The formula to make it in anything these days has to involve; good energy, truth, confidence and determination. Darnell, or “Darnell Vlogs” as he’s otherwise known, is an unfiltered vlogger from London, who’s taken that formula and clocked YouTube. Not many British YouTubers, who look like us, have ventured into YouTube and stayed, that is unless you do sick make-up ‘beat’ tutorials, Q&A’s or outfit hauls – and the ladies have that on lock. I wanted to find out what pushed Darnell to venture out of the ends, documenting his life and his bro’s with a camera .
I first came across Darnell’s ‘Dele Alli’ video randomly, where he’d managed to scheme his way into an overcrowded BooHooMan event for the England footballer, an event that he was kinda-sorta invited to, by his friend Micah. Next thing you know he was brushing shoulders with celebrities and taking impromptu, candid interviews from the bar. No f’s given. This was an insider angle we’d never usually see, and it’s since become his most viewed video on YouTube. The funny thing was that…without knowing who he was, I instantly identified with him. It wasn’t until getting in touch with him that I realised we had grown up minutes away from each other. I even recognised some of his friends who went to my primary school. What was even funnier was I’d done similar reckless things, but I just couldn’t have imagined it on YouTube, and it shows from the reactions, comments and random vlog cameos from supporters, that many others relate to Darnell and appreciate his videos.
Darnell’s YouTube journey started with a frustration we’ve all had. Especially if you’re from the part of South London we come from. One youth club in the whole area, and nothing really moving but trains and commuters. “I started watching vlogs in 2015 and after a while I just stopped enjoying them. I felt I couldn’t relate to most youtubers, there wasn’t really anyone that represented people like me. [No-one had] the same humour, spoke the same or [did] the things me and my boys do. At the time I was 18 going to the maddest places, meeting the funniest people so it only felt right to document and share our experiences and create the vlog. Also it wasn’t a popular thing people were doing so I kinda felt like it would have been my niche.”
And he’s right. It’s obvious that we as Brits have a problem with being ourselves online… or in life, just search “Very British Problems” on Twitter. We’re reserved, unnecessarily awkward, and make things harder than they need to be. We also like to underplay or hide our gifts. A lot of us prefer to doubt or question social media success. We subtly think “Why is he/she successful?”…or “it’s getting dead now” aka don’t over-do it. We seem to regret where we put our attention, and regret having fun. Take for example, how Loz became famous by shaku-ing on the beat. Something light-hearted, funny and creative. A big discussion online was raised about how the same people that made her blow up online – US – attempted to bring her back down. One heavily recycled tweet went along the lines of “why and how did we make her blow”. Crazy!
Darnell’s thinking is clearly different. He’s taken a trend that arguably started in America and marketed it to match and relate to his own truth. Our truth. From documenting London life, moshpits at every festival, carnival, house parties, link ups with the bros, Fredo x Dave video reactions, to even reviewing Wing Stop wings and live sessions with studio and weed. But above all else, anything crazy, funny or random can and will make it to Darnell’s vlog. “The craziest [unseen] footage [laughs]…I couldn’t even tell you, I could get into trouble. But from the footage I’ve posted it would have to be the time I was in Malia, Greece… driving a quad bike and found a yout gone in the grass in the middle of nowhere. Or carnival when Lae got into it with one guy…to be honest there’s too many. (Sic)”
For our shoot with Darnell, we headed to Mayfair, co-signed with drip from Haddon PR, and as far away from the typical photoshoot on a random estate. A visual that we keep getting force-fed. I chose Mayfair, the richest area in London, specifically to be ironic. Especially because the brick wall background could be anywhere – Streatham, Camden or Mayfair. It speaks to the irony of Darnell and his vlogs. Someone documenting life in London, outside of his own usual surroundings, meeting new people, pushing boundaries. As we all should. Even if that means finessing and talking your way out of – and into – things, meeting new people, bonding over the silliest situations. Perhaps, sometimes queue jumping or getting in through the staff lift.
There’s a famous African proverb that says, “if you want to go far, go together”. We chose to bring in Micah, as he plays a significant role as a cast member in all of Darnell’s videos. He’s the right hand man, the designated driver and the one with the bring-ins, you may know him as Micah Million, a fly and successful artist in his own right, with a total of over a million views on YouTube. The irony here is that Micah supports Darnell’s venture, allowing him to shine and do his thing. The same way Darnell does at Micah’s video shoots and studio sessions. “I have so many ideas of where I could take the vlog, or how I could use the skills I’ve learnt for bigger things. But at the moment I’m just going with what feels right, it’s still early days. As long as I’m enjoying what I do and man’s happy then I’m not complaining. My own tv show one day would be lit though!” It’s safe to say 319k views on one video is much more than a lot of shows on tv right now.
What struck me with Darnell, and I hope strikes you, is his commitment and determination to be included. A “why not me?” sort of attitude. We have stories to tell, but it always seemed that platforms like YouTube couldn’t carry the weight of ours. Or there wasn’t an audience for it. I’m glad someone tried and is succeeding at it. We deserve to be live and televised. We deserve to be at that event, or on that flight, experiencing new things.
We deserve to create content in-and-out of the ends.