‘I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of sharing one’s life world-wide’

Oceanside valedictorian Gabby Simmons uses YouTube to showcase passion for creating content

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 8:00pm

BOSTON — From early on in her life, 2018 Oceanside High School graduate and valedictorian Gabby Simmons has known she has wanted to be an entrepreneur, though her latest passion of being a YouTuber has blossomed substantially since she uploaded her first video at the start of August 2018. 

“I’ve always known I wanted to be my own boss in life, take on entrepreneurship, and avoid corporate America and a 9-5 at all costs,” she said. 

After her 2022 graduation from Bentley University in Boston, Simmons, a rising sophomore, plans on moving to Southern California. There, she plans on diving further into the entertainment business either working in film production or, ideally, being a full-time content creator on YouTube. (With the entertainment business so crowded, she does have some aspirations to also be involved in real estate.) 

“Three years ago today I would’ve told you I was going to be a lawyer or be on Big Brother,” she said, while noting she is holding out hope for the latter. “But regardless, so much has happened in the past three years, I can only imagine what will happen the next [three years].”

Simmons, who has been recording videos since she was young, knew for years she would start her own YouTube channel ever since being a content creator on the Google-owned platform started gaining rising popularity several years ago. 

Being a vlogger on YouTube continues to rise in popularity with a recent survey finding approximately 30 percent of kids ages 8-12 in the United States and United Kingdom wanting to be a vlogger.

A 2016 Think with Google analysis reported 70% of teenagers said they relate more to YouTubers than traditional celebrities and four in 10 millennials said their favorite YouTuber understands them better than their friends. 

Creating content on YouTube has become so popular that YouTube itself says the videos on its platform, on mobile alone, reach more people in the United States than any television network. 

“I watch YouTube more than one person probably should,” Simmons admitted. “I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of sharing one’s life world-wide in hopes of helping others by being relatable or just entertaining.” 

Being able to be vulnerable and put one’s life on display to potentially millions of viewers is bold, Simmons said, which is exactly what inspires her about uploading content to the platform.

“You have to be a little weird and crazy to [be a YouTuber] and that is what I’m all about,” she stated. “The number one [trait] though, is that you have to believe in yourself — having full faith that what you are putting out to the world is positive. These are all the reasons I started a YouTube channel. I noticed these things throughout the years, and every aspect of doing YouTube appealed to me — the vulnerability, creativity, and, of course, the editing.”

Behind the Videos

Simmons draws the inspiration behind her videos from a combination of what type of videos are trendy at the time on the platform (such as her “Letting the Person in Front of Me Decide What I Eat for 24 Hours” video) and her own unique spin on content uploaded by other YouTubers.

“Sometimes it takes a solo drive, sunset, and freed head space to just let ideas flow,” she said. “For me, I always place myself in the shoes of a viewer — what do I like most about the people I’m subscribed to? And I shift that energy and replicate what I like most about the people I follow. Positivity, uniqueness, and being your unapologetic self is what I strongly believe so many people are drawn to!”

The inspiration behind Simmons’ style of editing is sourced from rapidly-rising YouTube star Emma Chamberlain, an 18-year-old boasting more than 8.3 million subscribers that Simmons referred to as a creator with crops and edits that are a driving force on the platform.

“[Chamberlain] could watch paint dry and still make it funny and engaging just through her goofy edits alone,” Simmons said. “Her editing has inspired me immensely!”

In fact, Simmons recently altered the type of content she uploads based largely on new inspiration from Chamberlain and Hannah Meloche (1.8 million subscribers).

“I was like: ‘You know what. I’m not showing the real me! I’m not being the crazy, goofy me that I really am,” Simmons said of her decision to adapt to a new style of videos. “So the past couple months I’ve taken a complete turn and adapted a more fast-paced vlogging style. And people seem to like it! I certainly enjoy not having to be so picturesque.”

Asked to describe her style as a content creator, Simmons noted her style is still in the making since she’s been uploading to YouTube for just barely more than a year, though she found ‘week in the life’ and ‘day in the life’ style videos, especially college themed ones, are successful.

