Food porn has reached new heights.
Just ask Kim Thai, a 25-year-old YouTuber who films herself eating large amounts of food — mainly seafood, Andrea Stanley for Cosmopolitan reported.
Within eight months of launching her channel Eat with Kim, Thai has amassed more than 200,000 subscribers and a six-figure salary from ads and sponsorships, such as with DoorDash and Pepto-Bismol, according to Stanley. She’s since quit her social-media job at a national beauty brand to focus on YouTube full time and is planning her own clothing line.
“It was a super nerve-racking move and a big leap,” Thai told Stanley. “But looking back, I’m so glad I decided to follow my heart.”
She added: “And to know that my videos are something that people look forward to watching reminds me why I started.”
Thai is part of the mukbang (“muck-bong”) influencer community, “a hangry and increasingly lucrative corner of the internet … in which hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of fans eat up videos of women ingesting massive quantities of food,” Stanley wrote, adding that mukbang — a South Korean “mash-up term” that means eating and broadcasting — most often features seafood.
Some viewers find mukbang to be sensual, Stanley reported: “For some, hearing fingers tap on a mic, or the visceral crack of a crab leg, or the loud licking of briny butter out of a mussel is a near-pornographic experience.”
But for others, watching one ingest seafood is a vicarious experience if they can’t afford the food or are allergic to it; it also provides company for those who typically eat alone, according to Stanley.
But Thai and the mukbang community aren’t the only ones making a profit from YouTube, which has kicked off the careers of many famous — and rich — influencers. The 10 highest-paid YouTube stars collectively take home more than $180 million a year, according to a recent Forbes ranking.
While half the top-earning YouTubers of 2018 share a focus on video games, the most lucrative channel centers on 7-year-old Ryan, who hosts Ryan ToysReview and brought in $22 million for his family last year, Business Insider’s Kevin Webb reported.
Webb wrote, “YouTube’s impact on pop culture can’t be ignored — the platform’s top stars become the world’s premier influencers, coveted by media outlets and advertisers for their ability to reach tens of millions of followers on a daily basis.”
This post originally appeared on Business Insider.