Beginning her YouTube journey five years ago, Becky James’ unique style of social commentary and comedy has earned her an intensely loyal following of over 100,000 subscribers. Arriving in a whirlwind of giddy excitement, TenEighty caught up with Becky about being a young woman in comedy, navigating her new life in London, and her Tanya Burr obsession.
“I was called ‘Bambino’ in school because I was the youngest and the smallest out of my friends,” says Becky James, revealing how her username came about. “Apparently it means ‘child’ in Italian but we later found out it means ‘baby boy’ – so it’s actually ‘Baby Boy Becky’?”
“If people are a bit cooler than me and I’m trying to impress them, I say it came from Childish Gambino!” she laughs.
Becky started her channel when she was 15 and living in Wales with her family – but confesses to us that she previously had another channel. Tessa Violet, formerly MeekaKitty, inspired Becky to start making YouTube videos.
“I saw her at Summer in the City in 2018 and my jaw was on the floor, I couldn’t say anything! I used to want to be her… I had the side fringe and everything,” she gushes.
Becky admits she not only imitated Tessa’s hair, but also her style of videos, such as music videos and parodies – including her infamous take on Twilight.
“It’s a full feature length film, it took us about a year! It was an hour and a half long,” Becky reveals. More recently, she cut the parody down to a short trailer, which she tweeted here. Will we ever see the beauty that the full film must be? Only time will tell.
Becky’s early YouTube inspirations also include Mitchell Davis, Zoe Sugg, Alfie Deyes and – of course – Tanya Burr. If you’ve watched Becky’s videos, clips of Tanya make a frequent appearance – where did the obsession come from?
“I stopped watching the British YouTubers when I started making videos, then went back and I was like, “she is so funny!”. I was watching her house tour or unboxing her makeup and she doesn’t know that she’s funny, but I’m literally sat there with tears coming out of my face.”
“People are like ‘what’s the beef?’ but I genuinely like her, it’s all love!” she says.
Becky’s always been obsessed with the online world and considers her internet friends as her main friendship group, admitting that she didn’t have many in school. They would meet up at least three times a month, travelling across the country and Skyping every night.
“We even had a girl who flew over from Australia to surprise one of us and she stayed ever since. She’s literally just going home now because her visa’s run out, but she’s been here for about three years because of Twitter and YouTube.”
“It was such a weird childhood ‘cos I was sleeping at this person’s and then that person’s, and my dad would be like ‘where are you going?’,” she recalls. “I wouldn’t have change anything though.”
As with most friendship groups, while some have split or drifted away over time, many have continued to stay together now. “It’s lovely and I don’t know what I’d do without them. If anything goes wrong, I just go to their house and walk in. And I know they’d do the same.”
“Just doing a job like that is hard. I know people have it worse but it is hard”
Becky discusses how her friends were central to encouraging her over the years, and supported her when her channel began to suddenly take off. By early 2018, she hit 10 thousand subscribers when Brian ‘True Geordie’ Davis reached out. Following their collaboration, Becky’s channel jumped to 20 thousand subscribers in under two months.
At the time, Becky was living at home and working as a waitress in a pub, a job she’d had since 16. “It was my life, that’s all I did – pull pints, go home and do YouTube,” she says, “it was YouTube, pub, YouTube, pub!”
“I hated it,” she continues. “I loved the people I worked with but just doing a job like that is hard. I know people have it worse but it is hard.”
Struggling to balance work and life, Becky admits that she considered quitting YouTube at one point. “It was taking over my shifts as I was going home and trying to film and I was like ‘I can’t do this, that’s it, me and YouTube – we’re done’,” she says.
“I was angry,” she recalls, “but that was the day Brian messaged me out of the blue. I was literally in the cupboard at work! He said ‘I’ve just found your stuff and I think you can go all the way’.”
“When he found me – I’d never loved a man more,” Becky affirms. “I love him to bits, my uncle Brian!”
By early 2019, Becky had left her job and was beginning the great migration to her new home in London. Then KSI happened. During an episode of Jack Dean’s podcast, JaackMaate’s Happy Hour With Alex and Steve, Olajide JJ ‘KSI’ Olatunji gave her a shoutout alongside Eleanor Neale.
While the two girls have since met up, Becky hasn’t met KSI – yet. “He has said he wants to meet me – can you imagine those words coming out of his mouth?” she gushes. New Sidemen members – BambinoBecky and Eleanor Neale?
