There are few YouTubers that we love more than Qaadir Howard. Between his sass and fast-paced banter that keeps us running to catch up, he also never fails to share great insight into the social media world with every interview we have. Recently, Qaadir moved back to Atlanta after moving to Los Angeles last year to build his YouTube channel.
For many YouTubers, Los Angeles seems like the place they have to be. Because such a large YouTube community has gathered within the City of Angels, many YouTubers living elsewhere find the opportunity to work with other creators in person and the resources of YouTube studios in L.A. to be irresistable. And while all of this may be a dream come true in the beginning, after months of paying expensive rent and not being able to afford new equipment, is moving to Los Angeles to create YouTube content the right move for your channel?
Looking back on his time in Southern California, Qaadir tells it like it is to other creators: Moving to L.A. just to move to L.A. is not the be-all and end-all answer for your channel. Chatting with NMR, Qaadir shared his reasons for moving back home, his thoughts on the romanticized L.A. versus the “realistic” L.A. and his one piece of advice all creators should hear before making the move to the West Coast.
For the full interview in video format, go to the last page.
How has the move been? How’s Atlanta?
Qaadir: Atlanta is great, and you know, honestly, going to California and going back, it’s one of those things of the grass being greener. But don’t get me wrong; I love L.A., California, West Hollywood, whatever the case may be. It was great, but Atlanta is not bad either. The move has been good.
Why did you originally want to move to L.A.?
I had this romantic idea in my mind that going to L.A. would be for me what going to Mecca is for Muslims. You know, I felt like it would just be this religious experience and that it would just be a night and day change in my life, and in a way that was true. I guess my reason for going is because I felt what I needed to be around was in L.A. ‘cause that was my main reason for leaving Georgia to go to Cali.
What was your experience like working here for a year in an environment that has so many other YouTubers?
Years ago I lived in Jersey. And my name is Qaadir, a name to most people that is unusual. And when I went to Jersey I stayed with my grandfather — every other person was named Qaadir. Never in my life! So it was kind of the same equivalent going to L.A. — I had never been around so many successful YouTube stars, artists, celebrities — whatever you want to call it — I had never been around that until I went out and met all types of different people that were really juggernauts on YouTube, so that was definitely interesting working with other YouTubers … not even working — I guess I did collaborate with Bree Esrig and, you know, the “Pop Trigger” situation; I did collab on some level. Yeah, but it was interesting, definitely interesting working in Cali.
Why did you decide to move back home?
A lot of things that came into play to my move and why I decided to go back being the most obvious was just expenses. Now it’s not that I couldn’t make it happen, but I suppose for me it was like, listen, coming to California taught me so much in reference to marketing and branding. I got tools and I picked up different habits in reference to scheduling my videos every Thursday, whatever the case may be — blah, blah, blah, blah, blah — things that I never did before. And I said to myself, you know, what if I go back to Atlanta, continue to make the money I’m making now, really invest in myself and get better equipment, all the different things that I left and didn’t really put any thought towards. I can do those things because now I have the money to do those things, but as long as I’m in California I’m paying $1250 in rent with a roommate! Oh no, no, no! And that’s not even including utilities, miss thing, so it just was not realistic to me. Don’t get me wrong; West Hollywood, California, it was an amazing experience, but sometimes you have to kind of retreat from the battle in order to win the war.
Do you think there are certain advantages to being a YouTuber in L.A. as opposed to being a YouTuber outside of the community?
Sure, I think the most obvious benefit is that you can do more collabs; you can collab with people. It’s easier to access these people and to work and whatever it is that you need to do, versus when you’re “This one’s on the East Coast, this one’s on the West Coast,” it becomes a situation of “You shoot this, and I’ll shoot that, and we’ll mess it together.” Obviously there is nothing like actually being with that person and actually doing it. But at the end of the day all things are possible if you only believe, so if it’s something you really want to do and someone you want to work with, there is always a way to make that happen if that’s what you’re really trying to accomplish.
Do you think there are any disadvantages to being in L.A.? Do you think for YouTubers there is this romantic idea that you have to be in this city?
