How Internet Icon Emma Chamberlain Became the Gen-Z Hero We’ve All Been Waiting for | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Let’s all sign the petition to make Emma Chamberlain the subject of a legitimate academic study on how she went from being the teen known for her way-too-high scrunchie ponytail that made YouTube videos for fun, into the It Girl that’s making Vogue covers, becoming the face of Cartier and Louis Vuitton (just to name a few), and owning a widely successful coffee company, while just hitting 21 years of age last year.

The internet is hitting peak saturation as the minutes go by each day. New content is being churned out faster than we can read, see, or hear them. New influencers and artists appear faster than we can get any significant impact from them at all. The entertainment industry has now branched out from just the traditional music and Hollywood combo into encompassing ‘social media stars’ into their roster. And sometimes the lines are way too blurred and the areas are a little too gray because honestly, what does ‘social media star’ or ‘influencer’ or ‘content creator’ even mean?

In a world that promises the fruits of progression, one of the main markers of society are now (ironically) based on “viral-bility” and how fast you can climb the social ranks by going viral, but especially your capacity to turn a one-hit-wonder into a full-blown residency in Vegas with all the pyrotechnics and the works. In economic terms, it’s honestly a pretty low-risk, high-reward situation (at first glance, that is) and that’s probably why it’s now every iPad kid’s dream to be the most viewed Twitch streamer or a Valley girl’s lust to be the next Kylie Jenner. 

In the internet’s prime days, it’s the source of information to solve problems, entertainment to relieve the drudgery of a 9 to 5, inspiration to creatively express the self, and the connection to build communities and relationships across oceans. Now, it has turned into more of a battleground of who’s who, the basis for getting ‘canceled’, and a new variant of toxicity that causes a disconnection between your authentic and projected self. But there’s always one of those few who are as rare as industry plants without autotune and Instagram models without lip fillers; the few who aren’t afraid to go against the waves, ignore the status quo, and most importantly, be unafraid to share all that to the public.

This is only about a quarter of what’s in Emma Chamberlain’s resume in the span of about a year and a half, from covering the most prestigious fashion magazines to being a guest on Jimmy Fallon to her latest venture, being the newest ambassador of Lancôme that spearheaded a new YouTube series, “How Do You Say ‘Beauty’ in French?”. Image Sources:  Vogue, NBC, Flaunt Magazine

And here’s Emma’s secret: Sure, there’s a business in being relatable, but she just really, naturally is. While the YouTuber boom started off with the beauty gurus (think Michelle Phan and MacBarbie07), to the British takeover (think Zoella and Jack & Finn Harries), there was always a quirk to make specific types of content and keeping up a certain personality in front of the cameras. While we grew up with Emma in her teenage years, she’s also been open enough to share that she’s the only daughter of divorced parents, based in San Francisco, definitely not the cool girl in school, and was struggling a lot with acne and finding her identity. Everyone’s got some sort of humble beginnings narrative or a dysfunctional twist that hooks the audience for a few thousand views, but Emma Chamberlain didn’t make that her personality, her content, or her branding. She just did what she wanted, what she knew, and what she loved, all in her own therapeutically special way.

After years of making pretty consistent content on YouTube, Emma Chamberlain slows down to acting like a rare Pokémon, posting videos sporadically while us viewers savor the 10 or so minutes we’re suddenly blessed with on a random Wednesday morning.

Emma is the antithesis of trends and always has been. I believe this is the biggest factor– other than her fearless authenticity which she shares with the public at a tenderly fragile age– to her success. Her courage to be herself, especially in front of the camera was the antidote to the Gen-Zers, a generation specifically plagued by the emergence of the social media venom. Because of her decisions to go against everything that the content-creating industry has worked on, like a cheetah, she silently but swiftly rose into one of the most influential people in the world. She wasn’t posting on social media (Instagram, YouTube, etc…) for the sake of it, openly stating that she was going to stop making videos until she finds something new to try and expand her horizons, which resulted in a 6-month hiatus in YouTube. She basically sensationalized the thrifting movement and honed the It Girl status by literally being herself and wearing clothes whether or not they fit everyone else’s tastes. She just has that je ne sais quoi, a quintessential nonchalance to the ebbs and flows of the current internet rhythm because she was way too busy making her own beat and dancing to it. Because let’s face it, how can a video of some rando 20-year-old non-chef, non-food blogger making soup for the first time get almost 6 million views? And it’s not even a recipe video! 


Header image courtesy of Emma Chamberlain