Over the next three years at Bentley, Simmons plans to continue producing more college-themed videos, on top of adventurous, out-of-the-box videos such as challenges and her new bucket list series, a series highlighting her journey to complete 56 summer bucket list items.

“I just want to be crazy and creative, and inspire my viewers to be the same,” she said. “There’s a little crazy in all of us, and I love drawing it out of people!”

The hardest part of being a content creator on YouTube, she said, is the transformation the creator’s life undergoes as their channel grows, resulting in the creator having to share more about their life — with no secrets.

“The greatest, most influential YouTubers share all aspects of their lives — from where they live, what their home looks like to their family, friends, and everything you could think of,” she noted. “What makes a great YouTuber is their ability to show all aspects of their life. People want realness and rawness. Someone’s set of subscribers are their little family, and with family you can’t have secrets! Or all hell breaks loose!” 

On top of showing all aspects of life, from the great to the ugly, creating content on social media becomes a business.

“Say I were to grow significantly larger and profit off the platform, now my channel is not just my every-day-life, it’s my business,” Simmons said. “Now every little life decision you make is also a business transaction since you’re now in the public eye.”

Though Simmons is passionate about the videos she uploads, she admits she struggles with consistency.

“Consistency is key on the platform, and when you don’t have a heavy following that is giving you ideas, supporting you, and reassuring you that they’re waiting for your next video, then it can be tough to feel motivated enough to create all the time,” she admitted. “I have so many ideas, but I certainly struggle with posting the same time each week. Sometimes other things in my life like work or school get in the way, and that is something I’m working on. I really want to just get a high-quality video out once a week that I’m proud of!”

For Simmons, the creative outlet YouTube provides her is the best part of being a content creator as the platform allows her to step out of the shadows and showcase her authentic self.

“I’d have to say being able to be in control, manage, and have such a wonderful platform as a creative outlet is the best part,” she said. “I clutter my brain with crazy ideas about the meaning of life and ways to make it better that I think it might just explode! YouTube allows me to articulate my wild, sporadic thoughts while helping others or just making them laugh! I’ve certainly found comfort in standing out among my peers.”

Periodically, Simmons pulls up an Excel spreadsheet on her laptop where she will jot down future video ideas and a timeline of when each video will appear on her channel.

She is quick to note, however, many of the videos on the spreadsheet never get filmed since by the time it is time for her to film the video, she has come up with a new idea, which sometimes involves video trends currently popular on the platform.

She spends anywhere from a day to a week filming her videos, depending on what type of content she needs for the video.

At the end of each filming day, she transfers her footage to Final Cut Pro on her laptop for editing days.

On the days she edits, which immediately follow her last day of filming, she wakes up at 5 a.m. to start the four-to-eight hour editing process that sees her trim down an hour’s worth of footage to a roughly 12-19 minute video.

“Anyone that watches my videos knows they are highly edited,” she commented. “It may seem tedious (and it is), but I really do love every second of it. Editing videos is where I get to be creative and use my imagination. Every clip raises the question: ‘How can I make this more engaging, more fun, and more entertaining for my viewers?’”

Simmons, who self-taught editing, is then tasked with clearing her laptop’s storage space to allow for the two gigabytes of storage required to upload the video to YouTube. The video will render to YouTube in about an hour and then YouTube will process the video for another half-hour. From there, Simmons lets the video sit on private mode, only available to her, so the video can transform into high-definition.

There is no rest, however, for Simmons while playing the waiting game for the video to be ready to be made public.

While waiting for the video to be fully uploaded onto the platform, she needs to create a thumbnail for the video, a video description, an end screen, and cards to subtly appear at precisely-timed moments throughout the video recommending some of her other videos viewers may wish to watch.

Before switching the video’s settings from private to public, Simmons will watch the video once more to ensure she’s satisfied with it.

From there, the video becomes viewable to her subscribers and Simmons is preparing for next week’s video, while also monitoring the video’s feedback from her channel’s subscribers, who tune in for her weekly uploads from around the world.

“I [...] cannot stress enough the joy it brings me to get [direct messages] from people all around the world telling me they appreciated one of my videos or I made them laugh,” she said. “There’s no better feeling in the world than making others happy! It’s so cliche but I live by it!”

