YouTube has become a staple of modern culture since its inception in 2005, and dozens of early adopters have managed to carve out a niche for themselves.
Everyday people quickly become stars by creating original content, from engaging comedy skits to step-by-step makeup tutorials.
But the platform is not without its dark side which will be revealed in the upcoming release YouTube Effect.
The ‘eye-opening documentary’ is set to take a ‘critical look’ at the video sharing platform that ‘changed how we experience the world’.
YouTube Effect set to take a ‘troubling look’ at video sharing platform and how it ‘changed how we experience the world’
And it’s true to say that some of YouTube’s biggest early stars enjoyed mixed fortunes.
There have been people who have been able to capitalize on the limelight on their springboard to build multi-million dollar business empires and even achieve success in the music industry.
But, sadly, there were others whose fame came at a price after being plagued by allegations of depression, harassment and racism.
As viewers tune in to the release of All the Words, FEMAIL reveals what happened to some of America’s favorite YouTube stars.
Michelle Phan went from beauty blogger to $500 million business owner — but battled candid depression along the way.
Beauty vlogger Michelle Phan, who grew up in Tampa, Florida, first took to the site in 2006 with her easy-to-follow makeup tutorials, and it wasn’t long until she landed several paying partnerships.
The content creator, now 36, became the first YouTuber to be hired as the brand’s official video makeup artist after partnering with Lancome in 2010 and eventually landed a deal with L’Oreal to create her own line of cosmetics.
She decided to venture out on her own and soon co-founded subscription cosmetics box Ipsy, which was valued at over $500 million in 2015, according to Forbes.
Then: Beauty vlogger Michelle Phan, who grew up in Tampa, Florida, first visited the site in 2006 with her easy-to-follow makeup tutorials.
But despite her ability to capitalize on her fame, success began to take its toll as she candidly spoke of struggling with depression.
Michelle, who also found herself on the cover of Forbes and Nylon, took a break from YouTube before resurfacing with an explanation video in which she said: ‘Success tasted like a drug and I couldn’t get enough.
‘Once, I was the dream girl – who eventually became a product, smiling, selling and selling. Who I was on camera and who I was in real life, started to feel different,’ he explained.
‘My insecurities get the worst of me. I was imprisoned by my own vanity, and was never satisfied with the way I looked. My online life was picture-perfect, but in reality, I was carefully creating a picture of a life I wanted, not had.’
Now: She decided to venture by her own and co-founded subscription cosmetics box Ipsy, which was valued at over $500 million in 2015, according to Forbes.
To ‘numb the pain’, he kept himself busy and took on more work – but that strategy didn’t work forever.
A few years later, her sense of isolation became so strong, and she felt so depressed, that she began withdrawing from social media.
‘I felt like somewhere along the way, I lost myself,’ she says, adding that while money can buy status and even a piece of mind, it can’t buy happiness.
Ryan Higa was considered by many to be the face of YouTube before he became a K-pop star
Ryan Higa, who was born in Hilo, Hawaii, started on YouTube in 2006 by posting a series of lip sync videos but soon ran into copyright issues.
To avoid legal repercussions, he decided to go for a more original skit that took the internet by storm.
Ryan, now 33, became the first creator to reach three million subscribers and is considered the face of YouTube – claiming the title of world’s most subscribed content creator for a record number of days.
THEN: Ryan Higa, who was born in Hilo, Hawaii, started in 2006 by posting a series of lip sync videos on YouTube but soon ran into copyright issues.
And the star soon decided to experiment with different ventures to capitalize on the momentum.
In 2008, Ryan released his first feature-length film, Ryan and Shawn’s Not So Excellent Adventure – having also made a short Agent of Secret Staff in 2010.
But, far from resting on his laurels, he pushed his boundaries further and decided to start a parody K-pop band with his friends in 2016.
Despite the venture starting as a joke the group went on to reach number one in the charts with their single Who’s It Gonna Be.
Now: Ryan hasn’t posted on YouTube since 2020 to focus on other ventures that have so far included film roles in Tell Me How I Die and Finding Ohana, as well as releasing a memoir.
BGA or Boyz, the typically Asian titular band, even momentarily beat out South Korean singing sensation BTS.
Ryan has not posted on YouTube since 2020 to focus on other ventures which so far have included film roles in Tell Me How I Die and Finding Ohana as well as the release of a memoir.
It is not yet known if he plans to return to his channel.
Jenna ‘Marbles’ Mowry stops posting clip after forced to apologize over blackface allegations – before stalker invades her home
New York native Jenna ‘Marbles’ Morey, who holds a master’s degree in psychology and counseling, started a new career online after joining the platform in 2010.
