Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we–in partnership with content creator tool Gyre–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 of us got cooped up during COVID, but Pinky Patel‘s cabin fever was especially bad.
“I started to get really frustrated with what I call my ‘roommates,’ but they’re my family members,” she says. “They just kept eating all the snacks that were definitely limited because everybody was buying groceries in bulk back then. There’s only a couple of things I like to snack on anyways. I decided to take that energy and unleash it onto the interwebs.”
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Decked out in one of her now-signature crowns, Patel began posting videos on TikTok where she roasted her family members. She dug making those videos, so expanded her target list to other people she encountered IRL, and then to people on the internet. All these people did something Patel found annoying and worthy of “dummy shaming”–and to her surprise, people on the internet agreed with her.
“I thought maybe only a handful of people would understand it, that it would just resonate with a couple of people in my bubble here,” she says. “As the days and months and years progressed, I realized there’s a lot of people that feel the same exact way as me, but don’t want to say it. Let’s face it, saying something to your phone, your camera, is a lot safer than actually saying it to people.”
Her followers dubbed her commentary style “Pinkysplaining.” And what’s interesting is those followers, though more than 5 million of them are on TikTok, are of all ages. TikTok, as we know, is largely Gen Z. But Patel’s other biggest platforms are Instagram and Facebook, where her stuff is being enjoyed by “elder Millennials,” as she puts it. Over there, she just hit one million followers.
Her generational gap-bridging humor caught the eye of an improv comedy club in Chicago. They were wondering: Did she want to try standup?
She went for it–and now, two years later, “I’m on my second comedy tour going across the nation, making women, people, whoever has the same life experiences as me, laugh,” she says.
We’ll let her tell you the rest below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: Nice to meet you! Give me a little bit of a rundown on where you’re from and your journey up to getting on TikTok.
Pinky Patel: Okay. Well, my name is Pinky Patel Patel. I’m based out of Illinois, specifically the Chicago area. This all started, came to fruition, whatever fancy words you want to use, during the pandemic when I started to get really frustrated with what I call my “roommates,” but they’re my family members. They just kept eating all the snacks that were definitely limited because everybody was buying groceries in bulk back then. There’s only a couple of things I like to snack on anyways. I decided to take that energy and unleash it onto the interwebs.
Over the course of the days, the weeks, the months, now the years, all my followers have dubbed it “Pinkysplaining,” which is really just dummy shaming people online. It’s people who are doing stupid stuff or saying stupid things, or if I saw something stupid at the grocery store, I would just hop online and make a video. In my reality, I thought maybe only a handful of people would understand it, that it would just resonate with a couple of people in my bubble here. As the days and months and years progressed, I realized there’s a lot of people that feel the same exact way as me, but don’t want to say it. Let’s face it, saying something to your phone, your camera, is a lot safer than actually saying it to people.
That’s how the videos started. It was just me being stupid, me mimicking my mom, because the conversations with her are definitely thought-provoking at times because it’s like, “What are you trying to say, woman?” Then it just evolved into somebody who is a general manager here at the Chicago improv comedy club was like, “You would do well with standup comedy.” I was like, “Are you crazy? Okay.”
Then I just did it. We jumped right into the deep end, and almost two years later, I’m on my second comedy tour going across the nation, making women, people, whoever has the same life experiences as me, laugh. It’s pretty enjoyable when I walk out on stage and I see all the people who took the effort to put crowns on. I specifically say people because it’s not just women in my audience.
Now, their husbands are coming and even they’re laughing. I point at them, I was like, “I got a man to laugh. I’m winning.” I say it to them on stage, what are they going to do? Come up? I hope they don’t pull a Will Smith, but it’s okay. It’s been pretty fun. Right now, I’m in the middle of a break just because I went pretty hard at the beginning of the year with the second tour, and then we’re going to start it up again in September. Yes, that’s me in a nutshell.
Tubefilter: That’s a lot to happen in two, three years. That’s wild.
