Not long ago, Americans megastars only came from places like network television shows or Hollywood films.
These days, they also come from somewhere else entirely: YouTube.
While old-media outlets like newspapers have been losing subscribers, YouTube celebrities have been gaining them by the busload.
For the latest installment in Reuters’ monthly “First Jobs” series, we asked a few of the top YouTube stars to discuss how they came from nowhere to cultivate millions of adoring fans.
YouTube subscribers: 7.8 million
Specialty: Makeup advice
First Job: China Buffet host
“I was 16 years old, and wanted to help my mom with the rent. There was a restaurant called China Buffet in Tampa that hung a ‘Help Wanted’ sign outside, so I went in and ended up hosting every Friday and Sunday for $6 or $7 an hour.
“My favorite dish was lo mein, which was so greasy. But I was a teenager then and could basically eat whatever I wanted.
“What I learned from that job was how to greet people and make eye contact. I used to be a very shy introvert and never even spoke to people, so it was that job that first gave me the confidence to talk to strangers.
“That was my first legal job, but even before that my brother and I used to sell candy at our school, charging for lollipops and chocolate bars in the gym and the auditorium. We made a good amount of money, too: In two months, we made $600 that we used to buy computer parts and build our own computer. I have always been a hustler like that.”
YouTube subscribers: 2.35 million
Specialty: Fitness tutorials
First job: Candy seller
“Back in middle school, every time I used to trick-or-treat, I would take all the chocolates and microwave them and then make my own little chocolate creations. My friends all liked them, so I started charging them for it.
“Later on in high school I added cookie sandwiches with buttercream inside, and everyone went nuts. It became a whole enterprise, with five employees working for me. I was known as “Cassey the Cookie Girl” all over campus. That business even helped me get a full scholarship.
“It’s ironic that I now run a fitness blog. My friends accuse me of having planned it this whole time, of making them fat and then getting them back into shape.
“I learned that if you create a product that has value, you can definitely start charging for it. I also learned that people not only buy because they like the product. They buy because they like you.”
YouTube subscribers: 4.3 million
Specialty: Amazing facts and top 10 lists
First job: Deli counter
“I worked at a Canadian supermarket called Loblaws, essentially frying chicken for a living. I worked my butt off all the way through high school and university, saving up enough to pay my tuition and graduate with no debt.
“I had never had a job before, and handed in a resume with hardly anything on it. But my mom suggested that I send a thank-you card after the interview, and that must have been what got me the job. It was the only one they got.
“I came in not knowing anything, and just learned on the job. Most of all, I got to know how to deal with angry customers. People would come in just fuming mad, and you had to know how to defuse that situation. That skill translates very well to everyday life.
“The number-one question I got at the deli counter was whether or not I ever got sick of fried chicken. And the answer was always no. It’s tasty and delicious. What’s not to like?”
YouTube subscribers: 5.2 million
Specialty: Beauty tips
First job: File clerk
“My first job was as a clerk at an oil-and-gas company, and I actually got fired at it.
“They hired me to do a special project, putting me in a huge office stacked floor-to-ceiling with boxes, and I had to put sticker labels on them all. They thought it was going to take me all summer.
“But when I get a task to do, I like to see how fast I can do it. So I challenged myself and finished within a week. They were completely surprised and said they had no more work for me. They had to let me go.
“What I learned was how important it is to find a job where you can work at your own pace. I like to work very quickly, uploading videos almost every day.
“These days, that kind of diligence and effort pays off. But before, that just wasn’t where I belonged. I could never see myself having a desk job again.”