Who Is Zoella?
The 27-year-old British girl, who is based in the English coastal town of Brighton, began vlogging in 2009. Her two YouTube channels, Zoella and More Zoella — on which she shares self-taught beauty and makeup tips, fashion hauls and the minutiae of her daily life, in a lighthearted, conversational style aimed at a teenage audience — now have a combined total of 17 million subscribers.
Zoella also has a record-breaking beauty line at the UK drugstore chain Superdrug, and her (ghostwritten) debut novel, Girl Online, broke publishing records in 2014, selling faster than Harry Potter. She earns an estimated $70,000 a month.
How Zoe Sugg Became Zoella
Born on March 28, 1990, Zoe Sugg grew up in the pretty village of Lacock in Wiltshire, in the UK’s West Country region. She is the daughter of a property-developer father, Graham, and a beautician mother, Tracey, and has a younger brother, Joe, also now a YouTube personality who goes by the name of Thatcher Joe. She attended a local school, but decided against university, mainly because of her anxiety — she has suffered panic attacks since childhood. “I didn’t want to go away from my family, from any comfort that I had,” she told the Financial Times in 2014. (A video she posted in which she discusses her battle with anxiety has been viewed 4 million times since 2012, and led to her becoming a digital ambassador for the mental-health charity Mind.
After school, Zoe took a job as an apprentice in an interior-design company and started a blog as a hobby, writing about “all these little bits of make-up for 50p” she found at car-boot sales, then, later, in high-street stores. She built up a modest 1,000 followers before expanding onto YouTube in February 2009. Like many of her generation, she preferred YouTube to TV because “you got the sense of the person. I trusted their opinion. It was, ‘This is me in my bedroom; I’m not a TV set.’ It had this rawness to it,” she told British Vogue. Taking the username Zoella, she began vlogging, talking directly to camera about everything from lipstick to pets, then editing and uploading footage from her laptop. She still begins every broadcast with her signature greeting: “Hellooo everybody!”.
Zoella and Alfie Deyes Move to Brighton
It took years of YouTube broadcasts before her hard work paid off. Even her family seemed unaware that she was building a career. “My dad kept saying… ‘get off your laptop. You need to go out.’ He didn’t get it,” she told Cosmopolitan magazine. But by 2012, she had 200,000 subscribers and was earning enough in royalties from YouTube to be able to dedicate herself to vlogging full-time. By 2013 she had 1 million subscribers; the following year she launched a second YouTube channel, More Zoella, which focuses on “day-in-the-life videos, bloopers, extras and general life-ness,” to further expand her squeaky-clean brand. “She is 100 per cent wholesome, attainable and approachable,” wrote Emily Sheffield in Vogue.
Zoella does not engage with the highbrow end of the fashion and beauty industry, although there is a growing disconnect between her increasingly opulent lifestyle and her original girl-next-door appeal. In June 2017, Zoella gave her viewers a sneak preview of the luxurious mansion, with a wood-burning oven, marble dining table and “high-tech” garden furniture, that she had recently bought with her boyfriend and fellow YouTuber, Alfie Deyes. The couple had moved to Brighton, a hub for UK YouTube stars, in 2014. They sometimes team up to broadcast videos such as Guess the Body Part and How Well Do We Know Each Other?.
The Ghostwriter Behind 'Girl Online'
There was a rare controversy in December 2014, soon after the publication of Zoe Sugg’s first novel, Girl Online. The story is a fictional account of a teenage girl whose anonymous blog goes viral. After it emerged that Sugg had worked with a ghostwriter, the children’s author Siobhan Curham, both girls received online abuse — in Curham’s case it caused her to temporarily quit the internet, noting the irony that online hate had been one of the book’s themes. Some fans had been angered that, although Sugg thanked Curham in the book’s acknowledgements, the extent of her involvement had not been made explicit. “It would be really healthy to have a broader debate about transparency in celebrity publishing,” Curham wrote in a blog post. “But please don’t blame Zoe personally for a practice that has been going on for years.”
Despite the outcry, Girl Online became a New York Times bestseller, and was the fastest-selling book in the UK in 2014. There have been two sequels: Girl Online: On Tour, published in October 2015, and Girl Online: Going Solo, in November 2016.
Zoella's Social Following and Net Worth
Zoella’s online empire continues to grow apace. She currently has 17 million subscribers — and counting — to her two YouTube channels; 2.6 million Facebook followers, 12 million on Twitter and 11 million on Instagram. As well as her YouTube royalties, her publishing deal with Penguin and her beauty range for Superdrug, she makes between $7,000-$25,000 for each of her collaborations with brands, such as Very and Unilever. As of 2017, her net worth is an estimated $1.6 million.
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