Olga Kay is one of those tiny, bubbly types that make you smile even if you don’t want to. See, I hate doing interviews. I’m like this big, bearded lumberjack-looking creep who sweats too much and doesn’t at all look like “the voice of what is young and cutting edge.” And yet, I was glad I got to meet Olga. It wasn’t quite that she made me want to be a better person or any of that noise, but it is fun to meet someone who clearly has had a few odd life experiences and just enjoys the hell out of being in front of the camera.
I don’t think it’s a natural performance. She looks nervous at times, and you get the feeling she has to work at her craft. But she’s an entertainer nonetheless and worth paying attention to. I don’t know where she ends up — as we discuss in the interview, you can’t do YouTube forever. But just watching her plot and move, even trying to steal the interview from me at one point, you can tell she’s got crazy trajectory. Like a shooting star, you might say.
We are in your Barbie room. As I recall, this room got 106,000 or so views just to watch you paint it. Is that correct?
Olga Kay: Yep.
So pretty much people will watch beautiful girls do anything, huh?
Yeah, as long as they wear tutus, as I am right now.
Yeah, and you look fantastic. In the course of doing my interview prep, I happened to watch a few of your videos, and I happened to catch one late last night in which I believe you said, “I have an interview coming up tomorrow and a photoshoot, and I don’t want to do it.”
What! [laughs] Did I say that?
You did, and it was like, “That’s good. I’m going to definitely ask her about that.”
Wait, which video was that? Was it obviously my OlgaKay2 channel? Why would I say I don’t want to do it?
You were like, “I’d rather be playing ‘Assassin’s Creed’ or ‘Minecraft.’” So are you a pretty big gamer, is I guess what I’m asking?
I love video games. No, I’m actually really excited for this photoshoot because we came up with this concept of being Japanese street-style person, and I haven’t dressed up like this in a while so I’m actually really excited. Although I make 23 videos a week, so I’m a little behind on my schedule because I’ve been doing a lot of different things that are not supposed to happen during the week usually — you’re one of them! [laughs] But no, I’m super excited. But yeah, I love videogames, and “Assassin’s Creed” the new one is just amazing.
Where are you from, because you have such a beautiful little accent?
Oh, thank you. I was born by the Black Sea in the Ukraine, but if I go home now, my home is in Siberia which is in Russia, and that’s where my parents are living right now.
And you have brothers or sisters with you?
I do have an older brother. He’s not here; I’m here by myself, and he’s a DJ [makes DJ noises], so he’s still in Russia, and he has a wife and her name is Olga. And my aunt, her name is Olga, so there is like Olgas in my family everywhere, so if we get for a family get-together nobody knows who they are talking to.
Now in one of your videos, you use the term “Who gave birth to you?” Is that something your mom use to say to you a lot?
I had a meeting with my writers the other day, and so I would say little things like, if this video doesn’t do well I’m going to hang myself and then tickle my feet. And they’re like, “Wait, is that something you say in Russian?” I’m like, “Actually, no. I just made it up!” I just felt like when people are acting a certain way and they are not good people, I just want to say, “Who gave birth to you? What kind of mother do you have that raised you a certain way?” So I just made it up; we don’t say that in Russia.
Oh okay, now did you also make up your theory about dealing with assholes? Is it that you imagine that they have an asshole right there where their face should be?
[laughs] I did! See, my imagination is a little wacky and out there.
What’s the YouTube influence like in the Black Sea? Is there a strong YouTube following out there?
When I left, YouTube didn’t even exist, so I’ve been here for 12 years, and when I discovered YouTube it was like so exciting, and it was a new thing, and nobody knew anything about it even in America. So I went to Russia last year, and I started looking around. I just changed my channel to a Russia region because I wanted to see if I’m going to be number one in Russia, and I was number three. So there is actually number one and number two channel, and now it’s pretty big, and people make careers out of it but literally in the last maybe year and a half, whereas YouTube here has been around for at least six years now. I’ve been on YouTube for six years, so I know it’s been around.
How did you get into YouTube then?
By force. They took me, and they said, “You’re going to be on YouTube!” No, my friend — I used to be in the circus, and I used to juggle, and you knew that, right?
