A new internet star is on the rise, and you might even share a class with her. On campus, she’s a fifth-year student majoring in international relations. Online, Karen Yeung, better known as Karen O, is a fashion vlogger on YouTube. Her channel, youtube.com/IAMKARENO, currently has 19,020 subscribers.
Yeung grew up in Hong Kong until she was eight years old, and spent another two years in mainland China during high school. Otherwise, she’s lived in California, and Yeung said her style is like a mixture of these cultures.
“The intersection of different cultures online is a beautiful thing,” said Rheanna Chen, a fourth-year international agriculture development major. “It’s crazy how a style can explode overnight via the internet.”
Yeung’s YouTube channel has only been active for eight months, and the number of her subscribers increases daily.
Yeung said the first five months were off to a slow start until she learned to effectively present herself. She said that content and style go hand-in-hand on YouTube, where an engaging video is necessary to capture an audience.
“In order to stand out, you really need to be on top of your editing skills,” Yeung said. “I’m constantly challenging myself to come up with new editing styles.”
Yeung said that her growing success is largely thanks to networking with other UC Davis students. At a flea market, Yeung got in touch with Jenn Im, a UC Davis alumna. Im’s own fashion channel, Clothes Encounters, has over 600,000 subscribers.
Yeung said Im gave a couple of her videos a ‘like,’ and from there, several thousand subscribers flooded over into her own channel.
“Davis has a lot of creative people, and you just have to network and meet them,” Yeung said.
Yeung’s YouTube channel also started as a hobby, but that changed when she went to BeautyCon, a huge convention for YouTube fashion vloggers. At the convention, she said fans waited in line for hours to meet their favorite YouTube stars.
Yeung said it was bizarre how much these YouTubers are idolized, but it made her realize that she could use something she loves to help inspire people.
“I want to start giving back to the community,” Yeung said.
She said her viewers eventually became interested in who she was as a person. In response, Yeung will sometimes upload personal videos to give readers a glimpse at her personality. In her video “50 Random Facts,” she isn’t afraid to point out her crooked bottom teeth and admit that she lost three retainers in the past.
“I think it’s important to build a relationship with your viewers,” Yeung said. “You can be really close to the [viewers] … so they know what you’re like on an everyday basis.”
Yeung said most of her traffic comes in from Instagram and YouTube. When she first started, Facebook was able to give her channel’s popularity a significant push, but only locally.
She said the subscribers and followers on her YouTube and Instagram are more invested than the fans on Facebook. Likewise, Yeung does her best to thank people for their comments and answer any questions they might have.
Thanks to YouTube’s analytics feature, Yeung was able to determine that about 40 percent of her viewers were aged 13 to 17 years old, and another rough 30 percent come from 18 to 24 year olds.
She said these figures help her create videos to meet the needs of each age group. For example, she sometimes makes videos for high school students, with consideration to their stricter dress codes.
“I have a sister and cousin in high school,” Yeung said. “I would ask her what kind of stuff she wants to see from my channel.”
The method was effective, as two of the top viewed videos on her channel are the back-to-school tips for both college and high school.
By the time she reached 10,000 subscribers, Yeung said fashion companies began asking her to showcase their pieces.
Currently, she works with five companies that let her pick outfits to use in her videos. Without the help of these sponsors, Yeung said most of her outfits would have to come from the thrift store, and she’s grateful that these resources allow her to make better videos and explore more styles to show her viewers.
Yeung said the biggest thing she’s learned from the experience is how much can happen if you just put yourself out there and make an effort to network. According to her, finding someone who inspires you to do something great is the first step. And her advice as a fashion vlogger is to be yourself.
“Fashion is just an extension of your personality,” Yeung said. “If you don’t have anything to hide, just wear whatever makes you feel good and confident.”