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How A Couple Used YouTube To Become Idols To Millions

Jim Chapman and Tanya Burr spoke to BuzzFeed News about their plans to move into TV, how they're dealing with the recent spotlight on the UK YouTube scene, and their eagerly awaited wedding.

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On Monday, 25-year-old Tanya Burr announced she was writing a book, and within minutes the news was trending around the world.

Jon Stewardson

Burr is one of the most popular YouTube stars in the UK at the moment, with millions of fans, her own beauty range, and an incredibly lucrative career.

What makes the former beautician particularly intriguing for the casual viewer is that she is engaged to Jim Chapman – another hugely influential YouTuber. The pair live together in London and their private life is the subject of intense speculation among the young fans of the UK YouTube scene.

BuzzFeed News spoke to the pair this week about their TV ambitions, the pressures of being role models to millions, and how they're dealing with the recent increase in scrutiny from the national press.

In December, Chapman and Burr will celebrate their eighth anniversary together.

The pair met when Chapman was at university and Burr was at sixth form.

When she finished school, Burr began working on make-up counters, and was convinced to start making videos on YouTube by Chapman's sisters, Sam and Nicola, who run the hugely popular Pixiwoo channel.

This is her first video, from October 2009.

View this video on YouTube

Burr's videos are predominantly make-up, hair, and fashion tutorials. Five years after uploading that first video, her YouTube channel now has over 2.5 million subscribers.

She also has 1.1 million followers on Twitter, over 500,000 fans on Facebook, and 1.4 million on Instagram.

Her most popular video to date is about the contents of her handbag.

View this video on YouTube

It has been watched almost 2 million times.


Her fiancé has a similarly impressive following.

Twitter: @JimsTweetings

Chapman has around 2.5 million subscribers on YouTube across two channels, 1 million followers on Twitter, 680,000 fans on Facebook, and over 1 million on Instagram.

The 26-year-old discusses a range of topics in his videos, including male grooming, cooking, and fashion. He has even been shortlisted for GQ's best-dressed man competition.

Chapman is part of a family of YouTube stars.

As well as his successful sisters, there's also his brother John (above centre), who's part of a fitness channel called The Lean Machines.

Chapman and Burr are part of an incredibly close-knit group of massively popular UK YouTubers who are all signed to the same talent agency.

The group includes three couples, two housemates, and a young mother. They go on tour together, regularly appear in each other's videos, and at present are some of the most popular entertainment figures in the country.

They are also in the process of making a lot of money.


Alfie Deyes (top left in the picture below) was paid a rumoured £50,000 advance for his debut book, The Pointless Book, the Sunday Times recently claimed.

His girlfriend, Zoe Sugg (bottom left), is about to have her first novel, Girl Online, published by Penguin, and it is already topping the bestseller lists based on pre-sales alone. Like Burr, she has a beauty line at Superdrug.

The group allegedly receive five-figure payments for featuring products in their videos, and clips from inside their respective homes show they are all doing very well for themselves.

This is the kind of reaction they receive when they go on tour:

Chapman insists he and Burr didn't get into the YouTube business for the money and career openings.

He told BuzzFeed News: "I graduated from university, didn’t know what to do with my life, was working jobs that I didn’t enjoy, and Tanya went, 'YouTube is really fun, you get to be really creative. Make a channel, because it will give you something else to focus on.' So I did, and that’s kind of grown.

"This was long before we knew any potential, or the money in it."

He admitted he used to worry about how long he could continue making videos on YouTube as a career.

"Up until recently this has really worried me because I used to think, 'What, why… I’m not going to be relevant in a few months now, I’m not going to be relevant tomorrow – who’s going to keep watching me?'"

View this video on YouTube

But the 26-year-old said he now believes his audience will follow him wherever he goes.

"As long as I respect them and maintain the relationship that I have with them at the moment, then fingers crossed – this is for the long-haul," he adds.

