we're tough as shit + we're going to make it: a chat with arden rose
For almost a decade, YouTuber Arden Rose has called the Internet her home. What started as a small town teen making beauty vlogs in her bedroom has now evolved into what you could consider a full-time career. With almost 1.5 million subscribers and counting on YouTube and the release of her first book Almost Adulting, Rose is on track to becoming one of the most influential women in the digital world today. From candid discussions on mental health and her outspoken voice on feminist politics, she has built an authentic brand for herself while fast becoming a role model for many.
Here, Arden shares a conversation with Lucky Rose’s Ani Jayme on the fans she likes to call friends, mental health and why writing Almost Adulting was so important to her.
Can you just briefly introduce yourself and your YouTube channel for readers?
My name is Arden Rose and my YouTube is Arden Rose and it’s kind of quirky, self-made content and mostly trying to make life work now in my early 20s. I started it in my early teens and it took off. I’ve had my channel now for nearly a decade now so it’s kind of in a period of rebirth right now.
You’ve basically grown up utilizing YouTube to post content and connect with viewers. What first inspired you to get involved in the YouTube community?
I saw a lot of strong women in the beautyscape that I really liked. Actually, I really loved ItsJudyTime a lot. Before she was a mommy blog she was a Filipino vlogger and I just thought she was awesome! Then I realized you could do something where you’re chatting with people online. I always was very extroverted when I was younger but I wasn’t the right kind of extrovert to be super popular in school, you know? I really couldn’t find my tribe in high school. So I think it translated into me trying to find anyone who was experiencing the same things as me online, and I did, fortunately! So now here I am.
And when you first started posting videos it was essentially the beginning of the whole Internet/online content era for young people.
Yeah, it was weird because when I first started YouTube, it wasn’t the cool thing--at all. Now you see all of these girls, you know, especially when you look at people like Zoella’s subscribers, who can now say “I wanna be a YouTuber when I grow up!”. That would never have been a thing when I was younger. I never imagined it as a career path, it was just something that I made out of nothing rather than going into it thinking that it was going to become a business. I was more thinking, this is fun, it takes up my time and I don’t feel so lonely and it just grew from there!
It’s crazy how social media has made these sorts of endeavors and careers more accessible to so many. So, do you feel like YouTubing and social media has been a healthy outlet for you to express yourself? And is it something you encourage young people to consider taking up as well?
Absolutely. I always think of social media as a double-edged sword. Obviously it’s a wonderful thing if you are secure in yourself and you feel like you have some great things to put out into the world but it also can be really easy to become a fake version of yourself or try to fit yourself into a bubble that makes you Instagram-friendly or Twitter-friendly, you know? But if it’s something that makes you feel confident and like your authentic self then by all means, do it. For me, I always try to post things that inspire me on Twitter and Instagram--it’s really just a mish mash of everything that I love and if I can embody that online then it’s just super cool! Obviously, sometimes it’s hard to escape the negativity. You go on the Instagram Discover page and it’s easy to start comparing yourself to other women and also men and rip yourself to shreds because of it but you just have to avoid that mentality.
Like you said, it’s easy to get caught up in the image that people portray to their audiences online. Since you’re a YouTuber and you’re constantly posting content about personal topics, how do you balance your public and private personas and do they differ in any way?
You know, I don't think they differ because I've been doing it for so long now that it's kind of second nature to me! If I were to be different publicly versus privately then I think it would be kind of weird. That's why I get a lot of people coming up to me and saying, "you're exactly like you are in your videos!" and I'm like, yup, what you see is how I act all the time! But I do think it's important to keep things sacred to yourself. For me that means I take a lot of downtime meaning I'm not one of those people who always Snapchats what their friends are doing or constantly updates on Instagram. I try to not make my life a reality show. I don't want people to feel like they are a part of the reality show that is Arden Rose's life. That's why you don't see a whole lot of my boyfriend or a lot of my friends on my channel. I just would never want to get anyone else caught up in it or for them to feel obligated to perform in a way. It's just not my deal.
As you’ve matured, you’ve grown more candid and honest about your firsthand experiences with mental illness and body image. In many ways, you are a role model and friend for many young women struggling with these same issues. Why is it important for you to discuss these issues on a global platform?
