You only have to watch a YouTube video by Kingsley once to be instantly hooked. His animated delivery of humorous and “tell-it-how-it-is” commentary is just one of the ways he keeps his viewers entertained and wanting more. We sat down with Kingsley to talk about life before YouTube in Missouri, being one of the top subscribed YouTube channels internationally, a tweet of approval from Ashton Kutcher and other current projects. Welcome to LA Kingsley!
- What takes up most of your time right now? Networking. I just moved here so I’m getting to know the area and people in the area. I’ve made some awesome friends, I sightsee and shop and travel and just enjoy my free time before I have to go back to school.
- Guilty pleasure: “Jersey Shore” is a guilty pleasure because I make videos about how much I hate how MTV doesn’t play music a lot, and I’ve been watching that religiously. I’m also kind of getting into beef jerky. I used to think it was the grossest thing. I had never tried it before, but when we were driving here I got a bite from my roommate, who got it from a gas station, and now I can’t stop eating them.
- What’s your relationship status? I’m single and mingling and drooling over Latinos.
- What’s your favorite Britney Spears song? My favorite Britney Spears song is “Radar.” I think it’s great. It’s perfect, it’s catchy and I have listened to it everyday since 2007. I’m not exaggerating either.
- Your weakness: Can we come back to that one?
- What are your pet peeves? My biggest pet peeve right now is when you are out with someone and you guys are getting food at McDonald’s, or somewhere, and you ask them if they want anything and they say “no.” Then you get your food and they are asking you for bites, even though they said they didn’t want anything. I don’t like birds. They scare me. They are pretty huge here so that gets on my nerves. I don’t like when couples sit on the same side of a booth because that’s awkward to me. There’s no one else over there. I hate when people talk during movies. It pisses me off because I love movies. I love focusing on the movie and when people are talking I get so irritated. I just want to watch the movie.
- Ideal guy: Funny, laid back and sweet.
- What’s your favorite song to sing in the shower? “Government Hooker” by Lady Gaga. It sounds so cool in the shower. Have you heard that song? You just start singing and it’s just great. I love that song.
- Fun Fact: I’ve never been in a fight. I’ve never been in like any type of altercation which surprises people. I’ve never been in any type of confrontation, because I don’t like to mess with people, and no one messes with me because I don’t do anything to anyone. People are always asking, “How many fights do you get into?” and “Are you always cussing people out?” and I’m like, “Nope.” I actually don’t even know what I would do if I was ever punched in the face.
- Funner Fact: I have an orange belt in karate. I think it’s orange? Is it white and then… What’s the one after white? I don’t know. Whatever the third one is. I’m not a black belt, but I can kick.
First of all, welcome to LA! We know you recently took a road trip from Missouri all the way to LA — tell us a little about that. What led to your decision to move over a thousand miles away, considering you were in the middle of attending the University of Missouri?
KINGSLEY: Well, it’s such a long, long story. But the road trip, first of all, was great. We started at Columbia and we went through Kansas, Colorado, Utah, I think Arizona and then we got here. We stopped at national parks. I saw the Grand Canyon which was really boring to me because we went to Zion and Zion is crazy! There’s mountains, streams, caves and coves. You go from that to a big red pit and it’s just like, “What the hell?” It was great. It went well. No major road trip things happened. I kept expecting to get pulled over because our car was full. I couldn’t even see out the back most of the time but it went well.
[My decision to move here] started last year. I met this girl, Stephanie, who is a model. She and I met each other online on my fan page. I posted something about Lindsay Lohan and the whole going to jail thing. Stephanie made some comment about how she needs to take responsibility about herself and I was defending her (Lindsay Lohan). At that point we were kind of talking on a normal basis. Then after that we apologized, added each other on Facebook and we kept up with each other over time.
Then, over the summer, I went to a couple Britney Spears concerts. I went to one in Chicago and then I went to a second one in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Stephanie lived an hour and a half away and I had an extra ticket because my boyfriend at the time was supposed to go. Some stuff happened that made him go back to Missouri, so Stephanie came. We were in our hotel room about to go out, pre-gaming before the concert, and we were just talking and talking and talking. School was supposed to start that Monday, and this was on a Wednesday. She was just talking and was like, “What are you doing in Missouri? Are you happy there?” I was just realizing that there was nothing keeping me there besides my parents. I knew I’d miss my friends and everything, but it was just one of those situations where I had the money and I had nothing keeping me in Missouri.
So after we talked, I talked to my friend Caitlyn and tried to see what she thought. She was all for it. Caitlyn was moving to Los Angeles and wanted a roommate and was like, “I’m leaving in three weeks, you should come with me.” So the next day, when I left Michigan, I called my mom and I explained everything to her and I said, “I really want to move.” There have been other times when I was supposed to [move] and I either chickened out or I was scared. She convinced me, the most recent time, to finish school first. I’m just at a point where school is always going to be there. I can always take a semester or year off and go back to school. The chance to get out of Missouri with money, with a roommate and with goals was not something that was always going to be an option, so I took advantage of it while it was.
