James Charles’ YouTube Originals competition series, Instant Influencer, has helped re-solidify the 20-year-old beauty creator’s status as a hit-maker following a drama-fueled May 2019 that resulted in a massive subscriber loss.
The fiasco with fellow beauty creator Tati Wesbrook — and sprinkles of Jeffree Star — cost Charles’ YouTube channel at least 1.1 million subscribers at the time, pushing its total below 14 million. A year later, his lifetime subscriber count is just shy of 20 million. His monthly view count has bounced back, too. Charles was getting anywhere from 20 to 40 million monthly views in the latter part of 2019. He’s hit 83 million views so far in May 2020 — with nearly two full weeks left in the month.
But Instant Influencer hasn’t just been a boon to its star and primary judge. The reality program, in which six beauty microinfluencers competed to become crowned the next big YouTube star — with the winner taking home a collab video on Charles’ channel and $50,000, among other prizes — has also catapulted the careers of its contestants. Those include winner Ashley ‘StrashMe’ Strong (pictured above and below, second from right), as well as Benny Cerra, Britany Renteria, Kailin Chase, Gabriel Garcia, and Christian Perez.
Just a cursory glance at each creator’s subscriber growth since the series premiered on April 24 illuminates the rapid ascent that the cast has undertaken:
- Ashley Strong: On the day before the premiere, the series’ winner, Strong — whose story of being a young mother tugged on the heartstrings of both judges and viewers alike — counted 24,000 subscribers. Today, the 28-year-old is standing tall at 443,000 subscribers. Strong hails from Alaska and frequently posts get-ready-with-me videos on her channel, as well as tutorials and product reviews.
- Kailin Chase: Twenty-five-year-old Chase, who resides in Denver with her husband, went from roughly 1,500 subscribers on April 23 to 309,000 today. In addition to sharing the standard YouTube beauty fare, Chase also posts day-in-the-life style vlogs and challenge videos with her husband.
- Benny Cerra: Instant Influencer‘s other runner-up, 18-year-old Cerra — who had only posted a handful of videos prior to his stint on Instant Influencer, and who said his foray into makeup was partially inspired by his father’s painting career — rocketed from 629 subscribers to 58,000 today.
- Christian Perez: Even contestants who were eliminated earlier on in the series have seen their channels flourish. Eighteen-year-old Perez, who goes by the alter ego ‘Indigo‘, was born in Miami but moved to Los Angeles after his father’s deportation. His channel, featuring wildly over-the-top looks including illustrations on his face, has grown from 15,000 subscribers to 198,000.
- Britany Renteria: Renteria, for her part, was the first contestant eliminated from the show. The 25-year-old has grown from 14,600 to 163,000 subscribers on her channel, where she frequently shares makeup shopping hauls.
- Gabriel Garcia: Garcia is a 21-year-old Los Angeles-based makeup artist who is also a drag performer under the moniker ‘Unity Dreamz‘. On Instant Influencer, he shared his experiences growing up in foster care. His channel, home to drastic and otherworldly transformations, grew from 1,000 to 35,000 subscribers by the show’s end.
In addition to the subscriptions metric, viewership on each contestant’s channel has also increased in turn. While Strong was receiving thousands of views on her pre-Instant Influencer videos, subsequent uploads — all of which have been about the show — boast six-figure viewcounts. Chase’s channel exhibits a similar trajectory. And two contestants nabbed seismic viewcounts on videos where they reacted to their eliminations, including Renteria (1.9 million views) and Perez (1.4 million views).
All told, Instant Influencer ran for a total of four episodes on Charles’ YouTube channel, nabbing a collective 48 million views. The first episode amassed 200,000 concurrent viewers during its YouTube Premiere, while the series finale trounced that tally with a whopping 500,000 viewers tuning in on Friday. In addition to the full-length episodes that dropped each Friday afternoon, Charles also posted weekly recap videos the following Tuesday throughout the run of the show on channel, with his collab with Strong presumably slated to arrive tomorrow.
You can check out the Instant Influencer series finale right here. In recent days, Charles has been heavily hinting on social media that he’d like to do a second season, though no official announcements have arrived just yet.