Jessii created her channel to help others who may feel different and have issues fitting in, while addressing important topics such as bullying, anxiety and depression. This also inspired her to create YANA (You Are Not Alone), a platform that encourages people who are feeling lonely, anxious, bullied and isolated to connect with others. We discussed about mental health, social media chaos and fame.
You have amassed 2.5 million subscribers on YouTube, what inspired you to start your YouTube career?
I was incredibly shy in high school and didn’t really talk to people so the way I got my emotions out was through writing. I started a blog where I’d post photography, art, and essentially diary entries. It gained 30,000 followers pretty quickly and they all began asking me to start a YouTube channel so they could watch me actually talk about my life stories instead of just reading them. It quickly gained popularity and went from just a hobby to a full time job!
You have an amazing relationship with your fans, what motivated you to upload and create good quality content so consistently?
Creating videos is my passion – I love what I do! And I think that’s what motivates me to keep posting. It doesn’t feel like work to me, but instead an art form. It’s a platform where I can be as creative as I’d like to be and that’s all I ever could have asked for. The endless support from my subscribers is also where I get my motivation – I wouldn’t be where I am today without them!
You’re a strong advocate on mental health, what are your views on the kind of mental health issues that can be brought out by social media?
The internet is a tough place to be, especially for young people growing up surrounded by photos of edited bodies and faces; it’s hard to even know what’s real anymore. And that puts a lot of pressure on us and can make us feel so insecure. I try my best to encourage my audience to always be themselves to matter what. I have a quote that I always tell them: “Embrace your weird side, because normal is boring. People will love you for who you really are.”
Since you have a huge social media following, How important is social media when it comes to spreading and raising awareness when it comes to social issues?
It’s incredibly important to me to talk about social issues whenever I can, especially with such a large following. I always want to use my platforms for good. I’ve started doing monthly live streams called “Jess Checking In” where I spread awareness about different subjects like mental health, chronic illnesses, bullying, etc.
What motivated you to start your mission/cause to create a healthy and safe environment for the youth online?
Since starting Youtube I get hundreds of comments on the daily from kids telling me about their struggles with insecurity, anxiety, and feeling like they aren’t enough. Those comments break my heart and it encouraged me to do something impactful with my platform. I want my social media pages to feel like a safe space for them.
YANA, is a great initiative you’ve started. Tell us a bit more about YANA and what it stands for?
YANA stands for ‘You Are Not Alone’ and it’s a group implemented in schools for kids to go to connect with other students that are struggling with the same things they are. It’s all about community, creating friendships, and a place where you won’t be judged.
How has YANA helped your followers when it comes to the social issues that they face?
Just being able to talk to other people in group settings has been incredibly helpful. It’s so easy to feel isolated and like you’re the only one in the world going through something. So having a community behind you ready to freely talk about social issues is very therapeutic. Not only is YANA in over 50 schools around the world, but it’s also online. I created a YANA instagram page (@yana_group) where I post motivational quotes and positive affirmations so that kids can have some positivity on their timelines. I think social media can be overwhelming sometimes so having some uplifting messages has been very positive for people.
Tell us about the journey of YANA from how it started to what it has become today?
In elementary school and high school I was bullied a lot because I was quiet and reserved. People thought of me as the “weird kid” because of my social anxiety. It was tough – I’d often sit by myself in the library at school on my lunch breaks to avoid the cafeteria. I’d even sit in the bathroom stall on extra tough days. If I had a YANA group to go to back then, things would have been so much easier for me, and that’s where the inspiration came from. It makes me so happy to see these groups forming all over the world. And even online – people are coming together and supporting one another.
How does it feel being an inspiration to your fans and set yourself as a good role model to your audience?
It’s the most amazing feeling when I get a message from someone telling me how YANA has positively impacted their life; how they’re not afraid to go to school anymore because they have a support system. When I started my Youtube channel I was posting true stories about my life that I hoped people could relate to. I talked about being bullied, having anxiety, my journey with Lyme disease. I would read comments that said “I thought I was the only one going through this, thank you for showing me that I’m not”, and it encourages me to keep doing what I do. I always want to be a good role model because my audience means so much to me.
You have already accomplished so much at such a young age, where do you see yourself in the future?
I’m so excited to continue growing my Youtube Channel and my TikTok page. There’s so much more that I want to show people in the coming years. I also want to continue using my platform to spread awareness on topics that aren’t talked about enough. I’m so passionate about creating and I’m looking forward to what the future holds!
Is there anything I missed out that you would like to add?
I just want to encourage everyone to stay awesome, stay weird, and don’t let anyone or anything influence you to change who you are!