Internet personality Tyler Oakley discusses career as YouTuber

Sara Schleede

Author, activist and YouTube personality Tyler Oakley said despite all the mishaps in his career, he would not change it for a thing.

“Without getting called out, you can’t take a moment to step back and think, ‘Wow, I can become better,’” Oakley said. 

Oakley spoke Tuesday night in the Hogg Memorial Auditorium for a talk hosted by Campus Events + Entertainment Distinguished Speakers series. Oakley started his YouTube channel in 2007 as a vlogger, but he has since written a book, hosted a talk show and podcast and founded a production company. He has nearly 8 million subscribers and more than 21 million social media followers.

“There is a level of impostor syndrome to being a YouTuber,” Oakley said. “Why do I have authority to have this audience and people who care?”

He said after creating videos for a while, it can be easy to believe everything has already been done.

“That is a challenge: trying to be creative and trying to reinvent what you do,” Oakley said. 

Oakley is a vocal advocate for The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization for suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth. For three of his birthdays, Oakley asked his fans to donate to The Trevor Project, helping raise over $1 million for the nonprofit.

“It opened my eyes to the power of the internet,” Oakley said. “Yeah, we make dumb stuff on the internet, but we can also do something that’s going to make a positive change.”

Allison Johnson, a radio-television-film graduate student, won a contest to meet Oakley after the show. Johnson said they found solace in Oakley’s videos while growing up in a northeast Texas town they said was “LGBT-phobic.” 

“Tyler is super relatable because his story is really common,” Johnson said. “He remains pretty humble and is super honest about himself. He doesn’t try to present an unrealistic image.”

Undeclared freshman Amanda Willis said she first discovered Oakley through his videos about LGBTQ advocacy and admires his supportive and kind personality.

“A lot of LGBTQ kids are looking for a support system,” Willis said. “When they go online and see someone like him, (they realize), ‘Oh people are like me. There are people out there I can relate to.’”

When asked what advice he has for college students, Oakley said to accept uncertainty and take it day by day.

“You don’t have to have it all figured out,” Oakley said. “I don’t.”