From baring her soul in viral videos about her mental state to following in the footsteps of the comedians she grew up idolising, Taz Alam has had quite the journey.
When Taz was struggling with her mental health after university, she did the only thing you can do – make a viral video. “I would never call myself a poet,” she confesses, in reference to her hugely popular videos I’m Not Okay and I’m Ugly.
Her channel, ClickForTaz, first started making waves when she poured her heart out to the internet, opening up about her mental health in the form of spoken word poetry. “I have no training in poetry, I don’t even read poetry,” she explains. “It sounds really weird but poetry is something that just happened.
“Poet sounds like… professional,” she laughs. “There’s no thought process, I get really sad and put it out.”
Regardless of their success, the poems came from a need for an emotional outlet and to figure out who she was. “I wasn’t very good at explaining how I felt, but for some reason I could do it through poetry,” she recalls.
“In other aspects of my life, especially with education and school, you’re pretty much told what’s expected of you, who you should be,” she explains. “[Whereas] with videos, you can do whatever you want.”
She certainly didn’t expect any success to come from it. “If anything, I thought it was gonna have the opposite impact like people were gonna be like ‘oh your videos are super depressing now’.”
Nevertheless, with almost 8 million views across her poetry videos, her comment sections filled to the brim with strangers thanking her for her words.
But poetry wasn’t the be all and end all for Taz.
“I was going through a dark time and that’s who I was,” she confesses. “I like to think I’m a happy person… but that wasn’t coming across in my videos, I was coming across really serious.”
“Now fast forward a couple of years, I’m no longer in that space. I’m glad to say I’m a lot happier now so my content has also changed.”
She decided it was time to pursue her true passion: comedy.
“Comedians were my superheroes”
“When I was a kid I wanted to be a stand up comedian,” she reveals.“I saw comedians as, like, they were my superheroes. Because they can take something like a dark experience and they can turn it into something funny and people love them for it. I thought that was amazing.”
“Trying to make people laugh is something I get such a kick out of,” she adds.
And her desire to make people laugh has resulted in her enduring some pretty bizarre situations, including only eating blue foods for 24 hours, living in a car for 24 hours, and quitting sugar entirely for ten days. Just the standard.
Nonetheless, these wacky scenarios are how she thrives. “If it’s like a sit down video with no narrative to it, I feel like I’m acting towards the camera,” she explains.
“Whereas you put me in a situation, I feel like my personality will just naturally flourish” she says. “It’s like putting myself in random situations and seeing how I cope with it.”
While she didn’t expect the change from emotional spoken word poetry to come easily, it was definitely necessary. “If I didn’t stop myself, it could have gone into territories of ‘you’re talking about sensitive stuff right now, I don’t know if this is healthy’.”
And she’s following in the footsteps of the comedians she once idolised, helping others to laugh their way through life: “If I can help someone through my videos, I think that’s awesome. I think that’s so cool that I can do that.”
Most of all, she craves an ”authentic connection” with her audience and to be completely herself. “I love people!” she cries at one point, which she goes on to prove by pausing the interview to ask us all about ourselves.
“If you are vulnerable, honest and you have a good heart, or you have good intentions, naturally you’re gonna connect with people in a positive way,” she puts simply.
Part of Taz’s charm is in how she presents herself. “It’s so easy with YouTube to put on a character, which is why I’ve been so adamant of, like, just being myself.’”
“I felt like the version of myself on YouTube is the person I want to be,” she reveals, “whereas when I was in school, I was the person I was expected to be.”
“I’d rather [the viewers] like me for who I really am – no makeup and being a mess,” she sums up before giggling: “I’m very low maintenance! Oh, I’ve made myself sound so bad right now!”
In many ways, creating videos has helped Taz learn more about who she is. “YouTube has actually helped me to become more myself,” she reflects. “Isn’t that strange?”
Referencing her self-deprecating approach to humour, she laughs: “Basically, they can’t really break you down if you break yourself down!”
Solid life advice.
However, she’s under no impression that she’s going to get it right all the time. “Am I gonna make mistakes? 100%,” she points out, as she explains she’s aware that she has a tendency to overshare.
“I do have to catch myself in certain jokes,” she considers. “[But] I am human, I am gonna make mistakes.”
“We all need a reality check as YouTubers”
“I felt really bad for him,” she admits. “I know what it’s like in the YouTube bubble. When you have to put out videos every single day, and there’s so many people doing these challenges, you do see it as just a challenge rather than humanising it.”
“I genuinely know he didn’t mean it to come across the way it did,” Taz continues, “he was just focused on making a YouTube video rather than ‘oh people are going to see this and there are people who actually live like this’.”
“We all need a reality check as YouTubers.”
She notes how we’re in a time where calling people out on YouTube is the norm. “There’s this culture… where you will get views by tearing people down.”
Rather, she wants to focus on elevating people, and that includes marginalised voices.
In 2016, Taz uploaded I grew up wanting to be white, a video focusing on the lack of representation in the media. Three years on, she thinks things are significantly changing for the better.
Chatting about her favourite band, BTS, she explains: “I never saw Asian guys as hot. With movies, Asian guys were always portrayed as like the nerdy people so it wasn’t even something that was in my subconscious.”
“Why are [BTS] so big? Because the people decided they liked them.”
Representation is very important to Taz, and she acknowledges that by simply being present on YouTube you can make a difference. “When I’m doing a video, I don’t want it to be like ‘oh it’s a brown girl doing a video’, it’s a girl doing a video who happens to be brown. I think that distinction is really important.”
“One thing I love about YouTube is it’s the people that decide,” she emphasises. “We decide.”
“If my videos don’t make someone feel something, then I’ve failed as a creator”
But there’s one in particular that stands out for her. “Elle Mills. I love her. I love her. She’s so cool. I love her so much,” she gushes. “I like that she’s real.”
And Elle has definitely influenced Taz’s video style as she envisions the type of content she’d like to make in future. “YouTube mixed with documentary style, put them together so it’s like entertaining, engaging and comedic.”
But she’s not much of a planner, as she tells us: “I’m very go with the flow and see what works.”
“I want people to watch my videos and take something away from them, like, make them feel something,” she adds. “If my videos don’t make someone feel something, then I’ve failed as a creator.”
For now though, there’s one things she’s sure of; putting spoken word poetry about her mental health behind her. “There’s too much good going on to be focusing on the negative,” she declares.
“I try to be a positive person,” she continues. “I think the Britishness in us is always gonna be a bit cynical [but] I do try to put out a care-free, loving, positive vibe.”
“You put out the vibe, and you receive the vibe you give out,” she says uncertainly before giggling. “I’m not good with words!”
Ultimately, she’s just happy to be doing what she loves. “The fact that I can make cool videos with my friends that I love and that makes me happy, and I can edit it in a way that makes it cool, and I can post it in the world for other people, and they like it and they like me for me… it’s so cool.”
She pauses before backtracking: “That’s not a great word, it’s so… exhilarating, it’s so incredible, it’s so amazing!”
“I like people and I like making videos,” she sums up in her matter-of-fact way, before declaring: “Interview over!”
Photos by George Yonge.
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