After disappearing from the spotlight last year, 22-year-old YouTuber and singer Lia Marie Johnson reappeared online through Instagram Live on May 8 and 9. She was acting eerily different from her former self, leaving her fans concerned about her drug use, safety and mental health.
Johnson initially gained popularity as a child after appearing as a reoccurring guest on the Fine Brothers’ YouTube series, Kids React, in 2010. The Fine Brothers Entertainment (FBE) media company, created by Benny and Rafi Fine, is most well-known for their React video series, which includes Kids React, and their attempt to license and trademark the term “react” in 2016 because of the popularity of these series.
The Kids React series features the Fine Brothers (off-camera) showing popular or viral videos, music and elements of pop culture to children and asking them questions about their reactions and opinions to the featured subject.
The first episode of Kids React, published on the Fine Brothers’ Entertainment channel on YouTube in October 2010, was “Kids React to Viral Videos (Double Rainbow, Obama Fail, Twin Rabbits, Snickers Halloween)” and featured Johnson at age 13 along with eight other children.
The Fine Bros would go on to feature Johnson in 42 other Kids React videos until 2011 when she graduated to another one of the React series, Teens React. During her time in both series, she was featured in some of FBE’s most popular React videos including, “TEENS REACT TO SLENDER MAN” published in October 2012, and “KIDS REACT TO NYAN CAT” published in May 2011.
The original Kids React series inspired Teens React, as well as the other series created by the FBE, and they all follow a similar format with different audiences. Many children who were featured in Kids React graduated to the Teens react series, but Johnson was the first to make the jump and be featured in both.
Her popularity on the React series directed traffic to her personal YouTube channel, LiaMarieJohnson, because of her bubbly personality and silly commentary in the React series.
On a video featuring extra commentary from 13-year-old Johnson, “Kids React Extra- Lia” published the same day as the FBE’s first Kids React video, fans praised her in the comment section. “This girl is going to be a model or an actress when she grows up,” user David Thompson wrote in a comment six years ago. “Very charismatic and pretty well grounded.”
Thompson’s predictions were correct; however, her friends and family might wish that he could have seen even further into the future of Johnson’s online presence.
After the fame from the FBE videos, Johnson’s YouTube channel shifted directions from home videos of her vocal recitals and performances published by her mother to covers of songs, sketch comedy, vlogs and trendy YouTube challenges.
As an individual YouTube personality, Johnson flourished with one of her earlier videos, “25 Facts About Me – Lia Marie Johnson” published on May 25, 2013, reaching over two million views.
Although Johnson acted in several video shorts even before joining FBE’s React series, her online presence led her to be featured in several videos for the AwesomenessTV YouTube channel that was created as part of YouTube’s Original Programing Initiative in 2012. She even starred in its 2014 spin-off comedy television film, “Terry the Tomboy,” that premiered on Nickelodeon.
Her online presence even led the Fine Bros to upgrade her from Teens React to YouTubers React in 2014, as well as feature her in the first transmedia sitcom on YouTube, MyMusic. Transmedia storytelling tells a single story on multiple different media platforms and formats.
Viewers further praised Johnson for her online personality, and AdWeek even featured her in an article titled “Meet 12 of the Biggest Young Stars on YouTube,” published in March 2014.
As a young, rising star, Johnson still wished to pursue music, and her dreams came true when she released her first single, “Moment Like You,” and signed a record deal with Capitol Records in 2015.
She quit the React channel videos and focused on her music, as well as a few larger projects, such as “The Thinning,” a YouTube Red Original science fiction film directed by Michael Gallagher. She starred alongside other actors and YouTube personalities, such as Logan Paul and Peyton List, in the film.
With Capitol Records, she released the single “DNA” in October 2016 and another single, “Cold Hearted Killer,” in February 2017. Both were commercial successes, and fans of both her personal videos and the React videos praised her original music. She even collaborated with music producer R3hab on a song, called “The Wave.”
