Turner takes her shot at YouTube stardom


Ashu Ebot-Tabi

Senior Lauren Turner strikes a pose for a YouTube video. Her personal channel, to which she devoted her efforts after the collapse of a large group channel on which she performed, boasts 953 views and 53 subscribers at the time of writing. “I really like attention and acting, and I wanted people to see that,” Turner said.

Harrison Glaze , Reporter, Artist/Cartoonist

A young PayPal employee by the name of Jawed Karim posted a video online entitled Me at the zoo in 2005. The film itself would seem an unlikely candidate for making Internet history; it consists, rather predictably, of Karim standing at the San Diego Zoo, commenting briefly on the “coolness” of elephant trunks. Yet the video arguably served as the harbinger of a new era in online media, due largely to the site on which Karim posted it. Together with coworkers Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, Karim co-founded YouTube, and Me at the zoo took pride of place as the first ever video on the now-iconic platform.

Since the site’s 2005 inception and 2006 purchase by Google, YouTube developed into a bona fide global cultural force. Frequent posters, known as YouTubers, develop mass followings around the world, and the platform now boasts a distinctive fan culture of its own.

While still in middle school, NC senior Lauren Turner began to develop a fascination with the medium, and an interest in contributing to the platform herself. It took an unusual first push, though, to launch Turner fully into the start of her YouTube career.

“In middle school, I made a bet with my friends that I couldn’t make videos for thirty days, and so I did that, and then I’ve just been doing it ever since. It was entertainment-type videos, or just a bunch of random stuff just to be funny. We would teach people how to do stuff, but we would always fail at the end, so it’d just end up being how not to do it,” Turner said.

After the brief success of the “How Not To” videos, Turner allowed her interest in YouTube to lapse for a few short years. Soon, though, she once again heard the call of the not-precisely-silver screen, and she re-emerged on the YouTube landscape through a popular group of children’s channels: the SAKs channels. A network of loosely connected channels centered on the lives and activities of various specially recruited groups of seven young girls, the conglomeration included a wide array of brands, including the one Turner joined, Seven Fabulous Teens.

“My friend was on this really big channel called Seven Super Girls, and I was like, ‘I want to be on a big channel too,’ and so I realized another channel was holding auditions. I was like, ‘I’ll go for it,’ and so I did, and I didn’t make it. And so I did it again, and I didn’t make it. But the third time’s the charm, because I made it,” Turner said.

Performing in humorous narrative videos intended for young children, Turner, along with a group of other selected teenagers from around the world, quickly began to develop a following.

“It was really fun interacting with six other girls. Every week we would get a theme, and we would have to make a video relating to it that appeals to a younger demographic. It was just really cool, because a lot of people watched it, and people liked it,” Turner said.

Just as Turner’s new YouTube career began to take flight, though, an unexpected disaster struck. Rapidly and inexplicably, the SAKs channels, a rising force in children’s Internet television profiled in the New York Times just weeks before, imploded entirely.

“There’s a bunch of rumors, but the director got arrested. A lot of stuff happened that caused it to end. I don’t really know, but it was very dramatic, and now we’re all doing our own thing,” Turner said.

Rather than give up on her dreams when the SAKs channels folded, though, Turner persevered. She quickly set up a channel of her own and began to post videos independently, promoting her work on social media in order to attract fans from her previous work on Seven Fabulous Teens. Frequently utilizing viewer requests, Turner begins her creative process by writing out a concept and eventually a script before filming and editing the video.

“Usually, I see an idea that someone requests, or I just copy someone else’s idea, and then I’ll write a script around it, but not a script that I’ll follow. It’s just basic ideas of what I could do in the video, and then I just kind of go for it. If I feel comfortable enough, I’ll put it on my Instagram, like if I want my friends to see it,” Turner said.

Although the loss of the SAKs channels as a platform to some extent complicated Turner’s job, she says that she nonetheless finds advantages in running her own channel.

“I really enjoy the freedom of making my own content,” Turner said.

Thirteen years since its inception in 2005, YouTube still inspires its viewers and users to create a wealth of content—perhaps, though such might constitute a grossly premature assertion, the greatest concentration of independently developed media in human history thus far. A brief middle-school interest in the platform has, for Turner, become a genuine fascination and an essential part of her life, and she shows no hesitation in giving other prospective YouTubers her advice.

“You have to be really open to embarrassing yourself, being open to criticism, and just putting yourself out there,” Turner said.