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Ashley Nichole – An Influencer on the Rise

Our interview of Ashley Nichole for “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes.

Ashley shared the following takeaways:  

Jon: So as somebody that’s in the trenches doing this, where do you see it going in the next year, two years?

Ashley: I feel it is the new reality TV. If you talk to high school students today, no one watches [TV]. Even I don’t watch TV anymore, I have my Netflix shows that I watch and my TV shows that I watch, I watch it all online now. 

Jon: Which by the way makes the network nervous.

Ashley: Yeah, everyone’s freaking out. No one knows what to do, and it’s happening so fast. It’s been a really quick transition. If you talk to high school students today, they’ll all say their favorite YouTubers and they won’t talk about like my network back in the day was the CW or the WB. It was the WB and then it was the CW and now I don’t watch any of it anymore. I watch it all online.

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A transcript of the full interview follows: 

Jon: I am joined today by Ashley McDonal. Welcome. 

Ashley: Hello, thanks for having me. 

Jon: You have 1.1 million YouTube subscribers.

Ashley: I do.

Jon: Almost a million Instagram followers.

Ashley: Wow.

Jon: And, you hate the word “cluster.”

Ashley: I do, I hate it.

Jon: Why do you hate the word “cluster?”

Ashley: Who told you this? Someone sold me out. It just one of those words that just gives me goosebumps, and I don’t like to think about it. If you want to know everything, I think it’s the beginning of a phobia called— 

Jon: --so we’re going to have some counseling today.

Ashley: It’s a bunch of like things like holes next to each other. Trictophobia (sic)? I forget the word—I’m going to have to Google it. That word that you said reminds me of that, and so that’s what I think of – that’s why I don’t like it.

Jon: Okay, so we won’t say it again.

Ashley: No.

Jon: Okay.

Ashley: It’s unnecessary.

Jon: The word that shall not be said. Let’s start with your Instagram account.

Ashley: Okay.

Jon: You have a great Instagram account.

Ashley: Thank you so much.

Jon: When did you start your Instagram?

Ashley: I started it the year the year it came out. I’m trying to think what year it was—

Jon: Why Instagram? 

Ashley: 2011? 2010? I forget the first year it opened up. I’ve always loved photography, my dad loves photography. He got us into it so I enjoyed it very much and it made photography very easy with all the filters. Do you remember the beginning of Instagram?

Jon: I do.

Ashley: Like the heavy filters it had? I was all about them so I’m not going to lie, I worked really hard on mine. 

Jon: It shows.

Ashley: Thank you.

Jon: How do you decide what to post? 

Ashley: I like to have not just me, so I’ll do a few pictures of me because those obviously do better than pictures without me in them, but then I’ll do a scenic picture or—

Jon: So a picture of you is better than a picture of a tree?

Ashley: Always. If I’m in it vs. me not being in it, it will always get at least 10,000 more likes, which is so weird but that kind of makes sense.

Jon: Other than knowing that if you’re in it, it gets more likes, can you predict which photos are going to get more likes than other photos?

Ashley: Yeah, usually like headshots, closer up pictures do better than far away pictures. Scenic pictures never do as well as an outfit picture or a close-up, detailed picture.

Jon: What about pictures with more than one person in it?

Ashley: That’s always good. That’s always good which I don’t get enough of.

Jon: Who takes your photos?

Ashley: Usually my sister, so I take pictures of her and she takes pictures of me but then every once in a while, I’ll collaborate with photographers that are friends or people that are looking to branch out to social media, because I’m always looking to get my picture taken.

(laughter)

Ashley: On the least selfish level possible. I need people to take pictures, so whenever I find something who’s willing to do it I’m like, “Hey—”

Jon: Who sets up the scene? 

Ashley: It depends, I’ve been in groups of people where I’ve hung out with friends and met people that did photography and I’m like, “Hey, if you ever need a model just let me know, I always need pictures.” And they’re either down or they’ll see my Instagram account and say, “Hey, I’d love to shoot with you some time.”

Jon: In one of your recent posts, you let your Instagram followers control your life for a day.

Ashley: I did.

Jon: How did that go?

Ashley: That was really fun. It’s a super trendy video right now and basically on my Instagram stories I gave them options with the poll feature. I would say, “Hey, do I do this, or do I do this?” And then I’d wait 10, 15 minutes, see what the answer was, and then I would proceed with the winning choice.

