- Van life traveler Jennelle Eliana Long gained 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube within a month of posting her first video, after YouTube recommended her videos to its users.
- She told Business Insider that she wasn’t prepared to get so many views at once.
- Her second video, titled “How I Shower Living in a Van,” has amassed 12 million views in two weeks.
- There has been a general rise in interest around sustainable living on YouTube and Long isn’t the first in this genre to have a video be picked up and recommended by the platform.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Solo van traveler Jennelle Eliana Long won the YouTube lottery. Her channel “Jennelle Eliana” accumulated 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube within one month of posting her first video.
The 20-year-old has become a YouTube phenomenon, gaining massive interest online, with dozens of explainer videos breaking down the possibilities of how she did it and forums on Reddit dedicated to her success. People want to know, who is “Jennelle Eliana” and how did this all happen?
The simple explanation is that YouTube’s algorithm picked up her first two videos and recommended them to its users, which is the likely cause of her instant success. But Long is also a beneficiary of a rise in interest in sustainable living on YouTube generally.
Long spoke with Business Insider about the rapid growth of her YouTube channel and Instagram page, and her reaction to the frenzy.
The magic of YouTube’s algorithm
Long started her YouTube channel as a way to document and share her nomadic van life adventures. She lives in a self-converted 1995 GMC Vandura Explorer Limited with her pet snake, Alfredo.
She posted her first two YouTube videos within two weeks of each other and instead of waiting, logged off social media and went “off the grid,” exploring places like Big Sur, California in her van.
It wasn’t until friends began messaging her that she found out how many people had watched those first two videos and subscribed.
“People were like ‘ya know your videos are picking up?’ and I was like, ‘yeah I know, I have 20,000 subscribers, it’s insane!'” Long told Business Insider, who then logged onto YouTube to discover that her channel had rapidly gained 1 million subscribers.
She admitted that she was just as confused as everyone else, and watched some of the videos on YouTube explaining theories as to why this happened.
YouTube’s algorithm picks up videos with high engagement and recommends them to users. All three of Long’s videos were picked up by YouTube and shared across the platform.
There has been a general rise in interest around sustainable living on YouTube. Videos on sustainable living have doubled this year, with some of the top categories being Van Life/Tiny Home, minimalism, and zero waste, a YouTube spokesperson told Business Insider.
Van life vloggers Eamon & Bec have several popular “Van Life” videos on their channel, with the two most popular amassing 3.2 million views. YouTube creator Joana Ceddia experienced similar success with her channel, after YouTube recommended two of her videos. From September to October 2018, her subscriber count grew from 500 to more than 1 million.
‘I was not prepared for this,’ Long shared with her followers in her latest YouTube video.
Long uploaded her first YouTube video on June 26. She had been attempting to start a YouTube channel for a year so decided to take a month off from work to focus getting it done, sharing the news with her 4,000 (now 250,000) followers on her Instagram page @jennelle.eliana.
“I was really happy with the little community that I built,” she said about her Instagram followers.
But then her following started to blow up.
“I was not prepared for this,” Long said in her latest video titled, “WHY DO I LIVE IN A VAN (Q&A).” She took a two-week “break” after posting her first two videos and needed to take a step back from social media for her mental and physical health, she said.
“I had a moment after my second video where I was definitely overwhelmed, and didn’t know how to handle the hate, or what to post next,” She told Business Insider.
Her latest video, uploaded on July 26, was No. 3 on YouTube’s trending page shortly after she posted it.
“I think my video was under Chris Brown’s music video – just me casually filming a Q&A with my font facing camera and no mic,” Long said. “It’s really exciting but I’m also like, maybe I should put in a little bit more effort?”
In the comments section of that video, people pointed out that the audio quality wasn’t as good, she said.
“I didn’t expect that video to do well, so I felt kind of bad,” Long said. “I feel like now that my platform is big, it does put a little bit of pressure on me to make content that is purposeful.”
Her big platform has also led to concerns about her safety.
Along with YouTuber burnout, many creators like Mr. Beast and David Dobrik have spoken openly about the struggles they’ve faced with personal security. Long said while she was visiting family this week, a stranger pulled into her parents driveway, asking for her.
“Before that happened, my dad was just lecturing me because he doesn’t think I should drive my van anymore because people will recognize me,” she said.
Long films and edits everything on her iPhone X, she said. She uses the $29.99 LumaFusion app, a tripod, and a microphone.
“There have been a lot of conspiracies that I have a whole team behind me, but I literally just film and edit on my phone,” she said.
SEE ALSO: YouTube star Shelby Church breaks down how much money a video with 1 million views makes her
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