Hanging out with Tyler Oakley at Simon & Schuster to talk about his memoir
I have a lot time for Tyler Oakley. As one of my favourite writers Ryan O’Connell said in his post called “Things I don’t understand at the ripe old age of 29” recently:
“Note: Even though I’m confused [about YouTubers], I STAND for Tyler Oakley. Homegirl has put his money where his vlog is and raised so much fucking $$$ for Trevor Project. Anyone that thinks he’s problematic for the gay community needs to stop blogging and actually HELP the gay community they’re sooooo desperado to protect.”
He is something of role model in the LGBTQ community, raising more than $1m for anti-suicide organisations and having a LOT of positivity shine out of his Twitter feed.
We’d met briefly last year at Zoe Sugg’s launch for Zoella Beauty and we clinked our glasses, chatted for a few minutes and had a selfie (OBVS). For someone with over seven million subscribers and 500 million views, he was incredibly normal and down-to-earth. When meeting him you wouldn’t know he’d just been on the Grammy red carpet, or a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. People always say that, but he really was such fun to be around. He makes you feel like you are the interesting one, even though he has about a million projects going on all at once. “Celebs” don’t normally ask you questions. I’ve interviewed enough famous people to know that’s not a thing. And to be fair, it shouldn’t because you’re there to interview them, and they are there to either enjoy it, or run away very quickly afterwards. It’s normally the latter. But Tyler clearly enjoys connecting with people – it’s not about the #FameGame.
In short, Tyler in person is the exact same bubbly persona you see on camera. It only takes about 30 seconds before you hear his famous cackle. Perhaps it’s safe to assume that Tyler’s popularity is for that reason: there is no persona. He is authentic, kind and energetic – and it’s total escapism watching his upbeat vlogs. I totally understand why millions of kids addictively check in with him on social media and book tickets to his live shows. He is a born entertainer. A friendly face.
“Do you mind being called a YouTuber?” I asked. Not that I thought he’d mind, but as he was busy with so many things I wondered what he calls himself. Being in a generation of “slashies” (aka, millenials with lots of different talents and professions) it’s hard to know what to call him. Online star? Digital presenter? Social media personality? “No, I don’t mind at all. It’s how all of this started. I’m proud to be a YouTuber.”
Tyler has so many projects on the go which means he has been travelling a lot. His Twitter followers are able to keep tabs as he regularly updates his fans to which country he is in aka “LONDON I AM IN YOU!” He has his popular podcast PsychoBabble that he co-hosts with fellow YouTuber Korey Kuhl. He has a documentary film out called Snervous which will be in US theatres soon. He is now also a Sunday Times bestselling author with BINGE. I asked him what his favourite “medium” is for creating and expressing himself: “I want to say the book. I loved writing it. It was easy to keep it a secret because I had so much else going on. I enjoyed working on it in the background while also being busy with other stuff.”
This is what I admire about Tyler. He works frigging hard. He has fingers in lots of different media pies – he’s talented, energetic, down-to-earth and growing his own empire.
But it’s not always fun and games being so internet famous. Last year in June, Tyler had a run in with the #Directioners, when he publicly made a little dig at Liam Payne. I asked Tyler how it was at the time, as there is a whole chapter in BINGE dedicated to how he dealt with the online hate: “I was scared to go online for a few days. I thought my career was over,” Tyler said.Over a year on, things could not be further from the truth. With a best-selling book, his own movie out in cinemas, and a growing YouTube channel he is building one of the Internet’s most powerful brands.
How I Grew Up Online
“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE
"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"– The Debrief
“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic