Harun Morrison: Hey Carmen, you started your channel on December 3, 2018 with a video titled, “EASY 3C 4A NATURAL HAIRSTYLES // c a r m e n”. ‘3C 4A’ are industry standardized descriptions of hair types. Why did you choose this as the subject for your first video? Did you plan from the outset to do more? In this video you don’t speak, is there a reason for this?
Carmen: I think I chose this subject because that was the sort of content I viewed at the time and found useful, I also knew that ‘how to’ or ‘idea’ type videos are frequently successful because of their high search volume. At the time I planned on doing more videos but with a variety of topics, not only hair based content. I chose not to speak in that first video because there wasn’t much to mention while styling my hair and because I don’t think I was very comfortable speaking on camera just yet.
C: I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking, additionally, I wanted my channel to be more ‘lifestyle’ based rather than stuck in a specific niche such as hair & beauty.
HM: As of the 1st of August when you uploaded your first video, you now have 282K subscribers: How does that feel?
C: It feels quite unbelievable because I never imagined I’d make it this far especially by this point.
HM: What inspired you to start a Youtube channel? What was your original motivation and inspirations?
C: I decided to start on YouTube because I just wanted something to do in my spare time. I’d found that in previous winters I became quite bored with not being able to go outside with friends or do my usual summer sports so was looking for a new hobby that couldn’t be completed or finished quickly and that I enjoyed. I had some experience editing on iMovie for a gymnastics account which I used to run, so thought that creating YouTube videos would be a fun new thing to try out.
HM: What do you think of other platforms like Instagram or TikTok in relation to your Youtube channel?
C: Personally I try to stay away from TikTok because of the toxic atmosphere that I’ve witnessed in such an easily addictive format. I think that the platform has recently impacted YouTube and Instagram negatively, with both of their moves to make short form content more valuable. However, I enjoy using Instagram and think it’s a great place to become more connected with viewers and other people in the YouTube space.
HM: Your videos have a strong aesthetic. Do you think of yourself as a filmmaker as much as a presenter? Do you see these videos as artworks? I remember you’ve always been interested in art and drawing.
C: I think that I see myself as both, but if one over the other, then a filmmaker. It takes maybe an hour or so to film a video that may take multiple days to edit and I think that’s where most of my creativity comes out. The combination of music, sound effects, graphics and text make a video so much more than what was originally filmed, so I guess artwork could sum them up.
HM: There are some really nice touches in your videos, especially when you make references to things in speech and then custom images pop-up… or there’s an unexpected text caption… or even a playful cameo from your sister when a viewer has presumed you don’t have siblings. Could you explain some of your thinking behind these kinds of edits and interruptions?
C: These sorts of additions make videos more entertaining and engaging for viewers, making them less likely to click off a video which I’ve created. They can also be used to emphasise something funny or surprising. Also, according to the YouTube algorithm, videos with higher viewer retention are more frequently promoted and recommended on the platform and increase creator and company revenue because more advertisements, placed throughout the video, are viewed.
“I just find that influencing even as a teenager is quite demanding and could potentially disappear in a second.”
HM: Can you tell us about how you choose your music and graphics?
C: After downloading audio from a copyright free platform called Thematic, I choose music by trying to observe the feeling of the specific video section and what occurs in it and then selecting an audio which I think matches it well. Another deciding factor is whether I’m talking or not, which would require background music rather than singing. I decide graphics on what would go well with the scene and also what I feel would look best and be most engaging.
HM: Who are some of the people in the photographs on your wall?
C: My photo wall, which is shown in the background of most of my videos, is made up of both my own photographs or pictures chosen from Pinterest. They either inspire me or make a happy connection to maybe a film or TV show that I like. Such as Jim, Pam and Michael (characters from The Office US), Cher (the main character in Clueless), Rory and Lorelai (the two main characters in Gilmore Girls) and Tiana (the main character in The Princess and the Frog, my favourite Disney movie).
HM: Do you think your Youtube channel’s success has affected your relationships with your friends?
C: I don’t think so, at least not with my close friends (who I’ve known for about eleven years).
HM: How much is money a subject of discussion with your friends? Do you think teenagers at 15 or 16, have a different relationship to money from adults? If so, how so?
C: Money is a very rarely discussed subject between me and my friends. I think that at our age we have a very different relationship with money than adults because of the lack of financial responsibilities such as household bills, food, transport etc. This means that teenagers who are earning money, depending on their home situation, generally have a lot more disposable income.
HM: In your video, “my first youtube paycheck: how much + how to get paid” (April 28, 2020). You generously breakdown how Youtube monetization works. It’s full of great details and works as a superclear explainer video. I was struck by the detail that you need 400 ‘watch hours’ over 12 months to become monetized and 1000 subscribers. You mention most people meet the subscribers number before the watch hours. Why do you think this is?
C: It can vary of course, but it’s probably because in order to reach the required 400 watch hours, which is 24,000 viewed minutes, most channels need multiple videos with thousands of views, by which point they would generally have gained at least 1000 subscribers.
HM: You also explain that YouTube isn’t paying you but Google’s AdSense… Does that distinction make a difference to you? Or do you feel YouTube should pay as well?
C: It doesn’t make much of a difference to me because Google AdSense is the advertising platform that YouTube uses to place appropriate ads for viewers.
HM: Do you still ask for pocket money?
