Don't Sleep On Emma Chamberlain
Emma Chamberlain may only be 17 years old, and stand just a hair over 5-feet-tall, but she’s a giant in the YouTube world. She has stats that any creator would kill for.
Her social media engagement—the amount of likes and comments of a post divided by the total amount of followers—is averaging around 25% on Instagram.
If you’re not in the social media world, you might not understand how mind boggling that is. To give you a comparison, Kim Kardashian and Selena Gomez are averaging 9% and 5% engagement, based on their last five posts.
Emma’s massive success has happened almost overnight. When she started her YouTube channel last year, she was getting approximately 15,000 likes per Instagram post. This year, she’s averaging 1.5 million.
Originally from the San Francisco area, she was always the funny girl in class but never thought that she’d have a career in entertainment.
Chamberlain said, “My family wasn’t shocked by my success, but I was. But they just knew I’d do something in entertainment. When I was younger I had a gut feeling that I was going to use my personality in some way, but I didn’t know how. But I always had an outgoing personality. That was the one thing that I was known for.”
It’s easy to imagine Chamberlain growing up in affluence, because she’s from San Francisco, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Her parents divorced at a young age and, while both worked hard to provide a good life for their daughter, money wasn’t always easy to come by.
“There were times when we couldn’t even go to the movies, when I was a kid, because there wasn’t enough money,” Chamberlin remembered. “And my dad is an artist, and he got sick for a little bit and couldn’t paint, so there was hard times for our family. And he’s doing great now. But having no money at certain points was weird. I’ve always been the one who struggled financially, so now it’s so cool that I can make my own money and do whatever I want with it.”
Chamberlain used YouTube as an escape, obsessively watching videos in her room and dreaming about someday becoming friends with her favorite stars: a wish that has since come true.
She taught herself how to edit video and finally launched her own channel in 2017. But her early videos had a much different feel than they do now: She started out as a DIY girl. Chamberlain said, “I don’t know how to do crafts! I don’t know what I was thinking. I was honestly just trying to imitate what was popular at the time. But doing that didn’t get me anywhere and the second I started doing things that were more me, it was like ‘Yeah!’”
Her first video to go viral, “We All Owe The Dollar Store An Apology,” was the first time that she showed her funny and sarcastic side, that her fans now love. She abandoned the DIY videos, and focused on creating content that resonated with her audience.
Success seemed to happen almost overnight: She found an agent, moved to LA and got her own apartment. But not all of her fans were happy with her newfound success. It’s a dilemma that many successful YouTubers face.
“People see what happened to me (success) and they want to hate me. But I don’t get it. When I was a fan, and I saw people I was fans of get success, I was genuinely happy for them,” Chamberlain said.
The negative feedback took its toll on her, though. Chamberlain continued, “About a month ago I was really sad because everyone was being mean to me and all these rumors were being spread about me, which were not true. I was getting only getting hate for a solid month and I wanted to quit. It’s really uninspiring when you post a video and everyone says, ‘Go kill yourself.’”
She credits her friends and family for getting her through the tough times. “Spending time with them is super important to me because, at the end of the day, you need a support system.”
That support system has kept her grounded in the midst of her incredibly busy schedule. She said, “Things pile up quickly when you get more serious about YouTube. It’s not as simple as editing a video and posting it. It’s going to a meeting, going to another meeting, going to another meeting, etc.”
But Chamberlain’s primary focus is to create great content and not stress about the results. When I asked her if she worries about how much engagement a sponsored post will get, she said, “No. I don’t care. I’m just going to put the best stuff I can put out; whether it’s photos, tweets, whatever. And it’s not up to me how it does. And usually people appreciate that.”
But Instagram has turned into a job. “Instagram is really stressful,” she mentioned. “It’s a lot of pressure. You want to look good. But Twitter is where you can have fun. It’s definitely a fun and creative thing for me.”
Many YouTubers rely on props or gags to get laughs, but not Chamberlain. She has the comedy writing chops and when she tweets, she’s on par with any of the top comedians.
Take a look at some of these posts and try not to laugh.
Despite living a scandal free life, she’s been branded by some as a “controversial YouTuber.” It’s a label that I don’t agree with. When I visited her home, it was neat and tidy. There was no alcohol in the house. She doesn’t smoke or do drugs. She doesn’t post sexual photos on Instagram, and hasn’t been involved in any controversy.
But for some reason, she hasn’t gotten the respect that creators with the same amount of followers have. She wasn’t named a “Featured Creator” at VidCon—the biggest YouTube event of the year—despite having a bigger following than many of the participants.
She said, “In the very beginning I had the same numbers as people who were getting certain brand deals, or opportunities, but I wasn’t getting any of those benefits. I was like, ‘Why are they getting it? Am I not good enough?’ So that really messed with me.”
But it was the support of her fellow creators that made her finally feel accepted. “I didn’t know any YouTubers (in the beginning) and I wanted them to know about me. When I was younger, and used to watch people like Tana Mongeau, The Dolan Twins and James Charles, I would think that it would be so cool to be friends with them. Now it’s so cool to have them in my life. They’re some of the best friends I’ve ever had.”
So what’s next for Emma? When I asked her about her future, she said, “My goal in the future is honestly just to be happy. That’s it. I try to live in the moment.”
Just follow the laughter and you’ll find Emma Chamberlain.