For popular YouTube personality Elle Mills, her remarkable success has proven to be both a dream come true and a responsibility that leaves her anxiety ridden about the constant need to produce content and interact with fans. This spring, Mills said, she embarked on a fan convention tour when she suffered her first ever panic attack. After her appearance at the Shorty Awards, which honors the achievements of content creators and personalities in social media, she cried in the bathroom of her hotel. Then, in May, she had a breakdown. Mills, who says she treats many of her videos almost as diary entries, dutifully captured the moment in a video she titled, “Burnt Out at 19.”
“It’s not normal for a person to have all this fucking power, all this fucking pressure,” the normally cheerey teenager spat into the camera. “This is all I ever wanted, and why the fuck am I so fucking unhappy?”
Her transition from a fan of YouTube stars into one of said celebrities is the culmination of years of content creation. At this time last year, her hard work and a consistent output of videos that mixed humor and direct emotional confessionals had garnered her nearly 500,000 subscribers. But after she shared what she described as a “romantic comedy” of herself coming out as bisexual to her parents — punctuated by videos of her friends’ reactions to the news and her own tearful anxiety ahead of the event — Mills’ popularity exploded as many of the personalities she had once idolized came forward to hail her work as unique, “brilliant” and “powerfully good.”
She gained more than a million additional subscribers over the past year, and the added pressure of her newfound popularity began taking its toll. She took a three-week break in January, promising that she would be ready to return to her normal video-per-week output soon — even if she found herself feeling like the added expectations had raised the pressure on her from “kindergarten [level] to college in one night.” But in the end, she admitted, the pressure proved to be too much after all.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Mills, now 20, said that she’s been taking steps — such as moving away from her one video a video schedule to a more flexible format — in order to reduce the mental stress that her unusual profession places upon her.
“The YouTube life I had expected when I was younger and what I am currently living now are very different. I remember thinking when YouTubers don’t meet every single fan, ‘Why don’t they do that? They’re taking the time to watch my videos. I was so naive,” said Mills. But even so, she adds, she wouldn’t trade her position with anyone for the world.
Watch video of Mills’ interview with the Post below.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.