Anyone can be a YouTuber, according to content creator Summer Mckeen
13th Jun 2019
For the typical 20-something, their day-to-day life might read a little like this: working full-time or studying to complete a university degree; hanging out with friends on the weekend; eating avocado toast with a coffee in hand and occasionally documenting it on Instagram for friends and family to see. Every so often—if we hashtag wisely—a shot of our local brunch spot might resonate outside of our intimate audience, gaining us a follower or a like from any corner of the world.
Such is the life of vlogger-cum-digital star Summer Mckeen—only when she posts something, a network of 2.2 million Instagram followers (in addition to over 2.3 million YouTube subscribers) takes note.
After discovering YouTube at the tender age of 12, Mckeen’s video posts quickly garnered a viral following, catapulting the digital-native creator to fame and launching a community of loyal fans she now counts as friends. Reflecting on her explosion on the Internet and the many experiences it has brought her—the young creator has worked with Maybelline, shot a docu-series with Snapchat and lent her talents to Billabong to name a few partnerships—Mckeen chatted to Vogue about getting her start, using her platform to promote self-confidence and expressing herself through fashion.
“I’ve always been really interested in being in front of the camera,” Mckeen explains of why she was drawn to YouTube in the first place. “I used to be in acting class, and I would play around on my dad’s laptop with iMovie. I would film myself and edit random little videos, so once I found YouTube—a place where I could actually upload what I created—it made perfect sense, and I just never stopped.”
Originally posting beauty videos to her channel, Mckeen explains it took time to become comfortable with herself and in front of the camera, eventually leading her to post content that felt more natural and organic. “I was just overly self-aware of how I came across and I tried to be a little beauty guru girl,” she explains, “but as I got a little older, I became more comfortable with myself and making videos that I wanted to make rather than what was trendy.”
It’s a neat parallel—coming of age online—that she draws with her offline followers: “A lot of my viewers have grown up with me. I’ve met so many people in person that tell me they’ve been watching me for years and they’re the same age as me, so we’ve gone through the same things together.”
As a result, Mckeen has fostered a special relationship with her followers—even if she hasn’t met all of them. “I feel pretty close to my followers,” she explains. “I feel like they get me, and I feel like they’re my friends… I go through my DM’s and I read them all the time. I respond to some and I read all of my comments. I think something that’s really cool and how you can easily engage with your followers is the questions feature on Instagram Stories. [They] can ask whatever, and I can respond back.”
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YouTube, however, is Mckeen’s first love and preferred social channel to connect with her growing fan base. “That’s where I started, and that’s where really all of my passion is,” she summarises. “I spend so long on my videos”—Mckeen takes up to seven hours to condense her footage into videos that are roughly seven to 10 minutes in length—“I am super thoughtful about what I put on my YouTube channel…. The most rewarding thing is finishing a video, posting it and having a great response and having people love your video too,” she says.
This reciprocity, and Mckeen’s ability to relate to such a wide net of viewers, has translated into lucrative partnerships for the 20-year-old, which she navigates with caution. “It’s really important to only work with brands that you originally use and love in real life, because what is the point of saying yes to any company who comes my way if I’m not obsessed with the brand, or what they stand for, or who they are and what they do?” she exclaims. “It’s really cool to be able to work with brands that just align with who you are.”
Simultaneously, Mckeen is passionate about using her platform to communicate things that are personally important to her, namely, she says, showing young girls the importance of “valuing who you are, loving yourself and showing love.”
This attitude is mirrored in her personal style, which is a mix of jeans, T-shirts and dresses; a skater-girl style she dresses up with gold jewellery for special occasions—Mckeen gravitates towards clothing that is, above all else, comfortable. In the same breath though, she emphasises, “I try to go out of my comfort zone as much as possible with different colours and different shapes.”
As for her advice to people wishing to follow in her footsteps? “Don’t fixate [on your following], don’t compare yourself to others or try to follow trends because you’ll get likes,” she insists. “Be true to who you are and be authentic to yourself.”
What about her preferred tools of the trade? “A camera, nowadays, is not even necessary. If you use your phone, you’re going to be fine, and iMovie is free. You really don’t need much; anybody can be a YouTuber.”