Elle is no stranger to the YouTube world. With 1,724,666 views to her channel and over 80,000 subscribers, Elle and her clones continue to keep their audience well entertained. We were able to spend some time in Westwood with the YouTube star, where she talked about her love for Stanford football, learning how to edit on Final Cut Pro, collaborating with other YouTube personalities, the Ellegiance and her adorable daughter, Presley.
- What takes up most of your time right now? Caring for my amazing 4-month-old daughter. Also, filming and editing videos for my YouTube channel, which is extremely time consuming — I must admit.
- Guilty pleasure: Stanford football. I obsessively research BCS [Bowl Championship Series] standings at 2 in the morning when I should be sleeping. I’m an avid fan. Also, getting my nails done — I rarely do [my nails] because it lasts about a day and a half but I love getting my nails done. Another guilty pleasure is using smiley faces and capital letters in my e-mails. I’m a very enthusiastic e-mailer.
- What is your relationship status? I am engaged to the most wonderful man.
- What are your pet peeves? People who honk unnecessarily in their cars. You don’t know what’s going on in the other person’s vehicle (a screaming 4-month-old). Another pet peeve is when people use hot sauce on everything, which my fiancée does — even after I’ve cooked, he douses it with hot sauce.
- Favorite football team? Stanford! I’ve been a fan for over 10 years now — not just when they were in the top 10. Let me repeat: the top 10.
- Longest you’ve gone without sleep? Definitely 48 hours — editing.
- Most memorable form of public humiliation, while making a video. Driving around Studio City with a presumption that our shopping cart was our vehicle. We had two vanity mirrors as the rear view mirrors. We had a license plate on my sister’s butt pushing the “vehicle.” My girlfriend and I were wedged in the shopping cart acting like nothing was wrong. That’s the key in public humiliation. You can’t lead on that you are embarrassed.
- What was the concept for this? It was just the whole juxtaposition of going on a road trip but in a shopping cart. We filled it with gas and did everything. We green screened it so it looked like we were going down the 405 freeway.
- Fun fact: I was a pretty big nerd in high school. I skipped my junior prom to go to Speech and Debate nationals in Minnesota in a category called “humorous interpretation,”. Actually, its not far off from what I do now in my videos. I basically played multiple characters that talked to each other. I won the state division and made it to nationals.
- Funner fact: I actually have not eaten a burger or a steak for as long as I can remember. I didn’t eat meat until I was in college. Ever since I was little, I refused meat. I still don’t know what a burger tastes like.
Walk us through a typical day for WhatsUpElle.
WhatsUpElle: Right now, I tend to be up “partying” with my 4-month-old until 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning — very fun. We jam out to nursery tunes and then we roll out of bed between 10 and 11, which always makes me feel a bit disoriented and lazy. When I’m delayed answering e-mails I’m like, “I swear I was up really late!” You feel behind on everything. She (Presley) sets the schedule, essentially. If I’m shooting that day, I usually try to get my errands out of the way, take a shower and then film. I tend to edit and film at night, then I call it a day. That’s a good day — if I can actually film and get a video shot.
You picked up Final Cut Pro because there was a lack of editors back at Stanford. Can you tell us what it was like messing around and experimenting with this program, how you have grown and how you are using it?
Learning the program was a lot of really late nights and I’m still learning. I like seeing how far I can take a basic feature on Final Cut Pro. It’s my signature to use the matte effect to the fullest capability as far as the clones go. People always ask me, “Oh my gosh is that a green screen?” or “What did you use?” No, it’s just a simple plug-in on Final Cut Pro. They should be paying me actually. If I had a dime for everybody that asked me what editing program I use…
You first entered the YouTube world with your friend and your sister. What was your motivation and attraction to create content on YouTube?
We wanted to get our work seen and to get feedback. Two weeks after posting our first video, (ironically a pitch for a different company that turned us down) American Eagle saw it and hired us to create content for their Web site. That was during the very beginning of integrated advertising, or as we called it “advertainment”. They gave us a check and we didn’t even have a bank account to put it in. It just goes to show you that when you put your stuff out there and online, there are opportunities that maybe you didn’t even plan on — that’s the exciting thing about being on the Internet.
