YouTube star shares rise to fame

By Julia Meehan
Photo Editor

The Asian-American Association gives the star a shirt (Julia Meehan / Photo Editor).

Ryan Bergara, co-host and creator of the popular YouTube series “BuzzFeed Unsolved” spoke to students on Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Mayo Concert Hall.

The show’s YouTube channel, “The BuzzFeed Unsolved Network,” has more than 3 million subscribers. The episodes focus on investigations involving crime or paranormal activities, where Bergara tries to convince his co-host, Shane Madej, that things are more than what they seem.

At the event, which the Asian American Association sponsored, Bergara described himself as “just a dude figuring it out on the fly,” despite drawing a crowd of excited students who started lining up for the event four-and-a-half hours early to hear him speak about his experiences with the show and with being an Asian-American in the media.

“It might surprise all of you, but I never wanted to be a performer,” Bergara said. “I made movies nonstop, and a lot of them were really bad. But some of the films were good enough to get me into film school. Not to toot my own horn, but toot toot.” 

After he started film school, he turned his attention to cinematography, which became his passion. Just days before joining the cinematographer’s guild, he was offered an internship at a media startup called BuzzFeed. 

“I just trusted my gut,” Bergara said. “Sometimes in life it pays to be headstrong, but as a young person, it also helps to have fluidity.”

Bergara spoke of his intern days fondly. 

“I don’t know how else to say this: I made some bangers,” Bergara said. 

Soon he transitioned out from behind the camera and began hosting — a move that he was not comfortable with at first. 

“I thought I would look like this,” he said, putting an image of a clown onto the screen. “I didn’t want to be up there dancing for the man.” 

Later, he realized that he had been training to be in front of the camera the whole time. 

“As a kid, I was an insufferable ham,” Bergara said, showing the audience snippets of him singing Christmas carols as a toddler followed by clips from his high school TV station. “Don’t search for this, you won’t find it. It’s private.” 

Overall, Bergara was glad with his decision to move in front of the camera. 

“I was so obsessed with who I wanted to be that I didn’t stop and try to give who I was a chance,” he said.

Bergara spoke about the evolution of BuzzFeed Unsolved from short clips on true crime to full-blown paranormal investigations. 

“Unsolved is a string of different mistakes, but clearly things worked out,” he said. 

After the success of BuzzFeed Unsolved, Bergara began to come to terms with his Asian heritage, a side of him that he had never really addressed before. 

“I grew up in a Mexican household even though I looked Asian,” Bergara said. “So I kind of just identified as this ameobus dude. Up to the point of ‘Unsolved,’ me being Asian-American didn’t have much to do with me getting anywhere. Now I’m in front of the camera and I have a lot of younger Asian viewers thanking me for representation.”

He attributed the turning point in his view to the release of the 2018 film “Crazy Rich Asians.” 

“It made me realize the power of community,” Bergara said. “Here’s a guy that looks like me as a lead in a movie. If he can do that, then why can’t I? Any representation matters in media. I was just making videos on YouTube. I didn’t think I was part of an important movement. I realized being an Asian person in content is only half the battle. It’s passively helpful, but it’s important to own your identity.”

Bergara then described the list of takeaways he wanted the audience to get from his presentation. First, he told the audience to always trust their gut. Second, he advised students to not be too concerned with the future. Lastly, his biggest takeaway was to stop thinking and start doing. 

“Create as much as you can, make plenty of mistakes,” Bergara said. “It’s important to create as much as you possibly can in your current iteration.”

Sophomore mathematics major Mirana Baciu found Bergara’s discussion fascinating.

“It was fascinating to hear his story. It was motivational to see how he got where he is right now,” Baciu said.

In the question session that followed the presentation, many people had one idea on their mind: would he be interested in investigating the supposed haunting of Kendall Hall?

His answer: “Maybe.”

“We’d be open to it,” Bergara said. “We’ll look into it.”

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