It started with a Ke$ha parody and led to comedy skits, vlogs, The Exposed Tour and its upcoming second leg in the US. TenEighty talks to one of YouTube’s cutest couples, Rose Ellen Dix and Rosie Spaughton, about their origins, tour stories and their public private life.
It was 2011, and Rose Ellen Dix was studying film and screen media at university. As part of her course, one of the modules challenged students to see if they could make a video go viral. “This was before YouTube was a way for you to make money and have a career, so this was just a place for people to be creative, to post things they wanted to create,” she explains.
Rose created a parody of Tik Tok by Ke$ha, thinking it might be searchable. Within five days, it gained more than 16,000 views while her peers were receiving 80 views or less. Surprised by its success, she continued making videos as a hobby. “If I had any stupid quirky ideas, I just whacked them online,” says Rose.
In her third year of university, Rose met Rosie Spaughton through a mutual group of friends. They began dating, and started making videos together on Rose’s channel. Rose says, “We kept making videos because it was fun, and I also used it as an excuse to see Rosie.”
With a small but loyal audience, they decided to continue the channel after university, with no expectations of turning it into a career. It wasn’t until April 2014 – two years after they started making videos together – that Rose realised she wanted to go full-time with YouTube, and quit her job at the Apple store. “It got to the point where I was struggling to do both – my work and my hobby – as much as I wanted to. It was a big decision, a risky decision, but I decided to give up my job.”
Rosie supported her choice. “[Rose] couldn’t put the same amount of effort into both,” she explains. “Videos take time, with filming and editing. And when you’re working nine to five, sometimes longer, five days a week and you’ve only got two days to film then you want some time off… something has to give. Obviously it was a risk but [she] had to follow [her] passion.”
Rosie stayed at her job, working in social media marketing, until she took time off for their wedding two years ago – and she never went back. For Rosie, the decision was clear after the duo auditioned to present The Xtra Factor and reached the final five. “That was the time our manager said ‘you should quit your job and move to London, because you have all these opportunities’,” she recalls.
New opportunities and sudden channel growth can be quite difficult to navigate for even the most seasoned YouTubers, but what’s more impressive is how Rose and Rosie did this while starting their relationship. “We did our first video on our second or third date,” explains Rosie, “you can track our entire relationship online, from our engagement to our wedding to wanting children.”
Rose laughs: “You can literally watch our entire lesbian relationship – it’s quite funny!”
The majority of their videos are uploaded to Rose’s channel, while Rosie has her own vlogging channel, TheRoxetera. Was there ever a plan to make Rosie a permanent member of the channel, or a main concept behind the types of videos they would make? “We don’t plan! We don’t plan anything!” Rose exclaims. “It’s all been very organic, the banter, humour – we just felt that, as a duo, it was a lot more fun.”
“If you have someone with you, it’s just more natural,” Rosie explains. “We don’t script anything, sometimes we don’t even have a theme. Sometimes we’ll just sit down and wonder what will come out today!”
“I’m very lucky because I get to do it with my wife, my best friend, and literally have the best time,” Rose says. “It does take the pressure off as we don’t have to script anything – we’re just doing what we normally do, day to day!”
But how much of their success is down to the fact they are a couple? Would either have been as successful solo? “I think Rose would have done just as well, it’s her channel,” Rosie says immediately.
“Well, I don’t know…” interjects Rose before being cut off.
“I think you were destined. You learned how to use cameras, how to edit – it’s what you were trained for,” Rosie continues. “I think you’d have been a highly successful YouTuber anyway because I’ve seen your solo videos and they’re very good.”
“I think I’d have found the pressures of YouTube tougher without you,” says Rose. “Because if you did receive negative comments, you’d find it more difficult to process because you’re on your own.”
Rosie acknowledges this, explaining that they work very well together. “She gets very nervous about new things – well, we both do – [but] I’ve always been very encouraging and sometimes I push Rose to do things.” she says. “I like to think that that’s something I’ve managed to bring.”
“You can’t fool your audience or fake emotions – they’ll see right through it.”
When it comes to being a couple on YouTube, sometimes other creators have struggled to find a balance between their public and private lives. This can have a heavy toll on relationships, as seen by Jesse Wellens and Jeana Smith from BFvsGF, and cause pressure on YouTubers to feel they have to act out their lives.
Rose and Rosie, however, seem unfazed. “We never feel a pressure to be more open than we are. What you see is what you get,” says Rose. “It all fell into place – our whole relationship grew organically with YouTube so everything you’ve seen online has been very real.”
“We’re very honest – we don’t censor ourselves,” continues Rosie. “For example, in my vlogmas series on my channel, you see me when I’m happy, but also when I’m stressed out and crying – we film the good and the bad.”
