What it’s like to be ‘YouTube famous’

By James Cook on September 11th, 2013

Becoming YouTube famous isn’t like normal fame. On the internet, you’re a star, but in real life, you’re the same old you. So what’s it like to live life as YouTube celebrity?

“It started off surreal, like a second life!” Josie Charlwood found YouTube fame when her cover of Feel Good Inc went viral. To date it has amassed 2,549,165 views. Since then, her YouTube videos have continued to garner thousands of views and new subscribers.

“I actually like it this way, you get people supporting your music without it affecting your lifestyle.”

Charlwood was able to trace her fame back to an unlikely place: the red-head porn community on Reddit. /r/gingers had taken a liking to her music video, and a screenshot of her performing was posted among the bared breasts of other ginger women. From there, her video was picked up by the music subreddit, and went on to go viral.

As you might expect from a post in Reddit’s ginger porn community, not all of the comments were about the music: “Those eyes. I actually asked her to marry me on Facebook and she said yes, which is pretty awesome.

“However I haven’t heard from her since and I hear she has a boyfriend. I’m sure she is just waiting for the right moment to break it off with him so she can move to the US and we can start our life together.”

One of the things the newly internet famous find difficult to contend with are comments, good and bad, which can arrive in furious torrents. As the first of her videos to really take off started to spread, Charlwood noticed some strange comments appearing on YouTube. Some were complimentary, although somewhat explicit.

I wish that mic was my penis

Others were more intimidating. Charlwood quickly deleted this comment, which appeared on YouTube and is one of the worst she has ever received:

I want to cut off your arms and legs and tie you up in my basement

“I’m used to the weird comments now,” she says. “There’s been the odd ‘go die’ message. Those are nasty but don’t really bother me because I enjoy reading the responses from other YouTubers eager to stand up for me.

“There are plenty of ‘ginger’ comments made about my hair colour, both good and bad. For some reason that just seems to bring even more attention to the videos.

“I personally am perfectly happy with my hair colour so I don’t bother about these. For the most part I laugh at them.”

One of the YouTube messages that Josie Charlwood received after her video went viral.

One of the YouTube messages that Josie Charlwood received after her video went viral.

There is a point at which internet fame spills over into real life. For Charlwood, it was at 2.00am at a train station in central London, when an internet fan approached her.

“Being recognised in real life is very strange,” she recalls.” It’s easy to slip into the mindset that my online career is completely separate from real life, but when someone actually walks up to you and asks, ‘Are you Josie Charlwood?’, that puts a different spin on it, for sure.”

Instead of using her online fame to move into a career on YouTube, Charlwood has instead opted to study music at university. We asked if her YouTube channel has affected her studies.

“Well, I’ve had some nice comments and compliments about it from fellow students. It has never been spiteful or anything that’s interfered with my degree, thankfully.

“Two years ago a foreign fan messaged my former college asking if they could purchase a ticket to my concert. In reality, I was singing one song as part of the compulsory college showcase. It was awkward.”

Fortunately, Josie Charlwood seems to be well-adjusted enough to realise that a few hits on YouTube is no substitute for a college education. Becoming famous on the internet doesn’t always affect your real life and it certainly doesn’t guarantee fame or riches.

But, occasionally, what you do on the internet can burst into your life in unexpected ways.