(laughter)

Jon: Did you know in advance what it was probably going to be?

Ashley: Usually I would try to make it a little bit of a tougher decision, but I kind of knew most of the time what they were going to go with, so it was a little easier. I would love to do it again and give myself more complicated options.

Jon: Shifting gears, you recently had a trip to Greece with other influencers.

Ashley: I did, I just got back.

Jon: How many other influencers?

Ashley: Oh my gosh, so many. Secret— I thought it was just me on a yacht in Greece, that’s all I thought it was. Turns out there were 85 people total and 14 boats, and each boat had 6 influencers on it, so there were a lot of us. I don’t have an exact number for you, but that gives you an idea of how many people. Every party, every dinner there were cameras everywhere, everyone was filming everything, and you were in the background of everyone’s vlog. It was complicated. but it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it a lot.

Jon: What’s the emotional impact of recording yourself 24/7 like that?

Ashley: I feel like it could be a lot. I think what’s happened and what no one’s really expected is it’s become kind of like a diary, so it’s kind of therapeutic. So, I’ve learned to be very vulnerable with my audience and people that watch my content. And I’ve also learned the more vulnerable I get, the more I let them see my life, the more they respond to it.  

Jon: So a video journal?

Ashley: Yeah, it’s a good way to put it. So that’s how I personally take it. It’s kind of like having someone there every single day to talk with and it sounds weird, because I’m literally talking to myself on a camera, but getting their feedback and responses online means a lot to me.

Jon: Do you shoot yourself or you have somebody to shoot you for the vlogs?

Ashley: For vlogs I shoot myself every single time. For my main channel videos, I’ll either shoot myself or I’ll have someone film it for me. That’s a little more produced and a little more complicated. But with the vlog, I’ll just hold it at arm’s length. And I’ll use a wide lens—

Jon: A selfie video.

Ashley: Not too close, but yeah that’s all I do.

Jon: How do you get, I mean you wake up in the morning and you decide okay, I’m going to document my day today. How much advance thinking do you do about what you’re going to do?

Ashley: Depends on what I’m doing that day. So, if I’m doing something fun like there’s an event, or I’m going to a party, or if I’m even going to Disneyland, or I’m filming that day, I have an idea of what I need to do, so I’ll have that planned in advance. If it’s just a home vlog, I try to not plan it in advance and make it more raw, because I feel like that’s what people like about home vlogs is that it’s just a day in my life at home, so I’ll try and not to think too much about that one. 

Jon: Which is a perfect transition into your YouTube.

Ashley: Oh well, you know, I’m a natural.

Jon: Yeah, thank you. Tell me about when you decided to start a YouTube channel.

Ashley: Okay, my sister started first. You know this. I filmed for her and did photography for her and helped her channel grow when it was in its probably fourth year, I think? 

Jon: Younger sister or older sister?

Ashley: Younger sister, three years apart. So her channel was doing well, and then I came on board and started filming and helping her out with her channel and it just took off. It was a really crazy time for both of us because she was starting to realize that this could become a job for her. And at the same time, we had just moved out of our parents’ house and I was going to school. I had quit my full-time job to move for college and I was going to begin looking for a full-time job and that’s when I realized this could be our full-time job for both of us.

Jon: Jumping ahead a second but is it now your full-time job?

Ashley: It is now my full-time job and it’s funny because it started off her being my boss and me doing everything I could to help her channel, and now I still film for her and I still do photography for her, but I have my own channel now and that’s my full-time job.

Jon: So what were your first videos?

Ashley: My first videos were very awkward. 

Jon: Were they produced videos?

Ashley: Yeah, it was just me in my bedroom. They were a lot of fashion and beauty videos. It was very tutorial, how I do an everyday makeup look, what’s in my bag, shopping haul, summer clothing haul, that kind of stuff. And those were the videos—it’s so funny even to this day those are the videos I still watch. I love watching those types of videos.

Jon: Are the initial videos still online?

Ashley: Yeah, I want to take them down because they’re so awkward, but I never will because it was a good time—

(laughter)

Ashley: Go give it a watch, it’s funny.

Jon: Have you ever deleted videos?

Ashley: I haven’t, not yet at least. 

Jon: When you started, did you have a schedule? Like I’m going to put up one a week?

Ashley: When I first started, no. About mid-way through, once I finished school I was like okay, I should do this once a week.

Jon: You are a college graduate.

Ashley: I am. I took a long time but I’m here. I got it done. That’s all that matters.