Rose agrees. “You can’t fool your audience or fake emotions – they’ll see right through it, they’re not stupid and we don’t treat them as stupid.”
We ask if there’s a limit to how much they share? Are there any no-go areas? The pair are quiet for a while. “I can’t think of any, apart from our address, obviously. We’re quite open anyway,” explains Rosie, “if we didn’t like it, we’d stop doing it, so it’s definitely not a problem.”
It’s this openness with their audience that has perhaps been the key to their success. Rose describes it as “very close, very intimate.” The duo chat to their audience regularly on Twitter, and are glad their tour gave them the opportunity to meet them face-to-face.
“We had a close bunch that came to a lot of our UK tour dates,” says Rose. “We treat them as equals – we don’t see it as ‘us and them’. That’s why we like touring because it takes that barrier away, which is partly why it’s called The Exposed Tour.”
“We’re all people – why would we treat our fans differently?” adds Rosie.
Getting to know 150 people on a personal level during a two hour meet-and-greet before a 90 minute show, is not easy work, but Rose and Rosie love it. “We work very hard and we’ve got a great loyal fanbase, who have been so loyal over the years,” says Rose.
“Our audience is so awesome,” Rosie adds. “I wouldn’t take a million subscribers tomorrow, I’d keep my audience, I love them.”
Rose recalls a particular moment from their tour that really sums up the community they’ve built around them. A young girl named Molly attended their Manchester show with her mum. “She was quite shy, barely spoke to us – her mum did most of the talking,” Rose says. “At one point during the show we get people on stage to say anything they want to as long as it’s positive and nice. And she came out!”
”It was amazing to see her open up,” recalls Rosie. “Her mum cried, we cried! Molly’s mum was fine and we all clapped.”
After the show Rose and Rosie checked the hashtag on Twitter. “Everything was about Molly, and these sorts of things encourage others to come out too,” says Rosie. “She’s braver than me!”
“We were so proud of not just her but the whole crowd,” continues Rose. “We had created such a safe place for people to feel they could do that in front of 400 to 500 people.”
“By being visible, it can help people figure things out”
With such a strong relationship with their audience, Rosie explains that they rarely receive negative comments on their videos. “The comments is a wonderful space where they can meet people. I love stories, especially when people meet at our meet-and-greet and have been together for two years – I think that’s amazing!”
“Honestly, everyone’s very respectful to us and to each other, so we’re very blessed,” says Rose.
However, she admits there have been a few instances where audiences members have crossed their personal boundaries. “We’re grown up and we obviously expect these things to happen,” she says. “I realise that YouTube is so accessible and relatable for people that they do believe they are our friends and to an extent they are.”
“The problem is that we put so much online,” adds Rosie, “that they know everything about us and we don’t know as much about them. Our lives, our everyday routine, our families – it’s all up there, and some people can cross the line.”
For Rose, crossing the line is when people strive to find something out about the pair that they’ve chosen to keep private. “For instance, if we decide not to share our location and someone found out and showed up, or whatever.”
Nonetheless, Rosie affirms this doesn’t happen very often. “We have the most supportive audience and they understand when we want some privacy and alone time.”
Despite all this they remain undeterred, and consider being a public gay couple a responsibility, one that they take very seriously. “By being visible, it can help people figure things out,” says Rosie. “They can think ‘oh, I can also find a cool girlfriend’. I know some people have said to Rose ‘oh, I have OCD too and I know I can find someone who loves me’.”
But when it comes to sponsorship deals, the couple feel being pigeonholed as ‘gay YouTubers’ has sometimes been to their detriment. Rose notices that many of their heterosexual YouTube friends seem to work with brands more frequently than them.
“Maybe I was being naive, but I never thought being gay would affect anything in my career because why would it?” says Rose. “But you’re not as visible to brands. I think even subconsciously people might put us in a box – it’s not even a case of discriminating against us, it’s not even thinking that we could be suitable for that brand because we’re gay.”
“I’ve heard that gay people get paid less by brands or don’t get used by brands, and it’s silly because brands want to sell stuff,” Rosie adds. “Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you don’t have an audience. Being gay doesn’t affect your buying!”
Rose points out the hypocrisy of some brands who work with LGBTQ+ creators once a year to tick a diversity box and appear inclusive, while heterosexual vloggers get regular deals. “Even though on paper they can say ‘yes, we’re diverse, we use gay YouTubers, we have no prejudice whatsoever’ – they’ll only do it once, or twice a year.”
She admits, however, that things are getting better and primarily because of vocal audiences. “Audience[s] go ‘why haven’t you included any gay people? Why aren’t you being racially inclusive?’,” she says.
Echoing this, Rosie feels proud when she sees audiences calling out brands on Twitter for non-inclusive campaigns. “Honestly, I think this generation coming up is amazing, and I think it’s because of people on the internet,” she says. “They can learn things, and they’re listening to other people and realising what’s fair and unfair.”
