In the age of the rise of internet stardom, Wellesley students are bound to have used social media to reach many people at once. One social media platform that Wellesley students use in order to create videos showcasing their talents and tap into communities that share their same passions and interests is YouTube.
Lily Chen ’16 is one such rising internet star who creates covers of Vocaloid music, which is produced using voice synthesizers. She is also known as a “trap singer” because she is able to sing in both male and female voices. Her username on YouTube is SirHamnet. In 2009, Chen learned of the community of Vocaloid fans. This, she explained, was at the beginning of the rising popularity of Vocaloid.
“I accidentally stumbled upon this ‘fandom’ in late 2009 through a cosplay photo on DeviantArt; this was just around the start of Vocaloid’s popularity, actually. I was really inspired by the other cover artists on [YouTube] and Nico Nico Douga (the Japanese YouTube, essentially) and felt like this was something I wanted to do as well,” Chen explained.
Although Chen now has almost 49,000 subscribers, she was discouraged at first by the pace at which her videos were taking off.
“Honestly it was a very slow start; for the first year or so I plateaued around 200 subscribers and I had been very frustrated. But I was really determined and really wanted to make it ‘big.’ I had made a number of close friends through YouTube at this point and they helped encourage me that as long as I kept practicing and trying my best, I was sure to see results,” Chen said.
As her popularity amongst the Vocaloid community, also known as Youtaite community, grew, Chen formed relationships with viewers and creators of videos. One such friend happened to be fellow Wellesley student Lucy Shen ’17, who had been following Chen on YouTube.
“This one is a great coincidence — we both belong to the same online ‘Youtaite’ community, and I happened to be a fan of her. She added me on Facebook when she stumbled across my profile in one of the Wellesley groups, thinking that I was just another Wellesley classmate and that my name looked familiar, and then I recognized her and instantly messaged her freaking out about how honored I was that she had added me on Facebook,” Shen recounted.
The two eventually became close friends and roommates while at Wellesley. They also took the opportunity to collaborate on some YouTube videos, as Shen sings as well. Her YouTube account, Lyrratica, consists of videos showcasing her vocal talent and cosplaying.
“At first, it was just because I enjoyed singing and felt like it might be fun to upload my covers so that I could share them with friends. I soon became integrated into the community that I’m currently in, and it’s collaborations with friends and other artists I look up to that really motivate me now. Making music you love with people you love is just fantastic,” Shen said.
However, it can be difficult creating videos while in college, according to both Chen and Shen. Although finding a place to record their music, such as the practice rooms in Jewett Arts Center, is possible, finding the time to create the videos can be difficult.
“Since a lot of my videos don’t actually require visual content, all I really need to do is squirrel away in my room or a practice room in Jewett with my mic and laptop to get some recording done. Finding the time to do that can be a lot trickier, especially given the academic environment of a place like Wellesley, but coordinating collaborations with friends online serves as a pretty effective motivator to get recording done in a timely fashion,” Shen said.
Chen explained that videos can often take two or three days, or even up to a month, to create and publish online. While in school, she must also allocate time to record and edit.
“It’s a bit disappointing because I know that my popularity suffers from my inconsistency, but my studies will always come first, so there’s not much to do. I hope that after graduating this May, I’ll be able to resume a more regular schedule,” Chen said.
Hayley Liebenow ’19, who created her YouTube channel “Hayze” just this year, has used being at Wellesley to her advantage in her videos, which include clips of fellow students and also “lookbooks,” in which she showcases her fashion. These lookbooks incorporate Wellesley campus as a beautiful background.
Her video “What Do You Love About Yourself,” is named for the question Liebenow asked multiple friends in front of her camera, and the video was shared by Upworthy, an online platform that shares videos and articles. From there, the video went viral among Liebenow’s friends on Facebook and she was approached by people on campus who appreciated her video.
“I was honestly overwhelmed (in a good way!) by how many people walked up to me directly and told me how much they loved the video and were happy for me. It made me so happy and added to the surreality of it all. So many people shared it on Facebook and my friends who were in the video were getting stopped on campus, too; it was a nice feeling to be recognized for something I had worked hard on,” Liebenow said.
One of the common threads amongst these creators of videos is that there is a strong feeling of community and also the feeling of reaching other people and impacting them through this medium.
“I made some very close friends back when I first started and we’ve stayed together as a friend group for about 5 years at this point, occasionally visiting each other and keeping in touch despite our very different (yet similar) lives. It’s really cool to have this “other” life online and be able to reach out to people from all over the world!” Chen said. “It’s also a great feeling, after uploading a video, to know that it can reach so many people out in the world — make them laugh, make them cry. Knowing that I’ve made even the tiniest impact on so many people out there is really amazing!”