Whether it’s over 20 minutes of eating cheese fries, handcuffing herself to her husband for 24 hours, or opening up about her struggles as a parent, Jessi Smiles has found an audience on YouTube. The 25-year-old YouTube star has grown a huge audience through her humor and sincerity online.
Smiles has been nominated for both the Shorty Award for Best YouTube Comedian and Shorty Award for Viner of the Year. With nearly 1 million YouTube followers and another nearly half a million on Twitter, Smiles has created an audience for her videos.
Smiles started making Vines on her way to work while stuck in Miami traffic. “I had so much time on my hands. Even though I shouldn’t have been Vining and driving, I started making videos just because I was bored and really didn’t expect it to go anywhere.” She explains, “It was never an intentional thing (becoming so popular).”
Even before her popularity, Smiles was passionate about Vine. “There was a community, an actual community of people, not famous people, just people who enjoy the app,” she recalls. Making friends through the app kept Smiles passionate and producing videos. Unlike other popular Vine users, however, Smiles started making the shift to YouTube before Vine shut down. “I switched over because I didn’t feel connected with Vine anymore,” she continues, “I had to, in a sense, reinvent myself because people are seeing six seconds of me and they’re not used to watching any more than that. I wasn’t sure if they cared about what I have to say or if they wanted to hear me talk for longer than six seconds. So I really was testing the waters. It was really scary because Vine was all I had known for three years of my life.”
Thankfully, Smiles’ fans made the platform jump to YouTube with her and her fans have followed Smiles through changes in her own life. Her videos quickly changed formats and content as she became a wife and mom. “I used to make the dating videos, the story times, and that’s not who I am anymore.” She adds, “So I’ve come to realize that my videos are just based on honesty. It’s just me. Me and whatever part of my life that I’m sharing with my audience. I look for the funniest way I can talk about it because that’s how I navigate through life anyway — joking about everything.”