With the click of her camera’s “on” button, senior Ashley Zhu instantly connects to thousands across the globe.
After moving from New York City to Virginia in 2014, Zhu decided to make a YouTube channel to document her journey to a new state while staying in touch with her friends back home.
Now, Zhu posts videos every Sunday and Wednesday and has accumulated over 100,000 subscribers, 6,000 followers on Instagram, and 3,000 Snapchat followers over her four years on YouTube.
Up until recently, Zhu wanted to keep her YouTube channel a secret from Godwin students, with only a few close friends aware of her hobby. Since Zhu is attending college next year, she feels more comfortable introducing Godwin to her creative outlet.
“I felt like it would be awkward for people I don’t talk to at school to see me in my room and acting weird on the internet. But now I’m going to college and most of my friends know about my YouTube, so I thought ‘YOLO’,” said Zhu.
Zhu will be attending NYU Shanghai in the fall and is planning on majoring in Business and Marketing, but is hoping to minor in Interactive Media Arts.
“I am super excited to attend NYU Shanghai in the fall. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and a very unique college experience,” Zhu said.
Zhu plans to continue making videos throughout college.
“I think it will be great to show my younger subscribers what college is like, especially since I will be attending an American university in China,” said Zhu.
Zhu accumulated her cameras and equipment for her channel by buying the materials herself or receiving them as presents. With no prior experience in mass media, Zhu built up her expertise through teaching herself how to better use a camera and edit videos. Currently, Zhu uses a Canon G7X to film and Final Cut Pro X to edit her videos.
A few Godwin students have been featured in her videos, including seniors Naomi Ghahrai and Talia Scharf and junior Ying Yuan. Zhu’s family fully supports her channel and thinks of Zhu’s YouTube Channel as a creative outlet for her to express herself.
“I think it’s great that Ashley is doing what she loves and sharing it with the world,” Zhu’s mom, Chenting said.
Zhu receives most of her paycheck from advertisements through Google Adsense and PayPal. Although she cannot disclose the exact amount that she makes through her videos, Zhu said she makes around a couple hundred dollars a month.
Recently, Zhu sponsored a game called “Best Fiends.” and has been able to interact with other businesses during her YouTube career.
Zhu’s favorite YouTubers include Krist Soup, Conan Gray, Cat Creature, Emma Chamberlin, JenerationDIY, Karina Garcia, and Jenn Im.
Zhu has done collabs with many YouTubers, including other locals like Deep Run senior Emma Topp and University of Richmond freshman Emily Wass. Some of the other collabs include JenerationDIY and Karina Garcia with collabs occurring both in person and online.
Not only has Zhu met other media influencers through collabs, but she has also met people all over the world through her channel.
“I became friends with people all across the globe which is something I never thought was possible. I have received so much love and appreciation from my viewers, who are always so kind and encouraging,” she said.
Zhu’s favorite videos to film are chit-chat videos, vlogs, or “trying new things for the first time videos.
”I love brainstorming ideas and saying whatever my heart desires,” said Zhu.
Zhu is waiting to receive a plaque in the near future after hitting 100,000 subscribers, or “chips” as members of her fanbase are called. She is also hoping to attend VidCon, a multi-genre online video conference held in California, this coming summer.
Although her YouTube channel is primarily used for fun, Zhu has learned many valuable skills from the experience.
“I grasped a sense of entrepreneurship through social media brandings and have learned to understand how Youtube, a multifaceted platform works,” she said.
On April 9 Zhu hit 100,000 subscribers and is hoping to continue growing her channel in the future.
And as YouTubers often say, “Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe.”