On June 2nd, “acoustic folk pop” guitarist Meghan Tonjes won What’s Trending and Ford‘s “Escape To Bonnaroo” contest. In a live streamed event held at YouTube Space LA, Tonjes beat out David Choi, Lauren Mayhew, Bad Wolf, and Vibe, thus earning the right to perform at Bonnaroo. In an interview, Tonjes told us about her journey on YouTube, which has spanned 542 videos across more than eight years.

Tonjes, like many of her peers, never expected to find herself making music for a living. “I didn’t think I had the voice to do it, I didn’t play an instrument, and to be honest, I didn’t see a lot of people who look like me even pursuing music,” she said. She bought a guitar “because there was a boy I liked who played guitar,” and began making YouTube videos a few months later.

Tonjes is an ideal YouTube success story because she has built up her following over several years “by being an active member of the community.” “I wasn’t super popular,” she explained, “but [with] people finding me through other people, I kind of became known and got to play main stage at Vidcon…People trusted me and were interested to see what I was doing. I’ve kind of been on the down low this entire time.”

That consistency has allowed her to thrive on YouTube, where she has the freedom to share her talent with her “young female audience.” “It’s not about what you look like,” she said, “it’s about how hard you try and how nice you are and how talented you can be…it’s been a dream.”

That dream brought her to Escape to Bonnaroo’s final round, where her opponents included one of her idols, David Choi. “There wasn’t really that competitive nature here because everyone was just excited to be here and see what happens,” she noted. In the end, Tonjes won out after performing her song “Affected”.

Tonjes will now go to Bonnaroo, where her goal is simple. “I want really good pictures of me on stage at Bonnaroo,” she explained, “so I can put them all over my Instagram.”

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