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Chris McDonal – Mother of Ashley Nichole and Alisha Marie

Our interview of Chris McDonal for “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes. Chris shared these main takeaways:

Jon: You talked about supporting them and helping them. How do you do that?

Chris: Well. Well, I guess a few ways. One, just in general we’ve tried to be positive, Jeff and I both, at whatever they wanted to be. When they weren’t—we alluded to when they were earlier, and you know how most young kids will do in high school, the pressure comes on high schoolers doesn’t it? What are you going to do, what are you going to do? I think it comes on too much.

Jon: What are you going to do? Where are you going to go to college? 

Chris: Pressure, pressure. But then those early years of college and try some hing, but we’ve always tried to be, “Look, whatever you guys decide it’s okay to change your mind, we’re with you. We’re on your side, we’re in your court, just you’ll figure it out. And don’t stress.” We say, “Take one step after another. You’ll just know,” and that does seem to be the way it played out in this case. And then now on a more practical level, it’s kind of a funny story. I was a music major, and uh—but I stumbled backwards in my early 20s. I think was actually 20 to work for IRS of all places. I didn’t even know what it was.

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A transcript of the full interview follows: 

Jon: I am joined today by Chris. Welcome to the podcast. 

Chris: Thanks, Jon. 

Jon: You are the mother of two social media juggernauts. 

Chris: Yes, I am. 

Jon: And what are their names?

Chris: Ashley and Alisha. 

Jon: Who's your favorite?

Chris: Oh, they're the same. 

(laughter)

Jon: I thought I’d slip that in there. 

Chris: Love them the same. 

(laughter)

Jon: Both daughters make their living on social media, correct?

Chris: Yes, that's correct.

Jon: How many YouTube subscribers does Alisia have?

Chris: Ooh, right now on YouTube I want to say 7, probably 7.5 on the main channel and—

Jon: It’s 7.8 million on the main channel. 

Chris: Ooh, okay.

Jon: This is a mom test. How many Instagram followers does Alisha have? 

Chris: Ooh, I want to say 3 point something million maybe close to 4? 

Jon: 3.8 million.

Chris: Ooh.

Jon: How many Twitter followers does Alisha have?

Chris: Oh, that's hard 5.2?

Jon: 5.2 you got it right alright alright okay, so how many YouTube subscribers does Ashley have? 

Chris: Oh this is hard. 1.1 million?

Jon: You're right. How many Instagram followers does Ashley?

Chris: Ooh, 3 point something mill—no, no. 1 million, no, no, 900,000.

Jon: It's somewhere in that neighborhood, and this is and this is a visual you can’t see it on a microphone, but my hand is covering these numbers. 

Chris: I know, I’m wishing that you would move it.

Jon: So when somebody says to you, “What do your daughters do?” what do you say?

Chris: I say that they are influencers, that they have YouTube channels, and they’re social media influencers. 

Jon: And how do you explain an influencer to somebody over 70?

Chris: That is very difficult. You know, you and I laughed about that a few years ago when we first met you. 

Jon: But have you had people kind of look at you funny and say, “What are you talking about?”

Chris: Yes, multiple times. Probably the short answer is I would tell them, “You know it's kind of like the new TV.” I would tell them, “back in the day when we watched channels 2, 4, and 7 and 11 well now it's all YouTube.” 

Jon: And do you people get it? 

Chris: No. No it takes quite a while.

Jon: And have you found an age kind of cut-off where people over a certain age they kind of give you a funny look at people under a certain age—well, of course that's the thing.

Chris: Yes, I would say just off the top of my head maybe around 40s, and the 40s seems to be cut off and actually sometimes mid 30s even.

Jon: Did you know it was even possible to make a living doing YouTube videos?

Chris: No, not until it began happening with the kids.

Jon: Growing up, was there ever any indication that Ashley or Alisha would be good in front of a camera?

Chris: Yes, looking back, they both loved to always take pictures and be in pictures. My husband has a line of photographers on his side of the family. His grandfather was a—he won awards you know professional photographer and stuff. And that love and passion for photography was always in Jeff so oftentimes on a weekend, he'd tell the kids, “let's let's do photos!” and they dress up and they get to see the lights and the cameras and they really loved that—

Jon: Did you save those?

Chris: We do, we do we have some—a lot of those I actually probably all of them at home. So, they loved photography in general that way and then Alisha at a very young age, any time—remember when digital cameras first came out?

Jon: Yes, yes.

Chris: I know we're digging way back, but she would always just want to take it endlessly take pictures and then eventually she wanted an actual video camera, but back then remember it was the 8M, 8 millimeter thing. 

