MissFitAndNerdy: The Origin Story

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Fun fact: I’ve actually been making YouTube videos for over five years. My first channel was called ThisIsNotAMarisa and I started it right before I went off to college at MIT.

I first got into YouTube 11 years ago when my best friend showed me “How To Be English” by Charlieissocoollike. From there I fell down the rabbit hole of the little British YouTuber community. I spent the next five years engaged in that community, feeling like the vloggers I watched were friends I had never met. They were there for me in times of celebration and in times of heartbreak. They were an integral part of my life. And ultimately they were what influenced my decision to change my career path from cognitive science to film.

In 2013, I went to Vidcon—a convention for vloggers to meet their fans—and I not only got to meet some of my favorite vloggers, but I also got to experience the community in person. I not only met people who changed my life, but I also met people who had had their lives changed by the very same people. I got to feel the connections between all of us viewers in real life. We were all there for a single purpose. Because in one way or another, these people had saved us. If you’ve never been to a convention full of nerds, you haven’t experienced the deep, tangible connection that flows through their air when everyone shares a common, life-changing passion. We all understood each other and all spoke the same language. It was purely magical.

 
 

I left Vidcon feeling inspired by the community. I wanted to play a bigger role in it. And I wanted a community of my own. So I started a channel called ThisIsNotAMarisa and posted my first video one month before I went off to Boston to start college. (I was a nerd back then too. The name was based off the painting called “The Treachery of Images,” which I had just studied in AP Art History. I chose the name because the painting is of a pipe with the words “this is not a pipe” written below it, highlighting the fallacious conflation of an image of something with the thing itself. I felt it was appropriate for a YouTube channel where you really only get a manufactured glimpse into someones life but we, as viewers, often mistake a vlogger’s online personality for who they really are. A mistake that I still see being made today despite many creators/influencers efforts to pull back the curtain. But it is human nature to see only what we want.)

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I remember exactly where I was when I hit 100 subscribers. I was in freshman year multivariable calculus. I had been refreshing my channel all day on my phone. And then, in the middle of class, I refreshed it and all of a sudden, the 99 changed to 100. I was ecstatic and overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe that 100 people actually wanted to engage with my content. That I had started to actually grow a small community of my own.

I remember exactly where I was when I hit 1,000 subscribers. I was walking across the Harvard bridge that winter at night in the cold with two of my freshman year best friends. I had one glove on and one glove off, not caring that my hand was freezing, just wanting to see the 999 turn to 1,000. When on my millionth refresh, it finally changed, my friends celebrated with me. My little community was blossoming. There were people who watched my videos who I spoke to regularly. Who felt like friends.

I attended Vidcon again in 2014. I actually had someone recognize me and ask to take a picture with me. I was so confused and awkward but I’ll never forget it. I met one of the friends I had made online through YouTube and he soon turned into my first boyfriend. Over the course of the event, we all celebrated our mutual love of YouTube and the community. During Vidcon Prom, friends and strangers danced together to The Gregory Brothers, cried together during Meghan Tonje’s performance of “The Fault is in Our Stars,” and listened with rapture to Watsky’s beautiful spoken word poem. At that moment, we were all united.

Less than a week later, an earthquake shook the community. And the aftershocks began to tear it down. YouTuber after Youtuber was outed as a sexual abuser. Some of the people who had changed my life, whose music was my only grip to reality in one of my darkest times, whom I looked up to and admired, were revealed to be monsters. It broke my heart. The community that I held so dear had begun to crumble, and with it, my passion for creating my own content. I had fallen prey to the exact fallacy that I had based my channel name on. I continued to make content but with less and less frequency over the years. I would have moments of inspiration and then months of apathy towards it all. My frequency of uploads gradually tapered off over the course of the four years.

Sometime during the winter of my junior year (2015), I started binge watching Niomi Smart’s channel. She is a vegan YouTuber who makes lifestyle, beauty, and health/fitness videos. I became obsessed with her “What I Eat in a Day” videos, falling in love with her style of eating and her mentality about her health. She would talk about food with such pure intentions that I had never heard before. In a world where we are constantly surrounded with diet culture, her content focused on seeing food as nutrients and as fuel for the body. She ate clean, unprocessed foods because she wanted to and because it made her feel good, not because she wanted to look a certain way. And it was this perspective that sparked my passion for health and fitness.

I again fell down a rabbit hole but this time into the world of fitness/health vloggers. I found Whitney Simmons and Abby Pollock and was inspired to start lifting. I started diving deeper and deeper, my passion fueled by these incredible and inspirational, fit women that I was finding. I spent every spare moment reading and researching. My tumblr slowly morphed from being filled with gifs of my favorite British YouTubers and Doctor Who to being flooded with #fitspo. I found MindPump and my world expanded even more. The next semester, I signed up for a weightlifting PE course (we were required to take 4 semesters of PE to graduate) and I felt like an entirely new person. I was slowly evolving from just nerdy to fit and nerdy.

 
 

About a year and a half later, I decided I wanted to start sharing my experiences and the information I had learned. It had been YouTubers who first inspired me to pursue health and fitness, and I wanted to pay it forward and help inspire others to change their own lives. And thus, MissFitAndNerdy was born.

Fun fact: If you haven’t gotten it from my wonderful intro music created by the one and only VAANN, my channel name is in reference to the infamous “White and Nerdy” parody by Weird Al. From the very inception of my channel, I wanted that intro music for my videos. If you haven’t heard that song, please take a moment and click on the link and educate yourself on some invaluable pop culture.

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So I set out with a goal to inspire others, to experiment on myself, and to help others through things I had experienced. I didn’t expect much from it. I was hoping for another little community of familiar faces like I had developed with ThisisNotAMarisa. But then my fifth video went viral. It was my two week documentation of my first experience intermittent fasting—my first personal experiment.

I remember exactly where I was when I hit 10,000 subscribers. I was working as a production coordinator on a film shoot. We were on set at a school that day, doing production work out of a bungalow. It was deathly hot in north Los Angeles. I sat there on my laptop trying to work but I couldn’t stop watching my view count and subscriber count skyrocket. I never expected anything like that to ever happen. It wasn’t even my goal. All I had wanted to do was inspire a few people and make some friends who shared a common passion. And suddenly hundreds of thousands of people were watching my content. It still blows my mind today. And I’m so appreciative of it and the opportunities it has brought me.

I’m sure I will remember exactly where I will be if (when) I hit 100k subscribers. I know there will be tears. Tears of appreciation, of disbelief, of achievement, of pride. The idea that it is even within reach is still unbelievable to me. I appreciate every single one of you 75,569 people. You guys have brought me so many more opportunities than I could ever have hoped for. I’ll never take it for granted. And I hope we can continue building a community together. Thank you for letting me babble at you for 30-40 minutes every week.

 
Marisa Chaela