Walk us through a typical day for Kingsley?
I wake up. I might work out, I usually don’t. I go to the beach. My roommate cooks all the time so I always eat her food. I cook too though. I’ve made some awesome friends, I’ve networked a lot. Some days I have jobs to do, some days I don’t. It’s really random and spontaneous and I love it. On Monday, I can never tell you what I’m doing the rest of the week. And that’s amazing to me.
You mentioned before how you were a majoring in communications at Missouri University. Since you’ve reached YouTube fame, have your plans for the future changed?
Kind of? Before high school I wanted to be a meteorologist. I was obsessed with the weather and I thought it’d be a cool thing to stand up there and show people what’s about to happen. I went into high school and that’s when I started getting into journalism. I was on our student news television program. I was also on the student newspaper as the editor. So when I went to school, I was, of course, all into journalism. That’s what I had as my major. The YouTube thing started in July of 2009. I started college, as a journalism major, in August of 2009.
As I went through the semester, the teachers were saying that this field was dying and that there’s not a lot of jobs because print has been ruined by the Internet. It was almost like they were trying to wean people out. For me, I didn’t want to write and they put a lot of emphasis on print journalism. So I switched my major at the semester to communications, with an emphasis on radio TV broadcasting. I was doing that and then, of course, while that was happening, the YouTube thing was getting bigger for me. I don’t think my major will change because I still want to do something with communications. I know as a backup plan I still want to do something that has to do with communications, even if it’s like teaching or something like that.
You had a roommate who was from Singapore. What are some fond memories you have with your former roommate and what do you believe makes your comedy transcend borders, as it is one of the top subscribed channels internationally?
My roommate from Singapore… It was interesting. We weren’t close because I was barely there. I stayed with my friends Christina and Andrea in another dorm because we all had classes together in the morning, so we’d all walk there and it was easy for me. He didn’t speak English that well. You know blogTV? We used to do those a lot. There was this one time where I was doing one and he didn’t know what I was doing. He was my roommate my second semester freshman year and that was when stuff was getting really big. That’s when Ashton Kutcher tweeted my video and I was on Tosh.0 and stuff like that. I had this blogtv and he was just in the background just looking at me.
Of course, I could see him because when you’re looking at it you can look back. He was sniffing his clothes. I don’t know what he was doing but it was cracking people up. It was the funniest thing. Everybody just wanted me to do those, while he was in the room because he just did the most awkward stuff. He was nice. That was probably the closest experience we had because we didn’t hang out a lot. He always had so much going on. For Spring Break, they got to go to New York — it was crazy.
In many of your rants regarding pop culture, like “Fuck the Parents Television Council,” you discuss how parents should criticize celebrities less for their public actions and reflect more on how they raise their children. Growing up, was your mom very liberal with what music and TV you were allowed to listen to and watch?
No, I remember I was so frustrated. You know how cable has all those parental locks? Every movie channel was locked. I could only watch Disney and certain things. She had rated R movies locked. Of course, all the adult stuff. I think even PG-13 for a while. I could not watch anything. I had the freedom to watch whatever movie I wanted that was not restricted. With the Internet, she had this thing where it was only on for two hours a day. My mom isn’t strict but they had all that stuff in place. I still had freedom, the freedom was restricted, but for the most part she was liberal, just not with entertainment stuff. If anything, they were restricting about me hanging out. I was home a lot in high school and I was involved at school. I was on the newspaper, track, cross country, school plays — everything. I never went to parties or anything like that. My curfew was at 11 o’ clock every night, even on the weekends.
Going back to the other question, what do you believe makes you transcend borders as a top subscribed channel internationally?
I think the videos about pop culture — those particularly because those are music-related and music is everywhere. People everywhere like the artists that I talk about so they’ll find me that way. Everything else I talk about is stuff that people can relate to. I think that has something to do with it because a lot of the things I talk about are stuff that people get annoyed by, even if they won’t say it aloud. I’m saying it aloud and everyone relates to that.
In your videos, it is obvious that you are very tuned in with pop culture and with new media, a lot of new talent is being discovered. Do you think utilizing new media tools is vital in order for celebrities to stay relevant today?
I think it is. Because if you look at people — like Lady Gaga, Britney and even Rihanna — Rihanna had this whole thing recently, where her album was unraveling online. She had people online looking at her album cover, her single and where to get it on iTunes. Of course, now with music videos, which are essentially on VEVO, the Internet is a really important place. You can see when people don’t connect with their fans and stuff, it affects them. You see, Beyoncé doesn’t have a Twitter; everybody is always confused on when her stuff is coming out, what’s her next single and things like that. I think it is important because everyone is gradually getting online and I feel like celebrities have to be part of that too.
