Youtube Star Claudia Sulewski on Why Life Is About More Than Likes
When she was a bored 14-year-old living in the Midwest, Claudia Sulewski started uploading videos of herself on YouTube. Hundreds of strangers tuned in, then thousands. These days, she gets 4.5 million views a month across two different channels, has endless fans following her Instagram, and currently stars in a TV series alongside Katelyn Nacon.
T@gged, which just returned for its second season, is a psychological thriller about three girls who are tagged in a very disturbing video and then find themselves victims of blackmail via social media. Although the plot reads like a front-page newspaper story, it’s a lot more fun to watch than the recent real-life hacks. As Claudia explains, “It's a cool dark twist on what social media can do to these regular teens.” On the heels of the season premiere, we talked to the YouTube star-turned-full-time actress about following her dreams to LA, documenting her every move, and the *only* thing she won't share online.
Although you're no stranger to the screen, you're originally from the Midwest—not exactly Hollywood! When was the moment you first knew you wanted to move, and what prompted that?
Growing up, I always had a feeling I'd end up in the industry or in a field that doesn't require a 9-5 job. It's kind of cool to think in 7th grade I subconsciously picked up a hobby that would eventually lead to this. I really started to realize it once things got a little more serious: I signed with a manager and a network, and started flying out, traveling a bunch, missing school. By the time I turned 18, it was an obvious move to make. It all just kind of worked out.
Between YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, you share a lot. Do you ever find any downsides to living online?
Of course, of course. Finding that balance of how much of my life I really want to share is the crazy thing. The greatest part is that because I have all of these social platforms, I'm documenting so much of my life. It's cool that I have all of these videos and photos that I can show my kids or look back on. There are downsides to being so open and so vulnerable; letting people into your life that you don't who make assumptions or come to conclusions is a big one. But the good stuff outweighs the bad stuff by so much.
You just turned 21 (congrats)! What’s the most important advice you received while you were a teen?
One of the things that I'm happy I was able to realize early on was the concept of only seeking validation from yourself and yourself only, as well as learning not worry about what others think of you. Nowadays, with social media, there’s this set image of how you need to talk, how you need to look, how you need to dress. There’s all these weird expectations of what beauty is. You are born with yourself; you are with yourself your entire life, and you die with yourself. If you're not happy with yourself, that's the first thing you should prioritize. You want to be able to feel confident in what you stand for and who you are as a person. The sooner I realized that, the less I doubted myself and the more risks I took. Trusting yourself is just so, so important and takes you so far. Being able to find self love is so essential.
You’re not afraid to show the ups (and the downs!) of your life on YouTube; is there anything that’s 100% off-limits to you?
There's nothing specifically that's 100% off-limits. The subject of boys is a very, very weird thing to have to worry about, but when you start talking to a boy, you have to ask yourself, “OK, can I publicly post about this? Is this something that will last?” If you're dating a guy and you don't see it going anywhere, or it doesn’t feel right, then there's no point in making it totally public. If it ends in a month or two, everyone has speculations and comes up with their own conclusions. So yeah, there are certain aspects in my life where I sit back and think, “Do I really want to share this?”
How do you deal with the pressure of YouTube fame?
You kind of make it your own experience. I'm not saying I'm "that famous," but I am in the public eye to quite a bit of people. You start to build thick skin and the sooner you realize that reading one tiny hate comment about something so random that I don’t have any control over, versus all the positive comments, you have to sit back and think about what actually matters and what doesn’t. 99% of the time, it’s not you, it’s the person that’s trying to shut you down because they’re insecure about something. You have to make sure you’re doing what makes you happy, because that’s the only thing that matters.