Don’t try to nail down Shane Dawson; he’s enigmatic and because of that, he’s maybe helped empower kids who have been, like Dawson, bullied, overweight, abused, or neglected. As a tortured teen, he took to a safe space where he’d use his talents, which would over time be fully discovered and then revealed on the video sharing platform YouTube.
This reporter will admit to being of a different ‘tube’ generation but nonetheless can clearly see the power and influence of the new tube largely because unlike the old tube, the content is self-produced and published. If it sucks it fails. If it’s good it may do well. If it’s great, people get rich. And some, like Dawson, become very rich.
But more than the massive moolah, and millions of viewers, subscribers, and devotees, YouTubers like Dawson have flipped the script, literally, calling their own shots and sans need to solicit advertisers; companies come to them and that’s why they are called influencers. Madison Avenue take note.
But back to Dawson. It is estimated the 30-year-old is worth $6 million. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Shane Dawson Was Born Shane Lee Yaw in California in 1988. When he Was 19, he Signed Up With YouTube. Now He’s Among the Biggest YouTubers on the Planet
There’s little debate that Dawson, his professional name, was among YouTube’s OG stars when in 2008 the “Shane Dawson TV,” channel of sketch comedy skits and music videos premiered.
His first-ever video was “Fred is Dead.” The crude, juvenile, and some say racist-in-parts because of the character ShaNayNay, the hitwoman with way overdrawn lips and a mocking vernacular (you’ll see why that matters shortly) 3-minute video sketch has been viewed 20 million times.
But cutting to the chase, Dawson drew such a large audience it was not long before his channel was monetized. If one enjoys analytics, it’s possible to become lost in search mode and lose time scouring the data on Dawson.
Dawson by the numbers: Dawson has 15,843,673 subscribers; his videos have been viewed 4,063,477,178 times; he earns somewhere between $50,000 to $750,000 a month; he makes up to $9 million a year; and it’s estimated that he rakes in, on an average day for Dawson, up to $60,000.
Dawson, 30, came out as bi-sexual (in a video naturally) and that coincided with his breakup with girlfriend Lisa Schwartz, also a major YouTuber. His current relationship is with boyfriend Ryland Adams.
2. So Many Playlists So Little Time
A 2012 video with his mother is odd. Very odd. Like “MY MOM HUMPING HARRY STYLES!” It’s a matter of taste but half a million people have checked it out. His “Jelly Bean Challenge” with his mother from five years ago has some 3 million views. Three million.
But it’s the sheer volume of content shows that this is not just some guy throwing stuff together and makes millions form it. Dawson produces. Playlists include the early years; school year vlogs, Dawson and his mom videos, and “Ask Shane,” or “Watching YouTubers First Videos,” and ‘Gaming With Shane” and his music reviews.
In the “Ask Shane” playlist there’s a slew of videos about his personal life, his sex life, his drunk nights, his phone sex and embarrassing masturbation story. These 2014-era videos did well garnering half a million views or more each, but pale in comparison to, say, his collaborations with other YouTubers. Like his first with Jeffree Star in 2017 called “Reacting to Hate Videos With Jeffree Star.” A huge win with more than 10 million views.
Among Dawson’s insanely popular playlists too numerous to list are the creepy, scary and outlandish ones that present, and pick apart, conspiracy theories. Titles like “scariest” pictures, sleepover games, Instagram accounts and teenage myths. Or “strangest” deaths, “haunted” dolls and Walmart stores, and conspiracy theories about celebrities (Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift get their own), end-of-the-world scenarios to crazy killer clowns.
It’s mostly just unsettling, scary or silly stuff that around 6 million people like to watch every time he uploads.
3. But Wait, Dawson Has Made & Been in Actual Movies, Tried to be a Pop Star & Has Written a Few Books, Too
Dawson has made and played in short films for the web, TV and theatrical releases. Fans are familiar but if one hasn’t followed Dawson, or discovered him, chances are his films are less known. Try “Not Cool,” “The Lottery,” and “It Gets Worse.” Or his holiday specials like “How Shananay Stole Christmas.” Ok, how about 2015’s “I Hate Myselfie?” Good title. His short films can be fund on his Shane Dawson TV channel, which has around 8 million subscribers.
