WATCHING ME, WATCHING YOUTUBE
The week of July 19, 2015

Kingsley’s got something to say, and plenty of places to say it

By Michelle Jaworski

No matter what Kingsley is pursuing, you can bet he’ll say what’s on his mind. After all, he’s been doing it for more than five years now. The often-outspoken YouTube creator first made waves when his video, “Things I Hate,” ended up on Tosh.0 and went viral. His rant about pet peeves was funny and outrageous, but relatable: Yes, all of that stuff annoyed us, too.

He’s been creating ever since, sounding off on everything from pop culture and online trends to whatever’s happening in his life, all while keeping that constant connection with fans—who both praise and criticize him whenever he tries something new. And he’s been everywhere lately: on ClevverTV’s pop culture show Drama King, on an aftershow for the reality competition series Skin Wars, in his weekly videos, and in his own podcast, Kingsley’s Overexposed.

But he’s still making videos for his viewers—the people who’ve supported him for who he is and what he does.

Kingsley spoke to the Kernel on why making videos can be more stressful than podcasting, why he won’t call his viewers “fans,” and what changed his mind about quitting YouTube last year.

I know you talked last year about the ClevverTV show Drama King. How’s that going?

It’s over. We did three seasons. It was a really cool experience. I got to learn teleprompter work and all this stuff, but it wasn’t exactly the right fit for my voice. It was a little too PC for me; it was like, playing games and stuff that I wasn’t really passionate about. For the last few months, I’ve been kind of over it, so we kind of brought it to an end.

Taking what you’ve learned, what do you think you’ll be able to apply to the next venture that you have on your plate? What have you been up to lately? What are you planning to do next?

I’m really planning on just showing people a different form of entertainment because it’s been, in the majority, first-person ever since I started, and I think in giving people the chance to hear my commentary, I’ve kind of established my voice. I’m interested in doing an on-the-street type of thing, interviewing random people and artists and things like that.

“I don’t think at this point I care if it’s online or on TV, because it’s all becoming just one and the same.”

Clevver really helped me, I guess, mold the way that I deliver things. It’s more professional. I don’t know how to say it. It was really good practice for a formal, highly produced show, and so I just want to take everything I learned there and apply it to my actual YouTube channel to give people something a little bit different.

I went into a YouTube wormhole with your recent videos, and I noticed that you were doing an aftershow for Skin Wars, which is a show I hadn’t heard of previously but looks really fascinating.

It’s crazy.

Yes. I saw the recent video. You interviewed someone named Vivienne?

Vivienne Pinay.

Yes, with the Nicki Minaj butt.

She’s a contestant on one of the past seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and in the most recent episode, they had the drag queen come on the show to be body-painted by the contestants into different forms of female pop divas.

How did you get involved with Skin Wars and RuPaul’s Drag Race?

I’ve been in Drag Race before, and then the Skin Wars people approached me because they’ve seen my content and they thought I’d be a good fit to host it. I was just like, “Oh my God, of course I will,” mainly because RuPaul was part of the show. I was like, “I was not going to miss my opportunity to work with RuPaul.”

It was just amazing. I got to watch the whole season and the recaps and talked to the cast. Again, this was a really cool experience as far as interviewing goes and hosting goes and kind of elevating the personality that I have in my channel into a more traditional setting which was really cool.

Do you think you would like to do TV one day or are you OK with YouTube for now?

I like YouTube. I don’t know about TV just because everything’s changing so fast and I feel like everyone’s trying to figure out, “Is it going to be Internet, is it going to be TV?” I just enjoy hosting in general, no matter what platform it’s on, and I love talking to people. I love entertainment, so getting to watch a TV show and discussing it with other fans is a really cool experience. I don’t think at this point I care if it’s online or on TV, because it’s all becoming just one and the same.

What made you decide to launch the podcast?

The podcast, for me, was an additional opportunity just because I was really focused. My channel has always had a heavy presence with pop culture and advice-type things. On YouTube, I feel like the content is short-form, not as short as like a six-second vine, but I typically try to keep my videos between three and five minutes.

With the podcast, you’re able to not only have a co-host with you to banter with and guests to come on—it’s just the ability to talk about so many things. With the video, I’ll try to be current, but I don’t want it to be too long because then it gets too boring. The podcast format allows for discussion and if people download it, they know they’re going to be listening for an hour. It’s much more laid-back; there’s not as much pressure because you’re not on camera.

It’s just having a good time and having a talk with the people that are on your podcast. That was really just appealing to me because I was having discussions and debating with people—more so than I love just talking to a camera, so the podcast is a godsend.

