By Michael Varrati
When referencing the inimitable force that is Justine Ezarik, calling the notable personality a mere “content creator” just doesn’t seem totally apt. In the form of her online persona iJustine, Ezarik has blazed a trail across the digital realm, showcasing adaptable skill and savvy to succinctly ensure she is more than just a creator, but rather, she is every inch a content conqueror.
An actress, comedian, and occasional hostess (which included a gig on the Oscar red carpet this past Sunday), Ezarik’s digital empire predates the world of YouTube, and has allowed iJustine to exist in multiple platforms and technologies throughout the years. With stints on Livestream, Yahoo, an original series on AOL, and multiple YouTube channels, iJustine is an undeniable force of nature in the digital world. Not only has Ezarik survived platform shifts and the introduction of new media, she relishes the challenge of the ever-changing tide.
Addressing the various adaptations and incarnations of iJustine, Ezarik is endlessly enthusiastic about the rise of different technology.
“I actually enjoy it, because I have a short attention span. If there’s something I’m getting bored with, I’m sure other people are as well,” Ezarik tells me. “If you’re not able to adapt and change, you’re going to get left behind. I’ve done so many different things. I started off with a website where it was just photos, before you could ever even post videos online. I was coding it with HTML, there was no platform to help. It’s so amazing how easy it is today to get stuff out there. It’s like when a grandpa tells a story, ‘I remember when we had to walk uphill in the snow,’ and here I am saying, ‘I remember when we had to code things ourselves!’ The technology changes so quickly. Kids today! They’re so lucky!”
It’s this endurance, says Ezarik’s manager Petar Mandich, which sets iJustine apart from the pack: “She’s someone who looks to break the mold and try new things, whether it’s trying new platforms, new projects, etc. She’s one of those people who leads the charge in terms of diversifying her videos and her career. She’s not afraid to take chances. She’s also working hard to maximize the potential of those projects. She’s always looking three steps ahead.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Gabriel Lewis of AOL, who worked with Ezarik on their AOL Original series “Hardwired” that’s garnered over 20 million viewers. “Besides all the attributes one could subjectively subscribe to her — she’s very passionate, she’s very authentic, she’s very likable — what you can’t argue with is that she’s built an organic fan base that is very passionate about her,” he says. “What’s exciting is that she shows that personal brands matter.”
It’s Ezarik’s sense of branding and forward movement across platforms that has kept the iJustine persona not only prevalent in the world of content creation, but also a dominant force. Today, in addition to a bevy of events, appearances, and hosting gigs, Ezarik also maintains no less than four (occasionally five) active YouTube channels at a given time. It may seem like a lot, but, at the end of the day, it’s this well-orchestrated curating of content that is at the heart of what makes iJustine.
“It really is a full-time job,” Ezarik says. “It’s hard to manage sometimes, but, for me, I feel like YouTube is about the individual. I love being able to be in control and knowing that, at the end of the day, I have created it. Editing and creating the video by myself…it’s everything. It is time consuming, and it is emotionally draining, which is something some people don’t realize. You have to be on; you have to be excitable and happy. I do enjoy it, though. It’s so much fun to have an idea, go shoot, edit, and upload it that same day. That stuff doesn’t happen on TV or movies. You have to go through approvals, talk to teams, and I’m like, “Let’s just do it.” That’s what’s fun about YouTube: You can do whatever you want.”
By showcasing to other online talent that you can define the parameters of your own career, Ezarik, for many, sets the golden standard for which many content creators aspire. Furthermore, her commitment to emerging media and creativity has brought her millions of viewers over a variety of platforms, manifesting in a sizable and enviable audience. However, despite her ability to command the attention of a vast viewership, one infers that the root of all Ezarik’s success is a sense of humility that shows she understands what it means to be on the other side of the screen.
“Success can be measured in a lot of different ways,” Ezarik says. “Some people measure it in a million subscribers, some measure in views. I never look at numbers. I hate it. I don’t think you should base your work on that, because no matter how big or how small your audience, if you’re reaching people, you are talking to them. I think that’s success. Whether you have five or 500 followers, those are still people who want to hear what you have to say. Know who you’re talking to, trust your audience, and trust yourself. If you’re creating content you’re passionate about, don’t care about the numbers, worry about enjoying what you do. If you do something just for numbers, you’re not going to enjoy the work. I look forward to what I do every day when I wake up in the morning, and I think that’s the sign that I’ve made it.”
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For iJustine, it’s all about the belief in the work, and more so, belief in oneself.
“I did this, and I want people to know that they can to, if they love it enough. That goes for anything, whether it’s YouTube, being a chef, whatever. If you want to be something, you can be that thing, you just have to have the passion, the will, and the fire to make it happen.”
Without a doubt, Ezarik’s is a fire that continues to burn brightly, ensuring that we’ll see iJustine continue to create…nay, conquer…the world of media for years to come.