Disha Patani is the latest Bollywood actress to have joined in the YouTube channel bandwagon. In the last two weeks since she launched, Patani has already managed a following of 87 K subscribers.
The idea of starting a channel on YouTube is supposedly to give viewers a taste of what the "real life" of a celebrity looks like. In one of Jennifer Lopez's latest episodes on her channel, the 50-year-old singer and actress takes us through her experience of wearing a reimagined version of the jungle green Versace dress that she wore to the Grammys in 2000. Both times, Lopez broke the Internet. It's a fun video to watch and tells you what Lopez is like with the people she is surrounded by everyday – her enthusiasm, her dislikes, her pet peeves.
American model Karlie Kloss, in her YouTube channel Klossy, talks a whole lot about her personal life but also encourages young girls to take up coding. Kloss is also a coder herself.
After Priyanka Chopra, Bollywood celebrities such as Jacqueline Fernandez and Alia Bhatt have started their own channels on YouTube in the last four months with millions of followers each. In these videos that are anywhere between five to 15 minutes, there's a lot of behind the scenes footage, vacations in Sri Lanka and Maasai Mara, workout sessions at the gym, hanging out with friends, and basically anything that makes celebrities seem more accessible.
But celebrities are already doing that on Instagram Stories, so why start something on YouTube? "This is a great platform for generating more revenue," says a Mumbai-based A list celebrity manager, who did not want to be named.
Once you hit 1 million followers, YouTube starts paying you, he explains. For every view you get Rs 1 of which YouTube keeps 45 paise. "Besides, brands want to place their ads on channels of people who have a massive following and that's a lot of money," he says, adding that YouTube is a more popular platform than Instagram as far as advertisements are concerned.
On Alia Bhatt's channel, a friendship's day video with her best friend Akansha Ranjan, where they test how well they know each other, is like a talk show that you'd watch on television – both with perfect makeup and hair styled impeccably.
These channels, he explains, are more popular in tier 2 Indian cities than in the metros. There are people who spend hours on YouTube everyday tracking the "real lives" of their favourite celebrities.
Fernandez' birthday trip to Sri Lanka has some 15 minutes of footage and this is just part 1 (in Part 2 we watch while she gets a new tattoo)! While there are a few interesting nuggets, most of it is just really blah and seems like a performance for the camera. There are cameras ALL. THE. TIME. And it's clear that everyone is conscious of that. It's the kind of video the general junta would watch and go, "Wow, life really IS a party for these guys!" Fernandez' birthday video feels like an extension of what one would imagine a celebrity's life to be like – there are no surprises.
Alia Bhatt, on her YouTube channel, discusses her morning routine, gives a sneak peek into the new house she moved into with her sister, and then there's also a lot of promotional stuff where she talks about StyleCracker, a fashion membership service that Bhatt recently made an investment in. A friendship's day video with her best friend Akansha Ranjan, where they test how well they know each other, is like a talk show that you'd watch on television – both with perfect makeup and hair styled impeccably. And who knows how much of the show was scripted.
Patani has only three videos so far and thankfully she keeps them short, sometimes really short. There's a really cool video of her dancing to X by J. Balvin – the girl's got some pretty amazing moves! Patani is also quite funny, often laughing at herself, discussing her pimples, fast-forwarding her own speech, and saying things like, "welcome to my world… nice and empty". So far, she seems the most real and authentic.
Of course, not everything by every celebrity is a sham – surely, there is a genuine attempt to connect with audiences at a more "real", basic level, be bare, and plenty more accessible than what celebrities were before digital platforms became popular.
Because now being accessible is trendy.
That said, YouTube channels are again just another way to monetise the profession and milk every opportunity to make money.
"Celebs are just selling themselves," says the celebrity manager who didn't want to be named.