Pinky Patel: It’s been a pretty wild ride and we’ve just been taking it one thing at a time. Whatever my team throws at me, we decide as a family if it can happen, it can’t, and then we proceed forward or we say, “No, thank you,” and we move on. That’s the luxury of doing this at my age versus being really young and trying to do this. My mentality is not hustle culture. I don’t do well with hustle culture. I need to absorb it. I need to enjoy the process, enjoy the journey. I don’t want to do this hustling, and then three years, five years later be like, “What did I just do in five years? What do I remember? Nothing. I barely slept.” That’s not what I want. It’s been working out.
Tubefilter: That’s good. I talk to so many creators who are so creative and so intelligent and so amazing. Then I see them getting swept up and like, “Oh, I have to put out four videos every single day. I have to drive myself into the ground to keep doing this or people are going to forget about me.” It’s like, “No, you’re so skilled. Just take a breath and people will still be there.”
Pinky Patel: Yes. What I realize a lot of people don’t understand is you have such a rotation of followers. You see the number, you go to your profile and you see the number, right? Well, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily that many people, the same people every day. You only get a percentage of those total followers come back. If you need to take a break, go back a couple of years, find a video that did really well, obviously, not like that was related to the hot topic at hand for that time period. You can reuse your work and you’re still going to be relevant. People will still find you funny. The ones that have been your OG followers from the beginning, they’ll be like, “Oh, my god, I remember that. That was hilarious.”
They won’t even be mad about it. The beginning of this year, I had to start doing that a little bit because my big thing is, I’m not going to sacrifice my mental health just for hustle culture. If mentally I’m not doing well, then it’s going to show in my content, it’s going to show in whatever I’m doing, whether it be content for fun or brand deals or whatever. If you have to go in your archives and pull old but gold, do it. No one’s going to say anything. If they do, maybe they’re not real followers and that’s okay. There’s eight billion people in the world. You’ll find somebody. You’ll find somebody.
Tubefilter: Absolutely. What were you doing before the pandemic hit? What was your career before this?
Pinky Patel: Well, before and then during as well because, a lot of hats, I was in the retail world. I worked for a major retail corporation here, a hardware retail corporation where we did a lot of the planning. You go into a Home Depot and you see the shelves and the product on the shelves and you’re like, “Oh, my god, somebody had to plan that.” It didn’t just haphazardly happened. There’s no wizard that did that. That’s the department I used to work in, but I was also the liaison with IT for that company. The software that we used, I had used that at different corporations. I became the subject matter expert. I did the corporate thing, I mastered it, and now I moved on to this.
Tubefilter: Then was there a point that you hit where you decided to go full-time on TikTok or go full-time into content? Was there a specific video?
Pinky Patel: It wasn’t the content that was driving the full-time. It definitely helped because that’s now part of my world. Last year, February of last year is when we decided that I needed to quit just because I couldn’t do the comedy tour and content and if there were interviews like this, there wasn’t enough days off for me to do everything. Something had to give.
One of the big things I’ve told my team is if something happens at home and I’m on the road or if something happens and I need to submit a video, my family comes first. I’m not going to sacrifice my family. I don’t get another set of family members. I couldn’t sacrifice that. I couldn’t sacrifice being a mom. I couldn’t sacrifice being a wife. What could I let go of? It was the day job, which let’s face it, I think I had reached the end of my point because as somebody who works in corporate, you realize when you need to move on either from that position or from that company. I was getting to the end of that. Between the content creation and then the comedy tour, it was perfect. I guess all my hard work paid off.
Tubefilter: If one thing has to give, the corporate job is probably the best thing to give.
Pinky Patel: Yes. With traveling so much, there was only a couple of days that I would be home where I would be able to help with PTA because I’m really involved in my kids’ PTA and stuff. That’s not something I was willing to sacrifice. This was bringing more, if not the same, then more income in. I was like, “It’s a no-brainer. Why are we even discussing this for three, four months?”
Then pulled the trigger last year. It was pretty interesting. I have it during this year’s show, so my audience gets to hear about it, but I found a lot of people had been following me, but they just didn’t know how to approach me. I was just like, “Did those glasses frames really fool you that much, and my Indian accent? Did you not know that Clark Kent is Superman either?” Like, “Did I just burst that bubble for you?” Yes, it was pretty funny.
