Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each creator has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments here.
Many folks might (understandably) find growing up on camera intimidating, but for Mai Pham, documenting her teenage years on YouTube has been a comfort.
Pham, who’s 17, first began vlogging at age 13 with an upload about the contents of her high school volleyball gym bag. And while her content has grown with her in the years since, that clip–personal, casual, and honest–is emblematic of all her videos. She’s chronicled mental health struggles, breakups, dropping out of school, and frequent moves that began with leaving her parents’ house when she was just 15. Of course, there are more lighthearted uploads, too, like camping (mis)adventures, glowups, baking, bucket lists, and a crash course in skateboarding.
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As Pham explained in a Q&A last year, when she first moved out on her own, she wasn’t able to cover her expenses. But as her YouTube channel grew past 100,000 subscribers, she began to generate enough income to split rent on an apartment with her sister. Now, she’s at more than 1.2 million subscribers, and is planning to buy her own home (as soon as she turns 18 and can sign the papers, that is).
Check out our chat with her below.
Tubefilter: How does it feel to hit one million subscribers? What do you have to say to your fans?
Mai Pham: It’s insane to me, I can’t believe that that many people are part of the Phamily! Thank you so much–I wouldn’t be here without you guys!
Tubefilter: Tell us a little about you! Where are you from? Are you in school?
MP: I’m based out of Canada. I actually dropped out of high school and am so glad I did, because it was the best decision for me. Most of my friends graduated this year, so it’s a bit bittersweet, but I get to do what I love every day, and I wouldn’t change that. My YouTube channel pretty much takes you along the ride of my sometimes hectic life–everything from getting a nose job to breakups, to cleaning my messy room at 2 a.m.
Tubefilter: What made you start a YouTube channel? Did you go into it intending to “become a YouTuber,” or did you end up becoming a content creator without quite meaning to?
MP: I always loved the idea of being a YouTuber, but I had no idea it would actually work. When I was in high school, I liked filming volleyball videos with friends, and that turned into me doing more videos about my life. People seemed to like how honest I was about the personal stuff happening in my life, so I just kept posting, and am so lucky that I get to do this as a job now!
Tubefilter: So prior to the pandemic, you made a lot of travel content, and in your bio, you (jokingly?) mention that your parents never know where you are while you’re globetrotting. What magic does travel hold for you? When did you start traveling and how does it fit into your daily life?
MP: I’m very spontaneous and independent, so I don’t necessarily have an exact itinerary for them to follow! I guess it’s different for me since I haven’t lived with my parents for a while now. I’m able to move freely without having to check in, which is nice. Traveling is honestly my favorite thing to do. It’s so amazing to be able to explore new places and get away. I started traveling a couple of years ago; it’s honestly so much fun to meet new people and experience new cultures! Bali is probably my favorite, though, it’s just the most beautiful place in the world.
Tubefilter: What does the average day look like for you? How often do you film for YouTube? Do you make content for other social channels?
MP: There is no average day, honestly. Obviously the pandemic limits my traveling. I was actually supposed to go to Bali the week after everything pretty much shut down. I’m basically filming nonstop. YouTube videos are usually planned out with a specific type of video that I’m filming, like a room tour, or a vlog of a trip, or testing out different skincare items, etc. The everyday madness happens on my Snapchat. Instagram is great for pictures; in addition to my regular account, I have a fashion account and sort of a spam account where it’s really just me being silly with friends. During the pandemic, I got into skateboarding, so that’s been fun to do lately! I’m actually in a cast right now, since I broke my wrist from it!
Tubefilter: Do you have any strategies for growing your audience? Have you noticed any particular kind of content getting more traction than others? Do you adjust what you film depending on how your viewers react?
MP: I try not to focus too much on growing my audience, but I do pay attention to what viewers want to see. I’ll read all the comments in videos to know what people are saying, and what they want to see next. Everyone seems to love my cleaning videos where I rant while I clean, haha. Obviously my breakup videos get a lot of views because I’m super open with everything.
Tubefilter: How do you make your videos stand out amidst all the noise on YouTube?
MP: I love watching YouTube, and it’s honestly inspirational for the content I create. I do have my own editing style and content that’s unique to me, but I’m not necessarily trying to be the first to do something on the platform to “stand out.” If I see something that someone else does that I want to film, I’ll of course shout them out for inspiring the video, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be exactly the same, and my viewers know that.
Tubefilter: What’s your favorite part of making content on YouTube?
MP: The memories. I have video footage of me doing so many things, from traveling to places to trying new stuff for the first time. It’s really cool that I just have a backlog of me growing up on camera and being able to look back on it.
Tubefilter: Have you expanded your content and/or personal brand off YouTube at all? Launched any merch, a related business, a presence on another social platform, etc? Do you want to?
MP: I’m actually working on new merch right now! I do want to expand the brand to be beyond socials, but for now I’m pretty happy with filming videos that so many people relate to.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you and your channel? Any plans looking to the future?
MP: I’ve been able to post a lot recently, which is awesome, I love having a video go live and reading everyone’s reactions to it. I really just plan to keep consistent and post things that make me laugh or smile. I hope it does that for other people, too.
Pham is represented by Charley Button at Select Management Group.