Senior Kelly Wakasa has found Internet fame through the lifestyle and skating videos he posts on Instagram and YouTube. Although he only started the Instagram account as a place to post skating videos without being judged on his personal account, he started to gain a following. Once he reached 10 thousand followers, he became motivated by the level of success he had reached and started to pursue the accounts in a more serious way. This social media journey started on Instagram in 2015, and today Wakasa has 66.9 thousand followers on Instagram and 88 thousand subscribers on YouTube. Although he did not plan on this, he is pleased with the results. He has always had a passion for making videos, and he has been recording himself since he began skateboarding in the summer of seventh grade.
“I’ve always had a camera in my hand,” said Wakasa. “I don’t know why. I’ve just always had a knack for filming, so when I started skateboarding I really started making videos. I uploaded them to YouTube, and all of a sudden I started getting some exposure. Here I am today. I started making videos, and I’ve never stopped.”
Wakasa cannot put a number on how much time he spends on his accounts because he says he thinks about it constantly. He is always planning his next post. Although most Burlingame students apart from his close friends do not know about his fame online, Wakasa is frequently recognized by fans and asked for a photo or an autograph if he goes to a skate park or films a video on Burlingame Avenue. His social media presence is fun for him because he gets to meet a lot of people through it. He frequently works alongside friends at Braille Skateboarding, who he credits with helping him succeed. Wakasa has occasionally received some hate comments, but they do not faze him because of the overwhelmingly positive reactions he gets.
“It’s always funny when someone will come up to me and say, ‘Dude, I just found out you’re famous!’” said Wakasa. “When people say that, I’m like, ‘You know, whatever. It’s the same old me.’ It doesn’t affect me in a negative way at all. It’s always positive.”
Another upside of his fame is the money he gains from it. On Instagram, brands will contact him for deals, meaning that they will pay him to post their content and tag them. He does not make these deals often, though. The most frequent way he earns money is through YouTube, where the website pays him and other creators to put advertisements in their videos. Given the income and fulfillment he earns from the accounts, Wakasa frequently prioritizes working on videos for his social media over his schoolwork. He encourages everyone to pursue their passions above all else.
“If the content’s there, the people will come,” said Wakasa. “You have one life to do what you want, so don’t get stuck doing something you don’t. You have to go for it because if you don’t, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”