Jon: It was huge. 

Chris: We—oh, they were gigantic. So, I don't know how old she was, just elementary school, but we got her one one year for her birthday. It broke, unfortunately shortly after, and one day she asked me if she could take it apart, and you know I kind of not fully listening, I'm probably cooking or something, “Sure, honey,” little later I go up to her bedroom—

Jon: Yeah, sure take a part that camera. 

Chris: Yeah, yeah I wasn’t thinking. I go upstairs and then open the door in her bedroom, there was a video camera in millions of tiny parts, and I go, “Wow. You were serious!” I said, “Wow Alisha um what are you doing like what? She goes, “Mom I just had to know how it worked.” So, that was a clue right there of her interest. 

Jon: Now, has Ashley done anything like that?

Chris: I don't remember her dissecting video cameras. 

Jon: Because I heard the story of Alisha doing that. 

Chris: Oh, you did. Okay. Yes that's true. No, I don't remember Ashley doing that although she always really loved, had an affinity for the photography and pictures. 

Jon: Which is the older daughter? 

Chris: Ashley. 

Jon: Ashley. And when they were little, did Ashley say what she wanted to do when she grew up?

Chris: You know, they both kicked around several ideas. Ashley was at one point going to be a musician, was going to be in a rock band, and travel, still me, I don't know. I don't know, and then she wanted to look into music therapy for a while and actually sign language interpreting all that came really easy to her. But, so she looked into that but she ended up majoring in communications, which I thought was wow that was really fitting—did a great job. And Alisha—

Jon: --and what about Alisha?

Chris: Alisha, yeah Alisha had talked about being a nutritionist for a while and she had some other different interests that she explored, but I think the YouTube happened so early that even though she thought about being a dietician and a nutritionist and taking those avenues, this really overshadowed that and got her attention pretty young because she started YouTube, I think probably 15 years old.

Jon: How did you find out she had started?

Chris: Well, she did not want me to find out, initially. We laughed about that.

Jon: Surprise, surprise. 15 year old doesn’t want their mom to know.

Chris: Exactly because my family and friends will tell you and you know from our friendship, I can be over analytical and I was somewhat of a worry wart or at times and so because of that—and actually I don't regret it, tut Jeff and I didn't let them have even a Myspace when they were little. We said, “No, it's just a little too dangerous I mean what about your privacy?” 

Jon: Well especially to a 14 year old girl. 

Chris: Right. Exactly. So yeah, they knew that they couldn't have a Myspace so she was sure not wanting us to know about this new YouTube venture at 15 years old. So, I guess apparently from what I understand and she kind of kept all this—

Jon: Private.

Chris: --private right from the parental units as we call them that, but she began to just really love watching YouTube tutorials way in the beginning when it first happened when it first came out, and she would watch these YouTube tutorials which back then was primarily makeup—

Jon: Right.

Chris: --do it, do it yourself little tips and advice here and there. And she was at the, as the story goes, she was there watching it one day and my husband Jeff walked in and he said, “whatcha doing?” She goes, “Oh, I’m watching these YouTube videos,” and he goes, “You should do that. You could do that,” and that was her--

Jon: --her license to be able to do it.

Chris: Yes, and to tell us. So, I remember some of the early ones, and I thought, at first I thought well that's a cool little hobby, and I think that's what she thought as well, but I remember seeing that she truly did have a passion for it. There was a real passion there. 

Jon: When you say that she told you, how did she tell you?

Chris: Well when it—when she finally told us she was making them and posting them she said, “Mom and Dad I promise I'm not putting my address out there, being really careful about anything in the background,” so me being hesitant Jeff was probably more onboard, I'm like, “Ooookay, like alright.” 

Jon: Now this is as a 15 year—as a 15 year old?

Chris: No she didn't upload for a couple years.

Jon: Ok. 

Chris: Yeah, after she actually had her channel so that—so we still had a couple of years to go. But, then what happened was she came one day and she actually asked permission, which I'm so grateful that her and Ashley both have always been like that, but they—said she said, “Mom look, YouTube wants to pay me a little bit. I'm getting—I'm actually getting some views some subscribers, and it's not much mom, it’s not much but they need our address—”

(laughter)

Jon: --to send the check.

Chris: Exactly, and that's when it was official, more official, and I really knew that okay this is a thing that looks like—at that point I thought it was just a hobby, but a hobby she was clearly really passionate about, so we said, “okay.”

Jon: And, when do did Ashley get onboard with videos? 