Back to present day, we usually see you dancing and interacting with clones in some way or form on your channel. Walk us through the creative process of developing your own content.
It’s much more difficult to come up with a concept if I’m given a time limit. I usually just have faith that I’ll come up with an idea during the most random times, like while I’m washing my hair or taking Presley for a walk. The wheels in my brain will write the whole thing by the time I’m home. The reason I like the clones is because it forces me to plan ahead — having it scripted makes the post production much easier. I kind of talk to myself to see how it sounds and then shoot each one (or all at once if you really think I’m triplets, like some of my fans do). We have a rule in the Ellegiance to never say the clones aren’t real, never! This is completely off the record (wink).
Who gave birth to the clones?
We promised our audience there would be a video one day. Turns out, it wasn’t done and there was no one else around. So, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I have to do a video alone.” I made up this little dance and I did it three times on my bed to one of my favorite songs at the time: “Alejandro” by Lady Gaga. It took two hours to film and it got a ton of hits — in the millions. I was like, “that was fun” and that’s how the clones were born. They just stuck around.
So for the most part your videos are home brewed. What are some challenges you have encountered and what are the upsides of having full control of your production?
Yes, very home brewed. One of the biggest challenges I am having right now is the need to ultimately delegate. If I want to move forward, and to be successful, I need to create something that is more scalable. I need to hire people so I can create content on a more regular and frequent basis. That’s difficult for me because I’m a perfectionist, I love the whole process and I really take pride in the post production .
One of the reasons kids watch YouTube is because is this home-brewed vibe. I saw a commercial for Capital One with Alec Baldwin using clones, but they cheated and used a cut when he clipped his tie. I thought, “I could have totally figured out, if I thought long enough, how to do that without using the cut!” Plus, you know they have a major multimedia budget. I think that’s what makes YouTube so special- you know someone is behind it, slaving away in their bedroom and making that content happen organically.
Has any crazy mishap happened during the production of a video?
Ross always jokes that someone should do a reality show of me doing these videos. I have major meltdowns that would make Rachel Zoe look sane. I have lost footage. I have been discouraged [to the point] where I’ve thrown things across the room. When you’re doing this by yourself, there’s a lot of room for creativity and exploration. There’s also room for self-doubt and absolute stir craziness . I’ve literally gone nuts and said “I’m never posting another video!” Then you put the video up and you think, “that wasn’t too bad!” I have a very short term memory when it comes to unsavory things, which is probably not a good thing (laughs).
You’ve made appearances and done multiple collaborations with other creators, like MysteryGuitarMan and Ashton Kutcher. What are your general thoughts on the new media movement?
One of the keys to success on YouTube is collaborations. It’s basically advertising your channel. It’s also really fun to work and talk with other YouTubers because we have so much in common. I am really fortunate and thankful that I’ve met some great people and been able to work with them this year. It’s a much smaller world than people realize. People on YouTube are actually friends in real life.
I think it’s exciting that the lines are being blurred between television and YouTube. It’s obvious that people are watching more content online. It is a little scary to think that the rhizomatic structure on YouTube, that we’ve all benefited from, might start to change as YouTube pays for the production of premium content. In my mind, that means that YouTube has vested interest in seeing the content succeed. That scares me a little bit because we count on YouTube as a major platform from which we receive ad revenue. It makes you realize, well, YouTube can take that away as easily as they are giving it to us. On one hand, it legitimizes YouTube in a way. But on the other hand, you’re going to see that promotion, and the ways people can find you, on YouTube might start to get a bit crowded.
Justin Bieber has his Beliebers, you have your Ellegiance! Do you think there is a special formula in harnessing a loyal path of followers?
Be genuinely appreciative, which I am for every single one of them. Respond, comment and interact with as many as you possibly can — although I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t open my YouTube mailbox because I can’t read them without wanting to respond. I have a great photographic memory so if I see something I will recognize it. I will remember when someone comments, if they have commented again and which video. I’m familiar with a lot of them now, especially the people who repeatedly comment. They’re really sweet kids.
I think I have the nicest audience on YouTube. I will make claim to that. I might not have the most subscribers on YouTube but I have the nicest ones. I feel like everyone is positive, perhaps because In my videos, there’s really no making fun of people except for myself. I noticed when one of my videos went viral, that’s when I got a few crass comments. So, I kind of like it when it’s just my audience. They’re witty, interesting, nice, and fun. The Ellegiance is awesome. I rarely have to erase a comment that has a swear word in it, which is rare on YouTube.