Jon: What’s your degree?

Ashley: I did communications. 

Jon: Naturally.

Ashley: Yeah, and I minored in theology. That was a couple years ago now. So yeah, the schedule is trying to be once a week, and it’s hard because it’s not always but—

Jon: Because that’s what they say, and I don’t know who “they” is—

Ashley: Yeah, who is they? I hate they.

Jon: So, now that it’s full-time, what does a typical work day look like?

Ashley: Okay, it’s never the same, which is frustrating except if we’re home, especially right now because we’ve been traveling a lot. If we’re home Mondays are our meeting days, so we call it Monday meetings, and it’s a day that we plan the whole week. We plan Alisha’s videos, we plan my videos, we plan around events, who’s going to those events, if we want to go to those events or not. Everything happens Monday. And then I’ll pick a day I want to film and she’ll pick a day she wants to film. And then, for example, if she wants to film on Tuesday, I wake up, I don’t vlog, I don’t even get ready sometimes, I’ll just put on—

Jon: You’re just in camera man mode.

Ashley: I’m just in camera man mode and it’s the best cause I don’t have to think of anything else while I’m doing it, whereas before, if I was vlogging or if I had school, I’d be distracted the whole time.

Jon: And when you’re the camera man, do you help your sister decide what the content should be and does she help you decide what your content should be?

Ashley: Yeah. It helps a lot to have someone to bounce that back and forth with, so when I’m filming, we’ll have already on Monday because meetings—

Jon: Okay let’s go back to Monday meetings. 

Ashley: Yeah, on Monday meetings she’ll give me an outline of what she wants the video to look like—opening shots, closing shots, specific scenes, and I’ll tell her vice versa if she’s helping me film. That way the day of filming, if she’s stuck on something, I’ll already know what the outline is and I’ll be able to help her make a decision, if that makes sense.

Jon: It does. How do you—do you kind of wait for it or you just sit and talk back and forth?

Ashley: We just sit and talk back and forth. The hardest part is her explaining what she wants because it’s all in her head, but once she gets that out and helps me see her vision for the video, then I can help her decide what to do.

Jon: Where do you get your ideas?

Ashley: That is a good question. I feel like that is what everyone struggles with. We’ll sit here on our meeting days and brainstorm for hours of content ideas, video ideas, things we can change, fun things we can try, but I swear 90% of the time, just going out with friends and talking with friends or family will spark ideas and I feel like that’s where the good ideas come from.

Jon: Do you keep a journal with you?

Ashley: I do, it’s that one. Alisha has five of them.

Jon: And do you jot them down as you think of them? Do you just—

Ashley: Yeah, I usually end up writing it on my phone and then I have a document with my manager where I’ll put it on there and she’ll help me decide which ones are really good, which ones need more work, and I’ll brainstorm in my journal how I would want that video to go. Writing really helps.

Jon: So you keep a written journal as well as a vlog.

Ashley: Yeah, I do.

Jon: How long does it take you to fully develop this week’s video, how long does it take to fully develop that? 

Ashley: Again, it depends on the video, but if it’s a simple sit-down video, usually most of mine are, so mine don’t take too much work because I already know—I usually just sit down and talk, so mine are a little more vulnerable. Alisha has gotten to a point where it’s a lot more produced, so hers take a lot longer to actually execute because we go through the script phrase, we go through where we would want to film it, we ask people to be in it or not be in it, and then we have to actually film it. 

Jon: So on Monday you decide what you’re going to do all week. On the days when you’re not shooting, how much time do you spend consuming content? 

Ashley: Oh my gosh, all the time. It’s down right now, but our TV’s always playing someone’s YouTube channel. And then our computers, our tablets are always playing someone’s channel.

Jon: Do you have cable?

Ashley: I do but I don’t use it. We should really delete it. It’s a waste of money. 

Jon: Is it mostly YouTube?

Ashley: Yeah, we usually just watch YouTube all the time.

Jon: How do you decide who to watch?

Ashley: Well, I have my favorites but YouTube’s pretty good at—you know how you click one video and then the next one starts, I usually just let it play. If I don’t like it, I’ll skip it and then that’s how I find new YouTubers that I enjoy, and I feel like that’s really smart of them because it’s just a constant flow of new content.

Jon: So on the days you’re not shooting, your TV goes on, is it on all day with YouTube running?