Chris: Well, when they come out of the house, our house, they went out to Orange County, go to college, was about I'd say five and a half years ago. So, Ashley began filming for Alisha, little side track which I do, back when they lived at the house Alisha sometimes, when this was all beginning to pick up momentum, she'd say, “Hey mom, I need to go to Michaels or Target to get some things for a DIY, you want to come? and that was really some fun memories, I really treasure those. We'd go down to the store get the goods as she calls it and go back, and it was really cool to watch this creative idea and her mind you know happen—

Jon: Even really—even early on, she would plan out what the video was going to be in advance—

Chris: Mhm, yup.

Jon: You have to for DIY.

Chris: Right. 

Jon: And did she have like a shopping list? You go to Michaels walking around, trying to find different items for the video?

Chris: Yes, very specific. You're right, and being a producer is one of the things is YouTubers have to do right? The write, create it, produce it, star in it, edit it, all that, I think she had to have that end goal clear. So yes she had a very detailed lists, we’d to get the things, and then once in a while you know we’d come back she’d, “Mom, could you hold the camera for me?” cause she really didn't have anyone to help her, it was her, and so I’d hold the camera once in a while awkwardly, but she had to teach me how and then to watch the finished product—I thought okay,  this is really something, how all these things come together to make the video and all the demands of it. 

So anyway, fast forwarding up to when they moved out of the house, Ashley began being her videographer and it was so cool for me. You know, they've always been close and I'm so grateful as mom you know that they've always been close, but watching Ashley support of Alisha because she was still in school full-time and you know, but she loved helping Alisha and again speaking of the word passion, I saw real passion in Ashley as a videographer. She would just do whatever it took to learn it more, Alisha would teach her—

Jon: --and get the shot.

Chris: Mhm and get the shot, if it took half a day they would get the shot. And I remember asking Ashley one time, and I go “You ever think about photography or video for you?” she goes, “Mom I just love helping Alisha. Maybe I'll take a class to get even better at photography, but I really love helping,” and she does have a big part of her personality as a helper like a support. So, it was neat watching her support Alisha. Well during that time little probably known to both of them, Ashley was learning the whole craft of the whole thing, and so Alisha now it's being reciprocated in supporting Ashley, I love watching the mutual support, she’s like, “Ashley, I think you should start a channel.” She's like, “Noooo way, I don't think so. I can't see me in front of the camera. I can't picture myself,” but Alisha kept on because she's quite an encourager, I noticed, that's one of her gifts she she'll encourage people to really develop their full potential of whatever their passions and giftings are you know. So, she starts in on Ashley, but before you know it I'm not sure how long it took but probably within a year maybe, Ashley posted her first video. 

Jon: And then she has a ton of photos on her Instagram account.

Chris: Oh yes, definitely, yeah. I love seeing her pictures.

Jon: Now, both girls are in the same basic genre of video. How are—I’m going to ask a two-part question: One, how are they the same, and then how are they different?

Chris: Wow, I don't know. I think as far as the same—not to sound too general, but I really seriously believe they’re really positive role models for all their subscribers and other fans out there, and there's a lot of negative messages screaming at young women's minds these days more than ever, and so for Ashley and Alisha both, this is what I think is common, I think their message maybe even unconsciously or consciously, but is like, “No, you know. You don't get your value and your identity from all of these lies all these voices screaming at you, you know. You're you.Be the you you were created to be,” and so that positive message, I think it shines through all their videos.

Jon: And then how are they different?

Chris: Different. Ashley's seem—oh this is a good question. It's in—it’s wow—Alisha's series like the series that they do in which Ashley is a part of often too like roommate wars or things like that, there's a full developed series, and there will be different themes through those series. Usually with some comedy mixed in there, which is great. Not always with comedy though so I would say it like a produced series in, in that sense. One time, Alisha described her channel like a magazine that has several different topics you can choose from, so I could see that to the different topical videos. And Ashley’s I see that there seems to be an I don't know if this is intentional or not but times when she's just talking to her audience as a big sister maybe or as a best friend and though her video although the main topic might be DIY or study tips and back to school advice and this type of thing, somewhere in there are going to be little nuggets of life advice and wisdom. 

So, in reading the comments on both girls’ channels, which I like to do from time to time, it's—the commonality would be, “Wow. You made my day. I mean I was feeling really down today. I was feeling discouraged but Alisha your video Ashley your video, you just made me feel better about life, you know.”

Jon: Do you know the demographics of their viewers?

Chris: Not off the top of my head. It used to be like 12 to 22 but I don't know if that's changed for both of them.

Jon: Then you mentioned that Alisha had started as a hobby. How have you seen her life change? And, I’m going to ask the same question for Ashley too, since it's become a full time job?