After KSI’s shoutout, Becky’s channel shot up from around 30 thousand to 100 thousand. Just a few months prior, Tom Stockdale, had also been blessed with the magic of a KSI shoutout and his channel gained 47 thousand subscribers in under 24 hours (he is now on 300 thousand). Becky and Tom had known each other for a few years prior and were able to talk to each other about their experience.
“It’s weird because we couldn’t process it,” she says. “I got my silver plaque the other day and I’m stood there like ‘oh my god, that’s my name and surely this isn’t mine?’ It just feels numb – one day it’ll sink in!”
“You don’t process it. To me, I’ve still got five thousand,” she says.
“ ‘oh you’re actually really funny for a girl’ ”
Nonetheless, with the move to London, the sudden increase in attention, and being inundated with emails and messages, Becky hit burnout. She was initially scared by the growth, especially as she began getting hate comments properly for the first time.
“All these 12 year old lads came through and I was like ‘oh my god’ and it just hit me. I stopped uploading for about two weeks ‘cos I was so scared,” she confesses.
As a woman in comedy, some of the comments she receives are below par (to say the least). “It’s so grim, the stuff they say. And it’s from some old guy or some 12 year old and it’s sad because if I was a boy, I’d never get that,” she notes.
A frequent comment Becky receives is ‘oh you’re actually really funny for a girl’. She finds that she has to prove herself to a higher standard than those set for men and the audience has to find her attractive before they can start paying attention to her comedy.
“Someone was like ‘I don’t find you attractive, I’m clicking off’. And I’m like ‘ok that’s fine’. Or someone said ‘you look like Katy Perry – I hate Katy Perry’, or comments are like ‘it’s girls trying to be funny’,” she says, laughing it off.
“I feel like it’s men who overrun the comedy section of anything. You come up to London and everyone’s like ‘you’re a try hard, you’re this and this’ – would you say that if I was a boy? I’m not asking for pity, it’s just facts.”
Does Becky feel attitudes are changing?
“I think people our age are so lovely, I’ve not met a guy our age that’s been weird to me. But younger and older – bloody hell what are they like! It does scare me because these people do anything… they’re out and about.”
However, Becky has overcome her fears and now deals with hate comments through her sense of humour. “I was so scared but now I’m like, ’who cares what bloody Tony in Portsmouth thinks?’”
How is Becky handling her new life as a full-time YouTuber?
“This is going to sound so cringe, but I’m just enjoying everything. There’s some days where I wake up and I’m like ‘oh my god I’ve got to do this today’ but it’s better than any job in the world,” she affirms. “It’s easy to just let it all happen but you’ve gotta grab it by the balls!”
Becky’s steadily changing her mindset from ‘I have to do this’ to ‘I get to do this’ in order to stay excited about all things YouTube.
“I was with Jack Edwards – what a lovely boy, I would take him home to my parents – we went somewhere [at an event] and we couldn’t get in but we were still like, ‘how cool was it that we even got the chance to get invited to this thing?’”
“When you go to these events and all these big YouTubers are there – not slating them – but you can tell they’re not excited by it any more and I never want to be like that. I was at the Dumbo premiere the other day and I was walking around like a little puppy,” Becky exclaims.
With such a sudden dramatic boost in numbers, Becky’s starting to feel the pressure to upload more frequently. However, inspired by her new housemates and fellow YouTubers, Josh Cook and Callum Markie, she’s embracing the challenge. So far, Becky’s been living in London for two months and it’s been a rollercoaster.
“Everyone’s been so nice. Creators I never expected to meet, with a stupid amount of subscribers, have been asking to meet up,” she says.
As new friends are coming into the picture, long lost ex-friends have started messaging. “In the week of 100 thousand, I’d never had so many people try to come back in my life. It was so sad.”
“The statement line was ‘I really think we should put the past behind us’. I was going to reply and my sister was like ‘what are you doing? You know exactly who this is’, so I just haven’t replied. It sounds bad but you just don’t know people’s intentions,” she shares.
On the other hand, Becky has a strong dedicated following from the early days which has only grown over time. In 2017, ahead of her first panel at Summer in the City, some of her viewers waited all day outside the panel room just to be in the front row.
At conventions and meetups they bring gifts, and are always providing her with support online. There’s even a group chat on Twitter, calling themselves ‘Becky’s Little Helpers’, who share her videos, provide feedback, and helped Becky reach her initial goal of 15 thousand subscribers.
She started making videos because she was – and still is – a massive fan of YouTubers. Is it an odd feeling to have her own dedicated fans?