Ashley: Usually, even if the sound’s not on. Sometimes I’ll mute it while I’m like—if I have a phone call or talking or whatever, but it’s usually playing so, in the background somewhere?

Jon: Are you a sports person?

Ashley: No.

(laughter)

Jon: It’s okay. I do the same thing with ESPN what you do with YouTube.

Ashley: I did band in high school, not to pick sides but that was me if you can picture that. Go for it. 

Jon: What did you play?

Ashley: I played drums, so I was in drum line and choir and yeah, I stayed away from sports.

Jon: I could see that.

Ashley: Entirely. I’m not good at the hand-eye coordination thing.

Jon: Is YouTube your favorite social media platform or is it Instagram?

Ashley: That’s a good question. That’s really hard. I’m going to go with YouTube I think because I’ve been on it longer, and I feel like I’ve grown the most on there, but Instagram is coming up quick. It’s grown so much just these last two years.

Jon: Instagram you can look at in the elevator. 

Ashley: Yeah, and I do. I’m on it all the time. I’m actually trying really hard to discipline myself and not wake up and grab my phone and start scrolling, and I’ve been trying really hard to read before bed instead of scrolling before bed, but yeah it’s something that I feel like I’m constantly doing. I grab my phone when I’m bored, I grab my phone when I’m in line at the grocery store, or I grab my phone when I’m sitting in traffic with a friend, and I just start scrolling and it’s this weird phenomenon that everyone’s experiencing at the same time. 

Jon: I was going to say you’re not alone.

Ashley: Yeah, everyone’s doing it. It’s weird.

Jon: Given that everybody’s doing it, how do you differentiate yourself?

Ashley: Yeah, that’s hard too.

Jon: Because I looked—I was looking for a different reason, I was looking to see how many YouTube subscribers there are, there’s 46 million people with channels. This is according to YouTube and something like 96 million users. 

Ashley: That’s insane on YouTube.

Jon: Yeah.

Ashley: On YouTube?

Jon: Yeah, and there are a little over 5,000 people with over a million followers.

Ashley: That on its own is so much. That’s hard. Like how do you compete with that?

Jon: How do you compete with that?

Ashley: I don’t know. Everyone will say upload— have a consistent schedule. And then I think something that—it sounds so weird, but people say the same thing about my videos that they do my Instagram. They say it’s very satisfying to watch and look at, so whatever it is that everyone likes about your channel, I feel like that’s what you need to—

Jon: Has anybody ever told you what that is? Other than it’s satisfying?

Ashley: No, no one can tell me—they’re always like, “Oh my God, I love watching your videos, it’s so satisfying and calming and peaceful to listen to you and watch,” and then they’ll say the same thing about my Instagram. They’ll be scrolling my feed and they’ll be like, “This is so satisfying, what is it about it?” and I’m like, “I don’t know, can you tell me?” because I would love to know. The soft more muted tones I use is the only thing I could think of, or the chill music in the background? That’s the only thing I could really think of.

Jon: What has been your biggest challenge? And I’m purposely kind of jumping around here.

Ashley: Yeah, no this is good. The hardest thing for me is staying self-disciplined and working at home. It’s really hard. Alisha’s great at it. She’s very tunnel-vision, she can put herself in a bubble and not hear or see anyone or anything happening around her and she’ll sit right where you’re sitting and just stare at her computer and get so much work done, whereas I get distracted by everything. It takes me a lot of effort to sit down and focus and once I do and I get the ball rolling, then I’m good, I’ll get it done. But it takes a lot for me to focus and get myself situated.

Jon: So it sounds like a complement, especially because you are the cameraman, you have to be focused that day. You have already decided the day you’re going to shoot, well you’re going to have your video shot—

Ashley: Yeah, so on filming days I feel like I’m fine. That’s not a problem for me. It’s sitting down and editing it that’s a really hard thing for me because, one, I’m not a good editor, I taught myself.

Jon: What do you use to edit?

Ashley: I use Final Cut Pro. Everyone is saying I need to switch to Premier, but it’s not as user friendly, and it stresses me out a little bit just looking at it so I haven’t done it yet. I’ve talked to multiple people where we’ve decided that I need to step it up and switch it out but, I like Final Cut. I don’t want to switch to Premier. 

(laughter)

Jon: There is no rule that says you have to.

Ashley: There is no rule, no one needs to know. It’s just our secret.

Jon: I won’t tell anybody.

Ashley: Thank you.