I don’t know if this is fair to say, so I’m going to say it and see how it sounds coming out of my mouth. One thing about it is I personally feel like there is a lot more to get involved in, good and bad, ‘cause everything is a balance. Whereas in Georgia there are entertainment opportunities — there may be fewer but there are also fewer people trying to get the same opportunities. Like when you go to L.A. and you’re on Hollywood Boulevard, you know you’re literally seeing all kinds of dreams washing onto shore because you’re literally — and I hate saying it like that — to me that is what that is: You’re seeing people who came there and “I’m going to be a star,” this, that and the forth. And then for some reason or another they got hooked on drugs, this one got hooked on that — who knows what their story is, but the bottom line is it’s where they are, and it’s a little scary. It’s just like a drunk driver; I was having a conversation with a friend and he wasn’t drunk or anything, but he drives recklessly, and I said, “Oh you be swervin’ that thing. You be whippin’ that thing real hard like Willow Smith.” And he said to me, “Oh well I know what I’m doing. I’m not going to get a ticket.” Don’t you think everybody that got into a car accident thought they knew what they were doing? I don’t think anyone gets into a car with the intention of getting into a wreck — “Today’s the day!” It’s all about really going into it, like if you’re going to go into L.A. I think it’s about knowing what it is and accepting it, the good, the bad and the ugly. But a lot of people only want, as you said, this idealized romantic idea; they don’t want to actually see the ugly side, but there is in fact a very ugly side for sure.
What are you working on now with your channel?
Well right now I’m working on a deal, and you know, I don’t know how much I can divulge, but we’re doing a little this, a little that. But if we can come together and really meet, if our minds can meet and actually agree — and by the way, shout out, you know who you are — if we can actually come to an agreement, I definitely think this can be huge. So there is that deal, and I guess ‘cause I feel like to just say that I don’t know — is that fair to just throw that out there like that and not really indulge? What can I say? Let me put it like this: what it is that we’d be doing if we actually worked together is connecting myself with my supporters in a way that we’ve never done before, so it’d be a completely different experience from myself to my supporters in reference to how we engage with each other, so it’s probably the biggest thing with that. Other than that I’m still doing my music, I’m still doing my skits. Right now I don’t want to say, “impressed with myself,” but one thing I can’t even believe I was able — because some people we don’t know our strengths or know what we’re capable of until we are in a situation where we have to make it work. When my laptop got stolen and my car got totaled and all of these things were just happening, it was like how am I going to continue to make my videos? Miss thing, when I say I got my iPhone and was doing these videos, and I’m thinking to myself if I can do these type of videos, this level just from my iPhone, and when I do get my camera back, when I do get my laptop back and whatever else I’m going to be doing — honey, we’re going to gag these girls. They’re not ready for it, no, no, no, no, no.
They’ve had their warning. What are your long term goals? Would you want to stay on YouTube or branch into entertainment?
Are we speaking honestly and candidly?
I think we should!
Honestly, I don’t see myself being on YouTube at 50. Let’s just put it like that. I think that YouTube — I’m not going to shade it — YouTube has definitely opened up a lot of doors for me. We wouldn’t even be talking if it weren’t for my platform on YouTube, so I will give it love and be grateful for that. However, I definitely of course — I think anybody who says otherwise is lying; don’t believe the hype. Who says that if an opportunity came, if the director of “Game of Thrones” said, “You know, you’re perfect. We need you! We want you now! We’ll pay you 5 million.” Please, you’re going to stay on YouTube? Please, okay. You’re going to take it. So my thing is of course I’m an artist, I love what I do, I’m thankful to YouTube. But of course anything that you do, anything that you’re trying to do, it’s always about growth and evolving, and nothing stays the same. Of course right now I’m on YouTube, but when the right opportunity comes and the time is right I will grow and evolve and where the direction that goes in only time will tell, but it is what it is. My whole thing is just as long as it’s organic and genuine, that for me is the main thing. I don’t want to feel like I’m doing anything because I’m dancing for my dinner, as my friend likes to say, or because this is what’s hot. If I’m going to do a song, it needs to come from me and I need to love what I do. So that’s kind of my main thing in reference to getting in entertainment being on television: as long as it’s organic and I really see that for myself then that’s what I’m going to do.
