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Overnight Celebrity

Local vlogger Hannah Minx strategically utilizes new media to turn popular hobby into success story

By Kendra Davis
On March 17, 2010

  • Individual judicial fines seldom exceed $100, according to Dean of Students Paul Pugh. Doug Keith/The Villanovan

 Over 350 million of us have Facebooks. Half of us log in at least once a day. Over 75 million of us Tweet compared to roughly six million a couple months ago. We are currently posting over four billion images on Flickr and viewing videos on YouTube more than two billion times. 

Hannah Minx takes part in all of this and more. Minx is a self-proclaimed vlogger from Philadelphia whose simple, common interest in online social media has garnered her true Internet fame. She is the owner of one of the 30 million YouTube accounts, but, unlike most, her account is a small, unintended business. 

Last spring, Minx spent the semester in Tokyo, but, before her departure, she naturally wanted to do a little background research. She found that there were relatively few online resources other than the vlogs of the YouTubers living in Tokyo. 

"Their culture is really not something they prepare you for in Japanese class," Minx says. "There are some books by people with Ph.D.s that are completely wrong. The stuff that the vloggers are talking about is really like the first documentation of what it's like to be a foreigner living in Japanese society. The best resource is a vlogger who has been living there for six years and can talk about his experience." 

Some weeks later, a jet-lagged Minx was wandering the streets of this foreign city when she noticed that all the bikes were poorly secured. 

"There were just these dinky locks," she says. "You could just walk away with the bikes." 

Bored and restless, she went back to her dorm and made her first video, "Bikes in Tokyo." 

Minx has since posted 59 videos to her channel, which is the fourth most popular in all of Japan. She has 12,073 fans on her Facebook page, 2,080 followers on Twitter and 63,960 subscribers on YouTube. A single video entitled "Guide to Asian Emoticons" has nearly 1,200,000 views. So why the seemingly overnight fame? 

Minx oftentimes asks herself the same question, but if she had to venture a guess, it's because "people on the internet like Asian things and cute girls. Cute girls plus Asian things equals a million views." She assumes that her emoticon videos are the most popular because they are the Asian equivalent of American smiley faces, and her Japanese friends like to post facial expressions which simulate the online symbols such as: ^-^. In fact, early on one of her friends, a Tokyo vlogger, started a "tag game," which is when someone tags a particular video and the creator of that video has to make another video in response to one that the person who tagged him or her has made. For Minx's game, the instructions were to answer the question "What are your favorite emoticons?" then make the real-life face of those emoticons.  The result was 50 new videos, all of which were linked back to Minx's original. 

From there, people also tweeted about Minx's channel, posted fan artwork to her Facebook fan page and, if they subscribed to her account, read the e-mails that were sent every time she posted a new video. With these types of social networking techniques, even if they were not defined as such, it is no surprise that Hannah Minx became a talked-about name. Her hobby expanded as she used this new media to her advantage.

Though she claims to spend only about three hours per day online, Minx has moved beyond the traditional posting of videos. She religiously follows "The Young Turks" channel, a liberal talk show that updates its watchers every day with videos about political happenings and funny human interest pieces. 

"Some people get their news from The Colbert Report — I watch ‘The Young Turks,'" she says, noting that she hardly watches TV anymore. She has also engaged in about 30 "collabs," videos composed of clips made by various people that have been segmented together by a designated editor. But Minx isn't the only one who is taking advantage of her unprecedented celebrity.

Lately she's been hosting a live show on blogTV, where people can tune in, type out questions to her and immediately get her response. 

"They want something that's not TV — that's real," says Minx. 

The site pays her for this, as does Google, the primary owner of YouTube. When the latter company invited her to be a revenue-sharing partner last August, her hobby became lucrative. They placed ads at the beginning of her videos, put her latest posts on the main YouTube page under "Videos being watched now" and made her name appear more frequently in Google searches. They restricted her from using any copyrighted material and a friend made her a theme song that is used in the background of all her videos. She endures the occasional stalker and many adamant haters who "are really mean and make inappropriate comments." Yet all of the negativity is counteracted by the sizeable check she receives at the end of every month. It is definitely a "good side job," as she describes it. 

As is coupled with any sort of prominence, Minx experiences a fair bit of skepticism. 

"I get 100 messages a day asking ‘Is this really you? Does someone else do this for you?'" she says. 

On the other hand, she has a solid fan base as local as other Villanova students.

 "I got an e-mail from someone here who recognized Villanova from the dorm in the background of the videos," Minx says. "Someone wanted to take a picture with me in Second Storey and other people just say they recognize me from YouTube. It's pretty exciting."

Some student organizations, like VTV, have embraced Minx's renown. Next fall, they hope to air a four-episode, Bachelorette-style show called "For the Love of Minxy." 

Minx realizes the silliness of some of her posts and ideas. She advises other potential vloggers to "not take yourself too seriously and just have fun. People like YouTube because it's not television — it's not cold and produced. My videos are crappy and homemade, but people like them for that reason. I am just myself in my videos." 

At the same time, she hopes to make something substantial of her hobby in the near future. 

"I want to make it more into a career," she says.  "I haven't decided exactly what — host a travel show, create a Learn Japanese series, start a Minxy fashion line." She's currently working on making her own Web site, selling wallpapers and planning a 2011 calendar. Whatever she ends up doing, however, she is certain that she wants to continue her studies, live in Tokyo and possibly work for a business there. 

Despite what the future holds, it is undeniable that Minx already has an outlet for future achievements. She is a human manifestation of the success that can easily be afforded by technological advances and Internet access. 

"A lot of great opportunities are becoming available to me that I never thought were possible from just posting some silly YouTube videos and putting them on the Internet," she says. "It's really exciting to be a part of this new wave of media."

 

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