Justine Ezarik, better known as iJustine to her 2.7 million YouTube subscribers, is an influential web-based vlogger with a legion of self-made, slice-of-life videos that have been collectively viewed over 400 million times. From interviews with celebrities like Ryan Reynolds to a public call for paperless billing after she received a 300-page list of charges from AT&T, Justine’s videos often couple an informative or inspirational message with her signature comedic edge.
Now, with the release of her latest video, iJustine is using her platform to inspire other budding creative types to chase the kind of dreams that put her on the cyber map nearly one decade ago. The four-minute clip, which was filmed using fully immersive 360-degree virtual reality technology, was made in collaboration with entertainment company Surreal, and sees iJustine reflecting on her career as a video blogger while offering tips for success as she traces her path to prominence around various locales in Los Angeles.
See what iJustine had to say about dealing with Internet negativity, what it takes to inspire an online generation, and forging a career that has thus far connected her with scores of people around the world below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you choose to combine your inspirational story with virtual reality technology?
iJUSTINE: I first started creating content on the Internet over 20 years ago. It’s crazy to think back on how much has changed since. I was 11 years old, just starting to figure myself out, what my interests were, trying as hard as I could to just get by in school. My motivation was to get through classes just so that I could come back home and create things by myself on my parents’ computer. From creating my first website in sixth grade, to being one of the very early people making videos on YouTube in 2006, to streaming my life online for six consecutive months; and now here we are in 2016, where virtual reality is finally an actual reality — I feel it was the best technology for creating a video that tells my journey and my past, while I’m trying to figure out what to do next. A lot of people may have never experienced a 360-degree video yet, so I’m hoping this will be an actual eye opening experience about what the future of content can look like.
What was the significance behind the specific locales used in the video?
I first took a trip to Los Angeles at a time in my life where I was beyond confused in every aspect possible. Everyone has those moments and for me this brief experience was all I needed. After returning home, I packed a suitcase and my computer and flew back to L.A. with nothing; literally no idea what I’d be doing or where I’d stay, but I was filled with the confidence that I would figure it out. Though, like I say in the video, I’m still trying!
Why is the message of this video relevant at this point in time in our Internet-obsessed society?
Everyone is confused. Even if you have “it” figured out, there’s always more that you could be doing. Comfort for me is terrifying, as is change for most people. Having the ability to believe in yourself and know that whatever situation you’re placed in, you can handle it. It’s not easy, but you can do it.
In the video, you say, “Sometimes, it’s hard to see the bigger picture and how you fit into that bigger picture.” Now, with an established brand and plenty of followers, how do you see your words and videos fitting into that bigger picture?
It’s funny because I’m still not sure what the bigger picture is. I just want to make people happy and sometimes in that past that came at the expense of my own happiness. At this stage in my life, having fun and surrounding myself with people who care about me is the most important lesson that I’ve learned.
You touch a little bit on this in the video, but how do you deal with negativity on the Internet? What’s the best way to turn negativity into positivity and inspiration?
Having to deal with negative comments daily is a struggle, and it’s something that no matter how many followers, fans, and likes someone has on their content, the bottom line is: we’re all human. Reading hurtful things about yourself or your friends never really gets easier. You just tend to deal and process the information in another way. Is this constructive criticism? If yes, how can you apply this to make yourself or content better. If it’s just someone spewing nonsense to try to make themselves feel better, you’ll be able to easily distinguish between the two. No one ever really knows anyone’s true situation. I’ve at times responded back to negative comments only to be met with a tragic story of what the person is going through, thus they felt the need to lash out. “I never really expected you to see this comment” is also very common to hear back after asking someone why he or she would say something so hurtful.
How do you see Internet influencers such as yourself changing the way people think, feel, and act in their daily lives and on the web?
Influencers do have a responsibility. I would hope with that, they choose to impact the world in a positive way rather than try to hurt and tear others down. I’ve been very lucky to be a part of such a supportive and collaborative community for so long and I just hope that it continues to be that way.