Steph Payano can be described in at least one million ways. She’s a sports marketing major and a small YouTuber. She uses her channel – her voice – as a means of inspiring her audience and teaching self-acceptance. She is wise beyond her years, insightful, in touch, and self-aware. She often tells humiliating stories in a way that delights, enlightens, and entertains. She recently won a spot on VidCon’s Less Than Famous panel for 2016 and was gracious enough to grant me an interview.
When did you start uploading to YouTube?
Technically, I started doing it at different times of my life. So back in the day when lyric videos were still a cool thing people did, I hopped on that bandwagon and did that for a while. That was probably around 2011 or something like that. Then, in 2014, I made my first video with my actual face in it as an audition video for the popular lesbian collab channel “Lesbian Central” and I got a regular weekly spot on that for a while. But I start uploading specifically for my channel on February 13th, 2015.
Payano is rapidly approaching the 2,000-subscriber milestone (like she may hit it today) (up from about 700 at the beginning of the year). At the beginning of April, she also won a spot on the Less than Famous panel with this video, in which she talks about sitting at the intersection of being a gay Latina woman, using her platform to empower others, and the advantages of having a small audience when it comes to content creation:
How do you feel about Less Than Famous?
Ahhh! I’m so excited but I’m also a bit nervous! It’s weird because I have no problem speaking in front of a lot of people, but I always get butterflies in my stomach and my heart starts beating quickly. But I’ve checked out everyone I’m on the panel with and it’s clear why they were all picked. I think they’re a lovely and intelligent group of people who can really give unique insight on being a smaller creator. It’s something I’m really looking forward to. It’ll be one of the highlights of my summer.
Payano offers not only impressive talent as a creator with a small following, but also strong, passionate ownership of her own identity – she’s not afraid to share her thoughts clearly and confidently. She stays open, honest, and candid with her audience. In other words, her spot on the panel is well-deserved and hard-earned.
What do you want to accomplish the most with your channel?
My main goal has always been to influence and inspire people to be who they are regardless of what people tell them. I remember watching countless coming out story videos and watching so many gay collab channels as a kid and they helped me get more comfortable with myself. So really what I want to accomplish is to be able to reach as many people as possible and be able to say to them, “Hey you might think you’re a loser or you’re an outsider but you’re special and you should love yourself!” I wanna be the person I needed when I was an early teen.
I mostly focus on telling any story in a funny way. Because that’s what my channel is – comedy. I like taking things that aren’t that funny and poking fun at it so people laugh. My best example would be my coming out video. By no means was my coming out easy or humorous but the way I see it, I can either mope around about it and make people feel bad for what I’ve been through or I can spin it in a way I’m able to poke fun at the whole thing and it makes people chuckle. That’s something that’s really important to me. I love knowing when I make someone laugh or smile.
If you’re a small YouTuber or you’re thinking about starting a channel for yourself, but can’t get past the jitters, Payano offers this:
I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people saying they want to start a channel, but they don’t know what to talk about and to that I always say, “talk about what you know.” Talk about your experiences and talk about topics that make you think, because chances are there’s a lot of people out there who have the same thoughts as you.
If you are afraid to speak out, the internet is a scary place, obviously. There are going to be people who disagree with you and there’s going to be people who say nasty things to you – especially if you’re an intersectional person. If someone says offensive things to you, educate them on why they’re wrong! I had someone call me a “racist fag” once because I commented on a video that talked about the lack of minority representation in the 1% of YouTube and I made a whole video on why that person is ignorant and why I’m not a “racist fag” – I’m just a person who wants to be represented.
If you enjoyed what you’ve seen of Steph Payano so far, make sure you subscribe to her channel and follow her on Twitter. She’s easily one of my favorite creators, large or small, and also one of the most genuinely kind people I’ve ever known.