Early Asian YouTube Stars — Where Are They Now?

About a decade has passed since their initial stardom to the present. Do you remember them — the original Asian YouTube stars? Of course you do! These Asian stars often filled the gap left by the lack of Asian presence in Hollywood, and more amazing was the fact that they were Asians from all over the globe, not just from America or East Asia, but from Canada, Australia, etc. They were our comedy, our drama, our song, and our beauty inspirations.

Today, and major thanks to these pioneers, there’s an influx of content creators who have taken to YouTube for full-time employment, and it’s hard to keep track sometimes. In the earlier days of YouTube though, we witnessed it all: from the very first one-man skit to your favorite YouTube stars collaborating and forming their own YouTube community (or a clique). We watched YouTube evolve into a major TV alternative as full-on, mega-sized, studio-equipped channels emerged over what used to seem like only an innocent platform for one-person individual content.

So, where are these “old school,” influential Asian YouTube personalities now? Every year or so we hear about their whereabouts, but what are they up to in 2017? Here’s a list broken down for you in the order that they joined YouTube:


Freddie Wong (RocketJump, formerly FreddieW) – 2006


This filmmaker/competitive gamer who rose to fame with game-related content and more fame with the web series Video Game High School, now co-runs the studio/production company RocketJump and produces actual web shows on the said YouTube channel and elsewhere. You can watch his new sci-fi anthology series Dimension 404 starring Megan Mullally and Constance Wu now on Hulu!


Andrew Gunadie (gunnarolla) – 2006



Music and video producer based in Toronto, Andrew Gunadie has created branded content for partnerships like Microsoft, Kellogg, KFC, Skittles and more since the launch of his YouTube career. He doesn’t post as much to YouTube anymore, but you can still find him traveling everywhere; just follow him on Instagram!


Ryan Higa (Nigahiga) – 2006




Where is Ryan Higa now? He seldom uploads on YouTube nowadays but he still posts nonetheless. He also seems to be enjoying his new role in the new parody kpop group BgA (Boys Generally Asian) hilariously formed with a group of fellow YouTube stars. Word also has it that he’s releasing his new book, humorously titled How to Write Good, this coming May and will be on a book tour nationwide!


Kevin Wu (KevJumba, now Kev) – 2006




Kevin Wu went on a hiatus for a few years and he just got back in the YouTube scene this past March as he made a public reappearance at the Youth Represent the World Concert. Because of his prolonged absence there were rumors circulating that he was taken in by the Hare Krishna Cult, etc, but he revealed that a little over a year ago he got hit by a car and went through deeply painful times. Famous for portraying his interactions with his dad, Kev noted how his father lifted him up, and recently uploaded a few videos featuring his dad again.


Sungha Jung (jwcfree) – 2006



Now with over 4 million subscribers on YouTube, Sungha has collaborated with big name stars like 2NE1, BIGBANG’s G-Dragon, and Jason Mraz since his rise to stardom. It’s no surprise then this genius guitarist has released seven albums—one every year since 2010—and going on world tours, currently making rounds in Southeast Asia!


Michelle Phan – 2006



You rarely see her on YouTube now. In fact, Michelle’s most recent video was uploaded 10 months ago, but understandably so because she has long been the founder of Ipsy and has recently just re-launched EM Cosmetics.


Christine Gambito (HappySlip) – 2006



Who remembers watching her one-man skit about her Filipino family and relating to it hysterically, more than you ever did to a Buzzfeed article? Christine has been busy raising her growing family, but you can see her new, shorter videos on Facebook — sometimes live!


Natalie Tran (CommunityChannel) – 2006



So relatable. Also, love her accent. She is one of the first one-man skit pioneers of YouTube (along with Christine), and she is so darn funny! Currently she films corporate videos and events with her partner while freelancing separately too. And oh, she also tweets almost daily…


Wong Fu Productions – 2007



Still very much talented and renowned video producers, the trio (Philip, Wesley, and Ted) are tackling more and more creative projects, now sometimes with large companies like AT&T and Subaru, while also touring internationally and selling brand merchandise like clothing and plush toys. Don’t worry though, it’ll take a lot to shake their initial passion to produce fun and independent content for YouTube viewers, so while they may be growing and transitioning, they’re not going anywhere!


Kina Grannis – 2007



Perhaps some of you are thinking, Kina is Asian? Well, partly–Kina was born to a Caucasian father and a Japanese mother. Kina rose to fame in 2010 with the release of her original Valentine, and don’t lie, you’ve tried learning the chords to this song too as have I… Kina’s music career has grown solid since then; she’s signed with big record labels, or “gone the indie root,” but now she’s embarking on a new project where she’ll partner with her viewers to create her own label. Also, a note to UC San Diego students: Kina will be making a visit at the UC San Diego campus on May 11! You can buy your tickets here.


Janice and Sonia Lee (Jayesslee ) – 2008



Anyone who has followed this musical duo for x amount of time would know that Janice and Sonia are both happily married and each has a son! Sonia and her husband Andy have been diligently vlogging their parenthood on Facebook and AndymetSonia, another YouTube channel.

After all this, all I’ve gotta say is…time surely flies and it’s wonderful to see our throwback YouTube stars soar through their dreams, 10 years later! Along with a few others, these YouTube celebrities will be forever remembered as those at the front line of breaking through the digital content frontier.

By Hyeyoung Jung · Contributor


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