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Emma Chamberlain talks self-confidence, business ventures at virtual visit to campus

Chamberlain joined Fashion@Brown for a virtual Fashion Week conversation

YouTuber and Gen-Z sensation Emma Chamberlain joined Fashion@Brown for a virtual Fashion Week talk Friday afternoon, discussing her meteoric rise on the platform and the value of authenticity in a saturated field of content creation. 

Chamberlain quickly gained popularity after starting her YouTube channel in 2017, setting herself apart through relatable videos of her daily life — shopping, drinking coffee, baking and driving around in her car. Her channel feels intimate in this way, and she frequently discusses often confidential topics such as her struggles with mental health and acne. 

Her editing style is as unique as her content. Chamberlain’s videos feature characteristic quick cuts, sound effects and comical filters. The nineteen-year-old currently has 9.96 million subscribers on YouTube and 12.4 million followers on Instagram

Friday’s talk began with Fashion@Brown’s President Sasha Pinto ’21 introducing Chamberlain’s myriad of accomplishments, including being named one of Time Magazine's “25 Most Influential People on the Internet” and Forbes’ “30 Under 30 list for Social Media.” Chamberlain has also been referred to as “the most popular girl in the world” by Cosmopolitan, and W Magazine called her “the most interesting girl on YouTube.” 

After Pinto’s introduction, Chamberlain was interviewed by Emma Rosenkranz ’23, the Co-Vice President of Fashion@Brown, and Dani Siegal ’24, a social media team member who previously interned with Chamberlain’s public relations team, Align

In typical casual Chamberlain fashion, she appeared on the screen laying in her bed and drinking coffee when the interview began, saying she had “been in bed for like two weeks.” 

Rosenkranz first asked Chamberlain about her successful coffee company, Chamberlain Coffee, founded in 2020. Growing up, Chamberlain was surrounded by coffee drinkers. When she entered high school, she relied on coffee to get her work done and quickly “fell in love” with the beverage. This love for coffee naturally extended to her YouTube channel, becoming a key element of her videos.

“I was talking to my team who is just so amazing and … I was like ‘I want to do something with this (coffee) at some point,’” Chamberlain said. After much deliberation with her team, she decided to pursue a coffee company of her own.

Chamberlain also recounted the start of her YouTube career. When she was sixteen years old, Chamberlain failed her driver’s test. Following this disappointment, her dad encouraged her to find a hobby to gain a sense of confidence. And in the summer of 2017, she started her YouTube channel.

“I spent the whole summer just making YouTube videos, and it was great because it was a creative outlet for me and I had all the time in the world to do it,” Chamberlain said. Her candid vlogs resonated with watchers almost immediately, and, by the end of that summer, Chamberlain’s channel was already nearing 100,000 subscribers.

In her first few videos, she followed what everyone else was doing — making scripted, rehearsed videos — but felt that nothing set her apart from other channels. Chamberlain had emulated the videos she watched when she was younger, but soon realized she wanted to make her content more “real.” She noted that the first few months were “crucial” to the development of her current style and voice, because she filmed videos every day. After a few months of consistently uploading videos, Chamberlain felt confident about her work — which continues to center upon promoting authenticity and transparency.

“I just started making the videos personal as if I was talking to a friend because that's actually what ended up being more fun for me. So even though it was vulnerable, because not that many people were watching, it wasn't that scary,” she said. “It was so much more natural to just talk to the camera like it was a friend. It felt good and it clicked for me.” 

But Chamberlain has had periods of time where her creativity has waned. She felt this most recently at the start of quarantine. Chamberlain admitted that she only began to adapt her creative process to the conditions of the pandemic within the past three to four months. 

“It's like trying to figure out how to make doing stuff in my house as interesting as possible and making my videos more conversational,” she said.

Siegal then transitioned the conversation to talk about Chamberlain’s personal style, an area that has popularized trends — including sherpa coats, Doc Martens and printed sweaters — and attracted high-end designers such as Louis Vuitton

Chamberlain described her style and her YouTube channel in the same way: all over the map. Sometimes she will wear designer brands and lavish makeup, whereas other days she will wear a tank top and jeans. She emphasized that she likes to wear outfits that make her “feel good.” 

When deciding which brands to work with, Chamberlain makes sure that the partnership is authentic — that the brand’s mission aligns with her values and personal taste. “I don’t want to do anything surface-level; I want to genuinely love what I’m doing and the brands that I’m working with,” she said. “If not, people feel that, they see that, they can tell ‘oh she doesn’t care about that.’ I don’t ever want that.” 

As an influencer, brands also send her cosmetic products to test out. Chamberlain has fully embraced some of these products, such as Bad Habit Skincare. She tried the products before the company even debuted and “fell in love.” Now, she is the global brand ambassador and creative director for the brand. 

“It was like a blind date with the product, and I fell in love with them and then I was like ‘hey can we have a call’ because I really liked this,” Chamberlain said.

To conclude, the conversation then opened up to previously-submitted audience questions. One audience member, Rachel Blumenstein ’24, asked about Chamberlain’s thoughts on thrifting and the trends she anticipated for summer 2021. 

Chamberlain noted that she likes to spend hours inside thrift shops, looking through all of the different sections because “you never know what you might find.”

As for this upcoming summer, Chamberlain said that she will be wearing her cut-off Levi jeans and trying out long skirts, bright colors and charm necklaces.

Lastly, Chamberlain offered a few words of advice to audience members.

“Everything in the moment feels so big and like it's the end of the world and like you'll never figure it out but things always work themselves out,” Chamberlain said. “Nothing is as big of a deal as it seems right now and whatever it is that you're stressed about now, I can guarantee, in a month, will feel like nothing.” 


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