an apartment with Dan Howell, where they both built their ‘brand’ separately and together. In 2016-17, both men went on tour around the world, doing shows that resembled their BBC Radio Show.
In June 2019, Phil also officially came out, soon after Dan released his own video. Phil’s much shorter video gave an abridged version of his struggles growing up gay in his religious family and town.
Although posting significantly less, Dan and Phil have released a book and have hinted at projects they are planning. They still live together in London.
You may remember him as half of the hunky duo that used his arsty videos to waste time during the year he took off between high school and college.
In 2011, Jack Harries initially created his channel to document his gap year, but after gaining fame and earning thousands from his videos (enough to pay for a trip to Thailand) his twin brother, Finn, also joined. Their views doubled as well as their money with teenage girls making up 88% of his viewership (I wonder why…).
Jack returned to school in 2012 to major in drama but ended up leaving in 2013. He continued with YouTube, developing the JacksGap brand, buying an office space for their company, and making many travel videos.
In 2018, JacksGap was changed, platform wide, to Jack Harries. His video topics focused more on mental health and the effect social media has. In 2019, Jack Harries was arrested as a protestor at International Petroleum Week.
I watched so much British YouTube that I think my American accent was affected; I even developed an English inflection.
Yes, you can laugh.
Since 2014, the ‘Golden Era of YouTube’ (as I like to call it), there’s been a lot of changes. People like Shane Dawson and Grace Helbig have been replaced by Jake Paul and Tana Mongeau, which isn’t necessarily bad, just bittersweet. They had millions of subscribers tuning in every week, and some could still garner that amount of attention, but many have been unable to keep up with the changing needs of a content creator.
Where will YouTube go next? Who will be the next big thing? Who knows, we’ll just have to watch to find out.