In the two years since she uploaded her first video on YouTube, an understated, relatable teen has become the most talked about Gen Z influencer in the world, with eight million followers eagerly anticipating her next video.
Emma Chamberlain, 18, went from total obscurity – where her first and only follower was her dad – to being credited for spawning a new aesthetic on social media. Instead of hyper-produced, stylized videos edited and filmed by a team, Emma’s uploads give followers an insight into regular life as a ‘normal’ teen, zits and all.
Of course, the Bay Area, California native is not really the average teen, as she is now considered a legit celebrity in her own right, even sitting front row at Paris Fashion Week alongside established A-listers.
Yet despite raking in a reported $2 million a year from ad revenue alone, her self-filmed, self-edited vlogs are far from the type of glossy, aspirational content that millennial consumers have become familiar with.
Star: Emma Chamberlain, 18, became one of YouTube’s most-talked about influencers and a front row celebrity as her profile skyrocketed in less than two years
Relatable: Although the California native sat front row at fashion week, she has garnered fans for being understated, authentic and unashamedly herself in her videos
Having moved to Los Angeles on her own at 17, Emma continues to share snippets into her life in her signature irreverent footage uploads.
An average video, which could rake in seven million views, might include random flashbacks, intense zooms, jumpy cuts – and she’ll likely be wearing no makeup.
YouTube considers her channel one of the fastest growing on the entire platform, and her ‘growth’ has been called ‘f**king insane’ by a leading YouTube strategist.
Emma, the only child of divorced parents, attended Paris Fashion Week in March 2019 in a co-sponsorship between YouTube and Louis Vuitton.
Her presence at the star studded show is considered a major reason that the luxury label’s presence was boosted by 135,000 followers.
For the event, YouTube’s head of fashion and beauty partnerships Derek Blasberg ensured Emma was paired with influential model and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss.
Normal: Emma’s self-filmed and self-edited videos, which showcase the teen natural and unmade up, can garner seven million views a piece
Celeb: Emma, pictured with Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquiere, was sponsored to attend Paris Fashion Week alongside Karlie Kloss (left) by YouTube and Louis Vuitton
Klossy: Supermodel and YouTuber Karlie Kloss (right) said her video that she filmed in Emma’s signature editing ‘style’ is one of her most successful
Karlie, an avid YouTuber herself, seemed to take the youngster under her wing – and learned something along the way. A video posted by the supermodel described as being ‘inspired by Emma and her hilarious editing style’ is one of her most viewed videos to date.
SocialBlade shows that Emma’s YouTube videos – with titles like ‘Trying every coffee shop in LA’ and ‘Completing my summer bucket list *in one day*’ – have been viewed 842 million times so far.
The unassuming teen credits her explosion in popularity with one of her earlier videos, a ‘dollar store haul’, which went unexpectedly viral (though the topic seemed to be trending at the time) and put her name on the social media map.
‘Going in public is definitely different than it used to be for me… but it’s been really cool,’ she told Vogue who recently filmed a day-in-the-life feature with her.
She also revealed that she usually records in the car, her now signature, so she doesn’t have to ‘film in public’ as she can get anxious doing so.
Fashion: The teen content creator, pictured left at Paris Fashion Week, usually posts natural and laid-back imagery in affordable clothes to her eight million fans on Instagram, right
Candid: The Los Angeles-based influencer tends to post not just one posed image but a series of shots which show her at her most natural
Fans began to call her style ‘slacker YouTube’ or ‘relatable YouTube’. The platform’s own head of culture and trends Kevin Allocca, said, ‘The thing that feels so notable is that [Emma’s videos] are the first generation of reaction against things that were established in this medium.
‘You have this creative counterculture that counters a culture we were just getting used to,’ he added.
By that he means Emma represents the ‘new wave’ of creators, who eschew scripted, story-boarded videos produced by a team in favor of candid, authentic and genuine insight into their lives.
Her approach is evidently working on Instagram too, where she has just shy of eight million followers. Her usual posts showcase ‘outtakes,’ minimal makeup and goofy facial expressions.
‘When something’s really significant, whether it’s good, bad, ugly, I like being able to look back at a moment in time that was high-emotion,’ she recently told the New York Times.
Anxious: Emma told Vogue that she likes to film in her car as recording in public can make her feel ‘anxious’
Outtakes: Emma’s millions of followers flock to her unposed and realistic photos, which can gain over two million likes each
‘Whenever I’m crying I like, weirdly, to document it. Every time I cry I always take one photo of myself afterwards because I like to look back and think ‘Remember when I was so upset about X, Y and Z? Look at me now – I don’t care about that anymore!’
In a tell-all interview with W Magazine, which called her the most interesting girl on YouTube, Emma said she began posting videos ‘just as something to do.’
‘I had never seen anyone edit the way that I edit before I did it, and it’s just what felt right to me. It’s definitely become a popular style now, which is super cool. But I had never seen anyone else do it, and that’s why I was scared to put it out there. I was like, “Is this even going to resonate?”
‘I think because everything happened to me so fast, I had no time to process it. I still have no idea what’s going on. I’m very confused on a daily basis. I’m riding the wave, but I don’t think I’ve had one second to comprehend what’s going on,’ she added.
And it seems like millions of other Gen Z teens are along for the ride too.
Growth: A leading YouTube strategist said that Emma’s ‘growth’ on the platform has been ‘f**king insane’
Winner: Emma accepts the Breakout Creator award during the annual Streamy Awards in October 2018