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Tubefilter: When you did go full-time–I know you were basically already doing this full-time–how did things change for you? You do touring, you do content, you do podcasts, you do Cameo, too. How do you balance all of those?
Pinky Patel: That’s a really good question, James. I actually have no idea. I don’t know what I’m allowed to say and when I’m not, so if you have to take it out, that’s cool.
Tubefilter: Oh, sure.
Pinky Patel: I think I’ve heavily relied on extracurricular adult gummy bears to help me out with that.
Tubefilter: [laughs] No, that’s perfectly fine to say. We love an extracurricular gummy bear fan.
Pinky Patel: Okay, good. Joking aside, I have a really amazing support system obviously here at home. My husband, even though he still has his job, we rely heavily on the Google Calendar. Everybody has their own colors. I have my own. Sometimes on my calendar, I’ll block off hours at a time and call it content creation and I’ll go through videos that I want to stitch or some of it, you notice, if I make something in the car, that’s because I was out and about running errands and I noticed something and it just fired me up. I was like, “If I wait too long, I won’t have that same fire.”
I know that fire is what makes everybody giggle a little bit because I’m pretty– I know I’m silly when I’m mad because I’m just this tiny human being. When you see somebody tiny mad, think of a child, you start laughing. I get it. I get it. Anything in my car is super spontaneous, which I think it adds to the authenticity of my content. Anything you see in my Pinky cave, is obviously something that I might have been watching last night on any platform. I was like, “Ooh, it’ll be funny if I said this.” I was upstairs in my room and I didn’t want to go down three flights because I was being a lazy bum, that kind of stuff.
As far as– it’s the Google Calendar, everything is pretty much on there. If it’s on there, it’s happening. If it’s not on there, I don’t know about it and so we rely on it heavily. Everybody knows what their colors are. We even have the command center on the fridge, the actual paper calendar that’s as big as half my size. Again, everybody’s color coordinated. Everybody knows, if they have something they need to grab their color and put it on there, otherwise mommy doesn’t know about it and you’re not getting to practice. That’s what’s going to happen.
Tubefilter: That was something I wanted to ask too, was about your content planning. Do you have a set number of videos you want to post per day, per week? Or is it spontaneous?
Pinky Patel: Right now in the summer, it is really spontaneous. It’s super organic. It’s happening when it’s happening because we have a lot of family stuff going on in the summer, but when the tour starts up again and I’m going ham from week to week to week, usually I only have maybe two days, maybe three to make content. I’ll bank a lot of videos on that first or second day I’m home. I’ll take a good two, three hours and I’ll bank a couple of videos, I’ll change my outfits, I’ll change my crowns. Mostly just my crowns. Nobody cares what shirt I’m wearing, but my crowns. I have drafts, but if you go into my TikTok profile right now, I only have two drafts.
I refuse to have more than one or two and I get rid of them and then fill it up again and post again. It’s just that cycle. If I know I have stuff going on, I will bank videos when I’m free. If I don’t have stuff going on, then it’s super organic because I don’t want my audience to think that I’ve changed throughout the years of making content. I post when I want to and post when I think I need to. I feel like that’s helping to still show my authenticity to my followers, hopefully.
Tubefilter: For sure. Do you work with an editor or anybody or do you do everything yourself?
Pinky Patel: The only editor I have is those standup clips that you see online. I have a social media team that does that. I give them my shows, I upload my shows to them and then I give them timestamps of where I want them to cut it. I personally as a standup comedian don’t do a lot of crowd work. It terrifies me. The crowd work that I do is very pointed to superfans in the audience where I can tell they’re so happy to be there. They’re like little kids in a candy store because then I know that crowd work will work with them because they’re happy to be there. I don’t want to start doing crowd work with somebody who is not expecting it and now they’re embarrassed and all that stuff because I’m not out to make you feel bad unless you’re acting like a dummy. That’s the only time I want to make you feel bad.
