You may or may not know Emma Chamberlain, but you’d definitely know the Emma Chamberlain style of vlogging. The content—Emma reviews vegan fast food; Emma preps for Coachella; Emma gets a nose piercing—is almost beside the point. The style is the key; the appeal is in the authenticity. In her videos, she speaks directly to her audience, delivering her monologues in a fast-paced, stream-of-consciousness, and unvarnished manner.
Bloopers not only make the cut, but are also played big for laughs; her timing is impeccable and her camerawork, unpretentious; she zooms in close on her (usually makeup-free) face or some other easily missed detail to emphasise a point; she curses, she belches; she adds irreverent bits of text and audio, and she distorts her voice and features—all for comic effect. It’s a winning formula. Since launching her YouTube channel in 2017, Chamberlain now has some 11 million subscribers on the platform and more than 15 million followers on Instagram. In two months, she will turn 21.
Related article: YouTube Sensation Emma Chamberlain Is Our March 2022 Cover Girl
A true digital and social media native, Chamberlain started watching YouTube videos when she was six and soon graduated to making them. At 16, she dropped out of high school to make a full-time career out of YouTube. “I enjoy sharing vulnerable sides of myself as well as the fun, light-hearted ones, to hopefully make people smile and to make them feel comfortable. I want people to feel understood when they hear me talk, or comforted by it in one way or another,” says Chamberlain on what drove her to start making videos and, more recently, podcasts. As for her decision to leave school, she says: “It’s not like I wanted to succeed at school because I had a heartfelt goal. I wanted to be good at school and to go to a good school because I wanted to brag about it. When I really thought about it, that’s what a lot of people did—it’s not about their passion in life or a means to making money.”
She had an epiphany when she started making money from YouTube, which also happened around the same time she was getting disillusioned with school and its social ecosystem. “The thing is, the first few years of school is to learn the fundamentals of being a human being, and then during the last few years of high school and during college, you’re learning how to specialise in something so you can get a job and make money. I was already starting to make money from YouTube and I took all the classes I needed to take to learn the fundamentals, so all these extracurricular classes were just kind of wasting my time, because I’m not going to use these for a job,” she shares. “My job is now YouTube. [Quitting school] was not an impulsive decision—I didn’t want to waste my time and school will always be there if I ever want to return to it.”
Chamberlain probably won’t be returning any time soon. These days, she’s busy realising another one of her biggest passions: Coffee. In 2019, Chamberlain added entrepreneur to her résumé with the launch of Chamberlain Coffee, a line of sustainably sourced, made and packaged coffee along with its own range of coffee-drinking accessories and merch. “Coffee without the bland, the beige, the boring” is how the tag line on the website goes. Of this venture, Chamberlain says: “Coffee has always been a big part of my life. My dream job growing up was to be a barista at a coffee shop. My team and I had this conversation about turning this dream into something when I was 17 and since then, we’ve just been researching ways to make it possible. I was obviously very young, but if you have a good idea, you might as well start on it the moment you get it, right?”
Good ideas are one thing, executing them is another. Launching a brand has come with its own learning curve, but Chamberlain is relishing every part of the process. “My favourite part of it,” she mentions, “is the challenge—I really do enjoy the challenge of doing something I’ve never done before; something I didn’t go to school to learn about. I feel like it gives me knowledge in areas I wouldn’t have otherwise. I also love the creative side of it—creating the packaging, the branding, the website.”
Lately, she has also been nurturing her creative side through a new outlet: The world of high fashion. From 2019, Louis Vuitton started flying Chamberlain out to Paris for Fashion Week and sitting her in the front row of its shows—it was the first time such a major luxury player has partnered with a YouTube creator and it signalled a shift in the industry. Last year, the brand signed her as a campaign face and dressed Chamberlain for her very first Met Gala. “When I started doing my videos, I didn’t think that fashion would play any role in what I did at all,” she says. “Sometimes, I share what I’m wearing day to day, but I never thought of it as part of my business—it’s just a fun thing I do on the side. I love clothes, but I didn’t own anything designer—that was not a part of my life growing up. I was somebody who went thrift shopping all the time, and I still do. I’ve never been somebody who cared whether something has a logo on it—I don’t care about the flexing or bragging part of [things].”
