It feels cheap to reduce 24-year-old YouTube vlogger Tyler Oakley’s praises to a list of statistics, but these are some notable statistics: With 1.4 million YouTube subscribers, over 50 million video views, and 1.1 million Twitter followers, Oakley is a bona fide self-made sensation. In his hundreds of videos, the gay Michigan native has broadcast himself doing everything from discussing one-night stands and downing Chicken McNuggets to promoting LGBT causes like The Trevor Project. While his fanbase consists of many self-proclaimed “fangirls” (a moniker Oakley routinely applies to himself) of his favorite acts like One Direction, he represents a new kind of tastemaker: the cool twentysomething entrepreneur who knows how to connect with fellow gays, adoring teenage girls, and pop culture fanatics by being opinionated, savvy, funny, and utterly candid.
We caught up with Oakley to discuss his career in social media, how panicked he should be about getting Cher’s attention, and what his future husband will be like.
TheBacklot: Describe your beginnings in YouTube-ing. Did you admire other YouTubers first?
Tyler Oakley: Totally! I first discovered YouTube while browsing the web, and then I found people just talking into their cameras. I never even knew it was a thing you could do. William Sledd was my first YouTube obsession. He was so unapologetically himself, and just had fun talking to his audience about things that interested him. I thought – if he could do it, why couldn’t I?
TB: You’re so gregarious in your videos, yet you obviously record much of your material by yourself. How “social” a life do you actually have?
TO: I’m very social! I think I’ve just found the perfect balance. I’m one of those YouTubers who doesn’t daily-vlog, so my life may seem very open, but my audience only really sees probably 50%. I keep a lot to myself, and I cherish the things that are for me and the people closest to me.
TB: Cher follows you on Twitter. Do you feel an insane pressure to please her with every tweet? (I would.)
TO: Oh, not at all! She found me because she somehow stumbled upon one of my livestreams, where I was undoubtedly drunk and rambling about pop culture. That’s basically what happens on my Twitter-feed 24/7, so I’m sure she’s used to it. She’s been nothing but supportive, so I figure if she’s liked me thus far, she’ll put up with anything.
TB: You make your fandom of certain people very apparent. What would be people be surprised to find you’re a fan of?
TO: Julie Chen. She’s my ultimate celebrity idol. I think she’s one of the most amazing interviewers and hosts ever – and would kill to pick her brain. I am a fangirl of talent, so to see someone slaying the competition doing what I’d love to do, that’s inspiring to me.
TB: What’s the hardest part of your job?
TO: Seeing negativity directed at me. I can have a thousand people say the nicest things, but I’ll always notice the one person who doesn’t get me.
TB: Ambition has gotten you where you are; do you find yourself coming up with new ambitions often? What are they?
TO: I’m a firm believer in making it happen – no matter what ’it’ is. Sometimes I feel a bit too driven – where it’s all I think about. But I guess that’s gotten me to where I am, so I can’t complain. Of course I come up with new ambitions all the time – and the coolest thing is, I think of something I want to do, and I don’t really imagine it as “Oh, I’ve never done that.” I think of it as, “Oh, I haven’t done that yet.” I literally believe I’m going to do everything I set out to do, which is a pretty amazing feeling.
TB: Do you often find yourself having to defend the viability of “internet famous” people?
TO: My life and happiness speaks for itself.
TB: Who do you want to meet? Who are you shocked to have already met?
TO: I want to meet every person who has watched my videos and stuck around with me. They’re the ones who help me achieve everything I’ve ever dreamed of – that’s why YouTube gatherings are the best. Just to share moments with the people who make it all possible – that’s what gets my adrenaline going.
TB: I love that your humor is often very sexual — and in a gay way. Have you always been the type to say “Sit on my face” with pride?
TO: Even back in elementary school while passing notes in class. Always.
TB: On a personal level: Who’s your ideal guy? What impresses you in a gay guy?
TO: My ideal guy is my future husband. Not sure who he is yet, but he’s out there. What impresses me in a gay guy? A warm smile, stubble, easy to talk to, thoughtful tattoos, kind eyes, wit, positivity, wanderlust, ambition, and a cute ass.
TB: Lastly, convince me that One Direction will last more than another six months. Their last tour date in 2014 is June 8th. Contractually, they must fulfill that duty.