What Is It About Emma Chamberlain?

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She's the antidote to perfectly polished influencer culture, and her millions of followers have responded with adulation –and relief.

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It’s clear she’s tapped into something young women crave. Since launching her YouTube channel in June 2017, Chamberlain has gone from a depressed high school sophomore with little prior experience or platform to one of the most popular girls on the Internet, with the trappings to match. She graduated early from high school, relocated to Los Angeles from the Bay Area, and acquired an agent, a publicist, and partnerships with high-end brands like Louis Vuitton.

It’s not just that she feels relatable. She has a keen sense of comedic timing, a magnetic ability to command attention, and something I’d call stage presence if she didn’t film videos from her bed. “No one gets that big and has been able to sustain that growth and those view counts for as long as she has without having some innate raw talent,” says Joshua Cohen, the cofounder of Chamberlain grew up in San Bruno, California, just south of San Francisco.

She uploaded her first viral video, “We All Owe the Dollar Store an Apology,” in July 2017. It takes the haul, a typical YouTube genre where influencers show the fruits of a shopping trip, and mocks it with panache. In the 10-minute video, she sits in her room, with no makeup on, riffing on her purchases . She gained 4,000 subscribers immediately and hit 100,000 just a few weeks later.

Chamberlain has been candid about her mental-health struggles, opening up about her depression and constant anxiety in her videos. She’s talked about how YouTubing pulled her out of her depression but also the paradox of how her fame can trigger a depressive episode. In “Why I Don’t Upload That Much,” she explains how every time she’s editing a video, she basically has a meltdown. “I start getting so anxious,” she says. She cries for hours, and her self-esteem plummets.

As the next generation comes up, brands are looking for stars with a captive audience that trusts their recommendations. When Chamberlain talks about her gas, it makes you feel like she’s your friend; you want to know what she’s buying because she’s like you. And Gen Z in particular, Karwowski says, is moving away from dressing for other people and toward embracing a style that’s just for yourself.


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