By Nazeefa Ahmed, September 27 2023—
Emma Chamberlain’s rise to fame appears to mirror most YouTube celebrities: humble beginnings with low-resolution videos followed by a dedicated fan base that grows until a star explodes into mainstream culture. Then comes the sponsorships, TV shows, coveted Met Gala interviews and a complete lifestyle facelift. They rise and rise until a scandal or two shakes their credibility — but all is well after a heartfelt apology video where the creator conveniently skips the apologizing part (I’m talking to you, Ballinger.)
But Chamberlain’s story both fits this mold and doesn’t. She has embraced a celebrity persona while simultaneously rejecting the very nature of its superficial identity. While she dons Louis Vuitton dresses with 2000 Swarovski crystals among peers in the industry, she hosts her podcasts in an oversized hoodie and truck-stop sunglasses, speaking candidly about granny panties and her socially clueless neighbour. All this is to say that she is a peculiar public figure, and her fans adore her contradictions.
Whether in her podcast, YouTube videos or Met Gala premieres, Chamberlain stands as an antithesis to the caricature of womanhood often portrayed by society — a society where women are objectified for their femininity whilst being criticized for enjoying feminine hobbies and experiences. Fashion and makeup are shallow and a stain on a woman’s character only when there is the pretense of agency and ownership — once a woman returns to a docile muse, praise and admiration follow suit — after all, she doesn’t know she is beautiful, right One Direction? Chamberlain embraces femininity by unapologetically sharing the reality of being a woman without having to overtly say so. Instead of being bogged down by ideology and contrasting expectations, however, she speaks from the heart about virtues, friendship and navigating life’s struggles, all of which shift the focus from outsider expectations to personal goals and desires. Though her words are for everyone, they resonate deeply with her audience of primarily GenZ women.
Chamberlain’s persona is empowering in its authenticity and enlightening in the honest personal reflection she facilitates for her listeners. Her podcast, titled anything goes, discusses personal experiences, philosophical dilemmas and hosts guests to learn from and contend with. Chamberlain’s nonchalant attitude paired with her unfiltered stream of thoughts makes her content homey and a source of sisterly comfort for listeners.
One may argue that Chamberlain isn’t doing anything special. After all, there are many influencers who cover the same topics and exude a similar persona. But Chamberlain’s charm comes from her ability to think out loud without a filter. She will make a bold claim, contradict herself, laugh about it and then find a way to provide advice to her listeners without patronizing them. Her casual approach to difficult topics draws listeners in as there is no facade shielding the connection. She is also one of us among them. Most rising stars come at a crossroads at some point in their career, best represented by Pewdiepie and David Dobrik. They either have to reject fame and live a simple life with privacy, or embrace it wholeheartedly, sharing every detail of their luxurious reality. Chamberlain somehow manages to forge her own path down the middle and pull experiences from the best of both worlds to share with her audience.
However, despite appearing to remain connected to her roots, Chamberlain leads a completely different life now: the chain-link chandelier in her home reportedly starts at $31,800 USD. But it is so easy to forget this when watching her romanticized YouTube videos where she will creatively capture simple moments, such as preparing coffee and cleaning the house. I am drawn to her ability to teeter between whimsical illusion and mundane reality without losing her essence as a person. In doing so, she merges her dualities and presents them to the public without apology, empowering others to do the same. Don’t we all desire to be seen as whole despite the stark differences between our ideal and true self?
To me, Chamberlain exists in a void, beyond the confines of daily commitments and societal pressures. Her persona encourages me to accept the human process of reconciling opposing identities and expectations while remaining authentic to myself, first and always. She is a friend without a filter, a connection without a commitment and a source of mindful entertainment for those heavy days when I need both company and solitude.
This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.