The growing popularity of the Internet in general and YouTube specifically have opened the door for a new generation of Asian Americans to become the producers of their own culture, enabling young Asian Americans with limited time, experience, and funds to distribute their content to viewers all over the world. The work of several such young Asian American YouTube video creators has become so popular that they have been catapulted into the role of "YouTube celebrities," boasting spots on the top of YouTube's all time most subscribed list and receiving recognition from fans and even the larger media community. These YouTube celebrities have used YouTube, blogs, and social networking websites to interact both with each other and with their fans, resulting in the forging of a larger online community. For many, including my fiancé (an avid fan), these young Asian Americans who have opted to represent themselves provide a refreshing break from the mass media's stereotypical and limited portrayals of Asian Americans and serve as role models for our generation.
Specific personalities that come to mind include (and I will refer to them by their YouTube account names) kevjumba, nigahiga, HappySlip, and davidchoimusic.
With over 100,000 subscribers, kevjumba, a Chinese American, is ranked number 3 on YouTube's all time most subscribed list and number 1 on its list of all time most subscribed comedians. kevjumba draws on his Chinese American heritage as well as on his everyday life for subject matter in his short comedy sketches.
Also topping 100,000 subscribers, Japanese American nigahiga is ranked fourth on YouTube's all time most subscribed list (second for all time most subscribed comedians). nigahiga is famous for his parody sketches, such as his line of "how to" videos on topics such as "How to be Emo," "How to be Gangster," and "How to be a Ninja."
Not far behind at number 5 all time most subscribed (number 3 in all time most subscribed directors) is Filipino American HappySlip. Famous for her impersonations of her family and for her humorous parody renditions of popular songs, HappySlip is one of the few top users to edit, write, direct, star in, and produce all of her shorts. She is a big name in the community, and was even selected to be featured at the 2007 Imprint media conference focusing on Asian American and urban culture. In the true spirit of community, HappySlip frequently pairs up with real-life friend kevjumba in her videos.
Finally, at number 41 (number 10 most subscribed all time musicians) is Korean American davidchoimusic, a real-life music producer known for his renditions of popular songs (as well as a few of his own) on guitar and vocals. He is also famous for not smiling, a fact which had prompted much prodding by his fans, as well as a popular video with HappySlip in which she tries to get him to finally smile on camera (but to no avail). davidchoimusic was also invited to perform at the 2007 Imprint media conference, which is where he met HappySlip in the first place.
Together these young Asian American media makers (along with others) are helping to redefine Asian American culture and what it means to be Asian American.