Chris: I think the first thing that pops into my head is the—from a fun carefree hobby that’s just fun to you know kick out a camera and create something and post it and have fun with it to, the full realization and responsibility, that there's 12 million people watching me and wow I really am influencing their life, just being me which is amazing but it also it has a weight to it. I think.

Jon: There's a certain responsibility. 

Chris: Right, yeah.

Jon: Turning to you a second. 

Chris: Okay. 

Jon: Are you on social media?

Chris: In like do I follow it?

Jon: No. No, no, are you personally on it? 

Chris: No.

(laughter)

Jon: Are you on Facebook at all?

Chris: No. Never have been. 

Jon: Do you have a YouTube channel?

Chris: No. 

Jon: Have you ever posted your own YouTube video?

Chris: Never.

Jon: Which I assume I know the answer to this, are you on Snapchat?

Chris: I'm on that but just to follow the kids just to see what they're up to.

Jon: Have you ever tweeted?

Chris: No. 

Jon: Have you ever posted your own Instagram photo?

Chris: Never, but last week I learned on my cell phone if I push dial call you know it, it works better. No not really.

(laughter)

Jon: You use your phone as a phone? Let's say you were a YouTube influencer.

Chris: Okay. 

Jon: What would be your first video? 

Chris: Ooh. I think it'd be fun to do something crazy and goofy with moms. People in my age you know like one time we went to Alisha's Girl’s Night In tour—well actually a few times and it was amazing. Little side note, it was one of those moments when I really, you know there's been moments along this journey of me like just not sure what I thought about it just because of the safety, the privacy, the stress on the lifestyle for the kids, but I've come on this journey to where I embrace it now and it's like I think it's very very cool thing. And if there's anybody out there influencing all these young young women I'm glad it's my kids. 

But I got off track I wasn't this Girl’s Night In thing and mom came up to me and she had tears in her eyes and she says—it was Alisha's first GNI tour actually, and she had tears in her eyes and she goes, “Thank you,” and I said, “For what?” she goes, “For your daughter,” and she meant it and she took my arm and she said, :Your daughter has made such a positive difference in my daughter, and I just can't thank you enough. And I don't even fully know what that comment meant, but that was one of those moments when it really drove home to me--

Jon: You realized there’s something—

Chris: Right. Plus times when I've watched both Alisha and Ashley we'd be out at a restaurant or—

Jon: --Well that’s what I was going to ask you about, the first time you were with them when somebody recognized them.

Chris: Yes, that was another aha moment for me, when it really came home and I thought wow what's happening here is way bigger than anything I could ever and we are in all honestly, even though I'm a worry wart Jeff and I both have always try to support them and what they want to do, we haven't tried to ever be you know controlling in that way in any way. We say, “well, you know find your passion and dream that God’s put there and go for it,” and it looks like they have. That's a really cool thing, but we were at a restaurant and a subscriber came up, just you know the little typical, “Ahh it’s Alisha Marie,” but when I saw the joy and the tears that were genuine, I thought Chris, this is one out of, at that point I think it was like maybe only like 2 million, and that was a real aha moment for me. That the joy that they're bringing—it's a real thing.

Jon: Well I've—I've heard it said that the difference between like a TV actress and a YouTube star is that the YouTube stars so much more accessible.

Chris: Right. 

Jon: They don't have a posse around them. 

Chris: Right. 

Jon: And then they're out in public.

Chris: Yeah that's true, and I think they feel a connection to because of the comments of YouTube versus traditional talent.

Jon: It's two-way communication as opposed to one way.

Chris: Right. So they know that there's a chance anyway that their YouTube person that they love watching actually saw their comment.

Jon: And then Vidcon? 

Chris: Oh yeah.

Jon: When they can go down? 

Chris: Yes.

Jon: So how do you, and I’ll get to YouTube in a second, how do you consume media or content? Do you have cable TV?

Chris: Hehe, you're going to laugh, but we actually don't have cable TV right now. It's a funny story but my husband he loves sports and sometimes he said, and this was his decision, but he can get really wrapped up in it. He said, “You know what? I can watch it on individual channels,” which Alisha bought him one for a gift which was cool like that MLB right, but so he turned off the cable. So, we really don't even have cable.

Jon: How much YouTube do you watch today?

Chris: Oh you know I do watch YouTube now on my phone and on the TV sometimes. I'd say 30 minutes to some days maybe if I get really on a roll a couple hours. I could go a couple hours. 

Oh, you asked—you know what Jon, I got off track didn’t I? You asked a question about—oh, so in the first Girl’s Night In, I get so—

Jon: --I was going to circle you back. No, go ahead. 