Although Simmons only has a hair over 500 subscribers (a summer bucket list item was to hit 500 subscribers), third-party social media tracking website SocialBlade projects Simmons to have double her current amount of subscribers by June 2020 and 4,000 subscribers within five years.

Though, as Simmons pointed out, one can never predict what will happen on the platform.

“All it takes is one video to get big and all of a sudden you have a thriving YouTube channel with tons of engagement,” she said, while noting she, at times, feels she is in Hollywood awaiting her big break.

Simmons’ top goal is to continue creating, regardless of if she can turn her YouTube videos into a career on the platform since she loves the production, editing and creating aspects behind her videos.

“This is 100% my passion, and I won’t stop pursuing what’s in my heart,” she stated. “I’m committing to the process without fear. Fear completely collapses the imagination! If I could just be a visionary like that my entire life, I’d be the happiest person in the world.”

An Unconventional Life

In life, Simmons constantly finds herself being an unconventional outsider, always on a different timeline than her peers.

“I’m always so strong-willed and passionate for all that I believe in,” she said. “I like to question and challenge the status quo. I like change — drastic change! I’ll always be the first one to stand up and speak my unpopular opinion.”

Simmons, in fact, prefers to seek what has yet to be done rather than what has already been achieved.

“I see so many people just stick to the ordinary road and cling to the status quo,” she stated. “I am the complete opposite. I kind of have a rebellious side and question everything. I don’t know why I’m like this. I just think it’s my nature.”

Being able to say she had a quote-unquote normal teenage experience, Simmons said, is something she will never be able to proclaim, something she said has set her back in many ways, but also ahead in many ways.

“Growing up I focused so much on being perfect and somewhat trying to prove myself and my talents,” she said. “This caused a major ‘single-minded’ mentality where I believed I could accomplish anything by myself. Although it led to many amazing accomplishments in my life like becoming valedictorian and excelling in sports — I missed out on the ‘team’ aspect of life that is so beautiful and challenging at the same time.”

When it comes to friendships, Simmons has been apprehensive to have a large amount of friends and has maintained a selectively small, but supportive, group of friends.

“I haven’t met many people that I feel comfortable to be myself around and who are genuinely nice and don’t want to just be popular and chase the crowd,” she commented. “I hate being so critical, but I pour my heart out to the people I love. It takes a lot out of me, so I’m not just going to give that to people who don’t reciprocate it.”

Interestingly, at only five years old Simmons vowed to be vegetarian.

“I stormed up to my mom and declared that I was never going to eat meat again because it was an animal and I didn’t want to kill animals,” she said. “Of course for a little while I got lied to about what some things were and my parents got away with it because of words like ‘bacon’ or ‘beef.’”

Since graduating high school, traveling has become a significant aspect of life for Simmons. In fact, within days of her high school graduation, she was on a plane to visit a friend in Spain.

Simmons, so far, has explored Paris, London, Spain, Rome and the Dominican Republic. Down the road, she intends on exploring more of California, after recently adventuring through the Los Angeles area, and visiting more parts of the world. As a former basketball player, Simmons intends on traveling to New Orleans to watch Zion Williamson play in his inaugural professional basketball season as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. 

“I believe traveling is the best way to learn, be cultured, and grow as an individual,” she said. “There’s no better way to clear your head space than hopping in a plane or car and just taking a break from your routine.”

While Simmons prefers traveling alone, she noted traveling by herself allows her to reflect on life more than ever before and compare what life is to what life could be.

“Traveling brings to the forefront all the parts of your life you’re missing that you never knew you needed,” she stated.

Asked to provide advice to high school students, Simmons advises creating an unwavering list of priorities.

“It’s so easy in the fast-paced world we live in to be on the go 24/7 and never learn to sit with your own thoughts,” she said. “The ‘I’ll sleep when I die’ mentality is so toxic. Being able to reflect on your life, where you’ve been, and where you are going is paramount. Take time to sit in silence with your own thoughts!”

Reach George Harvey at: sports@penbaypilot.com