I think it's always good to normalize these issues, speak about them in sort of everyday language and not make them sound foreign or scary or intimidating. That's why when I say I have trichotillomania, it's not a big deal to me anymore and if it's not to me then it shouldn't be a big deal to anyone else. A lot of the anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses wreak havoc on your life because we're so concerned with hiding them and it just becomes a vicious cycle. I want to make it known that these disorders don't have to control you. That's why when I talk about my own experiences on my channel I talk about it sort of blasé because it doesn't define me, even when I'm going through a more difficult time, you shouldn't feel debilitated by it. I feel like that's a message I want to share with other people and I hope that's how my audience takes it.
And what has your audience's response been to your discussions on mental health and body image, overall?
It's been crazy. I get a lot of responses on videos where I do makeup tutorials where there are close-ups and you can sort of see my eyelashes and eyebrows and you can tell whether I'm having a good month or a bad month with trichotillomania. Some viewers will comment, "your eyelashes look so good" or "look at how great your eyebrows look" and it's crazy. It's weird because I kind of have this catalog of years of my life on YouTube and I can go back to videos where it was obvious I was struggling with trichotillomania and there are comments saying, "I never though of Arden dealing with trich because she's so good at dealing with it now". For a while it looked like I had put a marker to my eyebrows and I think it's good because it shows a history of a mental illness, you know? It doesn't have to be something permanent and the response has been amazing. I think it's really good for people to see a timeline of what can go right in that situation.?
Apart from your passion for mental health awareness, you are strongly vocal about feminism, sexuality, and the social equality issues plaguing the world today. Where did your passion for these issues arise from and how have you grown since first addressing them?
I was raised in a conservative Christian home when I was younger. There's nothing wrong with religion but a lot of times it can mean that you keep quiet about certain things that seem taboo or that you wouldn't want to talk about in church. Often times that means sexuality, you know, you're not supposed to lose your virginity until your married etc., etc.. Obviously that hasn't worked out for me--look at me, I'm gross! But it's okay because it actually doesn't matter but at the time I would just have massive guilt about everything, whether it be cursing when you're not supposed to curse--whatever it was. It got to the point where my guilt was so overwhelming and I just couldn't live with a lot of my life choices but then one day something just clicked and I realized, how I'm living is how a lot of the world lives. It doesn't have to be this big scary thing and I want to help anyone else alleviate that guilt. We just have to educate ourselves. Half of the reason why there's high rates of teen pregnancy or STDs is because of lack education or information online. People will hide things in fear that they're being "unholy" but I never want that to be a reason someone puts themselves into a compromising situation. I want to give information that I wish I had when I was younger and you know, try and be someone's Internet-best-friend.
And because you are discussing these issues with a platform of 1.5 million subscribers, you must know you have a strong influence on many people. What is the most important message you hope to provide for your viewers through your creativity and social activism?
That's a tough one because I feel like I have a lot of messages but I feel like they all boil down to being informed and making decisions that make you feel good and once you've done that you can't back down from it or feel bad about it. You have to follow through in order to have a happy life. I think that's what I've discussed in my videos is that you can't let other people's opinions or world views get you down--don't sweat the small stuff. Not everything has to be a mountain to get over and I think that's how I live my life and I hope others identify too. It feels like everything is so big and dramatic and huge now but at the same time it's a lot easier to just approach things like, this could be something manageable. I try not to let things control me or let everything make me feel bad because I remember getting into those hyper-emotional states and feel so horrible and I don't want that for anyone else.
You recently published your debut book, Almost Adulting, that feels like an extension of the topics you discuss openly on your channel and social media accounts. You have also reached an entirely new market because it’s on the shelves of bookstores and stores like Urban Outfitters. What has the viewer response been to your book and how does it feel to be reaching audiences through such a different medium?
It's really awesome. I gotta tell ya, it's really fun. Just seeing where people pick it up--you know, I get a lot of pictures from the UK and from Germany, they seem to like my book. I get see people from everywhere and it's so new to me. And you're right, it's such a different medium and I knew that going into it because my boyfriend Will published his book maybe even a year before me and it kind of gave me a grasp of how people were going to react to it. But it's still crazy because I've never done something and had it feel so permanent before. The Internet moves so fast. A new video comes out and you're done watching the one from last week. You can go back and watch them but in reality, a book stands alone and it takes up space and I think it's cool to have something physical like that in the digital era. Working in print media is cool and it's something I love doing and I'd love to write another book and find ways to express myself through literature.