No, that’s the only ones that are cut up, are my standup clips, because I don’t have time to sit there and cut up an hour long video, make it social media friendly, add the captions, all that stuff. I was like all right. That’s why last year there was nothing. Last year I didn’t have any standup clips and then this year we got onto a good cadence of doing two or three a week. They took last year’s show and they cut it up, so everything you see is from last year. Some of it is from this year and you can tell because it’s like I’m wearing the dresses versus my t-shirt and leggings.
That’s how you know, but yes, just my standup. I told the team that I didn’t want to relinquish all control because then it’s not me anymore. I was like, “This is what I need help with and that’s about it.” I still want to obviously create my own content, but I still want to post my own content and then cross post it to other platforms. I still want to do that because that’s what I enjoy doing from the beginning.
@pinkypatelofficialSouth Asian moms be like….♬ original sound – 🕉 PINKY 🇮🇳 PATEL 👑
Tubefilter: Yes, definitely. TikTok is your main platform. Is there anywhere else where you’re concentrating?
Pinky Patel: TikTok is where I normally start creating the videos because obviously, we’re exposed to everybody and anybody. You don’t have to follow certain people to see their content. That’s where I get my stitching ideas and stuff like that. Then my second heavy platform is Instagram/Facebook, because I know I’ve learned in the past year being on tour, the past year, year and a half, that a lot of my followers are my age. Let’s face it, a lot of people my age are still on Facebook. It is what it is. They come see me and then they become nicer, so it’s okay.
Tubefilter: You’re rehabilitating. It’s a public service.
Pinky Patel: I’m just making sure they’re not being stupid on Facebook, because let’s face it, that’s where people my age are stupid. It’s like, “You’re an elder millennial. Get the hell out of here.”
Tubefilter: It’s funny, I know a lot of people who try to do video on Facebook and really struggle with the reach. It’s interesting that you’re doing that successfully.
Pinky Patel: I was pretty shocked about it because cross-posting everywhere, I think my concentration now has to be YouTube because we know that they do shorts and stuff. Getting into the habit of posting everywhere because I might have maybe 20 to 30% of my followers follow me on all the platforms the same, but the rest of it is so different. There are different demographics or different purposes, whoever follows me on Instagram is more for more in like the influencer world. I’m like, “You see what I look like on your screen?” Unless I’m influencing you to look like me, which is hot garbage, then that’s great.
Tubefilter: You have to give yourself more credit.
Pinky Patel: I’m just saying in my brain, Instagram is more like the polished version. When I have nice things, I know– You can ask my manager afterwards, when we first started working, she was like, “Can you send me analytics for your Instagram stories?” I’m like, “What? What? Stories? What is that?” When I have stuff going on, I’ll give people a glimpse into my personal life. Recently I’ve been posting all the things I’ve been doing to help my best friend with her son’s wedding, like chocolate covered strawberries, all that stuff, so it’s more polished, the Instagram.
I’ve been shocked across the board, people are like, “Oh, my god, I saw you on Facebook. Oh, my god, I saw you on Instagram.” I’m like, oh, my god, this is amazing. I have all the people, I’ll take them all and give them a hug. It’s great.
Tubefilter: It’s wild to me that you’re doing really well on TikTok and you’re doing really well on Facebook, which are like opposite ends of the age spectrum.
Pinky Patel: Yes, I know. It’s crazy. It’s working.
Tubefilter: Which is surprising. I feel like a lot of people feel like maybe they can’t target more than one demographic and it just seems like it’s naturally happened with you.
Pinky Patel: I think this whole journey has been definitely organic and it’s definitely just, if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. I know speaking with a lot of other people who are content creators, I don’t know what it is, but they’re so focused on trying to be successful in one area and then, like you said, they try to reach out into another platform and they just can’t do it. Then maybe you’re just trying a little too hard. It’s that whole scenario where a couple wants a baby and they’re trying so hard and they don’t get pregnant, and then the one time they don’t try and now they have triplets and you’re just like, “What happened?”
Tubefilter: I feel like people can feel that stress when creators are worried.