Chapman admitted though that he wanted to branch out and diversify into TV and radio, and highlighted his modelling and the fact that he's currently writing for a few magazines.


His fiancée has TV plans too, but said that rather than presenting she would love to be on Strictly Come Dancing.

She also hinted she might not be active in the YouTube scene beyond the next five years.

"I don’t know if I’ll feel comfortable when I get to the stage where I’m having children," she said. "I don’t want to put my children on YouTube. It’s just a personal choice I think they should have.

"I don’t know what I’ll do, it’s really hard. At the moment I’m just going with it. I’ll see what happens: If there’s still something relevant for me to talk about and people are still willing to watch when I’m like, 30, then I’ll still make videos. But definitely for five years."

With the mainstream media waking up to the popularity of these young stars in recent weeks, newspapers have been attempting to try to understand their popularity, with mixed results.

The Independent, for example, published a piece questioning whether Sugg was a good role model that received a fierce backlash from her loyal fans.

Chapman said the increased scrutiny was to be expected now the group has expanded beyond YouTube.

"What we have to realise is that now we're becoming of a certain size, now we’re getting more mainstream, we are going to get people who just don’t understand it and will think negatively of it," he said.

"For the vast majority of the people who watch us, there is something about us that they like to see. I think it’s important that we know that and our audience know that."

On being a role model to millions of impressionable young fans, both Chapman and Burr said it was not something they actively sought but it's a responsibility they are comfortable to shoulder.

Chapman said:

I try and always send out positivity and a good message. Obviously I do a lot of stuff just for fun, that's a bit crazy or whatever, but my goal is to put a smile on people's face.

For a lot of people who are a bit younger, this is a tough time in their life. In today's world it's particularly confusing. I can be the guy who puts the smile on your face or gives you some advice if you need it.

[I'm] not trying to be a role model directly, just the way I conduct myself and lead my life is of that vein – it's all very positive and I like to think just doing what I do in my way is giving a positive effect on people.


Burr added:

It's not a role that I thought would be my role when I started making YouTube videos, at all.

It's just sort of came along but you do have to take responsibility for it because…that's what happens. I have respect my viewers and be a good role model for them, so it is a lot of pressure.

But I don't find it that hard because I'm quite boring – I don't go out, I don't drink loads, I don't do anything that would be really bad. I like baking and fashion and beauty, so I don't think it's that hard for me to be a role model.

Burr said that being engaged and living with another YouTube superstar has both advantages and disadvantages.

The make-up expert said it was good that she and Chapman understood each other's working hours and the stresses that came with running a YouTube channel.

"I think that all helps, being able to understand when you get hate comments or stuff like that, or when a project is really stressful, like me doing the book at the moment," she said.

However, both working in the business was also bad because "you can go like, a week without even speaking to each other because you're both locked away in your separate rooms working, because it's not a normal 9–5 job".

She added:

Most office 9–5 jobs, you clock off and you don't care what you did that day and you go for drinks with your friends when you hang out in the evening and have fun.

Whereas our work is constantly on our minds, because it's not just uploading one YouTube a video a week now – there's a lot going on, there's so much press at the moment, and there's books, make-up lines, tons of stuff that we're all working on. It's constantly on your mind.

As well as the regular videos on their main channels, the pair upload daily vlogs showing what they have been up to on any given day. This is Burr's from 2 November.

View this video on YouTube

It includes a description of what she had for breakfast, and shows her and Sugg at a petrol station, buying underwear, painting their nails, and boiling pasta.


One subject the pair are not willing to share details of with their fans though is their upcoming wedding day.

"People are so invested in our lives that it freaks me out a bit to think of them having any information about the wedding," Burr said.

She said that if they were to publicise their wedding it wouldn't feel like it was theirs any more, but added that fans had been very understanding about them wanting to maintain their privacy.

"They are not strangers, they are our viewers and we interact with them as friends," she said. "They do get excited and would sure be really excited to know the date, or where it is, but I think at the same time they are really understanding, which I really appreciate."