YouTube has revolutionized the entertainment industry. It has created a new channel of entertainment and has become such a powerhouse that traditional news and media outlets are being forced to take notice. Some of YouTube’s most recognizable faces are no longer just at home filming videos; they now have phenomenally successful business ventures of their own, such as; book deals, cosmetic and clothing lines. They are regularly featured in the pages of The Telegraph, Vogue and GQ as well as hosting television shows and featuring in advertising campaigns for world-renowned brands.
Many of YouTube’s biggest success stories are said to be earning in excess of £1m a year. This success is undoubtedly well earned. I recently asked my 14-year-old brother what his favourite television show was, he responded with a shrug of his shoulders. However, he won’t hesitate to tell me a list of the YouTube accounts he is subscribed to, his favourite’s include; KSI, PewDiePie and Jim Chapman.
When the opportunity arose to interview Jim, my curiosity was piqued. I was keen to find out more about the phenomenon of YouTube and the man behind the screen.
I typed Jim’s number into my MacBook and the familiar FaceTime dial tone sounded. A moment later, Jim’s familiar face popped up on my screen. He was classically handsome and wore a blue round-necked jumper. His dark brown hair was flecked with gold, which was illuminated by the shards of light that flooded his home office. His smile was warm, genuine and contagious.
Jim gave me an insight into his life before YouTube. He graduated from Norwich University in 2009 with a degree in Psychology. He admitted that he had pretty unrealistic expectations of what graduate life would be like.
He said nostalgically: “I expected to immediately find the best job in the world but it doesn’t work like that. After I graduated, it dawned on me that I was sick of psychology and had chosen the wrong degree. It was probably the worst time to find out you’ve done the wrong thing. It wasn’t a particularly happy time to be honest.”
Whilst Jim tried to figure out what he wanted to do with his life, he had a string of jobs in the insurance and retail sectors. Jim’s owes his introduction to YouTube to his then-girlfriend (now fiancé) Tanya Burr. She had recently started a beauty channel on YouTube and suggested that Jim create his own channel too.
He recalled: “This was a time when only four people were watching my videos. Nevertheless, it took my mind off how crap my job at the time was. I really started to enjoy it and soon enough it started to grow.”
Fast-forward five years and Jim’s is one of the most recognisable faces on YouTube. Jim’s videos are varied to say the least, from his haphazard yet enthusiastic attempt at baking in his ‘bake with Jim’ series to hilarious trivia videos such as ‘am I smarter than a 10-year-old?’. Whatever Jim decides to make, you can guarantee it will be a success. The statistics speak for themselves; he currently has almost 2m subscribers and 100m views on YouTube.
I told Jim about a conversation I had had with Kingsley, another famous face from the YouTube community. We had had lunch in Los Angeles the previous summer and Kingsley had stressed that people did not realise how much work went into creating content. As I told Jim, he nodded in agreement, then said: “Exactly, you have to do it for the love. When we started, we had no idea of its potential. Nowadays a lot of young people aspire to be YouTubers, which is amazing because it’s the best job in the world.”
He added: “It is slightly unrealistic though because it’s not just a case of making a video and suddenly you’ve got 2 million subscribers, you need to work at it for a long time. For every one of Kinglsey, they’ll be thousands that have tried but haven’t succeeded.”
Although the odds may be stacked up against you, Jim revealed that he would always encourage aspiring YouTuber’s to give it a go. He said: “I would 100% encourage anyone to do it. As long, as they are realistic and don’t expect to obtain instant success because it takes hard work. If they are doing it for the love of it, go for it!”
Each month, more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube and watch over 6 billion hours of video. That is almost an hour for every person on earth. These statistics are increasing at rapid speeds and there is an argument that YouTube will soon take over television as a primary entertainment source.
I discussed this with Jim, he thought for a moment, then said: “The difference between television and YouTube is that our audience is our audience. For example look at X factor, Dermot O’Leary does a great job and is an inspiration to me, but people will watch X Factor regardless of who presents it.”
He added: “My audience will watch me as long as I respect them and I am doing the things they want me to do. The difference is we have a real following ourselves.”
Jim’s popularity on the Internet has transcended from one screen to another. He recently worked on the ITV2 show Viral Tap with Caroline Flack. Speaking of his experience on the show, he said: “It was amazing and it really put everything into perspective for me. The amount of people that came across from the Internet to watch me on TV was incredible. I was very grateful!”
Many YouTuber’s have spoken up about suffering from intense loneliness. A substantial amount of their time is spent recording videos at home and that can be quite an isolating experience. Jim admitted that although he can identify with that feeling, an extraordinary number of his loved ones are part of the YouTube community.
Jim’s fiancé Tanya Burr has a successful beauty channel which boasts over 160m views and his older sisters also run an incredibly popular beauty channel called Pixiwoo which boasts over 210m views. Aside from that, many of Jim’s closest friends are also some of YouTube’s biggest success stories, including; Zoella, her boyfriend Alfie Deyes the man behind PointlessBlog and Tyler Oakley.
I told Jim how lucky he was that his closest colleagues happen to be the people he loves most in the world. A smile crept across his face, he said sweetly: “I’ve never been really good at making friends, which is why I’m really lucky with these Youtube people because we have a real connection.”
Jim tilted his head to the side ever so slightly, he said: “There are of course, some aspects of YouTube that aren’t as great as others. The main issue is that I don’t sleep enough.”
He added: “The internet is 24/7 and because we are at this stage now where people are starting to understand it outside of the internet, it’s hard to find time to fit everything in. I want to say yes to everything I can which basically just means I work all the time.”
He admitted: “So trying to find a balance is a bit tricky for me sometimes. Especially when you blur the lines and start doing daily blogging, because then you struggle with what is video worthy and what is just you living your life. It’s tricky to find where to start and stop.”
