YouTube sensation Tyler Oakley entertained University of Kentucky students for over an hour with stories behind his popular internet videos and other anecdotes from his life. UK’s Student Activities Board welcomed Oakley Tuesday evening as a part of its Birthday Bash, which celebrated 75 years of UKSAB.
During the show, Oakley shared details with the audience about his career and his life. Oakley, 28, began making YouTube videos in 2007 when he was a freshman at Michigan State University. He has since gained almost 8 million YouTube subscribers and more than 5 million Twitter followers. His YouTube channel has more than 621 million views.
Oakley said the reason he started making videos was to keep in touch with high school friends after starting college at Michigan State because he hated talking on the phone. His first video got only three views, he said. The content included a tour of his dorm room and the welcome week at the university.
“It was my way to tell stories that I wanted to tell but not have to repeat it over and over again to each person,” Oakley said. “I’d be like, ‘Enjoy.’”
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Thorough his internet fame, Oakley has had opportunities to interview celebrities and well-known figures such as TV host Ellen Degeneres and boy band One Direction. He said his favorite interview was with former First Lady Michelle Obama.
“I think she is grace, she is beauty, she is intelligence, and what she stands for inspires me,” he said.
Oakley also published “Binge,” a collection of essays about his experiences, and he frequently referred to the 2015 book throughout his UK talk. Before he wrote the book, he was not sure if he should even publish one. He began asking himself if he had something to say, and started keeping a journal, which became his book proposal to a publisher.
“It was very interesting, because it was all stuff I have never told before in videos, all very personal, sometimes more adult than what I would ever talk about in a video,” he said.
Oakley also uses his platform to advocate for other causes. He works with the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides a crisis intervention and suicide prevention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Through videos spotlighting the organization, Oakley’s audience has raised more than $1 million for the organization.
During the show, he addressed audience questions about coming out as gay.
“My number one piece of advice is to go at your own pace and being OK with taking the time you need to work through it yourself,” Oakley said. “Everyone is on their own journey, everyone is on their own path, everyone is on their own timeline.”
Oakley’s visit to UK was his first visit to Kentucky, and he told the audience he would have come sooner if he had been invited. He also said he would come like to back.
McKenna Horsley: 859-231-1687, @mckennahorsley.