The 10 most popular YouTubers at the beginning of the decade — and where they are now
- YouTube has dramatically grown in the last decade, turning into a place where creators can earn money, launch their careers, and become viral stars.
- While YouTube is now dominated by names like PewDiePie and Dude Perfect, the platform's most popular creators 10 years ago featured names like NigaHiga, Fred, and KevJumba.
- These were the 10 most subscribed-to creators at the start of the decade, and where these 2010 stars are now.
- For more stories, go to Business Insider South Africa.
Since YouTube made it possible for video creators to make money off their content in 2007, the platform has become a place where people can become celebrities and well-known names outside the traditional path to fame. Today, names like PewDiePie, Logan and Jake Paul, and David Dobrik each have tens of millions of subscribers eating up their content across social media.
But 10 years ago, when YouTube was still relatively new, the most popular stars were different. Some creators are still around on YouTube today, like Shane Dawson and Philip DeFranco, while others have since moved on from the platform where they first rose to notoriety.
Here are the 10 most popular YouTubers at the beginning of the decade, and what those stars are up to now:
10. What The Buck Show
AKA: Michael Buckley
Video type: Buckley once hosted "What the Buck!?," a popular YouTube show that shared news about celebrities and pop culture, delivered with snark, parody, and colour commentary.
Where they are now: Buckley is now a life coach (you can apply to be coached by him on his website). He released a book in 2017 geared toward parents who don't "get" the appeal of YouTube to kids, and he's started making videos again on YouTube featuring vlogs about his family and being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
9. Venetian Princess
AKA: Jodie-Amy Rivera
Video type: Known by the name "Venetian Princess," Rivera was revered for her hilarious parodies of pop songs, including hits like "7 Things (Guys Don't Have to Do)" and "I Kissed a Girl - Elderly Remix." She was the most subscribed-to woman on YouTube until 2012.
Where they are now: Rivera's notable VenetianPrincess parodies and spoofs ended in 2014, but she brought back her YouTube channel in 2019 to feature vlogs from her daily life and serious covers of songs. She also has a daughter, who she posts pictures of on Instagram.
8. Dave Days
AKA: Dave Colditz
Video type: Like Venetian Princess, Dave Colditz gained notoriety for his pop-punk covers and parodies of various songs in pop culture, as well as the release of his own albums. His channel gained so much traction that he actually got Miley Cyrus to make a cameo appearance in the video for his song, "Last Song."
Where they are now: It seems Colditz has continued to pursue his independent music career, uploading covers and parodies intermittently to his YouTube channel and onto music streaming services in the last couple years. Colditz also hosts a free online class, called Musician.Life, where he teaches wannabe artists how to become successful in the music industry.
AKA: Kevin Wu
Video type: Wu was one of YouTube's early comedian vloggers, who gained fans and laughs from relating stories and talking at the camera. His videos often played off Asian-American stereotypes, and were laced with self-deprecating humour.
Where they are now: Wu mysteriously disappeared from YouTube in 2013 to return to university and reconnect with Buddhism. He suffered a near-fatal car crash in 2015, and reactivated his YouTube channel in 2017 under new branding as simply "Kev."
However, Wu hasn't posted to YouTube or Instagram since March 2017, and his Twitter handle appears to be suspended. Wu has maintained a more private life since then and is "working on" himself, he said in a rare appearance on a podcast hosted by fellow prominent YouTuber Ryan Higa in mid-2019.
6. Ray William Johnson
Video type: Although he only launched his channel in 2009, Ray William Johnson became wildly popular in less than a year thanks to his YouTube series called "Equals Three." Johnson helped to pioneer YouTube's popular "react" video format, in which he would offer commentary on viral videos.
Where they are now: Johnson stopped producing "Equals Three" and other popular series in 2015, which led to his popularity to drop. He continued to use his YouTube channel to vlog through 2018, and also uploaded some music under the name "Fat Damon." However, Johnson has since moved over to Facebook and Instagram, where he uploads videos of sketch comedy and inspirational messages.
AKA: Philip DeFranco
Video type: DeFranco has been around for a decade as a bonafide news anchor for YouTube, delivering roundups of headlines about current events in both light-hearted subjects (like celebrity gossip) and heavier issues (such as politics).
Where they are now: DeFranco's popularity on YouTube has only skyrocketed in the past decade, now going by Philip DeFranco instead of "sxephil." He has expanded his work into a full-blown news network, including YouTube news series SourceFed and website Rogue Rocket. DeFranco is now married to former vlogger LinzLoves, and has two young children.
Video type: Dawson's early work comprised short comedy sketches in which he would don accents and wigs to play different characters. However, many of these characters - with names like "Barb the Lesbian" and "Shanaynay" (referred to as a "ghetto girl"), and gangster S-Deezy - were viewed as problematic, and were criticised for drawing on offensive stereotypes about people of colour and other minority groups.
Where they are now: Dawson's YouTube presence has grown and changed over the decade, and he hasn't posted to his ShaneDawsonTV channel in over three years. On his channel, simply titled "shane," Dawson has shifted to making multi-part documentary series investigating conspiracy theories and the lives of YouTubers, including Tana Mongeau, Jake Paul, and Eugenia Cooney.
Dawson also came out as bisexual in 2015, and got engaged to fellow YouTuber Ryland Adams in 2019.
AKA: Ian Hecox & Anthony Padilla
Video type: The comedy duo collectively known as "Smosh" were behind some of the most popular and viral comedy skits circulated on YouTube in the platform's early days.
Where they are now: Smosh has since expanded beyond its two original creators to feature a group regular cast members that creates and appears in comedic content for Smosh and its multiple spinoff channels. One of the Smosh founders, Anthony Padilla, left the channel in June 2017.
The Smosh brand was acquired in early 2019 by Mythical Entertainment, a company owned by YouTuber duo Rhett & Link.
AKA: Lucas Cruikshank
Video type: Cruikshank created hilarious videos as his online persona Fred Figglehorn, a dysfunctional six-year-old with a high-pitched voice, who regalled viewers with stories of his life and doing simple day-to-day activities.
Where they are now: Cruikshank stopped producing content starring Fred in 2014, and hasn't posted to that YouTube channel since 2015. Cruikshank is still active as a YouTuber, but now stars as himself in vlogs and comedy on his eponymous channel, "Lucas." Cruikshank came out as gay in 2016.
AKA: Ryan Higa
Video type: Higa was known for his comedy sketches, filmed alongside three friends with an especially low quality camera, which often parodied how-to and commercial formats. He held the title as the most subscribed-to channel for 677 consecutive days between 2009 and 2011, a feat that's only been topped by PewDiePie.
Where they are now: Higa still works as a YouTuber, producing comedy skits and parodies on his original NigaHiga channel and his second channel, HigaTV. Higa also launched a weekly podcast in 2018 called "Off the Pill," which has featured famous YouTubers, K-pop stars, and presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
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