“I just went through the last half of last year figuring everything out.”

So having done that now, are you more aware of how long your videos are because you now have the experience of going longer without any worries of time restraints?

With my videos, I definitely felt pressure to have a certain time, especially when I edit. My humor is very dry, sarcastic, funny, witty, so I want everything to be quick and I want everybody to be entertained. I never want to show my videos are dragging on, so when I edit, I cut so much out and just make it timely.

I want people to last. I don’t want them to feel like they’re getting lectured or I’m going about something too long, whereas with the podcast, they know what they’re getting into when they download it. This is definitely something I can put out. I think a lot of people figure out that because you want to keep people engaged. The longer you go on about something, it’s just like, “Blah blah blah.” It’s definitely something I’ve become more aware of as the years have went on.

You’ve been on YouTube for five years now. I watched your recent video of you watching your first viral video. You point out in it that, “I still hate that thing,” or “I don’t hate that thing,” or, “I do that” in it, but what else have you noticed that changed in five years with yourself and YouTube as a whole?

With myself, I definitely matured. When I first started, I was like crazy and rambunctious and said whatever I wanted to say. I think in growing up, I’ve been able to mold that and say things honestly, because one thing that I really enjoy is that my audience likes me for the fact that I say what I think. I don’t have to pretend to like some band that everybody else is liking just so people watch.

I’m just really honest, but I figured out how to do it without being brash and profane— although I still use profanity occasionally. I think I’ve just become more aware that young people are watching and that they’re impressionable and that I can make them laugh without always being so over the top—because when I went viral, I’m kind of stuck with that persona just because it works. I got older and I don’t really care about being something that I’m really not, because I’m very laid-back.

When I started, I was just out of control and had so much energy, so I kind of felt at a certain point that I had to stick to that. It got really overwhelming at one point, actually, and I was just over it but I think I figured myself out as a person, and that allows me to make the content for people that are watching.

YouTube, in general, has just become crazy. I’m still getting used to how many brands are a part of it and all these different opportunities that everyone’s getting with books, TV, movies. It’s just absolutely out of control. I have no idea what’s happening [laughs]. It’s fascinating.

I looked at the list of who was attending VidCon this year, and I don’t recognize many of the names.

It’s crazy.

Just this past year, there’s so many new names, so much new talent, and they all have an audience.

Well, it used to be just super organic. Nobody used to do YouTube to be “famous.” I feel like we were all just on a clear board. It was a cool site: People can upload random clips, find TV shows, viral things. It was just this really cool place. Now, like I was talking about with everything changing, people will see it as an opportunity more than just this fun website. There’s all these people that are doing so many things and it’s crazy.

“When you say ‘fans,’ I feel like it elevates you as a person, and I don’t like that because it’s not what YouTube started as. It was always just us all talking to each other.”

I went to a Playlist Live in New Jersey last year, and I talked to someone whose daughter wanted to be a YouTuber. The girl asked her parents for recording equipment for Christmas like, “Oh, I need this and that thing.” It’s going to be fascinating to see what they put out and see the difference between the people who went viral organically through an audience and the ones that are going out to do that.

That is so weird that people are saying they want to be a YouTuber when they grow up. I hope to be off of YouTube when I grow up [laughs]. This is so crazy to hear. I hadn’t heard that, I guess, but if I did, I would be just like, “Oh, my God. What have we started? What is going on?”

How has your fanbase reacted to how your career has gone?

Well, I think for the most part they’ve been supportive. I had a rough period last year where I really wanted to quit; I was just over everything and I thought YouTube was stupid. There was just a bunch of stuff going on that I didn’t really like, and I wasn’t in the most positive, supportive relationship of what I was doing. I wanted to quit.

I was literally going to, but then I went to Playlist Live in Miami and I met so many people, and I just felt really shitty and started trying to get back into it. It took a while. There was a period that I was putting out videos that I didn’t really care about and I thought it was really horrible. People can tell and I just went through the last half of last year figuring everything out. I feel like now, I know people that are watching me now are just like, not to be dramatic, but they’re right, because I read my comments and I interact a lot and I respond to people on Twitter.

That’s why I started YouTube—to just interact with people all over the world. And so I try to keep that connection. It was really supportive. They tell me “congratulations” if I get an outside job like Skin Wars or something, and they’re giving me feedback, which I like. If I try something new, everyone isn’t just, “Oh, my God, this is so great. This is amazing.” I would read comments like, “This sucks! I don’t like these voices you’re doing. Where is this? What happened to this?”

I try to figure it all out because obviously, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, so I appreciate their feedback and everything they say. I just feel like I’m lucky to have such an honest audience because I have an honest voice, and they’re just the best group of crazy people. I don’t like calling them “fans” because I just think that word is so, I don’t know, like they’re beneath me or something.

What do you call them?

I just call them viewers. I call them just random. I called them “ball sacs” at one point. I called them “school supplies” for like three months—part of my video is like, “Hey, you sexy staplers and dry-erase boards.” I like just having fun with them, being goofy. When you say “fans,” I feel like it elevates you as a person, and I don’t like that because it’s not what YouTube started as. It was always just us all talking to each other and video responses and everything like that, so I try my best to avoid that word and to correct people that may use it toward me.

If you had stopped doing your videos and you didn’t have the support of your viewers to inspire you again and all the other creators, what do you think you would have been doing?

Well, I really want to finish school. I did two years at university and then I moved to California and couldn’t really afford tuition, so I was just saving up. I really want to go back. My only thing is, I don’t know what I want to major in, because I did journalism but I’m not really into that anymore, so I’m trying to figure that out. But I definitely would have enrolled in school and again, that’s the pressure of what I felt from what I was dealing with from my personal life.

I just felt like YouTube was kind of goofy—that I wasn’t accomplishing anything and that I needed to do something more normal and figure everything out right in that instant. I realized that I don’t really have to and have a lot of opportunities that I should take advantage of and see where they go. But definitely, school is a priority for me because I really want to finish it. I promised my mom that I would finish so I can move out here—so there’s stuff hovering over my head and I need to check it off my list.

“I would like to live in a world where people don’t have to make coming-out videos and are able to just be themselves.”

I’ve seen how people are affected when they meet the people they’ve been watching for years and creators have the realization of, “Oh, we’re doing something.”

It’s really like, over at these conventions, there’s such crazy fans—like, VidCon’s in a few weeks. I went to my first one, I think it was the year before last? 2014, I think, was my first year. No, 2013 was my first year at VidCon and that was just, like, the first time I saw everyone face-to-face. It was, “Oh, my goodness, this is crazy.” It’s one thing to record a video and put it out there and see the views or whatever, but when you get into the convention and you see all the other YouTubers and people running to the lobby and screaming, it’s like, “Oh, my goodness. These are the people that are watching us?” [laughs]

It’s so crazy and then, we meet them and they’re so nice and they’re so excited. Some of them, like at Playlist last year, I was just bawling because there’s one girl who was  just going on and on about how I helped her and I was like, I never thought of it that way, because I just think, “Oh, my God, put this out, make people laugh,” whatever. Some people are just really invested and they see us as their friends, and it was really overwhelming to experience but it’s really cool at the same time. It’s definitely a motivating factor to keep doing it.

And yet, it’s kind of like a good collection of the best and the worst people out there, all in one space.

Very true.

And especially with the group of a bunch of creators who have been coming out in videos, and people have shown their support for them, despite what they think of them as creators.

[laughs] I have an interesting view on those. [laughs]

We covered that trend in a recent issue.

Yes, it’s crazy. I don’t mean to be rude because I’m so excited for all of them being happy, but I can’t watch those, because coming out, to me, is such a personal thing and as soon as I see the video and I see them, their lips are trembling and they’re crying, “Oh, my God, I can’t do this.” I just get so uncomfortable that I have to turn it off [laughs]. It’s better for them, but it’s so weird to me how coming out is, I know we have audiences, but it’s crazy to me how it’s become a video that people uploaded and are just sitting there and crying to the camera.

It’s really weird. To me, that’s such a personal thing for your friends and family. I obviously never had that problem. I never had to come out. I just naturally talked about guys and who I found attractive. I just didn’t like that because I didn’t think it was a big deal. I never thought it was a big deal. To see other people having to reveal that to their audience in such a way, it makes me feel uncomfortable but so happy for them. I just can’t sit through those [laughs]. It’s too emotional, way too emotional.

Where do you see the Internet going in five years or what do you hope it’ll be like in that time?

I guess my one wish [for the Internet] is more acceptance. Like you said earlier, it’s that combination of the best and the worst people. Like, with coming-out videos you see vicious comments, and most of them are Internet trolls—they just don’t have anything to do, they’re trying to get attention—but it’d be cool if the Internet was just like, all these chill people interacting with each other, discovering new friends, discovering new hobbies and topics and kind of bonding with each other and just being accepting of everyone. And that’s just the world in general.

I would like to live in a world where people don’t have to make coming-out videos and are able to just be themselves. And the people that like them and support them can be a part of their lives. That would be the ideal Internet. Less chaos and more cute moments.

Illustration by Max Fleishman