A staple in pop culture, YouTubers have often branched out into the media in a variety of ways. From New York Times best-sellers to movie stars, these YouTubers have successfully made a career for themselves through the platform. While their careers have significantly changed throughout the decade, these YouTubers have paved the way for influencers today and formed the foundation of YouTube culture.
The original gamer, PewDiePie has gained massive success in this decade, while still finding himself at the center of a few scandals. Felix Kjellberg is a Swedish YouTuber that grew to fame by posting video game walkthroughs and game commentary videos. He started his channel in 2010 and was up to a million subscribers by 2012. In 2013, he became the most subscribed channel on YouTube and from 2014 to 2017 his channel was the most viewed channel.
Due to the size of his channel, Time named him among their 100 most influential people in 2016 for the way he was able to boost sales for titles he featured on his channel. However, with all the fame comes controversy. A video of Kjellberg using a racial slur circulated the internet in 2017, which led him to losing a large number of followers. This controversy still continues to haunt him even after he apologized. Along with this, he paid people on Fiverr to hold up a sign with more racial threats. He claimed it was meant to be a joke to see if the people on Fiverr would actually do it, but this is something that shouldn’t have been done regardless of the intention.
Despite these two major scandals, Kjellberg has managed to gain back the subscribers he lost and re-build his following. For a little bit, PewDiePie’s channels strayed away from gaming and focused more on comedy videos. Today, PewDiePie has gone back to his gaming roots and is in an ongoing battle with an Indian record label that surpassed him in subscribers. While he might not be the most followed channel anymore, he did become the first individual YouTuber to reach 100 million subscribers.
Shane Dawson is a YouTube pioneer and is one of the few YouTubers to stay relevant through the years. Dawson started off on YouTube in 2008 by doing sketch videos. He reached YouTube stardom in 2010 when Forbes named him the 25th most famous web celebrity. Dawson started out by posting comedy skits, short films and music videos. Dawson’s career outside of YouTube peaked in 2012, when he announced that he was working on a TV show as well as a music project. He released multiple new songs and performed in several short films.
His mainstream single “SuperLuv!” charted on the iTunes Pop Chart at No. 28, launching his music career. Dawson also started his successful podcast, “Shane and Friends,” in 2013 and helped direct a film in 2014 titled “Not Cool.” He also released two books in 2015 and 2016. Similar to PewDiePie, Dawson has been in the center of a handful of controversies, the worst being his blackface scandal. In his old videos, Dawson was seen in blackface in a number of his skits. While he has apologized and taken down the videos, this scandal continues to haunt him and his career.
Today, Dawson’s main channel, Shane, is much more family-friendly than his previous channel. At the start of the decade, the channel was mainly used for vlogs and collabs. However, starting in 2016, Shane became Dawson’s primary channel. The Shane channel has heavily evolved over the years; what started off as a vlog channel quickly became home to Dawson’s infamous conspiracy theory videos and miniseries about different YouTubers.
What started off as a website in the early 2000s blew up into a massive YouTube empire in the 2010s. Smosh started off as a channel run by Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox that featured a variety of webseries. They gained YouTube success at the start of the decade and became one of the most subscribed channels on the platform, launching three side channels that also reached massive success. The duo also released a mobile and Xbox One app in 2014.
Hecox and Padilla were known for acting in their skits but in 2015 they announced that more permanent cast members would be joining the Smosh team. Later, Padilla announced that he would be leaving Smosh due to lack of creative freedom, changing the dynamic of Smosh, but Hecox was determined to keep the channel around.
Defy Media, the media production company that owned and operated Smosh, shut down in 2018 without any warning. This led fans to believe that Smosh was officially going to end, especially since Padilla had already left the company a year earlier. However, Hecox reassured fans that Smosh would still put out content on their own until they could find another production company, which they did early this year when Mythical Entertainment took ownership of Smosh.
Tyler Oakley is a familiar name in the YouTube community, however, he isn’t as well known by the newer generations. Oakley is the “professional fangirl” and made YouTube videos centered around social issues. He made a video with former first lady Michelle Obama about the importance of education and has been heavily involved with the Trevor Project, an organization that prevents suicide among LGBTQ+ youth. In this decade, Oakley published a New York Times best-seller, “Binge,” starred in a documentary titled “Snervous” and gained millions of followers on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Today, Oakley is still an activist and his content continues to fight apathy. He still posts on YouTube, and he is also a mentor in McDonald’s “Where Do You Want To Be” initiative.
The YouTube community continues to grow today, however these influencers were some of the first to ever reach massive fame on the platform. They paved the way for other YouTubers and allowed them to have a mold to fit into in regard to online fame. The past decade has been crazy for these influencers. It will be interesting to see what’s in store for them in the 2020s.