Chris: Oh, okay. Hehe. Well at the Girl’s Night In thing, one of the other moms of some of the YouTubers that were on the same tour, we found ourself just waiting in the same waiting room and we were just just in a silly mood I guess and we got silly and goofy and we started joking around and so we we made a pretend mom's vlog you know that the kids videoed and they were just busted up laughing, everybody was cracking up. So we said one of these days we should do a mom's channel.

Jon: That's what you got to do. 

Chris: Anyway, sorry--

Jon: Oh no, it’s okay. 

Chris: --I didn’t answer your question.

Jon: How—you talked about how it felt seeing a mom, or having a mom come up to you and seeing little other fans come up, how does it feel seeing your child employ a group of professionals, agents, managers, lawyers, basically assembling a team?

Chris: Yes, I think it's awesome. When it all first started growing so quickly and it did grow quickly, it seemed like everything happened all at one time so it’s kind of blurry in my mind but when they moved out of our house I don't know if there's any significance there but they moved into their apartment and Alisha's channel first it just started exploding just going so quickly and we knew right away that this is bigger than anything we needed advice and experience so you know we're praying for a good solid team of just good people to surround her and really that happened and you are a big part of that. And it's kind of funny how it's such a small world because a common and actually an insurance agent that I knew, knew of you and I was just the way I can do venting one day to him go, “We need a team of people, we need,” he said, “I know one of the best and most honest attorneys there are, and he gave me your number, and one thing led to another, and to this day I can sit here and say we have a super strong team for both girls and it's just awesome. But yeah, we knew instantly we needed that, that they needed that.

Jon: And you're fortunate to realize that because so many times people come to me about six months, a year too late.

Chris: Yes.

Jon: How do you feel about the free trips, the perks, the products they receive? Have you come to grips with people just give them things to get them to try to use it?

Chris: Yes. That wasn't too hard to wrap my mind around I would say because it makes sense from an advertising standpoint. I mean once, once we understood that goodness the millennials, the teens that all the generations down below the blend—they're not watching TV anymore they're watching YouTube. And that's where their eyes are and advertisers have always been after that, that kind of makes sense to me. I think it took longer for Jeff and I to just in general wrap our minds around the whole concept of YouTube.

Jon: Now we're going to get to kind of more big picture, in the sense of do you think a career in social media is sustainable? 

Chris: For a lifetime? 

Jon: For a lifetime.

Chris: You know I just have to honestly say I don't know but if I had to guess I would say yes only because I don't see it going away anytime soon. I don't ever see traditional say television replacing YouTube because of that engagement factor we were talking about.

Jon: Right, no I agree with you. I agree with you. But yeah. Now what do you think, do you think it is a long term occupation for either one of your daughters?

Chris: For Ashley and Alisha? You know, I guess I honestly don't know. It's kind of like see—

Jon: We're in uncharted territory.

Chris: Yes, it is. That's a good way to put it. It's uncharted, yeah. I can see how it could be. And part of that is simply I guess go—you know you for example I'm a musician and music teacher like you look at the bands over history that have had longevity. 

Jon: Right. 

Chris: They had to be flexible, they had to rebrand once in a while, they had a change with the times and stay relevant. Well, I think with social media it'll probably be the same that—

Jon: You have to continually reinvent yourself.

Chris: But again, that's a guess.

Jon: Well because of YouTube is only a little over 10 years old, we don’t know.

Chris: Yes, yes. It’s so new.

Jon: I once heard an influencer say that your life is your job. Have you seen that as true with Ashley and Alisha?

Chris: Yes in the sense that if you're a YouTube celebrity people want to watch your life. They're watching your life whether it's a main channel or a vlog. I think that's one of the reasons vlogs got so popular is people want to see a real genuine person living a real genuine day. So, in that sense yes the the job is the life. Now the negative side of that is trying to separate that because that can become so stressful.

Jon: Well do you remember the movie 10 years ago Trumanwhere it was a guy that was in a big bubble and everything was manufactured, but he didn’t realize it was fake and everybody was tuning in to watch him. 

Chris: I saw part of it and I have this funny habit I get it often bored with movies and I didn't see the end, but I remember the beginning.

Jon: YouTube is kind of like that.

Chris: Exactly.

Jon: Do you—you had talked about watching both daughters’ videos. Do you watch every video they upload?

Chris: Yes, I do. I'm proud of them. 

Jon: Do you look at every Instagram post? 

Chris: Since I'm not on Instagram, I tell them occasionally I say, “I think I need to sign up for Instagram,” they’re like, “No mom.” 

Jon: So you’re not even on Instagram at all?

Chris: I’m not even on—

Jon: Not even to consume?

