Classmate to creator: a spotlight on Rachel Kim’s YouTube popularity


Courtesy of Rachel Kim

Photo courtesy of Rachel Kim

TW: contains mention of eating disorders

Although quarantine has brought tragedy, peculiarity, and uncertainty into the lives of most, it has also been a time of growth, creativity, and discovery. Rachel Kim, a CHS senior, is one of the many people who has found her passion and channeled her artsy side—literally—when she decided to start her YouTube channel that now has over 22k subscribers.

Kim originally created her channel in her middle-school years but ended up “privating” all of her original uploaded videos. Over quarantine, she decided to give YouTube a second shot.

“I figured it was like the perfect time to do so because I had so much free time plus I wasn’t seeing anyone at school,” Kim said. “I honestly didn’t think that I would get any viewers at all, because when I had my channel in middle school I had like ten viewers.”
Although Kim did not expect YouTube to bring her much besides a quarantine pastime, she quickly gained attention on the platform. Throughout the year she has watched her channel continue to grow.

“In the beginning of my channel I wasn’t sure what type of videos I wanted to make, and my growth was very very gradual—but once I started making food videos my channel started really taking off and I guess I kind of found my niche,” Kim said. “I think I started getting my videos monetized three months after I started my YouTube channel.”

How do creators get “monetized?” When YouTubers have over 1,000 subscribers and at least 4,000 viewed hours total, brands start to reach out and offer them money to promote their products. For Kim, that meant joining the ranks of the many YouTubers who earn revenue for their videos and or social media content. Since then, she has done brand deals or been sponsored by brands like Princess Polly, Yesstyle, Moerie Beauty, Built Bar, College Advisor, and more.

While the internet can be a toxic place, Kim personally tries her best to steer clear of the negativity, and uses her platform to promote good. Over the summer she made a video addressing her struggle with an eating disorder, hoping to give fans, or anyone also struggling, something to relate to.

“To put that out on the internet was just crazy … it was really difficult filming that video, editing, and posting that video, because it was just something so personal,” Kim said. “But … I wanted something positive to come out of my channel … I didn’t want to just make videos, I wanted to actually help people and influence others in a positive way, so I decided to put that video up hoping that I could maybe help at least one person, and like thousands of people ended up watching it. … Because of that video, I’ve received so many comments and DMs from other girls struggling with an ED as well, and it’s just really empowering to know that I’ve helped so many other young girls like myself.”

Although Kim mainly receives respectful comments and praise, like most creators, she deals with the occasional internet troller. However, she tries to not let it faze her.

“Even though I get tons of positive and really nice comments, I do get hate comments every once in a while,” Kim said. “I try to not let those get to me, I kind of laugh it off; some of them are pretty funny. I just kind of remind myself that they don’t know me, they don’t know what is going on in my life and I don’t know what is going on in their lives.”

Another challenge for a student with a busy lifestyle is the amount of time YouTube requires. As a senior, she has had a lot on her plate all year; between homework, college essays and applications, and college decisions, she has had to exert lots of effort in order to keep up with her schedule of uploading a new video every Wednesday at seven a.m.

“It can be really challenging to kind of meet that deadline every single week, sometimes I have to pull a few all-nighters in order to finish all my schoolwork and edit videos, send it to my sponsors, get it approved and things like that,” Kim said. “I always put school first. … I think the fact that we are doing online school has helped a lot because with online school it’s shorter, I have a lot more time to film and edit, and it’s not as demanding.”

However, despite the stress that it can cause, Kim plans to continue her passion for YouTube in college and looks forward to expanding her content. In the fall, she will be attending the University of California, Irvine where she plans to study business.
“I am planning on being a business major in the marketing and advertising area, and I actually made that decision after I started my channel because ever since I started getting sponsors and things like that I realized how much I loved that aspect of YouTube…the business aspect,” Kim said. “If I could continue doing YouTube then I can do what I really love to do…I think right now I mainly make food videos but once I go to college I would love to make college vlogs, move-in vlogs, and stuff like that because that’s personally what I like to watch.”

The pandemic has undeniably brought chaos. However, Kim has used her time in quarantine to work on herself and learn how to reach and spread light to others. Positive stories of discovery like Kim’s are a welcome counterpoint to the feelings of chaos and uncertainty.