If we’re talking about gay YouTubers, Tyler Oakley’s name is at the head of the pack. Since starting his channel in 2007, he has sky rocketed to international fame over the past decade: releasing a book, hosting his own talk show, winning numerous awards and titles, and even recording a video with First Lady, Michelle Obama herself. He is an outspoken figurehead of the LGBT community, and one of YouTube’s most successful exports.
Born in Jackson, Michigan, fame was a long way away from Oakley who grew up in a less than wealthy family alongside 12 siblings. Being the third youngest, he developed his larger than life personality to gain attention in such a clustered household.
At 14, he hesitantly came out as gay but declared that his received nothing but support from friends and family. A few years later he took to YouTube to keep in touch with them while a freshman at Michigan State University.
His initial videos were mostly a series of random ideas and discussions that slowly began to amass him a small fanbase. From this initial success he joined the collaborations channel ‘5Awesomegays’ for three years that saw a rise in his popularity as well an ability to hone his ideas.
After initially interning with ‘The Trevor Project” in 2009, in 2011 he began hosting the red carpet for the LGBT charities annual event on TrevorLIVE. By 2012 he was in the mix of popular YouTubers releasing regular content to a high number of dedicated viewers, and collaborating with the inner circle of successful web stars.
The following year, Oakley co-hosted a weekly pop-culture news update – “Top That!” – with Becca Frucht for PopSugar until October 31 when he announced his departure. From 2013–14, he performed the voice of Mr. McNeely in the comedy web series The Most Popular Girls in School. AT the beginning of these two years he hit 1 million subscribers before rising to 3 million by the end.
2014 was unquestionably the biggest shift in Oakley’s career as he moved from popular YouTuber to social media mogul. His subscribers topped over 6 million and lead to the formation of his first live international tour, “Tyler Oakley’s Slumber Party” featuring him in pajamas doing skits, and interacting with the audience – like, seriously. Throughout this year he released his popular podcast Psychobabble with his friend Korey Kuhl. By the end of the year The Advocate listed him as one of their “40 under 40: Emerging voices” stating: “Oakley’s presence on YouTube means he is the first openly gay person that many people have met”
Continuing his success in 2015 Oakley released his best selling book Binge alongside a feature length documentary Snervous – both of which were met with full support of his fanbase. It was also this year that he received an invite to the white house and met President Obama, while filming a YouTube video with Michelle!
2016 saw Oakley on the television when he joined season 28 of The Amazing Race alongside his podcast co-host Kuhl, in a season made up of various internet celebrities. He also became a part of Ellen DeGeneres’ growing empire debuting his self-titled talk show on her website.
Now in 2017, after spending ten years crafting his online career he is showing no signs of slowing down and has recently released one of his greatest projects: Chosen Family. A limited series for Pride month where Oakley teams up with a wealth of LGBT stars and takes a deeper look into the cultural history, and stories of the gay community.
He may not be perfect, but as a media savant he has proved to be an unrelenting force for the LGBT community raising over $1million for queer charities alone, and celebrating his sexuality while urging others to do the same. With many young viewers he is a leading force in introducing so many to gay people for the first time – as his success continues, so too does his community.