For calling (and filming) her own shots in the online video economy.
Grace Helbig's YouTube series, itsGrace, a comedic one-woman talk-show confessional, has attracted 1.7 million subscribers since launching in January. For context, that's halfway to Jimmy Kimmel's 4 million, without a single celebrity guest.
Fast Company: How did you start vlogging?
Helbig: I was auditioning for TV and film and doing sketch and improv comedy. YouTube happened by happy accident. It was just a hobby that became a career.
You'd built a huge following at MyDamnChannel. Then you left late last year. Why?
It was a scary transition. MyDamnChannel was so helpful. But having ownership of my own content was valuable to me, so I took a risk to see if people would follow me to my own platform. And they did.
You interact with your fans every day. Who is your audience?
It's young females, ages 13 to 30. They're silly and awkward and supersmart. Looking directly into the lens, in my own home, you learn that media is personal. My brand is that I'm the girl who feels like your awkward older sister—who doesn't know what she's doing but is trying to help you figure it out while she does too.
What's the hardest part of interacting directly with fans?
That they are smart. They can see your bullshit, and they will call you out on it. You can't pretend to be perfect.
You starred in the comedy Camp Takota, which came out last February—and you sold it directly to your fans. Were they buying?
It was such a fun, weird, complete experiment to see if we could cross over from YouTube videos to more traditional media with digital distribution. We shot it in three weeks, released it less than a year later, and broke even on our budget in four days.
What's the future of online video?
I have no fucking clue. Rather than try to find out the trajectory of new media, I'm just trying to make the most intelligent shart jokes I can.