Meet the YouTube creator that's making a difference for young girls
To many, social media may sometimes seem like a horrible, dark place, but Anna Akana is hoping to use social platforms to make a difference in young girls' lives.
When Akana was just 13-years-old her sister committed suicide, and after finding YouTube and other social media platforms she has vowed to help young girls struggling with depression and self-harm. Akana has also covered other topics like self-confidence and feminist issues.
With over 1.7M followers on her YouTube channel, it's not hard to see that Akana's message has resonated with many out there. More recently, Akana has been involved with more than social media -- she's acted in TV shows like MTV's Awkward, Films like Ant Man, and has also produced short films.
#YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases rising talents. To see more past interviews, including more features on Anna Akana, click here.
A lot of your users know your story about why you started on YouTube, so how did you make the decision to let it all out there on the internet?
I always wonder if my sister had watched Grace Helbig or Lily Singh if she would have ever second guessed killing herself. I remember when I was at the DMV I was recognized by this young 15-year-old girl and she started almost crying and told me that she was really suicidal doing self-harm. But she told me that she saw a video of mine and that it really made a difference in my life. That was the first time I realized what I do isn't jerking off to the wind on the internet. It's real, substantial and it can actually effect a person. You see numbers and comment online but it never really feels tangible in any way. I made the decision after seeing that, that I really want to make a difference in some young girl's lives. Ultimately, I feel like honesty is the best thing I can do for other people because otherwise I would just keep it all in and I become a very bitter person.
Can you explain what you mean when you say that you consider your YouTube videos to be a collection of your own journals?
A lot of the time when I'm brainstorming ideas I have to look through my journal to figure out what I just went through. I use it to find advice or knowledge I have to impart, and what experiences really affected me in any way. So a lot of things that I talk about online are true. They might be truncated versions to fit in a 2 minute video but almost all of them are inspired by real events or real interactions with my friends and strangers in the real world.
What was running through your mind when you first went viral?
The first time I ever went viral was on 'How to Put on Your Face' which was a satirical makeup tutorial parody where I was talking about inner beauty while applying my makeup. That was one of the first ideas for a video I ever had but never did it because I thought it was so dumb, and then four years later I couldn't think of anything so I did that one I had been saving. So, I did it and of course it's my most viewed video, which pissed me off because it's always the ones you put so much work into and think really hard about, then people are like 'oh whatever.' Of course the one where I was like 'oh I guess i'll just do this' ended up going huge. That was fun in a way, and it also taught me a great lesson in terms of what brand I have, or what in my voice speaks to people. I kind of realized that me being optimistic, but funny, with a message is really what I communicate well.
You are a woman of color on YouTube platforms, and there's not a lot of those kind of figure heads or role models for young women -- so how did you take on this voice for women who are not necessarily represented?
It's great because on YouTube there's no barriers, and there's no one to tell me that I should be white to be able to play a lead in a story so I mean thanks to go90 I was almost both leads in Miss 2059. So I do feel a sense of responsibility, especially after working in this business and seeing how much sexism and racism is actually prevalent in it. I always try to, as well when I control a set, make sure people of color and women are represented in front of and behind the camera because that is a cause that I am very passionate about.
What's one piece of advice you wished you received before you started your career in media?
It's all about the voice. It's all about the comedic voice. I had a year or two where I deterred from things I wanted to make by trying to create things that I thought would go viral, or that would appeal to a broad audience. I really wished I had stuck to saying what I wanted to say and being unique to myself.
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