Aspiring YouTubers and online content creators flocked to see Liza Koshy in Dubai over the weekend. In two well-attended sessions as part of the On.DXB festival at Dubai Studio City, the 23-year-old detailed her career trajectory from making Vine clips for six friends to racking up 25 million subscribers on her YouTube channel. Here are five takeaways from her two weekend sessions.
An inauspicious start
Born in Houston to a German mother and Indian father, Koshy said her social media beginnings were more down to boredom rather than hopes of fame. In 2013, she began posting six-second videos on the now-defunct Vine platform to an audience of six.
“These were my friends and I was just doing videos of my home, the car and basically making my home a set,” she said. “Not long after, I went on YouTube and my first video was 12 minutes. I couldn’t shut up. I loved it because it is a more open platform and you could do more with it.”
How her parents accepted her social media career
With her star rising, Koshy admits that it took her parents a while to get a grip on her choice of career. There was even a point where her phone privileges were revoked in order to focus her mind on high school exams. “Little did they know that I had an iPad underneath my bed and I still made videos,” she said with a laugh. “But I did study and I did OK on my exams.”
Acceptance finally came in 2015 when her father saw the effects her encouraging online videos had on the public. “I was going on a college tour and people were coming to me and discussing what I was doing,” she recalled. “Some people wanted photos of me and my dad was watching all this and wondering what was going on. It was in that moment he saw that I was having an impact and using my voice in a special way. I got his blessing, of sorts.” Koshy eventually left college and moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career.
Being yourself is the key to YouTube success
Koshy advises aspiring content creators to not be too calculated in their online creations. After studying her peers, Koshy says the best source of good content can be found within. “Be unapologetically yourself,” she said. “Embrace yourself and know that you will be accepted doing that. So for me, I created all these different characters based off that, because I can be that confident person at times and this reserved at others, and that's OK.”
The online world can be lonely
This was the primary reason behind Koshy's move from a success YouTube channel to the YouTube Premium sitcom, Liza On Demand. "While it was empowering to post content and do everything on my own, you realise you are not meant to be alone," she said. "I wanted to be part of something bigger and create with other people."
On 'Liza on Demand'
Koshy says the show has been creatively fulfilling. Launched in September, Liza on Demand follows Koshy, who plays the role of a "tasker" who completes odd jobs around Los Angeles via a phone app. Koshy said she is enjoying being part of an ensemble cast.
“I feel like I have found this great new family,” she said. “There is a lot of joy in creating these great stories together and we can push each other. I feel like I am finding my passion for self-growth again. It made me realise that what a perfectionist I am and how perfection doesn’t exist.”