By Jasmine Williams
What does it take to make it on YouTube?
On the same website, you can have amateur vloggers with a handful of views and big name personalities that rake in millions of dollars a year through their massive traffic.
And then you have folks like Shruti Shekar. This 25-year-old Torontonian falls somewhere in the middle. She has 6,000 subscribers and videos with over 50,000 views. She is gorgeous and smart, with great style and an enviable eyeliner game. She has a respectable online following but is still trying to carve out her niche in the YouTube arena.
So how did this Desi with typical brown parents wind up on YouTube? It all started in the summer of 2009. Shruti was attending Carleton University in Ottawa, majoring in Communications, and she had just moved into a town house off campus with three of her friends.
“I remember my very first video, it was a video where I tried to be funny. Basically, it was a comedy sketch. You know when you accidentally send text messages and they have a typo in them and you send them to important people and the typo’s usually bad? It was about that.”
She thought it was hilarious but the feedback was mixed.
“I thought I was going to continue doing it until I went out with a group of friends, and this guy comes up to me and says,
And I was so sad and so offended. I thought, ‘I’m never going to make these videos, screw YouTube! I hate it!’” said Shekar.
Discouraged and embarrassed, she stopped making videos and put the ones she had made on private so nobody would see them. At the time, she had just finished her undergraduate degree but wasn’t sure what was next for her.
“I was really lost. I didn’t get into grad school and I thought it was the end of the world and I thought that no one was going to hire me and I didn’t even know if I wanted to do grad school. I was so confused and my parents wanted me to move out of Ottawa because they thought I was just wasting my time there and it was better to save money and come back home. I’ll be honest, I was really depressed and I didn’t know what I was doing,” says Shekar.
That is, until her best friend suggested she started making videos again, knowing how much she used to love them. But after her failed foray into comedy sketches, she tried a totally different approach: book reviews.
“I was super nervous. When you go through a phase in your life when you have all of these bad things happen to you, you become so nervous to put yourself out there because you think you’re going to continue on failing,” says Shekar.
Would I sound smart? Would I sound like an idiot? These are the worries that racked her before she decided to face her fears and just post it.
Luckily, the feedback was more encouraging this time around. She continued to post book reviews on YouTube as a hobby, a way to past the time while she figured out what she wanted to do with her life. Later on, she started branching out in to fashion, but she was hesitant at first.
An aspiring journalist, Shekar was worried that she wouldn’t be taken seriously if she started doing fashion videos. Still, she saw them as an opportunity to have more fun with her work and learn new editing techniques at the same time.
Her short fashion videos seem carefree but require the most work. Aside from the filming and editing, she researches and reads about fashion to learn about new trends, constantly reading magazines and blogs to come up with outfit ideas.
Despite all the work she invests into her channel and her thousands of subscribers, Shekar says she still sees her channel as more of a pastime than a job.
“Am I popular? I still feel like such a young YouTuber, not age wise, but popularity wise. I feel like for a lot of YouTubers, their ‘aha moment’ is when someone random in public goes up to them and asks, ‘Oh my gosh, are you so-and so on YouTube?’ I haven’t had that, and I’m not expecting that, don’t get me wrong. I don’t really care because I’m still doing it as a way of channeling my energy and as a way of building my skills. I hope that my ‘aha moment’ happens, but for now, I’m just having fun with it,” says Shekar.
She’s even using YouTube as a way to beef up her portfolio. After finishing her Master’s degree in Journalism without a job lined up, she took matters into her own hands and started doing interviews with noteworthy subjects on her channel.
“Not a lot of people are doing it, it’s very different,” says Shekar about her YouTube journalism.
“Everyone can say they want to be a journalist but what’s going to get you there? Maybe this was my ‘aha moment’ because I started thinking, ‘why can’t I do journalism on my channel? Why can’t I just interview people?’” says Shekar.
Shekar has used YouTube to help her find herself, explore her interests, and even find a job. Today, some of her videos have hundreds of views, while others have tens of thousands. Shruti Shekar’s channel is a mix of whatever inspires her at that moment. Recently, she’s started vlogging to show her followers the behind-the-scenes look at the life of a YouTuber.
YouTube helped define Shruti Shekar the person, but what about "shrutishekar," the personality? Is she a fashion blogger, a journalist, or something else altogether?
“What if I like to do more than one thing? I’m sorry, do I have to limit myself?” says Shekar with a laugh.