Online teen stars influence Edina High School sophomores

Ellen Mi, staff writer

Imagine not having to go to school while also having millions of online followers. That’s the case for countless teen online influencers, with some of the most popular being 17-year-old Emma Chamberlain and 19-year-old James Charles.

“[Emma Chamberlain] is funny, relatable, and she seems like a normal person. She just seems like someone who you could be friends with because she posts about very mundane things,” sophomore Paige More said.

“I like watching James because he’s amusing, positive and shows up on the YouTube trending page a lot,” sophomore Catherine Redpath said.

Charles, with over a total of 20 million followers on Instagram and YouTube combined, initially garnered his fame from his title as the first male spokesperson for the cosmetic brand CoverGirl. Similarly, Chamberlain, a self-proclaimed chapstick and coffee enthusiast, has accumulated over 10 million total followers on Instagram and YouTube.

The brands that Chamberlain and Charles have created for themselves have attracted bigger companies as well. Chamberlain collaborated with Dote, an online shopping site, and released a clothing line called “Highkey” in the summer of 2018, selling out all of the released items just two hours after the line’s debut. “Even though she’s normal, she kind of embodies the American dream because she came from nothing all the way up to having a lot of subscribers,” More said.

Charles, a makeup artist who went viral after launching his YouTube channel in 2015, has since released his own line of merchandise, “Sisters Apparel.” “Some of his fans are super dedicated. My friend buys his merch and travels to see him sometimes,” Redpath said. Moreover, Charles has collaborated on YouTube videos with Chamberlain and other prominent influencers including Kylie Jenner, Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler, and even the acapella group Pentatonix.

But where does all of their fame come from? “[James] has a bright personality which draws people in. He also has a lot of money, and he always wears Balenciaga and Gucci, which portrays that he has a great life which is appealing to some people,” Redpath said.

On the other hand, Chamberlain, an influencer who started out on YouTube only about one year ago “worked really hard even when she was in school, because she posted around three times a week and with the amount of saturation on YouTube these days, it’s hard to be famous with just a good work ethic—you have to be lucky too,” More said.

Influencers as popular as Charles and Chamberlain have affected high schoolers throughout their careers. Viewers can still recognize when online influencers are affecting them positively or negatively, “Emma was a really great student who graduated early, so she’s a better influence education wise, but she does advertise all-nighters and reckless shopping, so she’s not so much of a good influence with life-skills, but that is the reason why she is relatable,” More said.

Charles, on the other hand, has proven to have mostly positive self-image impacts on teens, “James affects self-competence because people get inspired to try new things, and not be so self-conscious,” Redpath said.

Nevertheless, influencers like Charles and Chamberlain come and go just like most other social media stars, “Emma will probably be a fad. She’s changed over time and is kind of separated from normal people which was her original appeal. Not everyone identifies with her new lifestyle, but she might gain younger viewers from that but she might lose some traction too,” More said. “I think James will be a fad too because every YouTuber loses popularity eventually,” Redpath said.