Has writing always been a passion of yours?
It has to a certain extent. I'm not college educated--that kind of went out the window when I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18--but I always loved English and that was always my best work because I always loved how you could say something in a book and mean something entirely different through symbolism, you know? You can write something that is beautiful in one way but anyone can interpret it in any way that they see fit. I always loved analytical reasoning and I think I caught the reading bug really early and always enjoyed it, but I never thought I'd be good at actually writing though. So I'm glad my editor didn't cut my head off the first month! I still have a lot of people saying things like, "Arden's ghostwritten book just came out but it's still pretty good", but you know, it's not ghostwritten. I wrote all of that myself. It has been a passion but I think I'm just improving now and it's something I'm excited to develop.
Why did you choose the subject matter that you did for Almost Adulting?
I chose it keeping my 18 year old self in mind. I say this in the first chapter but, when I first moved out I was such a know it all! I really thought I could handle myself in a big city all on my own and it did for the most part and I'm here and I'm alive and I am not a heroin addict which is great but at the same time I think I missed out on a lot of the stuff that probably would have made my road a lot easier. Almost Adulting isn't that long of a book, it's sort of like an overview, so I could only pack in so much in-depth knowledge but I tried to give sort of a crash course to adulthood. So for someone like me where I suddenly get put into a situation where you have to somehow negotiate and haggle with your landlord and just pull up your bootstraps and get going, I wanted people to be able to figure that out without completely stressing out like I did! I also talk a lot about sex and mental health in the book and those are two really important things to me and I feel like a lot of self help guides almost glaze over them because their too risqué but I wanted to cover it all. I really loved how it turned out and it was such an exciting experience!
Many young people will identify with some or all aspects of your book, especially in the digital age. What is the sole message you hope viewers, new and old, take from Almost Adulting?
I think the main thing is, and it's something you find out pretty early in the book, is that no one is really fully adulting. We all read these advice posts on Pinterest about how to, like, clean out your dishes with Coca Cola and we're all this mish mash of weird information that we have to test and figure out what's true and false in the world. No one's going to figure it out completely and so it's okay to be a little messed up sometimes, you just gotta pick yourself back up and back on the road and you're going to be fine.
And now with your book working alongside your YouTube channel, you're able to create this community of friends, in way. So what's been the most rewarding part about seeing these relationships form because of your content?
It's very interesting. It's something that I didn't notice for a while and it's sort of bubbled up over time. I used to only see it at things like VidCon or meetups for YouTube and I remember one time there were some people standing in line and we were just chatting with them and it seemed like they were best friends. I asked if they met online and she said, "oh no, we met at lunch!". If a group of people have just basic commonalities you can form a whole group of friends online and I love the internet for that! I fully push the idea that the Internet is not strange and dangerous anymore, it's just a bunch of ladies and gents who just want to find each other and I love that my YouTube or my social media can provide that space for people. It's just so interesting to see people interacting, even just replying to tweets, and everyone is just so cute and I just love it.
What can your audience expect from you in the near future? Are there any new creative outlets you want to try your hand in?
I've already been dipping my toes into the vast pool of acting which is kind of obnoxious when a YouTuber says they're going to act because it's like, hun, we can't all act! But I'm trying my best and we're shooting three more seasons of Mr. Student Body President for Go90 so that should be really fun. That's my newest project. I 'm ready to be whipped and pummeled into a pulp [laughs]. Obviously I'm working on a new book and Will and I have a podcast together called Crash on My Couch where we give advice, Will loves treasure hunting so we talk about that which is super fun and we also have a segment called 'Hey We All Feel Weird Sometimes' and it's a good place to discuss some issues in more depth. It's a new way of connecting with our fans and also just to have more fun! And obviously I'll be posting on YouTube, that old thing!
If you could give one piece of advice to young women today, what would it be and why?
I would just say that you need to remind yourself that you are your own biggest critic and you shouldn't let anyone else tell you whether what you're doing is wrong or right. If it feels right to you, keep doing it, and if it feels wrong, stop doing it. That's the best thing I can say. I wish I'd had said no to a lot of things and said yes to others when I was younger and had just focused on myself creatively. Don't wear yourself out focusing on other people's opinions.