I did not know that! Now look at that.
So I used to be in the circus, and I had a lot friends that are jugglers, and a friend of mine who was a juggler he put up a video on YouTube, and he said, “Hey Olga, can you create an account on YouTube and like and favorite my video?” And back then, we had star systems, so he said, “Can you give me five stars?” And I said, “You … too … has a website? What?” He’s like, “No, it’s YouTube. It’s this new thing, video-hosting site.” So I sign up, and I used my bank password, which was “Olga Kay,” and I felt like, “Whatever, I am just going to create this account and like his video and give him five stars.” So I did that, and I started reading the comments, and I’m like, “Who are these people? Why are they watching this video? I don’t understand — maybe I should put up a video?” And I didn’t have a camera, I didn’t know how to edit, I had two cats that somebody filmed a video of and edited, and I’m like, “Eh, I’ll just put that up,” so I put that up, and people just started watching a little bit, and then I realized that I have to learn how to edit and get a camera. And I couldn’t afford to get a camera back then, so I had a laptop, and it was a Mac laptop with an iSight, and I literally ran around town with the computer filming myself making videos.
An auspicious start. How do you think you became so successful though?
A lot of hard work. Because I’ve been one of those YouTubers that never got super lucky and got this viral hit where everyone’s been watching and talking about, like “Choclate Rain,” like I never had any of those videos so for me. It was literally doing it day after day. I used to spend 12 hours a day — not that I don’t now — but 12 hours a day with no money just believing in this thing that I wasn’t sure if it was going to go anywhere. But for some reason I love doing it, so I kept doing it forever and going to YouTube gatherings, meeting people, telling things, “Hey, I can juggle balls, and I’m amazing! Watch my videos!” I used to have these business cards, and it would be me in my circus costume, and I would have juggling balls there, and it read: “Russian juggler.” And I would pass them out everywhere, like I was the first YouTuber who would constantly pass out cards with my YouTube on it, and so people started watching me a little bit, but it still took me a good two or three years to gain the momentum on YouTube.
What was a day like in the circus back then?
Back then! So I joined the circus when I was 16. I literally did not have a childhood. Usually, people join the circus when they are 5 and 6, and they are young, and they can learn all their skills really easily. I was 14 to 16, and I was too old to join the circus, so I knew if I wanted to be successful and talented, considered to be talented in the circus, I had to work really, really hard. So I would go to school, I would come home and then practice for eight hours.
Contrast that business of being in the circus to where you’re at now — what’s a typical day like for you now?
I love my job now a lot more, so I can spend five years straight working and I’ll be happy. I’ll be exhausted, but I’ll be super happy. I still work all day long, and I realized that if I structure my day a little bit more, I wouldn’t have to work all day long; I would just have to stick to the schedule. So I’ve been on YouTube for six years, but as of maybe three months ago I finally came up with a schedule. So I wake up, I upload all of my videos that are due that day — on Monday I think I’m uploading 1, 2, 3, 4 videos — and once I’m finished uploading, I’m doing my makeup and I shoot for my beauty channel and my gaming channel, and hopefully I’ll be done by 5 p.m. So then I can either edit a little bit or just relax and spend time with my friends. Then on Tuesday, I am shooting more videos for my beauty channel, Wednesday I’m editing and uploading five videos because that’s actually the day when I upload on my main channel, then Thursday I shoot a sketch for my main channel, and then Friday I’m shooting more gaming videos, and then the weekend, if I’m lucky, I get to relax. If not, I’ll just edit or give my editor notes, and I finally got an editor and cameraman in the last seven months, but i’ve been doing this whole thing by myself and it’s been a lot of work.
I’m sure that’s far too crazy for me to deal with.
But I love this job so much, where in the circus I worked just as hard, but I had this stage fright anytime I go on stage. I was just paralyzed, and then I would do my act and I’d feel better, and afterwards I just don’t want to do it again. And then I did it three times a day, so it was really harsh on my mental health.
Yeah. Where here, I can hide behind the editing and make something amazing with the help of friends or myself and just have a lot of fun. And you get instant feedback; I love that — even if it’s hate — I love it.
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