According to another article, you have Ashton Kutcher’s tweet of approval. How did it feel when you first heard the news and how have you utilized other social media tools besides YouTube?
It was Easter actually. I was in St. Louis and it was our Spring Break. I was with my friend Chris, and I don’t know when he did it (if it was morning or overnight), but people wrote on my Facebook wall, “Ashton tweeted about you!” And I didn’t even know his Twitter at the time. I think he was a top follower. So I went to his page and he was like, “This dude is cracking me up about the zoo.” I had this video from when I was on break about how the zoo was stupid. He had tweeted it without responding to me because he didn’t know who I was. There were so many people that followed both of us and said, “That’s Kingsley!” Then he finally tweeted me and said I was hilarious, and he put my “BIRDS” video on his iPhone app for his five videos of the week. I don’t want to say it wasn’t a big deal because it was, but I didn’t freak out. I was very calm about it. I freaked out more so when Lindsay Lohan was talking to me on Twitter. I’m more obsessed, I guess, with females in the industry like Britney, Gaga, and Beyoncé. Ashton is huge, but I wasn’t like, “Ahhh!”
As far as other sites, besides YouTube, I tweet a lot. The thing that I try to do on Twitter is to make sure I respond to people because some YouTubers barely do that. They tweet when they upload a video, or if there’s something they want them to buy, and they don’t actually interact with people who are supporting them. I just want to stay humble. I have a Facebook but I don’t really use it. I use it, but I’m definitely on Twitter more. I have a Tumblr and that’s where people send me questions when I do “Ask Kingsley” on Thursdays and it’s just a really fun and interesting site.
You’ve addressed your sexuality openly and discussed some of the negative comments you’ve received online. What are your thoughts on cyber-bullying and how do you believe comedy and social media can combat it?
I think cyber-bulling, and bullying in general, is a bad thing. Recently, all these suicides have happened; there was the guy that Lady Gaga tweeted about — he was bullied and killed himself. I feel bad for people who go through it. Even though my videos get some negative feedback, to me, it’s different because it’s not me. Kingsley is a magnified, over-dramatic, really loud — an alter ego. So when I read that stuff now, I know they aren’t talking to me. They are, but I know that’s not how I act, so I can’t really take that to heart because everyone that knows me, and has followed me from the beginning, knows who I really am. I wish other people could have that mentality, but they don’t because it’s not their situation.
I never had to deal with hardcore bullying. I got bullied when I was in eighth grade when I switched school districts because I think people weren’t used to me. I’ve been lucky for the most part. I just wish people would not let people get to them, because when people commit suicide over stuff like that, it’s not necessary. I feel that if they just find somebody to talk to or just give it more time, things will get better. I don’t think that they are thinking of other people when they are doing that and how it affects their families and those that are close to them. It’s all unnecessary to me. I don’t understand it. I just wish people were stronger and didn’t let that bother them so much.
I think that we should always let people know that there is hope and that things will get better. I know recently a lot of celebrities did the “It gets better” campaign and a lot of YouTubers made videos about suicide. I know Shane, for instance, just talked about being bullied and how he was overweight. I think talking to people helps. Even on Twitter, there’s always trending topics about feeling better about yourself. It just all depends on how people receive it.
On your YouTube channel, you have an ongoing series called “Overexposed” where you rant about solid trend celebrities that have been overplayed and overrated. On the contrary, is there anything or anyone in the media that you feel has been underexposed?
There are so many. I feel like, and it’s our fault, that the same people get attention all the time. If you look at the charts all year it’s been Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Adele, blah blah blah. There once was a time where music was so diverse. There was R&B, rock, pop — the 90’s pretty much and early 2000’s. It’s our fault for supporting the same people but there are so many artists that are out there. I don’t know how the business works really, but I can’t even explain it. It kind of flusters me to think about it. There are so many people that sing, have songs and talent, but the radio just does not play them. I guess their fans don’t request them enough. It’s about fans and support.
For instance, I am a Britney fan. The way that it is now, a lot of people who are at the top promote like crazy. They’re always on Letterman, award shows and talk shows. Britney doesn’t do anything so we, as fans, organize and request her songs on the radio. We make sure we trend stuff on Twitter. I feel like to an extent new media can control it, but it has to be in a substantial way. Like Justin Bieber, people were watching him and he got noticed. I think it all depends on the fans. I get frustrated trying to explain it. It’s one of the things that has been irritating me lately. I was on Twitter and I was like, “I’m seeing all these dance songs. I don’t want to see all this stuff.” I don’t know how it happened, I don’t know how it changed. It’s crazy. Everybody is doing dance, even Usher. I don’t even know. It hurts me.