Chris: No but I go on the you know you can go on the public way through and watch that. I’d say once a week or so roughly I'll go and just see all their new pictures.

Jon: And do you read their tweets?

Chris: Sometimes. 

Jon: Sometimes.

Chris: Yes.

Jon: When you watch the video, do you read all the comments?

Chris: Not all there’s no way. I'll read the first you know, the first string of them especially on a new one when a new one first comes out the first day or so, but that's about it. There's just no way to read them all.

Jon: Do you ever give a like or a comment yourself?

Chris: I always do a like. And no, I've never done a comment. I thought about it and I think I need to do that. Yeah. 

Jon: A mystery comment. 

Chris: See if they’ll who I am, you know.

Jon: When your girls were little and somebody criticized them, how did you react?

Chris: Well probably like any mom. You try to be objective and not biased, you know.

Jon: How is it—now, now, because comments on the Internet are anonymous. 

Chris: Oh yes.  

Jon: How hard is it to read a negative comment?

Chris: Well they told Alisha—she really has taught us a lot about this from the beginning when everything started happening so quickly. Then her channel first she said, “Hey it's okay. It's part of it.” She doesn't take it personally and—

Jon: But you as a mom take it personally?

Chris: Well one time I did, just a little though honestly not a whole lot but a little bit I did, and it's when you know when she took this break recently, I thought that was an incredibly brave and wise thing to do. And really it—and part of the draw they say for YouTube subscribers say we want to see someone being genuine and truthful and honest and real and authentic and all those things. So I think when Alisha made that one video where she explained a little more in detail how difficult it can be to be an influencer or a YouTube influencer, she got a lot of hate on that one, and that when I took a little personal. I read it I'm like, “Guys,” they were—some of them were so cruel and mean. As a mom, you feel it too you know, and I wondered I thought wow I wonder you know I wonder if this is bothering Alisha, but I couldn't help—and her and I talked about it, and she was fine but, I couldn't help but think about the iro—how it was ironic that these same people that will say, “We want a video once a week and we want you to be authentic and real,” and then when she did step out there and say, “Okay guys, I want to show you a little more reality, here's how it really is,” they came out or they totally misunderstood. They just totally—it went right over their head, her purpose and intent of that video, and they came back saying “You have no right to complain,” and she wasn't complaining at all, but anyway be that as it may, I think taking a break was such a—

Jon: --good thing for her—

Chris: --a wise thing. Yeah and very mature, and it even—I feel like she helped so many people besides herself because it gave other people, not just YouTubers, but I mean I know she was written up in Entrepreneur magazine and Forbes magazine and Variety magazine and who knows who else you know, so it brought attention to professionals in all realms to say,  “You know what, it's okay to be me and take care of myself first and realize at the end of a day my job is just my job. It's not me.”

Jon: Right. Problem with YouTube people though is that it's 24/7. They're constantly videoing, especially with the vlogs—

Chris: Right.

Jon: They’re kind of following themselves around with the camera that it takes real discipline to turn it off.

Chris: Yes. Yes, and I've seen that discipline growing in them so that's a good thing.

Jon: Shifting gears a little bit, but other than your daughters. 

Chris: Yes. 

Jon: Do you have favorite people you always go back to on YouTube? 

Chris: I like music ones. I watch some drumming videos which I enjoy. I watch some music videos that I enjoy.

Jon: I was going to ask you the same question on Instagram, but you're not on Instagram.

(laughter)

Chris: I know, isn’t it funny?

Jon: You have been in their videos. 

Chris: I have.

Jon: I'm going to start first where you weren’t in this video but Alisha Marie did a video called 10 Different Types of Parents!!.

Chris: Yeah, I love that one. 

Jon: There are helicopter parents, always running late parents--

Chris: Yup, check check. 

Jon: Okay, so are you a helicopter parent?

Chris: I think I have been at times. Especially did you see it? Did you see the scene in the beginning where she’s peering through the window? I think you know she, you know maybe she should buy me a coffee since I was inspiration.

(laughter)

Jon: Right. Always running late?

Chris: Done it, been there, today.

Jon: Party parents?

Chris: Eh, I don’t see it so much, but you know.

Jon: Gym parents?

Chris: Mm, I don’t know. I’ve always had a treadmill but that’s about it. 

Jon: Try hard mom?

Chris: Probably.

Jon: A fur baby? And I didn’t know what a fur baby was until I saw that it was a dog.

Chris: Oh, we’ve always been a dog family. We’ve always loved dogs. That cracked me up though that scene when they had Chloe.

Jon: Competitive parent?

Chris: Competitive, I forget. Oh!

