Video: Norfolk YouTube sensations Tanya Burr, Jim Chapman, The Lean Machines and Pixiwoo talk about their online success
With just a camera and an internet connection, dozens of new young stars are reaching millions of people every month with the videos they post online.
Their vlogs – video blogs - and social media presence offers followers a glimpse into their lives, making these new celebrities more accessible, and influential, than their mainstream counterparts. Reporter Lauren Cope talks to the Norfolk people who have found success from posting videos online.
Tanya Burr is probably as close to being a household name as anyone from YouTube can be.
With her own make up line, a column in Grazia magazine, regular appearances on the red carpet and meet-ups which are so busy they cause safety concerns, it’s accurate to say that Tanya’s career has been propelled into the mainstream.
Although her celebrity make up tutorials and lifestyle vlogs are now watched by nearly two million followers, the 24-year-old’s YouTube career started when she left school without any plans.
After asking for advice from friend Sam Chapman, she decided to invest in a make up artist course and set up her own YouTube channel.
Working simultaneously on a beauty counter in Jarrold, Tanya posted celebrity looks in step-by-step tutorials.
Tanya, who lives in Norwich, said: “I quickly fell in love with the creative process of filming and editing my own videos. I also loved all the feedback I was getting from my growing viewers and being able to interact with them was amazing.”
The channel started to grow after an outtake was missed in the editing process.
“Viewers could really see my personality and asked for me to include more silly bits like that in my videos,” she said.
From there Tanya branched into making lifestyle videos, where followers can see snippets of her life. She now has nearly two million subscribers, but said she “always makes time to chat to them on Twitter”.
Earlier this year, Tanya launched Tanya Burr’s Lips and Nails. It will be stocked in Superdrug from April 9 and has already sold well online.
She describes the line as her “greatest achievement yet”.
“It’s so exciting to see girls posting pictures wearing my collection,” she added.
Tanya plans to focus on YouTube videos, but admits that expanding her presence in the beauty world is a goal she would love to fulfil.
She said: “In a dream world, I would eventually have a Tanya Burr make up counter.”
Watch Tanya’s videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/pixi2woo
Jim’s YouTube journey started five years ago after an unusual transformation into Twilight heart-throb Edward Cullen.
After appearing in a video on fiancée Tanya Burr’s channel, where he temporarily became the pale-faced vampire, Jim, 26, decided to start his own channel.
“I had graduated from university and was working in a job that I didn’t really enjoy. At the time, Tanya was already making videos and was really enjoying them,” he said.
Now his channel, where he posts videos on life, love and fashion for men, has over 1.3m followers, although its purpose is still “simply to entertain you for five minutes on a Friday evening”, he said.
A further 500,000 followers on Twitter ensure that the Old Buckenham-born entertainer makes a living out of talking to his followers, who he affectionately nicknames best friends.
Jim, who now lives in Norwich, said: “It all kind of snowballed really swiftly. It seems that the larger my channel becomes, the quicker it grows. I’m not really too sure when it started to grow specifically, but I’m glad it did!”
He added that his newfound success has changed “pretty much everything” that he does. He said: “It ranges from the simple things like the clothes I buy, to the incredible trips I get to take to meet my viewers and other presenting roles on YouTube.”
Soon, Jim will face a new challenge when he becomes a familiar face on our television screens as a judge on new ITV show, Viral Tap, a panel show which will look at the week’s event using online clips.
Jim said: “I’m really excited about Viral Tap! I was in a meeting about it recently and I genuinely think that it’s going to be a ground breaking show.”
Although YouTube will always be the top priority, Jim said he is open to pursuing other opportunities.
He added: “YouTube is where I’m from and it allows all the freedom I could ask for. My goal is to keep growing my channel, but also look for and remain open to new opportunities that may be in more mainstream, traditional media.
“In today’s industry there is no reason why it has to be one or the other.”
Jim’s channel is at https://www.youtube.com/user/j1mmyb0bba
The newest Chapman to start making videos is 26-year-old John.
A personal trainer by day, John, twin brother to Jim, and whose sisters are Samantha and Nicola, started his fitness channel at the end of 2012 with fellow trainer and best friend Leon Bustin, also 26.
The duo, who call themselves The Lean Machines, post exercise, diet and lifestyle videos which are already watched by nearly 140,000 followers.
John, who was born in Old Buckenham and now lives in Norwich, said that the idea to set up their own channel came as a way of giving them an edge.
“The personal trainer market is competitive. We didn’t expect much to start with but it has picked up,” he added.
After a few months, a point came where the friends decided whether to go topless during filming.
John said: “We debated doing it for the first time. Sam encouraged us to – it is obviously helpful to viewers to see what the end product might be.”
The fitness expert said that making videos around being a personal trainer is another full time job in itself.
He said: “There’s a lot of time spent on filming and editing of the videos and a lot spent on the social media that comes with it. You spend a lot of time replying to comments and emails on YouTube.
“People almost think of you as their friends, as if they know you. They’ll email you really personal stuff and ask for advice. It’s incredible.”
Visit John and Leon’s channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/TheLeanMachines
Samantha and Nicola Chapman
Over the last six years, Sam and Nic, better known as the Pixiwoos, have become amongst the most respected make-up artists on the internet.
The fully trained sisters have worked with an impressive list of celebrity clients, started their own courses, released a make up brush line and collected millions of loyal fans along the way.
But their tips, tutorials and celebrity inspired videos only started in 2008 when Sam, who was eight months pregnant with her second daughter at the time, attempted to explain a make up look to a friend.
Sam, 36, said: “Someone asked me how to do a quick smoky eye. I didn’t think people could follow it if I wrote it down, so I made a video. I had no idea that you could make money out of it at the time.
“I put the video up and a bunch of other people watched it.”
Soon after, Nic, 33, started helping out with other requests they received.
The sisters, who have four children between them, found that the distance between Norwich and London, where Nic was living, was becoming a problem.
Nic said: “For two years we didn’t make a penny. Then I moved back to Norwich and gave up work and that’s when we started to earn money. We’d take it in turns to shoot videos between Jeremy Kyle episodes.”
One and a half million people aged mainly from 16 to 65 now watch the girls’ videos, meaning they have to cater for a wide audience.
Their variety of make up looks include one for those living with cancer, Halloween tutorials and, one of their most popular videos to date, a drag make up look.
“It’s so interesting to see how many people it helps,” Nic said.
When they hit 30,000 subscribers, the sisters, who were born in Old Buckenham and now live in Norwich, were contacted by an American company hoping to start a make up brush line.
After a year in the making, the Real Techniques brushes were launched and, now, they are the most popular in the UK.
Sam said: “We never thought it would get to the point where we were told we were the number one brush company.”
“Every time you bring out another brush you hope people will support it, and they have been great,” Nic added.
However, the sisters are picky with which products they choose to promote in the interests of protecting their reputation.
Sam said: “We don’t want to undermine ourselves just because we are getting paid to say we like a product. Our audiences don’t care about that anyway. They like us to be genuine - we made videos with Simon Cowell and Lulu and no-one was interested,” she said.
Instead, they focus on being the best in their field and producing high quality videos - which take eight hours to produce from start to finish, despite the final product only being 15 minutes long.
When asked about how the family have coped going through the YouTube journey together, Sam said: “It’s good – we all support each other. It is annoying on a Sunday lunch time though – there’s need for a phone amnesty!”
To watch any of the Pixiwoos’ videos, visit https://www.youtube.com/user/pixiwoo