It is undeniable that Jim has an extraordinary connection with his audience. He lovingly refers to them as his ‘best friends’ and one glance at the comment section below his videos and it is clear to see that they feel the same about him. Every time we discuss the overwhelming support he receives from his audience, his eyes glaze over with gratitude and pride.
Jim admitted that he sees himself as a role model and likes to encourage and support his audience as much as possible. However, this works both ways and his viewers often help him in times of doubt.
He revealed: “I recently did a shoot and when I received the images I was really proud of them. I wanted to show them off a bit but I was quite nervous as they were posey and I didn’t want people to think that I was an idiot.”
He added: “I plucked up the courage to share them and got such lovely responses. People were really supportive and encouraged me to do more shoots. That was necessary as that was something new for me. It meant the world that were supporting all aspects of me.”
Jim thought for a moment and bit his lip gently. He said frankly: “I’m aware that a lot of people know who I am and I’m conscience of the fact that people watch me because I’m their friend. I make a fool of myself and I hope I am just a guy they can talk to. I feel like an older brother type sometimes.”
He added: “The minute I start forgetting that and putting myself in a different position to them it’s almost like I’m alienating myself. It is important that they feel like they are following a friend. When I get stopped on the street, people are surprised to see me but it’s like they’re not seeing a celebrity they’re seeing a friend that they’ve never met before. It’s very special.”
With their popularity growing at stratospheric proportions both on screen and off, it is bizarre that YouTuber’s are still known as the most famous people no one has ever heard of. A laugh escaped Jim’s lips, he said: “It is funny isn’t it? I might get stopped ten times a day in the street by 13-24-year-olds but aside from that you are totally anonymous. I think that is really cool.”
He added: “I often have to explain my job to people because they just don’t understand it. Taxi drivers are the worst, they look at me like I am mad when I tell them what I do, but I love chewing their ear for a while.”
Throughout our conversation, it struck me how incredibly warm and pragmatic Jim was. He was by far one of the most relatable and grounded people I have ever had the pleasure of interviewing. With his impressive level of success and continued popularity, I was keen to discover how he managed to keep his feet so firmly on the ground.
Jim laughed long and hard, then said: “Being grounded has never been an issue for me. Maybe because I am older than most YouTuber’s, I am 26-years-old and most of them are between the ages of 19 and 22.”
He joked: “I’ve got the mirror to keep me in check, if I ever get too big for my boots I’ll look at that and see my wonky face. That will have me crashing back to earth pretty quickly.”
Jim also credits Tanya, his beautiful fiancé and partner of 8 years for keeping him focused. He smiled softly once more as he said her name and my heart almost melted in my chest. He said softly: “Tanya is my guru. She believes in me and if I ever doubt myself, she is always there to support me. That means everything.”
I wondered whether the constant 24 hour demand of YouTube and the Internet in general took a toll on their relationship at times. Jim rested his head in his hands, he admitted: “It can be tricky, there is no denying that. It is really important to take time out every week or so to turn our phones off and go out for dinner. That time is so important to us.”
Our conversation had gone on longer than expected and I felt it was coming to a close. I thanked Jim profusely for his time and honesty.
He said frankly: “I am just so grateful that every day I wake up and something new and exciting is happening. My job used to be just about producing videos but now I am having to fit them in around all the cool stuff that is happening every day.”
His eyes lit up suddenly, he added: “I feel like I’m at the forefront of something really exciting but I just hope by the time it all really takes off I hope I’m not obsolete.”
Jim’s gratitude for every opportunity that comes his way is endearing, his work ethic is impressive and his passion for what he does is inspiring. With such a strong support network around him and his feet firmly on the ground, awe-inspiring success is imminent. I have no doubt in my mind that the future is bright for Jim Chapman.
Ten Questions We Ask Everyone
1. What did you want to be when you were younger?
I wanted to be an illustrator or an architect.
2. If you could offer advice to your twelve-year-old self, what would it be?
I’d say that it’s going to be ok. Puberty was not kind to me, I was very late and when it happened it wasn’t pretty.
3. You have 24 hours with no travel restrictions, how would you spend it?
I love New York, it’s my favourite place. I’d go there for a while, then shoot across to LA and hang out with my friends. Then I’d go somewhere I’d never been, maybe New Zealand. Finally I would go to Hong Kong, I heard it is really cool.
4. What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you this year?
Probably working on Viral Tap, for the directors to think I could do it was really cool.
5. The film you can watch over and over yet never tire of?
Fight Club, but I can’t watch it over and over again, but I could watch Brad Pitt, he is my man crush. It is not a film but I can watch Modern Family continuously, my favourite characters are Cam (Tanya is the female version) and I think I’m quite like Phil.
6. The song that always makes you emotional?
I have terrible taste in music. My all-time favourite song is Sparks by Coldplay.
7. If you could spend an entire day with anyone uninterrupted, who would it be?
I would love to spend the day with my whole family. It doesn’t matter what we are doing, as long as we are together.
8. It is Friday night at midnight, where are you most likely to be?
Watching ‘Walking the Dead’. I can’t watch that when Tanya is awake because she’s petrified, so when she goes to bed I put it on.
9. What is your biggest vice?
Food! Tanya and I are on a health kick at the moment but once a week I have a cheat day. My favourite cheat food is a beef burger with bacon and avocado and sweet potatoes fries on the side.
10. How would you like to be remembered?
This worries me a lot. I think if I stopped making videos in 6 months people would forget I exist. I like to think I’m a nice guy, who is nice to talk to and I listen and just to be there.
Follow Jim Chapman on Twitter: @JimsTweetings
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Subscribe to Jim Chapman’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/jimchapman
Special thanks to Misty Dee Griffiths