He has gained millions of followers through his humorous content and lifestyle clips – one of his most successful titles being ‘How to trick people into thinking you’re handsome’.
But his online popularity soon took a nosedive when a blackface skit from 2011 resurfaced in which he shamed women and made a racist rap.
Then: New York native Jenna ‘Marbles’ Murry, who holds a master’s in psychology and counseling, started a new career online after joining the platform in 2010.
Afterwards, Jenna apologized and announced that she would stop posting content on YouTube.
He said at the time: ‘For now I can’t be on this channel. I want to hold myself accountable, and it’s painful to do so. I am ashamed of what I have done and said in my past – but, it is important.
‘I think I’m moving away from this channel for now. I don’t know if it’s forever. I don’t know how long it will be… I’m going to stop for now.’
As for her other offensive content, Jenna said ‘it didn’t need to exist’ and she was ’embarrassed’ [she] ever made
Now: But his online popularity soon took a nosedive when a 2011 blackface skit resurfaced in which he shamed women and made a racist rap.
Her husband Julien Solomita announced earlier this year that a woman who had been harassing the couple for months had broken into their family home.
The former YouTube star largely stayed out of the headlines until her husband Julien Solomita announced earlier this year that a woman who had been harassing the couple for months had broken into their family home.
He said he ‘called the police’ and the woman was ‘arrested.’
Julien said he, Jenna and the family dogs were all safe in the wake of the incident.
Contemporary commentator Michael Buckley decided to ‘reset’ his perspective and became a life coach.
Michael Buckley became the face of ‘What the Buck?’ in 2006 which provides commentary on pop culture events and celebrities with a mix of parody and satire.
He quickly gained over 400 million video views and at the top of the channel, he had four of the top ten most viewed videos on YouTube.
The star, now 48, has garnered plenty of accolades, including first winning the YouTube Award for Best Commentary – and even winning the Live With Kelly co-host competition in 2012.
Then: Michael Buckley became the face of ‘What the Buck?’ in 2006 which provides commentary on pop culture events and celebrities with a mix of parody and satire.
But Michael has since revealed he has ‘retired’ from YouTube after changing his lifestyle.
‘In 2017, he reset his entire life – sold all his possessions, stopped drinking alcohol, stopped dating, stopped eating fast food, stopped drinking soda, traveled the country, published a book and had a successful has launched a life coaching business,’ his website states
As a life coach, Michael says he can help address mindsets, relationships and belief systems to ‘manage your mind, manage your emotions, love yourself and others unconditionally, use your strengths and create an amazing life for yourself on purpose’ to do.’
And it seems the former content creator is enjoying her new life away from the cameras.
Now: But Michael has since revealed he has ‘retired’ from YouTube after overhauling his lifestyle
The biography continues: ‘Today he enjoys a remarkable and simple life in Denver, Colorado.
‘He enjoys spending time with his family, playing flag football, soccer, going to church and roller skating.
‘Oh and he’s got a nice mustache now.’
Olga K pushed four YouTube channels before setting up a children’s clothing company to sell knee-high socks with ears.
Olga Kay, who describes herself as a Russian-American YouTube ‘pioneer’, trained as a professional circus juggler in her youth before joining the site in 2006.
She started producing shows like Emo Girl and Olga K’s Show and was soon working with four different channels on gaming and fashion.
The now 40-year-old, who now lives in Los Angeles, previously told The Guardian that by 2014 he had a million subscribers and was producing 23 videos per week.
Then: Olga Kay, who describes herself as a Russian-American YouTube ‘pioneer’, trained as a professional circus juggler in her youth before joining the site in 2006.
But Olga quickly realized that she did not want to be in front of the camera forever and took a long break – during which she lost a large part of her fan base.
He said he was soon inspired to take the plunge and set up his own business, telling the publication: ‘I woke up one day thinking, “I’m an entrepreneur, I want to build a business.”‘
And Olga did just that.
The former online star went on to launch Mush Walks – selling knee-high socks with ears for kids – which is ‘founded on the idea that self-expression and individuality is a necessary step in discovering your confidence.’
Now: Olga gave an insight into her inspiration on the official company website, writing: ‘Growing up poor was the best gift, every day I forced myself to think outside the box’
But still credits YouTube for giving him the ‘knowledge and experience’ to forge his own path
Olga gave an insight into her motivation on the official company website, writing: ‘Growing up poor was the best gift, every day I forced myself to think outside the box.
‘We all have something to offer but we are often not given the opportunity to be heard because we are invisible to others.’