The Woman With 1 Billion Clicks: Jenna Marbles

The Woman With 1 Billion Clicks: Jenna Marble

Stephanie Diani for The New York Times

Jenna Marbles plays on the roof of her town home in Santa Monica, Calif., with her Chihuahua, Marbles, and her Italian greyhound, Kermit.

A young woman with magenta-streaked hair stands in her bathroom, speaking to a webcam. In a hushed tone, she chews over a thorny problem of young adulthood: how to apply full evening makeup when you’re already inebriated from drinking all day?

She begins her tutorial by wielding that totem of collegiate binge drinking everywhere: a red plastic Solo Cup. One jump cut later (after a “Law and Order: S.V.U.” drinking game), she re-emerges, thoroughly intoxicated. She misapplies a gob of glue. It dangles from a false eyelash. She lines her lips with a black pencil.


“It doesn’t matter what color it is, ’cause you’re gonna blend it,” she slurs, batting her eye glue. “Don’t let this scare you.”

The video, titled “Drunk Makeup Tutorial,” is completely awesome to some, bewildering to others — and above all, classic Jenna Marbles, another installment from a reigning queen of YouTube. The episode has been viewed 14.6 million times.

While few people older than 30 probably know who Jenna Marbles is, her popularity is unquestioned among teenage girls who live on the Internet. She has more Facebook fans than Jennifer Lawrence, more Twitter followers than Fox News and more Instagram friends than Oprah. Her weekly videos on topics as quotidian as “What Girls Do in the Bathroom in the Morning,” “My Favorite Dance Moves” and “I Hate Being a Grown Up,” place her in an elite club of more than one billion YouTube views, with more than eight million subscribers and growing.

“My perspective is to think, ‘I just have a lot of Internet friends,’ ” said Jenna Marbles, 26, whose real name is Jenna Mourey (Marbles is the name of her Chihuahua). She acknowledges it is an odd kind of celebrity. She is a D.I.Y. digital entertainer who conceives of, stars in, shoots, edits and uploads her own videos — often in a single day.

Her videos are a highly shareable cocktail of comedy, sex appeal, puppies and social commentary, laced with profanity. She skillfully juggles Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to build a deeply loyal connection with fans who find her eminently easy to relate to.

One fan, Allee Hamilton, of Livonia, Mich., wrote: “Seriously, I’m 13. You need to understand that we watch Jenna Marbles, we swear, we think wrong, we act insane, we have Facebooks, we can’t live without Internet, we can’t live without our phones. THATS JUST THE WAY IT IS!!”

“I got crucified,” Ms. Mourey said. “Crucified.

The bigger Ms. Mourey gets, the more she has had to grapple with the peculiarities of Internet fame. “Sometimes I like to think it would be nice if you just had a character and your personal life was your personal life,” she said. “My life is definitely out there, you know?”

At no time was this more challenging than her recent breakup with Max Weisz, her longtime boyfriend. Regular fans had come to know Mr. Weisz through his frequent cameos. They were an attractive and playful couple. She cut his hair. He tried to put makeup on her. They wore elaborate Halloween costumes. It seemed like a teenage girl’s fantasy of what it would be like to be grown up with a cute boyfriend and a job that consisted mostly of hanging around online.

But as real life seeped in, Ms. Mourey had to improvise a strategy to manage the news. “It was incredibly stressful,” she said. “I had to tell these 13-year-old girls that I broke up with my boyfriend — who they love — and I wanted to do it in a way that wasn’t going to hurt his channel.”

When she eventually announced the split on YouTube, her fans reacted on Twitter: “MY LIFE IS OVER,” they mourned, “I feel like my parents are getting divorced,” and “everything I know about love is a lie.” Many posts were tagged “#crying.”

At the time, Mr. Weisz, who goes by the YouTube handle MaxNoSleeves, already had more than 300,000 subscribers. Since the split, he began making weekly videos of his own. While his audience is just a fraction of hers (459,000 subscribers), he said he is making enough money from YouTube to support himself, following his ex-girlfriend’s template: producing funny, low-budget videos on a strict schedule.

They both say the work is lonely. “Luckily, I have a buddy now who holds my camera for me,” Mr. Weisz said.

Ms. Mourey, on the other hand, still operates the camera by herself. She is adjusting to living alone in a city where, for all her Internet fame, she has few friends and rarely goes out.

Like lots of other YouTube personalities, Ms. Mourey said, “for the most part, we all just stay in our houses, alone, making videos.”

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