Jeanine Amapola is sitting in her Dallas bedroom, putting on makeup and talking to the camera about her life — including dating, how she doesn't feel good enough and her faith. That video will eventually garner more than 48,000 views and pay her bills.
A lot of the videos on Amapola's YouTube channel are like this. She says her subscribers like it most when she simply sits down in front of the camera and talks about one subject.
But one Saturday afternoon in September, she did something a little different. Amapola co-hosted StyleCon, an event where influencers like Amapola and consumers come together to talk beauty, fashion and style. Amapola walked around the event in a form-fitting black dress while her agent, Keith Bielory, followed close behind.
A group of young women lined up to meet and take selfies with Amapola. In return, she featured them in her vlog about the day, posted to YouTube weeks later.
Amapola, 23, began her YouTube career by accident, she says. While she was a student at the University of Texas, where she was a radio, television and film major, she began playing around with editing and uploading videos.
Her first few received positive responses from viewers, and by her junior year of college, she started taking YouTube seriously. Now, a few years later, posting videos to YouTube is her full-time job.
“So basically every thousand views you make on YouTube, like it could be $2.50. It really varies because there is some channels that do very well, and they could be making $5, $6, $7 per thousand views,” Amapola says. “Roughly, when you hit around a million to 2 million views on your video, you could be making $1,000 or $2,000 off of that video.”
Amapola says she is the biggest YouTuber in Dallas, and she might be. She has two YouTube channels. Her main channel came first, and it has more than 1 million subscribers. She started her vlogging channel later, when she realized people wanted to learn more about her day-to-day life. That channel has nearly 200,000 subscribers.
Amapola also earns money from brand deals.
“Usually, a brand will email me and I forward it to my agent, and then he deals with it and vets it out and decides like, 'OK, is this serious? Is this not?' He's my go-to person for brands," she says. "Then, there are some times where I'm like 'OK, Keith' — for example, today, there's a sponsor Batiste at StyleCon. I love Batiste; I use them like every single day. I was like, 'Can you reach out Batiste and see if they will do a brand deal with me?'"
Bielory has been Amapola's agent for about a year and a half, and he handles most of her business dealings, including this interview. Amapola says having an agent has saved her from getting involved in bad deals.
"I would probably say something that we obviously look for is to protect the best interest of the client, right," Bielory says. He says many brands might want to use Amapola's likeness indefinitely, and a young YouTuber might agree to it without an agent looking out for her. Bielory's job is to protect her image.
In a new age of celebrity, young consumers aren’t watching as much network television. According to a study by digital-media firm Defy Media, consumers ages 13 to 24 watch about 12 hours of video per week on YouTube, social media and other free online sources.
The young women and fans at StyleCon were much more eager to meet Amapola than former Real Housewives of Dallas cast member Tiffany Hendra. Amapola is their reality star.
Lauren Roeseler was one of those consumers. She traveled from San Antonio to meet her favorite YouTubers and Instagram influencers at StyleCon. She says she has been watching Amapola for years and loves that she speaks proudly about her Christian faith.
Amapola says the unscripted nature of YouTube — unlike reality TV — is what draws young people in.
"Then, versus being on TV, you just watch it," she continues. "On YouTube, people can make response videos; they can comment on your Instagram, on your videos. They get to really interact and be within the drama or whatever's going on."
Amapola says she’s not really involved in any YouTube drama, but old videos reveal she was married shortly. She and her ex once had a YouTube channel together, but it was deleted.
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"Even though at the time it was really difficult for me when that fell through, it positively changed me and it helped a lot of other girls get out of unhealthy relationships and helped a lot of girls realize they were in toxic relationships through my experience," Amapola says. "So in the end, I was able to help people through the experience, and then I gained more views because of it. I gained more subscribers from the experience, and even though it was kind of a horrible experience, I gained still a lot from it in the end."
Amapola has helped other young women during difficult times, and her followers' connection with her is different than with other celebrities. Through sites such as Instagram, fans like Roeseler have a direct line of communication with the entertainer.
A week after Amapola uploaded "Opening Up... Dating, My Struggles, & More," in which she speaks candidly about what it takes to be happy (she says Jesus), she uploaded a response video apologizing for seeming judgmental. She says she ultimately stands by what she said and that a multitude of viewers contacted her to tell her how much the video meant to them.
"The more you open up your life, the more people are going to start nitpicking at you and wanting to probe a lot more," she says. "It's kind of a dangerous deal to play on because then you're kind of setting yourself up for drama and for controversy, but at the end of the day, that's genuine to me to speak about what's going on in my life — to be very open and honest. That's something I've always done. I'm just very careful in what I say and how I say it, but I still do want to talk about what's on my mind."