Part of what the duo love about YouTube is its endless potential to champion diversity in all forms. “That’s the great thing about YouTube – anyone and everyone can upload, anybody can be visible which means there is more diversity, and now it’s time for brands to push it,” says Rose.
“There’s a lot of white straight YouTubers,” asserts Rosie. “We need more disabled YouTubers, more trans, more gay… being pushed into the limelight – just as much as other people in the mainstream – and we need more.”
“And I think it’s happening,” she continues. “Through social media, people make themselves heard.”
“When people ask me what I’m interested in I’m not like ‘I’m gay’”
The pair believe being visible helps normalise LGBTQ+ people, which is why they were shocked when they found out their channel, as well as Rosie’s Bisexy series, was blocked by YouTube’s Restricted Mode. This was an issue that affected many LGBTQ+ creators from across the community. “It was atrocious”, says Rose, “A lot of these kids rely on and seek comfort from these channels.”
Rosie is empathetic to YouTube’s attempt – to an extent. “I understand what YouTube were trying to do – trying to keep children safe on YouTube,” she says. “There’s some weird stuff online, stuff that’s close to pornography and they might be tagged by things like ‘lesbian’.”
But as Rose points out, their channel is primarily a comedy channel. “When people ask me what I’m interested in I’m not like ‘I’m gay’,” she says. “We’re comedy first, LGBTQ+ second, because that’s what I wanted to do – make people laugh.”
It’s this same ethos that Rose and Rosie took to their UK and Ireland six-date tour. The show was full of improv comedy, audience participation and other surprises, and while they found it nerve-wracking it was also very rewarding.
“Comedians have a set, but because of the very nature of our jobs the whole show gets uploaded online immediately,” explains Rosie. “So we had to constantly change our show because we wanted it to be special.”
We ask them for any tour stories and Rose immediately starts giggling. “So Rosie got really nervous and went to the toilet…”
Rosie interjects: “I think I was getting sick because I was losing my voice at that time.”
“And our bathroom in the dressing room had quite a ‘nasty aroma’, as I’d like to call it,” continues Rose. “Everyone that walked in just walked back out!”
The pair didn’t realise how bad it was until they returned from a mic test to find the door propped open. “When they air your room behind your back, you know it’s bad,” jokes Rose.
Any clues about their upcoming US tour? “Expect the unexpected, you might find out a little bit more about us than you already know,” says Rosie.
“Things will be revealed,” Rosie adds, “whether you like it or not.”
You only have to be around Rose and Rosie for a few moments to realise their relationship is something special. During this interview, Rosie kept fixing Rose’s hair for her, when they speak they bounce off each other, and when one is speaking the other is listening intently. Having been together for six years, what’s the secret?
“I honestly don’t know how we do it,” says Rosie.
“It sounds so cheesy but when you find the one, everything just works,” Rose adds.
Rosie believes communication is essential. “We won’t argue – we’ll have a discussion, like ‘I’m upset by this’ and ‘oh, ok we’ll sort this out’.”
“Say sorry as well, because we both say sorry for anything,” she continues. “And I’ve never noticed this but other people tell us that we always constantly check on the other person. So we’re like ‘are you ok, are you hungry?’ and we constantly look out for each other and it just feels normal.”
“A lot of people ask how do you live, work, travel together – where’s the boundaries, but you just work it out,” says Rose.
“Some people need time apart, even in a small capacity because even if they work together, they go to separate meetings in separate offices,” says Rosie. “But we wake up in bed, we’ll work from home, or we’ll go somewhere together.”
“Honestly, just enjoy what you do because if you enjoy it, you argue less!” chimes Rose.
With a happy marriage, their channel growing, their US tour about to kick off – as well as the Hello World live show – what’s next for Rose and Rosie?
“We have a lot of things in the works that we can’t talk about yet because it’s a secret!” teases Rosie. “But we don’t like to say until something’s 100% solid, because we don’t want to let anyone down!”
“What we can say is that the next 18 months are the busiest and most exciting times of our lives,” says Rose.
“We do everything with the audience in mind. We’re not going anywhere, we love YouTube. It’s like our third girlfriend!” Rosie reassures us. “But, it’s getting safe now. Other people in their jobs go up the career ladder and get a promotion – and we want to challenge ourselves.”
“As the great Grace Helbig said: ‘follow your fear’,” states Rose, “and I’ve never forgotten it.”
Want more from Rose and Rosie?
Alternatively, check out some of our previous TenEighty interviews:
- Stefan Abingdon: Tongue in Cheek
- Hannah Witton: Breaking Taboos
- Jake Mitchell: Escaping the Echoes
- Connie Glynn: Unapologetically Pink