Evelyn Ngugi, or “Evelyn From the Internets,” the popular YouTuber known for her funny, honest and refreshing monologues about life’s daily nuances, always begins her videos the same way: “What’s up YouTube world, it’s me, Evelyn.”
YouTube is her world. She used the platform as a diary when she was 19 years old, years before she’d eventually address an audience of dedicated channel subscribers, well before Beyoncé would play Evelyn’s Lemonade review mid-concert. (Yup. That happened.)
But it’s not her only world. She also has a full-time job in studio production at Texture Media Inc., a hair and beauty-focused media company, where she produces videos for clients. And she writes for Man Repeller! How did she get to where she is, and what does her version of “IRL” look like? I called her to find out.
We have a lot of readers in college who are figuring out their major. What did you go to school for?
I went to the University of Texas at Austin to study journalism. Magazine journalism in particular, because I wanted to learn to research and write really long stories about individuals. I’ve always been interested in biographies, autobiographies and documentaries. It seemed like every girl I knew read fashion magazines for the fashion — I read them for the longform stories. I admired the writers of those stories. The fact that it was someone’s job to learn things about people…
That’s why I decided to go to school for journalism, but I never thought I would get a job at a magazine. I always knew it would be on the web. I went to school during the recession and when I graduated in 2011, there were no print jobs. None. All of my internships were online. In fact, I started as an intern at the company where I currently work.
I remember that same panicky feeling. What would you say to students who are interested in the world of journalism and starting to think about jobs now?
While you’re looking for jobs and trying to get employed, make stuff yourself. You need five years of experience to be entry-level now, somehow. Employers are looking for you to have made something: a YouTube channel, a podcast, something not affiliated with school (although being involved in school media is a good way to gain experience, too). They want to see that you made something from scratch. You want people to look at your resume and say to themselves, “If I don’t hire you, you’ll definitely make it for someone else, so we need you.” You want to make sure that you can actually make the thing that you want to get hired for.
What were you doing at your internship that made you get hired?
I was making videos, from scratch, by myself. I would make videos for giveaways. I pitched them, filmed them, wrote them and sometimes acted in them. I think they were like, “You’re a millennial, figure this out.” And that’s another tip! Try to intern somewhere small where you’ll be handed a lot of responsibility. I wouldn’t have been able to do these things if I had interned somewhere big.
How did you start your own personal YouTube?
Since the company I worked for was a curly hair/natural hair company, I was documenting my own journey via video about cutting my hair off and wearing my hair the way it grows. During that internship, I posted those videos to my YouTube. I was interested in it, but it was also relevant to the business. Just another piece of content. It’s how I was introduced to YouTube’s beauty side, though, because I had always been on YouTube commenting, making friends.
Commenting never felt weird to me. It was like a higher evolution from AOL.
You were an early YouTube user?
I was. YouTube was my online community. I missed the whole MySpace thing. I never had one. I jumped to Facebook and YouTube. I always made videos growing up — not for the internet because that wasn’t a thing! I’d make skits and put them on DVDs. When I started using the internet, putting my videos online felt natural. But I was sending these videos to my friends. I wasn’t “facing the public” yet. It wasn’t until my internship that I started addressing people on the internet.
When did you realize that you were good at this, and funny? When did you realize that your YouTube channel could be “a thing”?
I have never had that moment. I like the reactions and the comments, but this was like a visual diary to me to when I started. Whether or not someone commented when I first began doing it didn’t really matter.
How did that help your channel create a feeling of (overused word here, but very true in your case) authenticity?
People can sense where your motivation comes from. If you’re motivated internally, it comes across as: “I’m here because I want to be here, or have to get something off my chest.”
Does it ever weird you out that you have fans or that people know who you are?
On the internet, it’s not that hard! Everyone has little crevices of the internet where strangers know who you are. Tumblr. Instagram. YouTube. There’s someone in Russia who knows you! If you’re on the internet now, everybody has that on some scale. I just happen to have it on a little larger scale that than some people.
When I ask people to share their own stories at the ends of my videos, that’s my favorite part: their comments. I’ll react to some, have conversations. I love my comments section. They’re hilarious, insightful and great.
How do you deal with the negative comments?
I block them. It hasn’t gotten to a point where it bothers me. My subscribers will respond back to trolls on my behalf and can sometimes get into fights them, so I just delete the bad comments to avoid all of that.
You’ve tackled more serious topics, like your story about being aggressively hit on to your response to BuzzFeed’s “27 Questions Black People Have for Black People.” These are important discussions that you’ve done with humor.
These topics come from things I’ve been thinking about or talking about with friends. If you don’t laugh about it, you’re going to cry about it. Women’s issues. Race issues. If you don’t make a joke and see the ridiculousness of our world sometimes, you might slip into a deep, dark place. Instead of being a news article or an encyclopedia, I try to be humorous and share it through my lens. Not everyone agrees with me though, and that’s cool.
I’ve heard you say that in videos: “If you don’t agree with me, that’s cool. Let’s talk about it in the comments.” How do you stay level-headed about the responses when they do disagree?
It’s a little more logical: I’ve made the video. My thought process and my opinion has already invaded your brain. No matter what someone says now, the video exists. And the fact that my video exists invites the opinion. I can’t be mad at that.
Something that’s unique about you as a popular YouTuber is that this isn’t your full time job. You have a “9-5.” What’s that like? Has it remained a hobby or is it a burden?
I only make YouTube videos when I’m feeling particularly good. In the beginning, when I was 19, I’d come on feeling any type of way. Now I’m more…not careful, but productive with my thoughts. I only make a video if I feel like making a video or talking about a certain topic.
It only feels like a burden when I can’t keep up with my subscribers’ demand for videos. (Although sometimes they email me and just ask if I’m okay, which is really nice.) People don’t realize that YouTubers have things going on in their lives they may not be talking about online.
I also don’t think people know that I have a job. Not only do I have a job, I have other pursuits. I might be working on a documentary or producing videos for a non-profit. Doing other web series. It’s a balance. I do ask myself, “Should I take this more ‘seriously,’ or do I continue to do the things that I love, which is not just YouTube.”
People ask me, “So where do you see this going?” What 26 year old KNOWS where they see themselves going?
I don’t think anyone knows. I guess this question is just as annoying, then, but do you see yourself continuing the YouTube thing in general?
I envision myself doing internet stuff as long as the internet exists. Does that mean I plan on having my face everywhere forever? Definitely not. I don’t want to be 65 years old like, “Hey YouTube world it’s me, Evelyn.” I’ll diversity it. That’s why I always end my videos saying, “See you on the internet somewhere.” Because I’ll be somewhere. Will I be in front of the camera? Maybe not. Who knows?