Written by Staff Writer
Popular YouTube creator Russ Fouhy “spent his first birthday outside” and now he wants to be “the most popular man on TikTok.”
It might sound silly, but the 28-year-old is actually serious about his goal. He started by challenging his more than 6 million followers to help him achieve No. 1 status. “I wanna be the most popular man on TikTok. That’s my life goal — I don’t care about being No. 1 in my channel. I want to beat Justin Bieber, and I want to beat all the influencers,” he explained in an interview with CNN on Thursday.
Fouhy’s journey started on YouTube in 2010 and has now evolved into a thriving multichannel community spanning dance videos, yoga and lessons with an outdoorsy and sometimes muscular bent. At the urging of his 5 year-old sister, Natasha, Fouhy says he joined an internet group.
“It was just very different than YouTube,” he says. “There were people doing short videos of them just being themselves. I liked it. I thought it was cool, and there was this group of people that were kind of like the early days of YouTube.”
The friends who joined Fouhy were part of a brand new YouTube community, mostly users of ad-free video-sharing platform (developers call it an app store) called ChannelDaddy. “This was definitely before YouTube Red or any of that sort of stuff, before it really was the leader in how people viewed the world online,” says Fouhy.
While much of their content could be subtle, the community could create music videos, make quizzes and choose celebrity-lookalike contests. Fouhy’s sister was the cool kid, but as she started to reach a pre-teen demographic on YouTube, Fouhy was the “underdog” — the one at the back of the pack, trying to break free of the pack and build a following of his own.
Eventually, Natasha asked her dad to help her start her own channel. Russ went with her.
“That’s how we started out. I was the traditional dancer. She was the ballet dancer. She was the athlete. She was the blogger. She was the blogger in a way,” says Fouhy.
In 2013, Russ took the next step. In a YouTube video that would go viral, he showed his two-year-old-child dancing to his dance video. The rest, as they say, is history.
Russ’ obsession with dance was well-known before his channel hit triple platinum status in 2017
Russ first tried his hand at a YouTube dance competition in 2015. In his confession in the video, Russ admits that he felt so confident while he was at the top of the ropes that he preferred to “watch people fail to catch up.”
And then he went deeper. In 2015, Russ set out to “break down the wall” between YouTube and mobile — mirroring the language of the influencers who influenced him.
Because so many of his viewers weren’t logging in from phones or laptops, they barely watched at all. But when the audiences saw that Russ was working hard at conveying the same message they did on YouTube, there was a shift. Now the two were moving at the same speed.
His first few months on the platform, Russ couldn’t really monetize his channel. But he didn’t want to stop. He felt on track for No. 1, and he was willing to lose money in order to reach the top.
By January 2017, he reached a million subscribers, topping YouTube stars like Alex Wassabi, Lilly Singh and JoJo Siwa. That milestone was heralded from the depths of the network on TikTok’s own app — see the photo above.
The more Instagram influencers (mainly girls) watched Russ’ video, the more they grew to like him. “They started to take more of an interest in my channel and more of an interest in me because of this connection and because of his personal story,” says Natasha, Russ’s sister.
In February 2017, Russ’ channel doubled in size, and soon he reached 50 million subscribers. Between that and his low-key lifestyle, his audience skewed older — not in a bad way, he says.
“I think it’s great that there are so many old people, younger kids and people in their 30s and 40s. It means I’m reaching a huge crowd and there’s a huge demographic for YouTube to reach. And that is what I want to do: I want to be the biggest YouTube channel out there,” he says.