Jon: In one of your videos, you touch on the reward you sometimes feel for being a YouTuber. Talk about that.

Ashley: Yeah, I feel so blessed because my subscribers are genuinely the sweetest people I’ve ever met, and I meet them all the time. I’ll meet them at coffee shops, when I’m out shopping, running errands, or at events where there’s a scheduled meet up. I’ve met so many of them, and they’re all so encouraging and kind and they’ll oftentimes open up about their own lives and things that they’re struggling with and how my videos have helped them, and it breaks me down every single time. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Jon: Do you read your comments?

Ashley: Yes, I can’t read them all, but for example if I put a video up, the first two hours of it being up, I’m on there and I’m liking comments, I’m responding to comments, I’m very active, and then I’ll do the same thing the next day for a designated period of time. I can’t respond to all of them, but I guarantee you I respond to as much as I can.

Jon: Why do you pick the first two hours?

Ashley: One, once I get the video up, it’s a very exciting time. I’m like, “I did it, it’s up.” So I’m on there and I’m watching it, and I’m re-watching it, and making sure everything went well and then I just love seeing the responses, if it’s a good response, if they like the video, if they like the concept, how quickly they clicked it, a lot of times they’ll be like, “Oh, good thumbnail, I really like thumbnail, clicked it right away,” or sometimes if there’s not a quick response that tells me it wasn’t that great of a concept. Try harder next time.

Jon: How hard are you on yourself?

Ashley: I don’t know, I’m hard on myself because I’ve been at it for a few years, so I feel like whenever I do have a video that didn’t do as well, I should’ve known better, or I should’ve tried harder, or I feel like oftentimes I’m a procrastinator; it’s the worst thing ever. It’ll be the day before I wanted a video to go up, and I’m stressing and I’m rushing to edit where I could have taken my time and edited all week so I feel like I’m hard on myself.

Jon: If you look in the dictionary, that’s the definition of procrastinator.

Ashley: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. So I’m hard on myself but I feel like you have to be if you’re going to be self-employed. Otherwise you’re not going to get far.

Jon: What has been your friends’ reactions to the videos?

Ashley: My friends love it. A lot of them have been in them in the past, or at least have been in the background of Alisha’s videos a lot, and they think it’s super fun. They get to go to events with me sometimes, or they’ve met subscribers, or oftentimes they have younger cousins or nieces or nephews that know me and watch my videos, which is always a weird—they’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s Ashley.” That’s weird, you know, they’ll send me pictures of their nephews watching videos or something like that. It’s super cute.

Jon: What has been your favorite event that you’ve gone to?

Ashley: That’s a good question. I think my favorite venue or event that I went to is either Vidcon or Playlist.

Jon: What about Vidcon did you like?

Ashley: My first Vidcon was really fun. I think it was extra fun because it was my first. I’d never been before. It’s just being surrounded by people that are just like you, whereas even though it’s becoming a more understood job, it’s still really weird to explain to people and people think it’s odd that you’re self-employed and that you’re filming yourself and they don’t understand it completely.

Jon: Well it’s generational.

Ashley: It is.

Jon: Because I will tell people I represent YouTube stars and they say, “What? What’s that? What’s an influencer?”

Ashley: Yeah, “What does that mean? I don’t get it.” Yeah, so it’s still an up and coming idea, but to be in a huge building filled with people that do the same thing you do—it’s very empowering, and it makes you feel okay, because I feel like in reality I feel odd, I feel weird about what I do and I’m sure Alisha would say the same thing. We feel a little bit different because no one really fully understands what we’re doing, so when you’re in a room where everyone does the same thing, and they’re all creative, and they’re all trying to create these weird concepts and get new content out there, it very much makes you feel like you have a place and you’re doing something good. So, it’s empowering for us and then at the same time, the building’s half creators and then it’s half subscribers, so you get to meet people who can give you real feedback.  

Jon: How was that to have a large number of fans in one spot?

Ashley: It’s weird. It’s actually really weird. I try not think about it too much because it’ll freak me out but walking out and hearing them yell my name, or ask about my dog, or want to take a picture with me, or when they want me to sign something I want to cry and be like why? Why me? I don’t get it.

Jon: What’s the strangest thing you’ve been asked to sign?

Ashley: I don’t know, I haven’t gotten anything strange, I’ve gotten a lot of body parts, so they’ll just be like sign my arm, or sign my forehead.

Jon: And what do they do, take a picture of it and that’s how they save it?

