Interview: You Tube Vlogger Shane Dawson

By Brittany Woolsey

On YouTube, Shane Dawson is a hilarious, foul-mouthed, Disney hater who cares about social issues and his fans. In real life, he is no different.

His achievements include being the third most subscribed YouTube user, winning the “best vlogger” category at this year’s Streamy Awards, being named Forbes Magazine’s 25th most popular web celebrity and helping his fans deal with problems — even going as far as stopping one from committing suicide.

The Daily 49er caught up with the Long Beach native in a Hollywood restaurant to discuss his newfound popularity as he put a “shitload” of Splenda in his iced tea.

Daily 49er: You’re the third most subscribed user on YouTube. How does this feel and what did it take for you to get to this point?

Shane Dawson: It’s awesome because I feel like I’ve been able to have an audience that actually watches my stuff and I’ve been able to grow with them. The fact that they’re still watching is crazy. It’s also really overwhelming because there are so many more people watching now so I have to think more so I don’t piss certain people off. But, I mean, it’s exciting that people still give a shit about me after two years. In YouTube years, that’s like 14 dog years.

49er: You tackle many different issues in your videos, one of them being body image. What would you say to someone struggling with body image issues?

Dawson: Body image is huge for me because I used to be 350 pounds. It wasn’t until two years ago when I lost all the weight, and I didn’t do it healthily at all; I did it all the wrong ways. I didn’t eat, exercised too much and only cared about my body. Now I see all these kids doing the same thing and it makes me realize how ridiculous it is that people are trying to obtain this perfect image of, like, Paris Hilton or Zac Efron. … I think it’s important to show kids that we’re all different and we should embrace those things that make us different.

49er: Have your videos gotten you into any trouble? If so, how?

Dawson: One video I made two years ago, got me and my whole family fired from our old job because of how I talked about the company. Besides that, there haven’t really been any problems. The good thing about YouTube is you really can do whatever you want. I try to walk that line of not offending people but still being edgy and controversial. I’ve never really gotten into trouble for it. The thing about my videos is, yeah, they’re gross sometimes and they have cuss words, but they’re not mean-spirited and there’s always a moral. They’re kind of like public service announcements but more fucked up.

49er: Forbes Magazine recently named you as their 25th most famous Web celebrity. Do you feel like a celebrity?

Dawson: No, I don’t. I think celebrities are kind of put up on a pedestal and we don’t really know much about them. I feel like my fans know every part of me because I’ve shown them. When I meet a new person, they run up, hug me and we just hang out. I feel like I’m their friend, so it’s more like a friendship with a lot of people.

49er: What is the most touching moment you’ve had with a fan?

Dawson: I made a video [called “Why Was I Born?”] a while ago about suicide and a girl wrote me a letter saying that she was going to kill herself that night. Her friend sent her a link to my video and she watched it then got a tattoo of my name on her wrist because that was where she was going to harm herself. I get a lot of those types of letters and videos; that’s what keeps me going. There is a lot of hate on YouTube.

49er: It’s so easy for people to post a rude comment.

Dawson: Exactly. I have people making fake profiles of my dead grandma saying, ‘I’m burning in hell right now.’ However, I get letters from my fans and they make me remember why I’m doing this in the first place; it’s for them.

49er: How do you deal with the people who say negative things?
Dawson: It doesn’t bother me too much because I’m used to it and I know they’re probably just bored kids. … My mom got concerned when someone wrote that they wanted to kill me and I laughed and said, ‘I’m sure there are 100,000 people on YouTube who want to kill me.’

49er: As a YouTuber, how do you earn your income? Do you have a separate job on the side?

Dawson: I’m a YouTube partner, so my job is to make videos and earn income off the ad revenue. When people know YouTubers make money, it bothers me because I’m working. If they watch me and know it’s my job, I feel like it takes away from the viewing experience.

49er: You involve your fans by asking them questions at the end of your videos. Why do you choose to involve them?

Dawson: To me, YouTube isn’t just, ‘Watch my videos!’ It’s, ‘Let’s have a conversation and get involved in each other’s lives.’ I want to make [my fans] feel like they have a reason to have a YouTube account because they can comment and have a voice.

49er: It seems like you’ve gotten a lot of support from your fans on things you’ve had to deal with, such as losing your job, your weight-loss and, most recently, your grandmother passing away. How does it feel to have so much support behind you?

Dawson: It’s very odd because when I grew up, I didn’t have that. Now, I have millions of people who actually give a shit. I made a video not long after my grandma died, which is probably weird to some people but to me it was just a way of getting it out. [YouTube] has made it so much easier to cope because I have all these people hoping I can make it through my problems so that I can continue to make videos. [My fans] have definitely been a huge motivation for me.

49er: Do you feel that moving to Hollywood from Long Beach was a good choice?

Dawson: [Moving] was definitely the best choice I’ve ever made. I was scared to do it because I didn’t have money or a job. It was a good choice though because it’s opened up so many other opportunities outside of YouTube. It’s made me feel literally closer to my dream because I live down the street from Univeral Studios, which fuels me even more. As much as I loved Long Beach, I felt so far from that. In Long Beach, I felt like I was destined to do what my family did and in Hollywood, I feel like I have a new start.

49er: You got accepted to Cal State Long Beach. What made you decide not to go there?

Dawson: The campus was awesome and there was so much opportunity. My problem was I’m not good at thinking long-term, so four years of school sounded like high school all over again. Another big reason why I didn’t go was because I was fat and when I was walking around during orientation, I got the biggest chub-rub rash and I was sweating and dehydrated. A lot of it was just laziness. I really wish I would have tried out college and maybe one day I’ll go back.

49er: What would you say to the college kids who are reading this and feeling like they can’t reach their dreams because of all the different struggles on the way to the top?

Dawson: Number one: I’m jealous of everyone who is reading this because I didn’t go to college. You get to meet so many different people and get more prepared for life. I got thrown into the business of Hollywood and I don’t really know much about anything. … If you have a passion, go for it because the worst-case scenario is not making it and having to try something else. You went to four years of college, so you better fucking use it.

49er: What do you have to say to your subscribers that tune into your videos every week?

Dawson: There’s no way to thank them. I’m so grateful and if it wasn’t for them, I’d still be in Long Beach working at my bad job and still stuck in my rut. Now, I have a reason to move on and do something with my life.

49er: It seems like you’re a little resentful toward Long Beach.
Dawson: I don’t hate Long Beach at all; I just didn’t care for the people I had in my life. The only thing I did in Long Beach was go to Walmart.

49er: Why Walmart?

Dawson: Well, I don’t drink or anything. I’ve never been to a party with a bunch of kids. On the weekends, I would go to the Long Beach Town Center and go to Walmart to get video props and do hidden camera stuff. Hollywood is the same as Long Beach, except there’s no Walmart. Now, I’m just driving around looking for something to do, whereas in Long Beach I always had Walmart.

49er: What does the future hold for Shane Dawson?

Dawson: Even if I get into television and movies, I’m never going to quit YouTube because of the bond I have with my viewers.

To view Dawson’s videos, visit his YouTube channel at youtube.com/shanedawsontv.

Read more here: http://www.daily49er.com/diversions/shane-dawson-life-beneath-the-wigs-1.2277862
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