Jon: Their kids are always competing, an A minus isn’t good enough. 

Chris: No, that definitely was not me, no. We were—we were like if you’re trying your best, we’re happy.

Jon: Strict parent?

Chris: Ooh, actually I don’t know, I’ve always had—that’s a hard one for me to gauge. I think just guessing looking back, I probably leaned more towards lenient than—but there was a balance there. I don’t know, maybe we got it right there. I don’t know. Maybe they’ll tell us when they’re parents someday.

Jon: Ashley had you in one. You were the start of one of the videos. It was the Mom Goes Shopping For Me Challenge!

Chris: Mom goes shopping. That was so much fun.

Jon: How long was that in the planning?

Chris: She asked me maybe three weeks earlier, “Hey mom,” when we were just kicking back watching some show, by the way she’s gotten me to where I enjoy watching some TV shows now and actually like it, This Is Us, that’s been the latest one and so you know how I told you I used to get bored with movies and quit?

Jon: Right.

Chris: I’m into it now. It’s a cool thing. 

Jon: That TV thing, it’s a good thing—

Chris: I know.

Jon: It could probably stay around.

Chris: I know it. So she said, “Hey mom, if I were to do a video like you go shopping for me, would you want to do it?” I said, “Sure! That sounds fun, why not?” So we did, it was a blast.

Jon: And did you plan out in advanced—basically the concept was you buy three different outfits for her, and you have her try them on and rate them. 

Chris: Yes.

Jon: Did you think out in advanced what you were going to get, or did you just go shopping?

Chris: I had a general idea and could not find any of them. That was frustrating, yes.

Jon: And of the outfits you bought, one of them I think, Ashley said that it looked you were buying it for yourself.

Chris: Yes, exactly.

Jon: How hard was it to pick out something for—I assume you shopped for them when they were little.

Chris: Yes.

Jon: And then that stopped at a certain age.

Chris: Yes.

Jon: And now it’s been a long time.

Chris: A long time, yes. The little kid outfits you know it’s been a long time. We joked about that in the video. That was tough. As I said I did have some ideas and could not find any of them. Maybe I went to the wrong stores, who knows. But, the one that she did like the most I had thought of that earlier, so that worked out pretty well.

Jon: So that was a pre-planned?

Chris: Mhm.

Jon: What about doing this video has given you more insight into what they do?

Chris: We had a blast at the—the shopping actually I got a little stressed out, the way I can do because I wasn’t finding what I was after, but we had a blast later with the filming of her trying it on and I closed my eyes in surprise. We just all got the giggles, even the photographer did and so I think that element of just seeing how—because at first I was a tiny bit nervous, but when I saw how, wow really can just be ourselves and get the giggles and it really is fun, and not only that the subscribers liked seeing us have fun and by the time it was done, the photographer we were all just cracking up.

Jon: Because I know you started, it’s like can we start again? Can we start again?

Chris: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, remember?  

Chris: So yeah you really can just—it’s really true. The more relaxed, the more you do it, and of course the girls are. I’m not there at all I’ve only done the one, but they’ve gotten so natural at it and confident, it’s awesome.

Jon: So do you have plans to be in more?

Chris: No, not at this point.

(laughter)

Chris: If they ask me though I will do it just for the sheer fun of doing something with them. 

Jon: You talked about supporting them and helping them. How do you do that?

Chris: Well. Well, I guess a few ways. One, just in general we’ve tried to be positive, Jeff and I both, at whatever they wanted to be. When they weren’t—we alluded to when they were earlier, and you know how most young kids will do in high school, the pressure comes on high schoolers doesn’t it? What are you going to do, what are you going to do? I think it comes on too much.

Jon: What are you going to do? Where are you going to go to college? 

Chris: Pressure, pressure. But then those early years of college and try some hing, but we’ve always tried to be, “Look, whatever you guys decide it’s okay to change your mind, we’re with you. We’re on your side, we’re in your court, just you’ll figure it out. And don’t stress.” We say, “Take one step after another. You’ll just know,” and that does seem to be the way it played out in this case. And then now on a more practical level, it’s kind of a funny story. I was a music major, and uh—but I stumbled backwards in my early 20s. I think was actually 20 to work for IRS of all places. I didn’t even know what it was.

Jon: Music major, IRS.

Chris: Yeah, we’re talking polar opposites. 

Jon: Right.

