Top 10 YouTube Stars: Where Are They Now?
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These people were YouTube starts before YouTube stars was a thing. For this list, we'll be looking at the top ten early YouTube stars and seeing what they've been up to in recent years. Let's see what they've been up to. Welcome to TopX, the show where we count down the good, the bad and the ugly of YouTube.
These people were YouTube starts before YouTube stars was a thing. Let’s see what they’ve been up to. Welcome to TopX, the show where we count down the good, the bad and the ugly of YouTube.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the top ten early YouTube stars and seeing what they’ve been up to in recent years.
#10: Freddie Wong
Professional video game player Freddie Wong burst onto the scene in 2007, when he won the Guitar Hero II competition at the World Series of Video Games. This win helped popularize his video game-related YouTube channel, and he eventually became one of the biggest names in gaming. Wong remains a successful YouTuber thanks to RocketJump, a YouTube channel slash production company co-founded with his partners Matt Arnold and Dez Dolly. The company is well known for their web series “Video Game High School” and continues to release short films and web series to this day.
#9: Liam Kyle Sullivan
Liam Kyle Sullivan became a sensation in 2006 when he released the comedic song “Shoes” as a female character named Kelly. The song became an internet phenomenon and even won a People’s Choice Award in 2008. Following that song’s success, Sullivan released more comedic songs and appeared as other characters in the expanded Kelly universe, including Kelly’s twin brother Chris, father Bill, and Aunt Susan Walker. Sometime around 2010, Sullivan left YouTube behind to live a quiet life and has since gotten married and had a child. That said, he did return to the net in 2016 when he appeared in a Fine Bros React video called “YouTubers React to Shoes (Viral Video Classic).”
#8: Judson Laipply
You probably know Judson Laipply better as “that guy from The Evolution of Dance.” Laipply’s classic video was once the most viewed and top-rated video on YouTube, because that’s the kind of silly stuff that dominated YouTube back in the day! While the video proved immensely successful, YouTube and comedy was never Judson’s primary motivation, as he has worked as a motivational speaker since 2000. That said, he still pops up every now and again. In 2015, he appeared in the annual YouTube Rewind and released Evolution of Dance 3 in 2016 to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the iconic original.
iJustine is one of the forerunners of the vlog-style YouTube channels that populate the site today. She was the most popular lifecaster back in the days of Justin.tv, and she gained meme status in 2007 with her famous YouTube video “iPhone Bill.” Justine has remained an enormously popular and influential YouTuber, and her primary channel iJustine has amassed over six million subscribers. She also starred in seasons one and four of the YouTube Premium murder-mystery “Escape the Night” and acted as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s advisor on “The New Celebrity Apprentice” in 2017. Now that’s how you stay relevant!
#6: Michael Buckley
Michael Buckley lent his surname to his popular gossip and pop culture program “What the Buck!?” which originally began on public access before moving to YouTube in the mid-2000s. The show was published under the channel WHATTHEBUCKSHOW, and it quickly became one of the ten most popular channels on the site. Buckley kept the show running until 2016, when he ended the program and moved to Colorado. He is now a life coach and runs a YouTube channel called BuckHollywood. He also published an instructional book in 2017 titled “HELP! My Kid Wants to Become a YouTuber!” It’s safe to say that he has some experience in that…
Eepybird is not a single person, but an entertainment company founded by Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe, known primarily for their viral video Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments. The video was an enormous success, and it even won the very first Webby Award for Viral Video. Voltz and Grobe are still serving as business partners, performing various talks and having published two books – “The Viral Video Manifesto” and “How to Build a Hovercraft: Air Cannons, Magnetic Motors, and 25 Other Amazing DIY Science Projects.” Fritz Grobe is also the president of the Celebration Barn Theater, a theater training center located in Maine.
#4: Tay Zonday
Tay Zonday’s life changed forever on April 22, 2007 – the date he uploaded “Chocolate Rain” to the internet. The song quickly found an audience on 4chan, where it was endlessly parodied and memed before spreading to the internet at large. Tay leaned into the joke and now releases music through his eponymous YouTube channel. The music includes original pieces like “Rage Clown” and covers of popular songs, including Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” He also appeared on “Steve Harvey” in 2017 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his masterpiece.
#3: Ray William Johnson
Johnson came around a bit later than most of the others on this list. It wasn’t until 2009 that Johnson began releasing videos from his New York apartment, and his channel hit a milestone when it became the first to reach five million subscribers. He left his most popular web series, “Equals Three,” in 2014 and proceeded to create “Booze Lightyear” and “Comedians On.” In 2016, Johnson starred in the movie “Who’s Driving Doug” alongside “Breaking Bad’s” RJ Mitte, and he has also co-founded a film production company called Mom & Pop Empire. His company helped co-produce the Netflix comedy “Manson Family Vacation,” which sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
#2: Ryan Higa
Higa is better known as nigahiga, who began posting lip synch videos on YouTube in 2006. Thanks to popular videos like How to Be Gangster and How to Be Emo, nigahiga shot up the YouTube charts and was the most subscribed personality from 2009 to 2011. Higa is still a major YouTube personality, and the nigahiga channel has amassed over twenty million subscribers. He also hosts a second YouTube channel called HigaTV, where he often posts behind-the-scenes clips of nigahiga videos, podcasts, video game clips, and various games with friends and colleagues. He has also co-created a parody K-pop group called Boys Generally Asian, and their song “Who’s It Gonna Be” reached #1 on the K-pop iTunes chart.
The history of Smosh stretches back to 2002, when Anthony Padilla created a flash animation website entitled smosh.com. In the fall of 2005, Padilla and Smosh co-founder Ian Hecox began posting videos to a new website called YouTube, and Smosh became the most subscribed channel in May of 2006. Smosh has since become its own entertainment network, which includes the channels Smosh, Smosh Games, Smosh Pit, and the podcast SmoshCast. They earned the Diamond creator award in 2013 for surpassing ten million subscribers, and the channel is now owned by Rhett and Link’s production company Mythical Entertainment. And to think, this all started with two teenagers goofing around in a bedroom…