Going back, we know that you went to Stanford and you were in the pre-med program. How did you go to almost-doctor to editor, producer, online content creator?
I revived the news program at Stanford, so I spent much of my time in the arts and media. When I put up a posting for editor no one replied, so by default I had to learn how to edit. I realized shortly that I wanted to do something creative. Not that medicine is not a creative field, but I just didn’t have the gumption to switch tracks academically, so I continued. I loved studying, but looking back I wish I explored media at an academic level more. But you got to remember, this was back before social media is what it is today. I’m dating myself now. There was no YouTube or Facebook. I didn’t have a cell phone until my junior year of college — people got paged. It’s insane.
What did you end up finishing school with?
I ended up picking up a few more liberal arts classes and finished up with a science technology and society degree which studied the way how technology impacted society. It is a little more applicable to what I am doing today in social media because I also consult in social media. I moved back to LA and worked in production. As soon as YouTube started coming up I started to work on videos online.
How did your family respond?
My family is incredibly supportive in whatever I want to pursue because I think they trust that I work really hard. I also think, to a certain degree, that my dad, who is a physician, always wanted to be an actor/comedian. He’s a very funny guy. So for him, he can live vicariously through what I am doing. They especially love watching now since they can see their granddaughter in the films.
My grandmother, who is 88, watches Presley on YouTube and we Skype. She is amazing. She’s the sharpest lady, she’s like my idol. She’ll also look through the comments. Next time you comment my videos, know that my 88-year-old grandmother might be reading it.
Congratulations on baby Presley. Any tips on how to balance having a creative lifestyle and motherhood?
I will let you know when it happens. I will say, I have much less time to waste. My goal at the end of the year is to become more efficient and more streamlined because there’s nothing more important than spending time with my daughter. No video, no comment I need to respond to, no tweet that I have to post is as important to me as one-on-one eye contact and playing time with Presley at the end of the day. Her smile is just the best. It’s the cutest thing in the world.
You seem really real in your videos, how do you keep that balance between being honest and not giving out private information.
Sometimes there is that urge to post a ranting video when I’m upset like some people do. But, I find that I always like to take a step back before I post. I try to focus on the positive when I make online videos because, in the end, I’d rather cheer people up. So, that is the real me, but there is a filter that I use. YouTube is not my diary, it’s not my place to vent. It’s my place to present myself creatively and for me to challenge myself and create what I consider quality films.
I think my Twitter account more reflects who I am on a daily basis because I’ll tweet at 5 in the morning, etc. But, I’ve never been super comfortable putting myself out there 100 percent. I have a very shy private side and I need my personal space. Some weekends I will go without tweeting at all because I need that time-out from social media. I don’t want to apologize, I think it’s acceptable to take that time. Some people are really good at tweeting all the time and vlogging their hearts out. I admire them. I just can’t do it, it’s not me. My biggest thing is, hey, am I comfortable with my family seeing this? My grandma seeing this? Then OK, I can put it up.
Presley is 18, she originally wanted to go to college but now she has decided she wants to pursue a creative career in entertainment. What do you say to her?
Well, first of all, I would support her and her dreams no matter what. With that said, I would definitely want to see a track record of her genuinely pursuing whatever it is she wants to do and putting the hard work, time, effort and education behind it. Also, I would tell her that the creative pursuits, particularly in LA, can get very lonely. I think there is something comforting and fun about being in school, working the corporate job in the mail room, the camaraderie that you get, the experience that you get. I want to make sure that she’s aware that you can potentially miss that. But most importantly, I hope that she is decisive about what she loves and can recognize that at an early age because A: I think that gives you an advantage and B: I think one of the most difficult things to do in life is find what you are truly passionate about. I still wonder everyday and talk to myself about what I really should be doing. But right now this is making me happy and I’m very fortunate to have something to do while I stay at home with my daughter. It’s flexible and I’m essentially my own boss.
How do we stalk you?
Also, Elle may be launching a mom channel soon so keep an eye out!
Photography by Melly Lee