C: I don’t ask for pocket money from my parents but they kindly still offer it to me, I keep it separate from my YouTube income which I immediately transfer the vast majority of to my savings.
HM: Are you saving for anything at the moment?
C: Not anything specific currently but probably a car in the future.
HM: Do you still see yourself making videos in five years time?
C: Yes, I do.
HM: Are there other Youtube channels that are models for you?
C: There are a few which inspire me a little but none which I model my channel off of.
HM: Do you have a sense of your audience? What kind of data do you have as to where the majority of your viewers are based?
C: Yes quite, YouTube offers analytics which show that 16.9% of my audience are from the US, followed by 9.4% in the UK.
HM: So that’s 25% accounted for. Where are the rest from?
C: Everywhere! The next few are South Africa (3.6%), Turkey (3.6%), Germany (3.3%) and Italy (2.9%) then after many others with 17.9%.
HM: I love the video, “answering your assumptions about me..” (posted 17 April 2021). There were some wild questions from your followers, like the suggestion that you’re secretly American with a fake English accent. How does it feel to be the subject of a conspiracy theory?
C: It’s really very funny to me!
HM: What are some of the weirdest or memorable comments made on your videos?
C: I’ve had some really kind comments and emails about how I’ve inspired people and quite a few stange comments speculating that I live alone or have had surgery on my lips at the age of fifteen!
HM: There is a quality to the videos that could allow someone to think you live alone… you come across as this hyper-independent character. But that would also be very lonely at 15, wouldn’t it? But it could make for an interesting movie. A teen Youtuber in this big house with just cameras…
C: Yes, that would be quite lonely, especially at my age! I think it comes across that way because my videos mostly centre around me and what I’m doing so it would be quite strange to show my parents doing household chores or cooking dinner.
HM: Do you see yourself becoming a professional ‘influencer’ in the future– starting your own business/lifestyle brand or do you have other professions in mind?
C: I don’t have plans to continue anything based around YouTube or influencing as a career but I am interested in architecture.
HM: My first work experience at your age was in an architecture office. Do you have a favourite building that you may or may not have visited?
C: There are so many buildings which fascinate me but one of my favourites which I have yet to visit is Apple Park in Cupertino, California designed by Norman Foster.
HM: In one of your videos you explain you didn’t want to rely on videos for your income because of the pressure that would place on you to partner with brands. Do you think there’s a middle ground? Especially as more and more people have multiple sources of income?
C: Personally I would love to continue my work as a content creator while doing higher education or working a more traditional job but I just find that influencing even as a teenager is quite demanding and could potentially disappear in a second.
HM: At the time of this writing, August 1st, you’ve made 116 videos since then your first recording in 2018. That’s an impressive work rate. In one video you had a caption that read: PRODUCTIVITY IS RELATIVE. I totally agree, could you expand on that?
C: Often I get comments from viewers comparing their productivity or lifestyle to mine– so I try to remember and reinforce the idea that productivity is relative, because something that is productive for someone else could be a regular habit for me and vice versa. I don’t think people should shame themselves by comparing their lives to others. This could be especially harmful for someone struggling with their mental health, who maybe finds it difficult to get out of bed or have a shower… possibly feeling that isn’t good enough… and that their motivation or work ethic must match someone else’s whose life they can only view for a few curated minutes.
HM: At your age in the mid-1990s I was doing a paper round, hand-delivering newspapers door to door. There’s a variety of teenage work opportunities but a larger proportion of teenage work is now online. Do you feel your life is too online– is that even possible? How do you offset your online activity?
C: I think during parts of the pandemic where we were mostly at home my life was too online but now I’m creating more of a balance by going out to do things with friends and family and trying to do more offline activities.
HM: Under UK Employment law 15 to 16 year-olds can only work a maximum of 35 hours a week. With a maximum of 8 hours on weekdays and Saturdays and a maximum of 2 hours on Sunday. Although you are earning money do you see this activity as ‘work’? Would you call it something otherwise?
C: I think I would define the various areas of this activity differently, for example signing contracts, responding to emails and organising my finances lies more on the work side, whereas filming and editing videos is much more of a fun activity to me! However, technically speaking, all of what I do is self-employed work if I’m making money from it.
HM: In your video, “how I make money as a teenager (quick & easy)” (September 2, 2020) you take the viewer through 10 tactics to earn money. Many of these rely on other platforms like Depop, Youtube of course, Ziffit (for books) and eBay. Why do you think this is?
C: Probably because these online platforms are designed to require quite little effort to start making money from home.
HM: Many people your age are aspiring Youtubers and keen to develop their following. You helpfully provide some suggestions towards a successful channel, such as consistency, finding a niche etc. Even if someone follows these tips by the letter they won’t necessarily achieve the Youtube following you have. Could you reflect on what you think your particular appeal might be to your subscribers, viewers and demographic?
C: I can’t be entirely sure but I think that my attention to detail and eye for aesthetically pleasing designs really help to bring in an audience from the thumbnails I make and my editing style.
HM: You recently started The Overthinking Podcast with your friend Will. How did you find each other and what was/is the process like? What do you think about collaboration?
C: We first started talking over a year ago through Instagram DM. The process of starting a podcast over FaceTime calls and Google Drive was quite difficult at times, but really enjoyable overall. I think collaboration is a great thing in the digital space because it’s primarily solo, so working with other people can be a really fun way to get to know them while supporting each other.