Ashley: That’s how they save it I guess, I don’t know. But I remember doing that with the band.

Jon: Which band?

Ashley: It’s a band, I don’t even think I knew. It was Plus One, it was an old band, they weren’t even that big, but I loved them. But I remember being like, “sign my hand.” It was just in the moment, but that’s why I think it’s weird when they ask me to do it because that’s something I did with people that I loved at that age.

Jon: I remember reading somewhere where you said if you weren’t a YouTuber, you wanted to be a rockstar. 

Ashley: I did, that was my plan. That was my dream.

Jon: Were you going to be the lead singer or drummer?

Ashley: I was going to be the drummer and that was my goal all through my life until I grew up and was like that’s not happening. But yeah that was the plan, and I still play. I love it very much.

Jon: Have you thought of transitioning into music videos?

Ashley: I know, the question that all of my friends that really know me want to know—they’re always like, “When are you going to do like a drum video?” And I would love to, but one, it freaks me out. I think it’s the one thing that I haven’t really shared on social media in any way. I’ve shown pictures and I’ll show quick snippets, but I’ve never actually done a full video and no one’s actually seen that full part of me, so I feel like that’s a little scary for me. And then two, even though I know they would be really supportive—

Jon: What if they don’t like it?

Ashley: It’s a pretty vulnerable thing.

Jon: This is my passion and what if they don’t like it?

Ashley: Like here’s something I love and they’re like, “Oh honey, you’re not good. Don’t put that back up there.” So, it’s annoying and I need to do it, and everyone’s been telling me to, so I should, and I will at some point. But—

Jon: But, not today.

Ashley: Ah, the stress that I feel just thinking about it. It’s okay, when it happens I’ll let you know.

Jon: How about your singing?

Ashley: Oh, I’m not a singer. I can sing, I told you I was in choir. So I can sing, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I would be a solid background vocalist.

Jon: My younger son told my wife, “you have the kind of voice where you should sing in your head.”

Ashley: Oh, that’s like a backhanded—

Jon: He was eight when he said that so—

Ashley: That’s amazing. I have friends who have such talented amazing voices who can sing so well so I feel like it’s easy for me to listen to that and be like that’s a singer. If you ever need some background harmonies, you let me know, but I would not be a singer.

Jon: So you talked about your fans, who is your target audience?

Ashley: It’s grown actually. It used to be young girls, and now I would say the age range is from 12 to 22. So it’s very wide age range, but they’re almost all female. I think like 97 to 98% female. It used to definitely be a lot younger. The peak was 18 I think, so the fact that we’re at 22 is very exciting because I’ve been wanting to age it up a bit, but it’s hard though because I’ll try to make videos, like right now it’s back to school season, I’ll try to do a back to school, but make it also for college age. So, whereas before I feel like it was very elementary/middle school/high school, now I’m trying to be like okay, let’s talk about college courses and let’s talk about note taking, and it’s been good. It makes me happy that they’re getting older.

Jon: What has been your favorite video?

Ashley: Of mine?

Jon: Of yours.

Ashley: I adore my mother, and I had her do a “mom goes shopping for me” video a while ago, and I think it was my absolute favorite video I’ve ever filmed because no one had ever seen my mom to that extent on either mine or my sister’s channel, and so the response I got— everyone loved her and adored her so that was great. But then she genuinely was so fun to work with because she’s such a little perfectionist so she really stressed. I gave her my credit card and told her to go buy me three outfits and she was just stressing and trying to get the perfect thing together and it was so much fun to edit, and it did really well too so I think that’s my favorite video. 

Jon: Where did your ability to perform come from?

Ashley: That’s a good question. Well ever since I was a little kid, I’ve played drums on stage for my church, for my school, I was always in the plays.

Jon: So being in front of a live audience isn’t something that bothers you. 

Ashley: No, I actually prefer it vs. more intimate settings. I think it’s really easy because I don’t know who they are, it doesn’t bother me that they’re watching, I guess. It never has. If it’s asking me to play drums or perform in some way on stage in front of a ton of people, it doesn’t bother me, but if you ask me to play in front of 10, I’ll be like, “No, don’t make me, I don’t want to.” It’s stressful.

Jon: Well that’s because you can see everybody’s face.

Ashley: Exactly, and you can see do they like it, do they not like it, and they’re watching you.

Jon: Are they checking their phone?