“I was Sam King’s biggest fan,” Becky confesses. “I used to wait outside concerts, I used to enter competitions to meet him, I used to queue! I think that’s a great thing because I now know how to treat people how they want to be treated.”
“Someone said something really lovely; ‘when you speak to Becky it’s like you’re the only person in the room’. Now when I speak to someone I try and make it like that,” she affirms.
While she does find it novel to have a following, she takes care to never treat people like fans. “If I ever get like that, come up to me and punch me in the face! I don’t know if they’re queueing for me, it could just be the line for the toilet! And I never say ‘do you want a picture’ – can you imagine?” she laughs.
“It’s got to the point where – it sounds crazy – but I can only speak to people for like 30 seconds”
Becky takes care to reply to those who tweet her, and even meets up with her viewers when possible. She recently surprised some of them at Westfields and hung out with them for the day.
“I just want to give back. I love it because they’re exactly like me because obviously they get my sense of humour. They’re so amazing and so young but so clever. I just see them as my little sisters,” she says.
However, as with a lot of YouTubers whose channels grow larger over time, meaningful interactions become harder. From meetups getting out of hand, to queues at conventions becoming impossible to manage, we ask if she’s worried about reaching a point where she’s unable to have one-to-one time with her viewers.
“We used to do meetups once a month like everywhere; Bristol, Birmingham, London. Now it’s really hard and I hate that. It’s got to the point where – it sounds crazy – but I can only speak to people for like 30 seconds,” she says.
Reflecting on how much YouTube has changed her life, Becky considers what she’d be doing now if the platform didn’t exist. “I’d be pulling pints in a bar wasting my life away, she says. “I’d definitely be doing something in the media. I’d probably gone to uni and done a media course, and been sad.”
“I would never be in London – I would probably have never been to London really – I wouldn’t have my closest mates,” she realises.
“This is going to sound horrible but it’s true – we’re all very attention seeking”
After pulling Becky back from an existential crisis, she shares what it’s been like to live in the midst of the YouTube world.
“YouTubers – they’re not people!” she jokes. “This is going to sound horrible but it’s true – we’re all very attention seeking. Why would we post videos if we weren’t? If there’s any drama, it’s times 10.”
Observing how YouTubers interact with each other at conventions, she mentions that it can sometimes be tricky chatting to other creators ahead of a panel. “Sometimes they will literally look through you and you’re like ‘ok, we’ll be friends for the next hour and then we’ll never speak again’,” she reveals. “It’s so sad but it’s so interesting because my viewers go mad when I come on, they scream – they do it on purpose to embarrass me probably.”
“But literally, you can see these YouTubers looking over like ‘who’s this?’ And afterwards they’re like ‘oh nice to meet you by the way’. I’ve got footage of it – you can see it in my videos, they’re sat there and then they sit up!” she laughs.
While Becky has noticed a few cliques amongst the community, she considers her friendship group to be open, and trusts her own instincts to avoid those who are after numbers. Despite these encounters, she reassures us that most YouTubers she’s encountered are the same online and offline, and many have become part of her online family.
In fact, Becky is starting a collaboration project with Lucia ‘Chi’ Keskin (Chi with a C), a channel and podcast named Step Below Humble, which launches 29 April 2019. She describes Chi as her “literal soulmate” because their personalities and old videos share so much in common. So much so that even their parents have commented on how odd it is.
“This YouTuber came up to us and said these exact words: ‘I’m going to hit a million this year – no, I’m going to hit two million, it’s going to happen’ and then walked away. Chi was like ‘just a step below humble’ and we were crying with laughter!” she says.
She hopes that their collaborative work will help women further break out into the podcast and entertainment space, particularly in comedy, with hopes they’ll be able to host a panel at Summer in the City and do live performances.
As she moves to add new projects to her plate, does Becky have any advice for new YouTubers who are just starting?
“Thumbnails and titles!” she says. “Never knew that was so important but I’ve learnt so much about that since moving up here.”
“Callum will look at my thumbnail and be like ‘Becky, no one’s going to click that’. People who aren’t even subscribed to you are going to come across them, you’ve got to think for the wider audience.”
“Make videos that you enjoy,” she continues. “If you’re bored watching it back – what are you doing? Just make it as entertaining as you’d find it entertaining.”
With a strong family of creators and her loyal audience, the blessings of KSI and True Geordie, and a new life in London, it seems the future is bright for Becky.
“I’ve been very lucky – if there’s ever been a dip, something massive happens,” she concludes. “Someone’s looking out for me!”
Photos by George Yonge.
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