Pinky Patel: Really recently a lot of people have been stressed out about the algorithms on TikTok and Instagram and Facebook and here and there. I’m just like, “Is this in your control? Is the algorithm in your control?” If it’s not, then you can’t do anything about it so why are you sitting here stressing out about it? Go outside and have a walk or something. I don’t know. Go for a jog, go watch a movie, go do something to get your mind off of it because it’s not in your control the algorithm.
If you’re putting out good content and you know it’s no different than the content you put out four months ago when it was doing well, then you just have to let it go. You have to just trust the process as they say, because if you don’t, you’re going to pull your hair out, and that’s not good for anybody.
Tubefilter: You mentioned touring, but do you have any other plans or goals for the next year or so?
Pinky Patel: Yes, this year, the second tour, going to get back into it, finesse some of the funny pieces from last year’s tour because I think we’re going to try to…The goal is to be able to shoot a one-hour special next year. I don’t know for who yet, but that’s the goal, which involves me obviously getting my pieces, my bits down. Right now we’re toying with what the whole theme of that special is going to be.
I think we’ve landed on just my whole thing from the beginning and since the dawn of time from 1980 when I was born, is that you’re more than a mom, and that’s been my whole entire thing since forever, watching my own mom struggle with her roles in this new world that she found herself in America, seeing my friends, who are moms, myself. It’s like, just because we popped out a child, that doesn’t mean that’s our whole persona. You’re allowed to have your own interests, you’re allowed to have your own hobbies, you’re allowed to be your own person, have your own friends that don’t involve your significant other, right? You’re allowed to be your own person.
My whole message has always been, “You’re more than a mom. Go act like it. Your kids don’t have to be the end-all be-all.” We’re hoping that’s where it goes next year but one project at a time. I know a lot of people like to have a lot of balls in the air that they’re juggling and stuff, and I’m like, “I already have enough of that with my personal life.” Between the content creating, like you said, with Cameos and brand deals and the comedy tour, I think we’re good right now.
@pinkypatelofficial There’s no stopping me #cleveland #movingonup #mein23 #desicomedian #femaleindiancomedian #pinkypatelofficial #priends #standupcomedy #comedy #comedian #standup #standupcomedian #tour #live #show ♬ original sound – 🕉 PINKY 🇮🇳 PATEL 👑
Tubefilter: Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
Pinky Patel: No. I like to say I’m an open book, but I’m really not because I don’t post personal stuff online.
Pinky Patel: I think people are realizing why I don’t do it, especially in recent months that we’ve been hearing about people have been bigger advocates of not putting their kids online and stuff like that, and so slowly but surely people are understanding my craziness, my need to put stickers over my kids’ faces and stuff like that. I save a lot of the personal stuff for my shows because in my brain, social media is free. I used to be a content consumer like a majority of our followers, then I flipped roles and became that creator.
Knowing that social media is free, I don’t want to just give you everything because if I give you everything on social media and there’s no mystery left, then you’re not going to want to come to my shows, but because I’m also a fellow parent, knowing the amount of time it takes to coordinate babysitters and just coordinating with your friends. How many times do you try to go out to dinner with even just one other friend and it takes months on end just to figure out your schedules? Are they jiving? Are they not? Hopefully you don’t have to cancel last minute because something happened.
Knowing that people are putting their time into coming to see me, their effort, their money because they’re paying for a ticket. Sometimes if you saw these people, James, from the stage, they have crowns on, they have bows on, they have the sunglasses trying to mimic my– They’re putting money into their outfits and stuff. They’re having the time of their lives so the stages where I give you a little bit more of myself, but social media is there to give you a free serotonin hint because let’s face it, not all of us can afford a therapist. If watching my videos makes you laugh to where you don’t want to murder people and eat a sleeve of Oreo cookies and get diabetes, then I’m all for it. I love it.
Tubefilter: [laughs] I feel like Oreos, probably better than murder.
Pinky Patel: Yes, yes, yes, yes, because you don’t get Oreos in jail. You probably get the gluten-free ones in jail because nobody buys those, so you get cardboard ones. It’s horrible. It’s horrible.
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