Attending her first fashion show, however, was a game changer in how she viewed the industry. “I realised that it’s not just about slapping a logo onto stuff,” she says. “There is an artistry to designer fashion that I really enjoy—it’s about pushing the boundaries and creating new things that will inspire, and it all starts with the designer.” Chamberlain loves Nicolas Ghesquière for how “he combines things in a way that is so unique to him. He might take a futuristic feeling and mix it with a vampy 1980s feeling, and he’ll do it in a way I’ve never seen anyone else do. He doesn’t play it safe—he takes risks and he does stuff that’s kind of weird, and with a brand that has the level of history that Louis Vuitton does, I think that’s really exciting.”
Asked if there have been followers who cannot reconcile the goofy Emma in her videos and the glamorous Emma who attends Met Galas and Fashion Weeks, Chamberlain maintains that it’s all the same person and that her followers know this. “I’ve been very fortunate that the people who follow me have been very excited for me when these things happen. I think the reason for that is because I’ve been very honest with my audience about the experience. I’m like, ‘I don’t know why they’re inviting me, guys—I’m just as shocked as you are!’ These experiences don’t change anything,” she asserts. “It’s not like I’m going to turn into some sort of diva after I sit front-row at a fashion show. If someone didn’t like me before the Louis Vuitton show, they’re not going to like me after the Louis Vuitton show, and vice versa.”
Haters are going to hate. It’s part of the territory when your job is in the public eye—and even more so when that public lives on the Internet. As calm and collected as Chamberlain seems about this fact, it still gets to her sometimes. “The hardest part is just how vast the Internet is, and that’s not something anyone can change—it is what it is. Still, it’s really hard to hear opinions from thousands, millions of people all day, all the time,” she lets on. “It’s exhausting to receive that overload of information every single day. Sometimes, you feel like you need to be perfect because if you’re not, you have all these critics ready to jump on you, and that’s terrifying. People are just going to be mean sometimes and as much as you don’t want to take it to heart, we’re human—we’re going to take it to heart.”
Over the years, Chamberlain has learned how to deal with it. “I honestly have no problem nowadays with just turning my phone off for a few days—not going on social media, taking a break, going on vacation, not posting for a while. I used to be really hard on myself about that—I’d force myself to post weekly and never take a break. But that’s not sustainable because you get really burned out,” she says. “You have to take time to develop yourself off of the Internet just as much as you’re posting on the Internet. I’m constantly working on that balance—sometimes, I’m not so good at it and sometimes, I’m great. It’s a work in progress.”
Another thing that Chamberlain has learned is what to keep for herself instead of putting out into the world. “Recently, I decided to keep all of my relationships private—romantic ones, but also my friendships as well,” she shares. “It’s to protect the people who are in my life, and also to leave room for these relationships to ebb and flow—like, if I’m not friends with somebody any more, I don’t want to have to explain that to anyone. I just want to be able to end that, leave that in the past, move on, and never be asked about it again.”
As for experiences, Chamberlain doesn’t have hard and fast rules about what’s for public consumption. “A lot of it is on a case-by-case basis,” she says. “I trust my instincts, so if I feel like there is something that I just don’t need the world to know, then I keep it to myself. I tend to keep things to myself when I’m in the midst of them. If I’m having a hard time, for example, I don’t usually want to talk about it until I’ve worked through it and I’m on the other side of it. Because the last thing I need is people telling me how to fix my problem. I’d rather talk to people about it once I’ve solved it, so I can actually give them something useful—an example of what happened to me and how I fixed it, rather than me just complaining about something.”
These days, Chamberlain doesn’t have much to complain about—and that springs from a new-found place of mindfulness. “Over the last few years, I’ve learned to prioritise quality over quantity with everything—with the people in my life and the things I put my energy into. I used to be the type of person who wanted to do everything, and be friends with as many people as possible, and spread myself really thin,” she says. “But going through the pandemic and having all that time to reflect, I’ve realised that I only want to use my energy on things and relationships that make me feel good.” Watch out, world. Emma Chamberlain is only just getting started.
Photographed by Yu Tsai
Creative direction by Windy Aulia
Styled by Martina Nilsson
Makeup: Sir John/CAA
Hair: Rob Talty/Forward Artists
Manicure: Bana Jarjour/Star Touch Agency
Production: TreverSwearingen/88 Phases
Digital technician: Luis Jaime/88 Phases
Photographer’s assistants: Embry Lopez; Jamie Kang