Chris: I did not even—I wasn’t even sure what IRS did, but I needed a job, I became a clerk, nine years later it was interesting. I learned a lot about taxes, I ended up being an auditor, so I always wondered, why in the world did I work for IRS? Because after that I went back to music teaching and playing and stuff like that. So, as Alisha’s channel, first and foremost, started growing, she needed some help there, with the bookkeeping, with you know making sure her taxes were done the right way and all that kind of thing, finding the right CPA, so it was a very natural thing for myself to slide into that role. And then for Ashley, secondly, as she started growing in her channel, and then Jeff also he slid into that too as far as helping with bookkeeping, so on a practical level we help that way. 

Jon: Do you ever give feedback on their videos?

Chris: Mhm, I tell them when I have a favorite one, like the 10 Types of Parents you know, or Ashley’s last Back to School Tips, I just thought was like amazing, so when there’s one that’s favorite like that, I’ll tell them whoa, I really liked that one extra. But I’m generally—I generally like them all. But yeah, I’ll tell them extra. They always are going to get a mom text. They know that.

Jon: You’ve heard the term stage parent? 

Chris: I have, not sure what it is.

Jon: It is the parent that’s always around, it generally was coined with TV parents, do you consider yourself to be a stage mom? 

Chris: Give me a little more definition.

Jon: There when they’re shooting, there in the process.

Chris: Oh, not at all, and it sort of naturally evolved that way. One, because remember their channels took off when they moved out of our house, so I wasn’t there. I mean literally, physically. And then I noticed when they get into their creative zone, creative vibe, they process internally. Like they—it’s not something that—it’s not helpful to them to share it with myself or with Jeff.

Jon: To talk it out.

Chris: Yeah, they don’t need to talk it out. They create it on the inside, they produce it, they don’t even really like me to be around when they’re editing because they like us to see it when it’s the finished product.

Jon: Has your life changed as a result of their success?

Chris: Yes.

Jon: How so?

Chris: They’ve taught me a lot. Well, for one thing, back to the early days, I guess about five and a half years ago as I shared earlier, I was worry wart, over analytical, for a lot of things. One, what about the privacy? One, what about the crazy stressful schedule that you’re under? That’s a lot of pressure. Just on and on. I went from saying, “Honey, are you sure this is what you want to do?” to now going, “This is really cool, and for as long as you want to do it, I’m so on-board. I think it’s amazing, you know.” So it’s changed my life from being more fearful, to being just I guess more brave, and I’ve learned that from them—to not be afraid of these things. Even—I was even like afraid of traveling a lot, I just have—I don’t know why, I mean that probably gives a wrong picture of me. It’s not that I didn’t travel, but I just had a very small world, you know we grew up, you get a job, we had our family, and it was all pretty localized, but next thing I know, they move out to go to college and they’re flying London, they’re flying to Thailand, they’re flying to Tokyo, they’re going—I think Alisha’s been to New York 13 times now, and it’s not slowing down you know, so I quickly had to come to terms with either lose sleep at night, more, or wrap my arms around it and say, “Hey, you know what? This is their life. This is their purpose. They love it, and I’m going to embrace it and just have faith that they’re going to be great.

Jon: Last question. What advice do you have for other parents whose children want to be an influencer or are an influencer?

Chris: Ooh, you know I used to think I had a lot of advice for parents before I had kids, I did. I had been to a few of those you know, you read the books, but it’s like it sure is individual isn’t it? For example, one place where I played drums recently, a mom came up to me and her daughter she really wanted to be a YouTube influencer, and she was doing okay. She was a vocalist and doing alright, but then I would run into them every couple of months, and they’d give me updates. And it wasn’t for her daughter, she would come to me for—

Jon: It was for mom.

Chris: It was for mom. I saw that.

Jon: That’s a stage parent.

Chris: Oh, okay. Okay, that wasn’t me. That wasn’t us then, now I know I was not. Well that’s a good thing. Yeah, it was more for mom. And finally the little girl—I saw the frustration rise in both of them, and finally the mom came up to me and she says, “Well, my daughter decided she said, ‘Mom, I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want to be on YouTube,’” and so the mom was you know, but yeah.

Jon: Right.

Chris: So advice. I think let them be them. Look to see what path is already in their heart, and that might change. That might change a few times, it did for me. I don’t know anyone that has known right off the bat and stayed right with the same plan—

Jon: Well I wanted to be a professional football player.

Chris: Did you?

Jon: Yes, I did.

Chris: Oh, good for you.

Jon: And then a racecar driver.

Chris: Okay, that’s two.

Jon: That’s two.

Chris: Okay, so yeah just let them grow into who they were purposed to be and just be there to be their cheerleader and support them and just be in their corner. 

Jon: Thank you, this has been a pleasure.

Chris: Oh me too, thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for having me.

_______________________________________________________________________

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 , Podcast , Influencers | Social Media
  • Dec 05, 2018

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