[By: Sami Main] [Ad Week] [Read More]
Miranda thinks she's incredible," said Colleen Ballinger, the creator of Miranda Sings. "She takes pride in her singing, dancing, acting, modeling... all of which she's not good at!"
Nine years ago, when YouTube was essentially still a toddler, the character of Miranda Sings was born. Back then, Ballinger was studying vocal performance and had started to observe the girls around her.
"I saw all these mean, snooty girls in my classes," she said, "so Miranda is really based on those girls. She was a way for me to poke fun at them."
"She's very confident in her lack of talent," said Ballinger.
Miranda, whose signature look is a red lip and a bad attitude, started as a much more tame version than what you see today.
"When the first videos came out, and started to become viral, I started getting hate comments," she explained. "People would write 'you suck,' 'you're ugly,' 'you can't sing.' I became fascinated that people were so bored, they'd write something so mean about someone who wasn't even real."
If they didn't like her singing, she'd sing worse. If they didn't like her style, she dressed worse. Ballinger really wanted to exaggerate Miranda's worst qualities so they would comment even more. She wanted to "engage with the haters."
Miranda Sings currently has more than seven million subscribers on YouTube. And Ballinger is now hoping they'll follow her to Netflix for the first season of Haters Back Off, which debuts today on the streaming service.
Ballinger and her brother, Christopher, are co-writers in everything she does. Once Miranda's videos started going viral online, the Ballingers developed the characters that inhabit her world.
Angela Kinsey, who played Angela Martin on NBC's The Office, plays Miranda's mother in Haters Back Off and Steve Little, from comedies like Eastbound & Down on HBO, plays Miranda's fame chasing uncle.
"We've only been able to show a little bit of Miranda at a time online," she said. "Now we get to show why she is the way she is. I'm hoping the audience, or fans, will connect with her on a deeper level. We've never seen her show any vulnerability or true emotions before! That's huge for this character."
Who are those millions of fans who've loved Miranda for all these years? Mostly, probably, teenage girls who "just want to embrace their 'weird.'"
"There's so much pressure to look perfect from places like Instagram, where we worry about how many likes we get. Miranda is so confident in her weirdness, that's why she's so inspiring. She's not the 'pretty girl' or the 'talented girl.'"
That's why she's been able to reach so many fans throughout the years, and probably why Netflix wanted to attach itself to this project, which Ballinger and her brother started pitching two years ago.
"Netflix is really excited about this character's story and the vision we bring to it," she said. Ballinger is hoping the new series will help her expand the message of Miranda, that you don't need to have so much beauty or skil in order to be confident.
But expanding Miranda out into the world can be a challenge, especially since "90 percent of my time is spent alone, either filming, editing, or writing," explained Ballinger.
Luckily, fans have supported her throughout her many fun "collabs" (that's YouTube speak for "collaborations with fellow YouTubers" where folks usually make a video or two for their respective channels) with friends, and even a special appearance on Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which streams on Crackle.
"We were just being fools for hours," she said. "It was maybe two whole hours until I accidentally broke character!"
That video also revealed to viewers the "man behind the curtain," as it were. Here, it's the Colleen behind the Miranda.
"I was really nervous for a lot of years to have Miranda and Colleen in the same place. I didn't want people to know my true identity, and having that small conversation with Jerry was a great way to show both sides of things," she said.
And as Ballinger can attest, it's important to show all sides of things, especially when it comes to the creative space that lives online.
"It's really exciting to make what I want without worrying if it'll go viral. There isn't a comments section on Netflix," she said.