Has that been hard, because I feel like being “organic” and “genuine” is such a unique mentality to have, especially on YouTube? Has that been a challenge to build you career off of that or do you find people have responded well to that?
That’s interesting. It’s a catch-22, because on one end of the spectrum YouTube has opened up many many doors for me; on the other end of the spectrum, people have this idea in their mind of who you are and what you do and what you’re capable of doing, and so therefore certain oppurtunities that you might be perfect for or whatever image you might portray on YouTube, that opportunity may pass you by. But then again, as my mom would say, “Anything that passes you by is not meant for you.” But that’s one of the reasons why as an artist I like to showcase all of my talents, which sometimes can be a bad thing too because people — one time I was working, some people hired me out for a job, and they asked me, “When you’re marketing yourself, Qaadir, what exactly are you marketing? What do you do?” ‘Cause there is so much that you can do, so that makes it hard for me because I can do so much: I sing, I rap, I write, I do comedy, I tell my stories, you know, whatever; it’s so much that I do. It’s like, how do we sell you? So that’s been problematic more than even being on YouTube, I think, is just the fact that I do so much well. How do I market myself? So yeah, that’s probably been the hardest part even outside of YouTube.
What do you think is something an artist needs to know before they make the huge move to L.A.?
Me looking back on it now, is the main thing, and I cannot stress this enough: Research! Do your research! When I came to L.A. my whole thought was going to L.A., but what people don’t know is, it’s bigger; once I got there, when I first went there, I think I was renting a room off of Normandy and Manchester somewhere in Crenshaw, wherever the hell I was — don’t know. Honey, it looked like I rolled off the set of “Friday” with Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. Boo boo, it is not a game. It’s hard out there for a pimp, but the whole conversation is doing your research will save you a lot of struggle because if you know right out of the gate what area you want to live in, what area you need to live in, what is it you are trying to surround yourself in — that eliminates a lot of struggle, so have some things lined up. The blessing for me in going to L.A. is that because of what I do, I have people that were already waiting for me. “When you get here, we want to do dinner. We want to do that.” Most people don’t have that, so if you can kind of form some type of community, even online, joining up with like meetup things like this and communicating with people even before you get there, when you do arrive on the scene you’ll be familiar with some individuals versus being alone. To me that is the biggest thing, research and having community for sure.
Would you ever consider moving back here?
For sure. That’s actually the goal. Like I said before, I had to retreat and do what I have to do for myself from the battle in order to really come back and conquer this war. Me leaving is not me leaving, ‘cause I didn’t like it per se. It was me leaving because there are other things I need to accomplish before I go and really, for lack of better words, before I go and do my numbers. I think that was another thing — it was a knee-jerk reaction. One thing about it is, for me, I left because, like I told you the main thing of finances, when I came to California all I knew was that I wanted to be in L.A.; that’s all I really knew. What I was going to do for a living, how I was going to do it, I really didn’t think about that. And for some people that works. Some people. But some people also win the lottery. Some people just go out there like Brad Pitt and work at El Pollo Loco for two weeks, honey, and boom, next thing you know he’s working at “Eight Monkeys,” [sic] what have you, but that’s not everybody’s story. I think for most people the key to success is going to be planning, having community. Myself, now that I know, I have friends in the industry, I have friends who are YouTubers, I have friends who do what I do who want to see me be successful. Going out there for the second time it will be a completely different experience, but what I will say, even with all the things that happened, if one thing hadn’t happened the way that it did, everything would be completely off, and I was just thinking about that today before we did the interview. If a situation with those previous roommates didn’t happen, I would have never moved out and ended up in that movie I was in, the horror film that I think comes out around June or July — that’s another thing. I think it’s going to be on Netflix — that is what I was told on set; it’s going to be on Netflix. It was a fun experience and it literally fell into my lap, so I think going back will be completely different from my first encounter for sure.
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