Jim Chapman is one of the world’s most popular men you’ve never heard of. When he crosses a street, young women ambush him. His male following is a little more reserved, relying on his impeccable British style sense as a source of inspiration. The question still beckons though: Who the hell is Jim Chapman?
To fully understand the Chapman effect, one must first crunch the staggering numbers. 2.5 million YouTube subscribers, 1.8 million Instagram followers and almost a million Facebook likes. This is Hollywood celebrity territory but Chapman is no actor. He’s the internet’s answer to the TV personality, the magazine model and the fashion commentator all rolled into one. They call these types ‘Social Influencers’.
“HAVING A DEGREE IN PSYCHOLOGY DOESN’T MEAN I KNOW WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO SEE. I LITERALLY HAVE NO IDEA. EVEN TO THIS DAY I FEEL THAT NOW.”
Chapman has paused Jessica Jones on Netflix and halted his YouTube video editing as he speaks to us from his London home. Not only does he appear to have mastered internet stardom, but he’s also one hell of a multi-tasker.
It wasn’t always this way though. Before the 27-year-old became famous for his YouTube video blogging and a sought after commodity for brands such as Burberry and Louis Vuitton, he was just your average shy teenager who worked at the markets selling gloves and underwear for 20 pounds a day.
“I woke up at 5 a.m and went home at 5 p.m. The pay wasn’t much,” he says.
Chapman grew up alongside a twin brother and his two older sisters. In the beginning, there were little signs of a creative streak in the family. His mother worked in retail and Chapman had friends, but he never considered himself the most popular kid in school.
His tendency to be shy became more prevalent as he entered adulthood, working menial jobs in retail and insurance. Then one day, his sisters introduced him to the weird and wonderful world of video blogging on YouTube, called ‘vlogging’.
Chapman says that he initially fell into the role through his sisters who ran the PixiWoo YouTube channel which taught girls how to use make-up.
The wheels were further set in motion when Chapman’s then girlfriend and now wife, Tanya Burr, joined him in the adolescent days of the YouTube blogging sphere.
“I was always shy up until the videos,” he says.
“Doing YouTube and growing your following, you’re forced to put yourself out there. You’re forced to learn fast or become a recluse. And luckily, I was able to learn the social skills.”
What led Chapman to the world of YouTube blogging as a career was neither the money nor the fame. He explains that he simply did it for fun and during the time he was trying to find a “real job”, the U.K recession had just hit. He knew just one thing though: the nine-to-five life was not for him.
“I graduated with a degree in psychology and thought ‘shit, now what?’ I haven’t actually used it. There’s not many jobs in psychology in the U.K. It’s mostly around insurance and retail so I worked a lot in those industries when I graduated, trying to hunt for my next job. Nothing was happening. It was tricky but I hated it. I knew there something else; a creative edge.”
“I’M LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE ONE OF THE GUYS PEOPLE WATCH.”
That creative edge he yearned for would soon manifest itself on YouTube in 2010, when he began a channel called ‘j1mmyb0bba’.
“I was doing videos on the side and as soon as I earned enough to pay rent, I quit my job that day.”
Internet fame is not an easy game though. In just a few short years, Chapman has amassed a huge following of digital-savvy teenagers and twenty-year-olds who are capable of being more connected to their idols than ever before. Does this lack of privacy scare him?
“Every once in awhile it’d be nice to be anonymous so I can walk around the street in my trackies,” he admits.
“It can be hard after a long day; you’re out with your wife…but at the same time I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The other notable pitfalls of YouTube stardom usually comes about during the early stages of one’s rise to prominence. Chapman’s mother was one of his strongest critics of his career choice in the beginning.
“My mum hated it to start with because my two older sisters had started doing it. They were professional make-up artists and they both just said ‘right I’m quitting it and doing YouTube’. I was the only one in the family with a degree and my mum had high hopes for me.”
After much convincing, Chapman’s mother agreed to let him give it a shot.
“She obviously worried and had her doubts, but now she’s my biggest fan.”
In the digital age of entertainment, internet celebrities tend to slot into one of two categories. One, the strategic bunch who build their profile with an end goal (see:monetary) in mind and two, the lucky ones who wing their way to success.
Chapman falls more towards the latter. In fact, Chapman says that he has absolutely no clue how he’s gotten this far.
“Having a degree in psychology doesn’t mean I know what people want to see. I literally have no idea. Even to this day I feel that now,” he says.
So what makes him so special amongst the masses of self-obsessed and often narcissistic bloggers today?
“I think it boils down to the personality and relatability. People just want to feel connected and for whatever reason, that’s what they get from me.”
“I’m lucky enough to be one of the guys people watch.”
“EVEN IF YOU’RE MAKING 10,000 VIEWS A MONTH, YOU STILL CAN’T LIVE OFF IT. IT’S TINY. I’M NOW MAKING MILLIONS OF VIEWS A MONTH AND IT’S ONLY NOW MY JOB.”
From an outsider’s perspective, Chapman’s fashion game has seemingly exploded from the ether alongside his pop culture status. His naturally charming looks teamed with his ability to engage with a broader audience has no doubt made him hot property in the world of high fashion – a place in the front row of fashion shows which he now often calls home.
He’s also got new collaborations with Dunhill, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and John Lewis as well as his own staple of YouTube blogs, event hosting duties, radio shows and TV roles. It’s not hard to see why Chapman doesn’t get much sleep these days.
What he does have however is sage advice for those wanting to try their hand at this unique career path.
“It took years to get to the point where I can actually live off it. When you first start you’re making 100 [YouTube] views a month,” he explains.
“Even if you’re making 10,000, 11,000 views a month, you still can’t live off it. It’s tiny. I’m now making millions of views a month and it’s only now my job. But you have to be at a certain level before you can actually quit your day job.”
The lifespan of a career YouTuber is also one that is finite. Chapman believes that even though his young audience have grown up with him over the years, he can’t see them hanging around after a decade let alone seeing himself vlogging at forty.
“By then there’ll be a better looking, funnier Jim Chapman,” he laughs.
One notable sacrifice Chapman has made is family. The 27-year-old says that if it weren’t for him and his wife’s online careers, he would have been a father three years ago.
“I’m desperate for a kid but because Tanya has the same job as me, it’s much harder for her to do it. For me, I’m the kind of guy who sleeps a little less. I don’t have the scrutiny of being pregnant and all the stuff that comes with it. Tanya has so much more she wants to achieve first so we’re not quite there just yet. As soon as she says ‘yes’ though, I’m in.”
“COULD YOU IMAGINE? IT’D BE AMAZING. JIM CHAPMAN SINGLE HANDEDLY BRINGS DOWN BRITAIN’S FASHION EMPIRE.”
Chapman says that his final piece of advice for all the budding social influencers is the most obvious – love what you do.
“Do it because you love it, not because you see what people like me and my friends achieve. If you’re doing it for that reason, you won’t achieve that.”
And advice on the fashion front from the guy who once had no idea? Don’t wear women’s clothing.
“You need money to buy nice things. So one time my sister gave me a pair of her jeans when I was fifteen. I wore them because they were Diesel and I thought they were awesome. They were actually flares and they were definitely girl’s jeans with no room in the crotch.”
Given his immense influence in the fashion world today, does he think he can resurrect the low crotch, flared jeans movement for men?
“Could you imagine? It’d be amazing. Jim Chapman single handedly brings down Britain’s fashion empire.”
[By Mike Huynh] [Read More] [From D'marge] [Image From toppixgallery]