Emma Chamberlain—the improbably famous 18-year-old YouTuber with over 8.57 million subscribers, 8.5 million Instagram followers, 2.8 million Twitter followers and a branded partnership with Louis Vuitton—is Cosmopolitan’s latest cover star. Within the first few paragraphs of the profile, Chamberlain says the following: “I think the word ‘influencer’ is kind of disgusting,” she says, perhaps momentarily disregarding that she is, in fact, a very wealthy influencer. “Let’s use me as an example: If someone is calling me an influencer, they’re saying that my job is to influence, and I don’t think that’s true. I prefer to entertain and be a friend. I don’t want to influence.”
Technically, being a YouTuber on a regimented schedule that requires regular uploads makes Chamberlain a Content Creator first and foremost, but make no mistake: She’s an influencer. (If that is not immediately apparent, allow this detail to solidify it: her current Instagram bio links not to her videos but to her recently launched single-serve coffee line. A month’s worth of the roast sets the consumer back $60. That’s expensive, and the kind of inflated pricing only an influencer could convince people to spend.) And yet, Chamberlain has always been celebrated for her performed authenticity—she is self-deprecating in a way almost all successful YouTubers are, but also braves criticism through irreverent humor. She often won’t wear makeup in her vlogs, while her contemporaries are often all done up, and going bare-faced in the midst of her adolescence resonated with those she was primarily influencing: adolescents. She is “aspirational” now, but in her earliest YouTube days she was simply “relatable,” which makes her anti-influencer comment all the more accessible and celebratory to her audience.
Chamberlain saying she thinks the term “influencer” is “disgusting” is similar to an esteemed actor saying they hate the word “celebrity.” Divorcing themselves from their obvious fame and privilege tends to resonate with the public. Who doesn’t love a humble king? Or in this case, teen?