It was here that her online presence began to deteriorate. The last post that Johnson made on her YouTube channel was “Lia Marie Johnson -Champagne (Audio)” published on May 17, 2018. The video description included a link to her song and the lyrics.
After this song, she suddenly stopped making online content and most viewers forgot about her. Her most loyal fans were left waiting, wondering what had happened to her.
Almost a year later, Johnson suddenly began sharing personal information and addressing fans in eerie Instagram Live videos, starting on May 8, 2019. She continued posting videos on Instagram Live until May 9, and many viewers said that her behavior was very strange and different than it had been a year before. Some even believed she sounded manic, like she was high or in the middle of a mental breakdown.
A striking transformation from her normal bubbly personality, Johnson’s attitude is erratic, and her speech is slow and slurred in these videos. Throughout the videos, she switches between crying and laughing uncontrollably while talking about herself, her music and other subjects that seem to randomly pop into her head. She also shares her collection of crystals, rocks and shells as well as dances to music.
In response to fans accusing her of using drugs, Johnson live-streamed a confusing answer. “I’m not high on anything,” she claims. “My boyfriend just left me. He thinks that I’m crazy. So now I have to keep going on other drugs.” She then opens a pill bottle, pounding it against something in front of her while mumbling to herself. She continues to ramble on about drugs and not knowing what drugs she took before staring at her camera, apparently looking at her fans’ comments, and smiling.
The types of drugs she is referring to are unconfirmed, but she did mention during the live stream that she uses marijuana and mushrooms. However, it is still unclear what parts of her rant were true or if it was some sort of joke. In the same clip on YouTube, Johnson becomes visibly emotional and hysterically cries while describing a woman who walks by her every day but has not revealed her name to Johnson.
In another video, she cusses out her viewers who were lucky enough to have a mom and dad, as well as people who were able to go to college.
Additionally, she briefly mentions T@gged, the psychological thriller web series produced by AwesomenessTV in 2016. Before she can explain why she left the web series, she becomes distracted. Fans flooded the comments of the live stream with questions about the web series so that she eventually remembered. “I got kicked off of T@gged because I am just not enough of an actress,” she says.
After briefly talking about the web series, she says that she regrets everything about her life before second guessing herself, prompting a rant about the problems with living with too many regrets and not accepting that she can’t change the past.
For those who missed all or parts of her live stream, concerned fans have uploaded some clips onto YouTube and Twitter.
Demonstrating the concern of her fans and other YouTubers, several videos have been uploaded to YouTube analyzing her live streams, such as “Lia Marie Johnson Needs Help” published by honest on May 13; “I’m worried about Lia Marie Johnson…” posted by tommy carter on May 10; and “ANALYZING THE ENTIRE LIA MARIE JOHNSON SITUATION” published by Anna Campbell on May 14.
A large number of these videos speculate that she is on drugs in the clips or that she is struggling with a personality disorder; however, most of them focus on encouraging her friends, family and fans to reach out to her, look out for her and help and take care of her.
Other fans of Johnson posted on Twitter about the live streams. “If you are friends with lia marie johnson, or know her contact, please reach out to her. Her live streams have been quite [concerning] this entire month or so. I don’t wanna see this turn from bad to worse,” said @kisha_cameron on May 9.
if you are friends with lia marie johnson, or know her contact, please reach out to her. Her live streams have been quite concering this entire month or so. I don’t wanna see this turn from bad to worse
— kisha 🐣 (@kisha_cameron) May 9, 2019
Now the initial feedback and commentary in response to her live streams has died down, and fewer people have been discussing the mental health and safety of the former React star. Some fans are noticing the sudden lack of coverage of what is going on with Johnson. “This liamariejohnsonsituation was spoken about for a solid day and disappeared that speaks VOLUMES,” said @_mridulaaa on May 27.
Although the internet has moved on, hopefully Johnson found the help she needs for her mental health and is in a better place.