Ashley: Yeah, I’m like oh shoot they don’t like it. So, I think it stems from playing music my whole life.

Jon: You had a video where you talk about your love for TV shows and movies and how to achieve your resolutions. Do you any guilty secret pleasure TV shows?

Ashley: Oh my gosh, I’m obsessed with so many. I have a bunch. Should I just list my top 5? I don’t know.

Jon: Sure.

Ashley: Game of Thrones is my jam, and it’s my favorite. I’m upset we have to wait a full year, but it’s okay we can do that, it’s going to be great. Westworld is my other favorite, and have you watched Mindhunter?

Jon: Yes.

Ashley: Are you done? Have you caught up?

Jon: Yes, yes. 

Ashley: It’s such a good show. I’ve got all my friends on it—

Jon: It’s such a creepy show too.

Ashley: It’s such a creepy show, but it’s so good and the acting is phenomenal and the concept of just going back in time and watching them realize there’s so much more to the criminal mind than anyone would ever expect, it’s interesting. 

Jon: So you’re a True Crime podcast listener?

Ashley: I love True Crime. It messes with me. My Favorite Murder, I’m seeing them on Halloween, they’re going to be out here in LA—

Jon: Well, I went online. I didn’t even know they had live tour dates. They’re sold out.

Ashley: They have a live tour. They’re doing so well, I’m so proud of them, I love them so much. They’re so funny too, and it’s a weird concept for most people to be talking about something so horrible but then laughing at the same time—it’s weird, like this feels unnatural, like I shouldn’t be laughing at this, but they execute it really well.

Oh, have you watched The Center with Jessica Biel?

Jon: No, but somebody just told me to do that.

Ashley: You would love it. She did a great job. The best I’ve ever seen her act in her whole career. And then the second season just came out, and she’s producing it, or directing it. I think she’s directing it—

Jon: Speaking of The Center, you just recently had a Las Vegas trip.

Ashley: I did have a Vegas trip.

Jon: How was that for a transition?

Ashley: It was a great transition. The Center to Sin City. It was so much fun, I took a bus. 

Jon: From LA?

Ashley: From LA to Vegas, which I never thought I would do in my life. It sounds like a horrible idea. It wasn’t, it was a great idea. I took a greyhound and it was the chillest, most relaxing Vegas trip of my life because I didn’t have to drive, and it was really clean, and I just like slept.

Jon: I confess, I didn’t even know you could take a bus.

Ashley: I didn’t know either. When I first like was told about the opportunity, I was like take a bus? Is it longer than normal driving? In my head I felt like it would be, but it wasn’t. It was only 3.5, 4 hours I think. But it was great because I went with friends, and we vlogged the whole experience, and it’s just amazing not having to drive because we could watch movies. I listened to podcasts and it was great. 

Jon: I want to shift gears again on you.

Ashley: Okay, go.

Jon: What is your definition of an influencer?

Ashley: I think it’s kind of in the name already, but I feel like the definition of an influencer is someone who can sway people to watch things they maybe haven’t watched before, or buy things they haven’t considered buying before, or taking someone’s idea of something and being like “oh, maybe you’ll like this instead”— for example in fashion, influencing a certain style, or a certain type of music, or a podcast for example— anything that I like, I put it out there, and I feel like people will give it a try, and it’s become this trust thing.

Jon: Do you consider yourself to be an influencer?

Ashley: Yeah, I think I am.

Jon: When did that realization come?

Ashley: I feel like it hit me probably 2 years ago. 

Jon: When was the first time somebody recognized you?

Ashley: I was shopping. I do it a lot first of all, and I was shopping with my sister and we ran into a subscriber who knew me, and it was a big deal because they always knew Alisha, and they never knew me, and it was fine. But for the first time they asked to take a picture with Ashley, and I remember me and my sister, our eyes met at the same time and we were like, “Okay, sure! Here!” I was fixing my hair and freaking out and wanting to make the perfect picture, but it was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time because it was like oh, this is happening. 

Jon: How often does it happen now?

Ashley: It happens pretty often. Obviously it depends on what I’m doing, but it’s got to the point where if I go grocery shopping, someone will recognize me and it’s almost always the younger ones that will come up, so usually high school aged will walk up and be like, “Hey, I watch your videos,” or they’ll just be like, “Oh my god, can I get a picture?” I’ll hear them coming sometimes, and they don’t think I hear them, but I hear them squeaking as they’re walking up. They’re so giddy and excited and I’ll just be like, “Hello.”

