Emma Chamberlain on staying above the haters: 'I don't need the approval from the masses. ... I've found it within myself'

The YouTube vlogger keeps it both silly and personal on her channel.

December 12, 2019, 5:23 PM

Life has become pretty fabulous for Emma Chamberlain, what with photoshoots for W Magazine, Britain's The Sunday Times Magazine and making videos with total views of nearly 1 billion.

But the attention is not always positive for the popular 18-year-old vlogger, who also has to face online haters and mental health challenges, all in the public eye.

"I know it's such a common thing to say, like, social media's really bad...but it's so true," Chamberlain told "Nightline." "Don't get me wrong. ... I think I'm doing a pretty decent job. I'm really trying. But I'm not perfect. ... I still read comments more than I should. I think reading comments at all is bad, end of story. I would love to read comments and only see the happy ones. But that's not how it is."

PHOTO: Chamberlain on set for a photo shoot with “The Sunday Times.”
Chamberlain on set for a photo shoot with “The Sunday Times.”
Ashley Riegle / ABC

Chamberlain's rise to fame began in 2017, when she was just 16, with a camera and a sense of humor as she attempted to use social media to flex her own take on being a teenager, unapologetic, unfiltered and authentic.

Chamberlain documents her life -- and her teenage thoughts -- on YouTube, broadcasting what others might consider the mundane but also challenging the perfectly coiffed norms of the social media landscape.

Watch the full story on "Nightline" TONIGHT at 12:35 a.m. ET

Her vlogs are complete with images of her wearing absolutely no makeup and donning messy hair. She even shows her acne, all as millions of adoring fans watch online.

"In my head, I'm like, 'I don't know how this would go. I think it would be really interesting to find out,'" she said. "That's when I feel like I get the videos that I like the best."

PHOTO: Emma Chamberlain has 8.5 million YouTube followers, a popular merchandise line, collaborations with fashion brands, and a spot on the Time 100 "Next" list.
Emma Chamberlain has 8.5 million YouTube followers, a popular merchandise line, collaborations with fashion brands, and a spot on the Time 100 "Next" list.
ABC

Chamberlain, who's originally from the Bay Area but now calls Los Angeles home, has at least 8.5 million YouTube followers, a popular merchandise line, collaborations with fashion brands and a spot on the Time 100 "Next" list. Her core demographic is women 18-24 years old.

Chamberlain said a normal day for her consists of exercise ("'cause if I don't, I'm kind of not a good person throughout the day") eating and then a visit to the coffee shop. Coffee is the cornerstone of Chamberlain's brand.

After the coffee trip, she said, "I come home, and I'll usually work, go to a meeting or do whatever. It's whatever the work thing is that day. I'll skateboard with my friends at night or go to the grocery store. It's a pretty crazy life."

And it's Chamberlain's daily life, complete with its fumbles and awkward moments, that has arguably made her famous while connecting her to a sea of viewers who can relate.

"I did one [vlog] where I didn't have my phone for 24 hours. ... That was a really fun video, because I was, like, it was actually a good thing I did in my life. ... I needed that," she said.

PHOTO: Chamberlain on set for a photo shoot with “The Sunday Times.”
Chamberlain on set for a photo shoot with “The Sunday Times.”
ABC

Chamberlain's brand has changed noticeably in recent months, however, as she's pivoted from wearing hoodies to strutting in high fashion. This year, she attended Paris and New York Fashion Weeks with Louis Vuitton, a brand she's now associated with.

She told "Nightline" that the evolution of her channel had been "weird" and sort of scary for her.

That's because as much as her vlogs have included silly antics and spoofs, Chamberlain's YouTube platform has also been a place for her to bare her soul and share more personal aspects of her life, including her decision to leave high school early.

"It was the right decision. I have no regrets," she said. "I worked really hard. I was very successful at school. I think I just started to realize I had a different path, and that that was OK. ... It wasn't the norm, and a lot of people had their opinions about it. ... But, you know, after talking to my parents, my parents were very onboard."

Like superstar singer Ariana Grande, Chamberlain has also used her platform to open up about anxiety and depression.

"Oh, I don't think it should be taboo at all. ... It's something I struggle with. ... It's a constant battle throughout your life," she said.

Besides traveling and vlogging, Chamberlain also spends much of her time recording her podcast, "Stupid Genius." While she said she thinks of herself as a "very normal 18-year-old girl," her fans told "Nightline" that she's the ultimate celebrity.

"I love how creative she is. She really brought a new style of editing and just completely being yourself to YouTube and it was really cool to see that," said Jada, a fan who attended VidCon, the world's largest convention for video creators and fans, where Chamberlain recently headlined a variety show.

"I think a lot of people, including myself, like Emma because she’s very herself. ... A lot of YouTubers and creators you see online, they get their self perfectly ready, you know? Makeup done, hair did, and she will just roll out of bed and be like undone, hoodie on and she's just her normal self," said fan Mia Finney.

PHOTO: Emma Chamberlain has 8.5 million YouTube followers, a popular merchandise line, collaborations with fashion brands, and a spot on the Time 100 "Next" list.
Emma Chamberlain has 8.5 million YouTube followers, a popular merchandise line, collaborations with fashion brands, and a spot on the Time 100 "Next" list.
ABC

Still, for Chamberlain, staying authentic remains a constant challenge in a world of critics, she said.

"I've seen a lot of people, it [will] mess with their heads because they base their own self-worth on those things and stuff like that," she said. "I just have trained myself to kind of be like, 'You know what? If I'm excited, or if I'm proud about what I'm putting out, then I'm not really looking for the gratification as much, 'cause I like it.' ... I don't need the approval from the masses, if that makes sense. ... I have it in myself. I've found it within myself."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events