A young woman with magenta-streaked hair stands in her bathroom, speaking to a webcam. She begins her tutorial by wielding that totem of collegiate binge drinking everywhere: a red plastic Solo Cup. She misapplies a gob of glue. It dangles from a false eyelash. She lines her lips with a black pencil. The episode has been viewed While few people older than 30 probably know who Jenna Marbles is, her popularity is unquestioned among teenage girls who live on the Internet.
She acknowledges it is an odd kind of celebrity. She is a D. Her videos are a highly shareable cocktail of comedy, sex appeal, puppies and social commentary, laced with profanity. She skillfully juggles Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to build a deeply loyal connection with fans who find her eminently easy to relate to. The result is more than a million views every single day and more money than she had ever seen before in her life. She may be unique, but she is no viral-video fluke.
To a younger generation who spends more time on YouTube than TV, Jenna Marbles already embodies the future of celebrity. Internet fame can come on fast.
In the summer of , Ms. Mourey shared a three-bedroom apartment in Cambridge, Mass. One afternoon, she uploaded a video of herself putting on makeup for her dancing job. Kind of. In a mesmerizing kind of reverse burlesque, her naked face and pale blue eyes disappeared under a flurry of foundation, false eyelashes and frosted pink lipstick. In two and a half minutes, she transformed herself from a plain girl with a bad case of bedhead to a hypercharged cartoon sexpot.
The video ends as she clutches her degree in a fit of mock sobbing. She uploaded the video on a Friday. Over the weekend it became so popular that it reached the true mark of viral success: she had to call her mother. Mom was not upset; she laughed, along with five million other people that first week. Unlike other YouTube personalities who invest in better cameras, lighting and production values, Ms.
Mourey has stuck with her original lo-fi operation. On a bright Monday this winter, Ms. Pizza boxes and a parking ticket littered the countertop.
A fruit bowl held two bananas, turned solid black. Nerf darts spilled across the floor. A lonely dart clung to a high window, just out of reach. Any chaos in her daily life, however, sits neatly out of frame.
When she pulls her laptop out and records a new video at the kitchen table, viewers typically see only her and a blank wall. The process starts a day earlier, when Ms. Mourey polls her eager Facebook fans for ideas.
Mourey shoots what she can handle alone in her house. She does impersonations Snooki, Gaga, Palin, Bieber. She starts mini-memes. She undermines her camera-ready good looks for the sake of comedy, say, by vomiting oatmeal or sticking her dog in her shirt for extended periods. Like Jenna Marbles, the pantheon of telegenic something YouTube stars has carved out a new entertainment genre, complete with its own rules and visual vocabulary.
In videos that typically last five to eight minutes, they talk straight to the camera and riff through head-spinning jump cuts, non sequiturs and exaggerated facial expressions to court shrinking attention spans and rack up views. A few years ago, YouTube stars were one-hit wonders, viral accidents whose fame came and went like a passing storm. Van said. A small army of them has descended on Los Angeles, looking to connect with one another, and Hollywood.
Sensing an opportunity, YouTube recently opened a 41,square-foot production facility in a former airport, once owned by Howard Hughes, to nurture the next big viral hit. But many young viral stars are unsure if YouTube fame is enough, and many are hoping to move into film or television. Mourey, who cherishes her creative freedom. Still, Ms. Mourey has needed to professionalize her business affairs, partly to handle the deluge of endorsement requests and fan mail that comes her way — more than 50, messages a month.
Her team recently expanded to include a personal assistant, a business manager, her mother and a soon-to-be-hired chief technical officer.
Mourey would say. That may explain why she has felt free to turn down offers from electronics and cosmetics companies, among others, seeking to tap her loyal audience. Teenage girls love her exactly because she seems so genuine. Her videos are catnip to them, the kind of thing they discover privately in their Facebook feed, where her profanity and tell-it-like-it-is rants on sex, boys, sports bras and makeup speak directly to her core audience, 75 percent of whom are young women and girls, mostly from the ages of 13 to At first that surprised Ms.
Mourey, who thought she was making videos for her peers. Despite her anything-goes brashness, Ms. Mourey cares very much about her position as a role model. Her mother sifts through her fan mail, and regularly finds mash notes from girls as young as 9. When one parent commented on a recent video that the language was inappropriate for girls and asked that it be taken down, the comment thread was swarmed by teenagers defending Jenna. One fan, Allee Hamilton, of Livonia, Mich. In an interview, Allee added that she rarely watches television.
But she has her detractors. Beyond viewers who find the Jenna Marbles brand of humor incomprehensible or simply annoying, some were deeply offended by her impersonation of Nicki Minaj, in which she applied copious amounts of bronzer and put on a butt-pad and pink wig. Critics say it amounted to blackface and crossed the line from parody to racism. In the video, which has generated 4. The feminist blogosphere roared back with posts, video responses and animated GIF compilations, charging the video with victim-blaming and slut-shaming.
Even longtime fans said that it was a misfire, and that her sizable audience requires her to be more mindful in the future. Mourey said. The bigger Ms. Mourey gets, the more she has had to grapple with the peculiarities of Internet fame. At no time was this more challenging than her recent breakup with Max Weisz, her longtime boyfriend.
Regular fans had come to know Mr. Weisz through his frequent cameos. They were an attractive and playful couple. She cut his hair. He tried to put makeup on her. They wore elaborate Halloween costumes.
But as real life seeped in, Ms. Mourey had to improvise a strategy to manage the news. At the time, Mr. Since the split, he began making weekly videos of his own. They both say the work is lonely. Weisz said. Mourey, on the other hand, still operates the camera by herself. She is adjusting to living alone in a city where, for all her Internet fame, she has few friends and rarely goes out. Like lots of other YouTube personalities, Ms.