Jon: Okay, so forget you’re a YouTube personality. How would your friends describe you?

Ashley: I feel like they would say I’m a little more on the reserved side, but really funny because once you get to know me, I’m really talkative and really like to have fun and goof around, but right off the bat I’m a little more on the reserved side. 

Jon: How did you grow your following? I get it that you have a sister that started first, but you don’t get a million subscribers without doing something on your own.

Ashley: Correct, yes. So having been in my sister’s videos for so long, I did get a boost right in the beginning of followers, but you definitely have to keep them there. 

Jon: It’s a different view.

Ashley: I did get a good bump from my sister, but then over the years I had to not only keep the subscribers there, but then they grew obviously, so I think when it comes to growing subscribers, again, a consistent upload schedule—

Jon: Because “they” say so.

Ashley: Because they need that— I really think YouTube is the new sitcom or reality TV and everyone has that TV show and they know on Tuesday they’re going to have their show, so you’re not there, they’re going to forget about you. 

Jon: I know, I get mad when my podcasts don’t upload at the right time, because I was waiting for that podcast.

Ashley: Yeah, one of my favorite YouTubers is Shane Dawson and he has been doing this amazing new concept of content and he’s been filming—he’ll film for three weeks, and then put up an extra long three-part series video, which I love, but part of me misses the weekly because I used to watch him weekly. Obviously I love what he’s doing now but that just goes to show how much I looked forward to his videos every single week, which helps me realize how my subscribers would feel if my videos aren’t out every single week.

Jon: If you were to start over, how would you go about building your following?

Ashley: That’d be hard. On a side note, I feel like it’d be so hard to start now compared to when I started.

Jon: That was the twin sister to this question – what advice would you give to somebody that wants to start now?

Ashley: Starting now, I feel like you’re expected to have high quality cameras, microphones, editing – it’s all expected to be really well produced now whereas before, it was just a webcam you would sit and talk to. Music was just the cheapest music in the background, the microphones would constantly— I would either have it super high pitched or it would squeal sometimes. I don’t know, filming back then was really easy. I feel like starting now would be really hard, but if I had to start all over again, I don’t think I would change anything. I think I would try to not stress about what videos I’m putting up and just put up videos because in the end, I feel like people always love the videos where I just sit and talk and be myself more than they do the ones that I try really hard on. I think they like the ones where I’m just myself, sitting in my room, talking about whatever topic of the day.

Jon: So as somebody that’s in the trenches doing this, where do you see it going in the next year, two years?

Ashley: I feel it is the new reality TV. If you talk to high school students today, no one watches [TV]. Even I don’t watch TV anymore, I have my Netflix shows that I watch and my TV shows that I watch, I watch it all online now. 

Jon: Which by the way makes the network nervous.

Ashley: Yeah, everyone’s freaking out. No one knows what to do, and it’s happening so fast. It’s been a really quick transition. If you talk to high school students today, they’ll all say their favorite YouTubers and they won’t talk about like my network back in the day was the CW or the WB. It was the WB and then it was the CW and now I don’t watch any of it anymore. I watch it all online.

Jon: Well you’re not a sports person, but short of sports, it’s all available online. My dad watches it online and before I remember him saying “I have the TV at 5 because a game’s on,” or something like that, whereas that’s not a thing anymore. So, I really think that YouTube along with shows and stuff like that, it’s all going online and it’s becoming the new version of reality TV. I’m going to bet on that.

Ashley: Stick with that.

Jon: Yes, and where do you see yourself in the next year or two?

Ashley: I see myself still doing this, hopefully doing it better, more consistently—

Jon: Once a week.

Ashley: Yeah, I think I’ll still be doing it. I think hopefully it’ll be more of a team effort, not just me. That’d be great, but yeah, hopefully I’ll still be in it trying to make it happen.

Jon: Where can people find you?

Ashley: On YouTube.

Jon: Where on YouTube?

Ashley: On the Tube.

Jon: The Tube.

Ashley: It’s xoMissAshleyNichole or AshleyNicholeVlogs are my channels. And then if you look up ashnichole_xo on Instagram you’ll find me there also.

Jon: Thank you, it’s been a lot of fun.

Ashley: This has been so fun.

_______________________________________________________________________

The Creative Influencer is a bi-weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California.  Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them. 

  • The Creative Influencer , Influencers | Social Media
  • Sep 12, 2018

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