What has to be among his most popular and widely seen videos is his “Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball Parody,” viewed an astonishing 32 million times.
Dawson won a Teen’s Choice Award and was nominated for a People’s Choice Award in the Favorite You Tuber category.
His autobiography “It Gets Worse: A Collection of Essays” was on the New York Times bestseller list for a week in the summer of 2016. It was reviewed by Bustle, among others, who described it as collection of moments in his life that were most interesting: his first time in drag or details of a celebrity feud.
And he had one single, he produced a couple of dozen from 2011 to 2017, that made it to the Irish and UK singles charts, “Superluv!”
“I was trying to be a pop star at one point. It did not go well. I don’t know hwy I was trying it out I thought maybe it would be fun to do music and then I did it and then I stopped,” Dawson explained in a video about him making a music video.
Dawson has roamed the internet entertainment landscape and has stayed on top even if he’s been all over the map. He doesn’t make apologies, he just reinvents. Actually, he has made apologies.
4. Dawson Has Had a Scandal or Two Including Accusations of Racism
Dawson, not unlike other YouTube phenoms like Jeffree Star, who you’ll soon see has a major role in Dawson’s latest success, was called out for blatant racism. IN Dawson’s case is was for using blackface to “maintain the integrity” of characters in his comedy routines. Dawson said he was not a racist and blamed his own ignorance; he was not aware, he said, of the origins and history of white performers using makeup to create black caricature; 19th century racist minstrel acts and the repugnant use of blackface in film and other media up util the 1960s at the dawn of the Civil Rights movement. That said, it still happens today; Seth Rogen recently apologized for using a white actor in blackface on the set of his movie “Good Boys.”
Dawson got a pass after posting a length apology, but in 2014, Bustle was not “buying it.”
“His 11-minute diatribe reads as a thinly-veiled attempt to look like the good guy, and doesn’t own up to what made his video racist in the first place. He’s normalizing a phenomenon rooted in Jim Crow-era black oppression, and thus condoning and perpetuating cultural racism. Meh, sorry Shane. This apology doesn’t entirely cut it for me.”
But on the video comment stream, one viewer in particular garnered more than 6,000 likes for her take on the apology:
“Guys, this isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of maturity and understanding. Shane has made some mistakes. He is acknowledging them, apologizing, and trying to move forward. This is a good lesson for all of us! We don’t always have to be right. It’s ok to admit that. But it’s what we do after we say sorry that counts. Let’s all work hard to change for the better. Let’s spread love and understanding. And help each other do so.”
That all said, Dawson does resort to stereotypes for his laughs and some were offensive then and still are. But, he’s grown in his journey to address topics others don’t touch including confronting the abuse at the hands of his drunk father. It was also part of a series where he confronts his mother as well. The first video about his father was in 2009, “Happy Father(less) Day!” In 2015 a poignant “My Relationship With My Dad.”
And then, last year, his near 20-minute emotional video “Confronting My Dad,” that begins with Dawson sitting with his mother, and looking over old family photos before sitting down with his dad to face-down the man Dawson said was not only neglectful but abusive; he beat his boy.
5. Dawson’s More Recent Work, a Near-Decade Under His Belt as an Internet Star, is Maybe More Mature. His Three-Part Series With Jeffree Star Has 35 Million Views
A total of nearly 35 million views as of this post. Millions of people are watching. Millions. It’s stunning really.
It’s less getting inside Jeffree Star’s life, which is open for the world to see, than it is a peek inside Dawson’s. He appears to be revealing something of himself that’s if not new, more compelling then. But who cares what a reporter thinks: millions and millions of people are tuning in and every time they do, Dawson gets paid. Cha-ching.