Let’s talk about the past. On your first YouTube channel before ItsKingsleyB****, you focused on recapping reality TV shows. Is watching reality TV still a hobby of yours and what do you think is the future of reality TV, especially with the negative attention it always gets?
I don’t watch it as much as I used to. I used to be obsessed with VH1. They had “Flavor of Love,” “I Love New York,” “Rock of Love” and all the spin-offs. But then VH1 decided to be classy all of a sudden and cancel all of the dating shows. I watch “Jersey Shore.” I watch the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “Khloe & Lamar” and “Kourtney and Kim.” I watch all of those. I think that’s pretty much it. Sometimes I watch “The Real Housewives” but not religiously.
As far as the future, I feel like [reality shows] are always going to be around, especially the celebrity ones. I don’t know much about the new people like “Jersey Shore” — it’s essentially “The Real World” except they don’t change the cast members. “The Real World” is in San Diego and they did that seven seasons ago. They are revisiting cities now. They went to New Orleans again and people are going to get sick of that. There are so many cities that they aren’t even visiting. Even though there is negative attention I feel that people are always going to watch, like me. Even though I hate what MTV has become, I can’t stop watching “Jersey Shore.” Sometimes I don’t want to watch but I can’t help it because it’s there. I don’t think negativity will affect it at all. Even VH1, they toned themselves down but they just came out with different forms of it, like “Basketball Wives.” It’s still trashy, just not a dating show.
In a past interview, you mentioned how you spent one summer doing community service for fun. Aside from making popular YouTube videos, what else do you like to do in your free time?
I really like movies. I try to see as many as I can. I’ve been slacking lately but I try to go to one movie a week, at least. I like to write. I like to work out but not really. I’d rather go walk on a trail than go lift. I really like being outside, but I don’t like sun beating down on my face. I guess Twitter can count as a hobby. I tweet no matter where I am. I love Twitter. I think Twitter is great. I really like to drive and just listen to music. Even back in Missouri, I really had no where to go but if I was bored, I would just drive.
We know you are a huge fan of Britney Spears. Recently, Chris Crocker reported a follow-up to his “Leave Britney Alone” video from 2007. In the follow-up, Crocker says that, in terms of performing, Britney can’t keep up with other new popstars and should leave the stage alone. What’s your opinion on Britney’s comeback and do you believe critics are too harsh on her?
She’s not dancing how she used to dance but I don’t think they are harsh. I feel like some of them don’t understand or try to understand. She has her moments where she dances really well and sometimes she struggles. People take that and act like she’s always been that way. They forget about how she was before. People say that she has no talent, but just because she is a certain way now, at the age and state that she is in, doesn’t mean everything she has accomplished goes away. I grew up with her and she had her little breakdown, but she came back. I know she’s not skinny and wearing the diamonds like in “Toxic,” but she still tries and she’s still having fun. She’s not old, she has two kids, she had knee surgery and a highly publicized meltdown. She’s still getting number one albums, number one singles, selling out tours and just had the biggest radio era of her career. I think she’s doing just fine.
You define the word “rant” in the description section of your YouTube channel. One of your first rants was about crazy Jonas Brothers fans. What inspires these rants?
I want to talk about people but I also want to keep their attention. I feel like the character of Kingsley and ranting is a way to say things, sometimes I make a point, but it’s also funny. I think that’s one of the advantages I have. I rant but I always try to make a point so I’m not just looking like a crazy person. I think that’s what inspires my rants. I know that people are looking forward to them. I feel that if I went on and if I was calm and boring, nobody will listen to me. And I know they wouldn’t. It’s a way to entertain them pretty much.
Now that you’ve moved to the other side of the country, are there any exciting new projects that you are working on and that you can tell us about?
I just finished doing a recap series with DanceOn. They’ve worked with Glozell before. “Glozell Gets Down” — it’s a series of dance videos. I commentated on this season of “Dancing With The Stars” along with some awesome choreographers like Bobby Newberry and Galen Hooks. I actually have several other projects coming in 2012, but I can’t say anything yet because I signed contracts.
What are your words of wisdom to artists that are trying to get their name out there through new media?
Don’t be afraid to talk about what everyone else is talking about. I know people who have tried to come up just based on their own material, which is fine. If they do that then that’s great. But if they want to actually get out there, get views and have people see them, they need to actually talk about stuff that people are going to be looking for. Once you do that, like I did, you can get into general stuff and by that point people will be used to you and be familiar with you and will support what you do no matter what you talk about. I don’t want to call it “selling out” but be generic for a moment before you be unique. I don’t know about music — just go out there and sing.
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Photography by Melly Lee