The term “influencers” is officially the term for people who have made a career for themselves on the internet. Previously known only as YouTubers or bloggers or even Instagramers, the rise of new media has taken off and established online personalities and their businesses outside the realm of the internet. Just as actors have the Oscars and musicians have the Grammys, YouTubers have the Streamys – also known as the YouTube Streamy Awards. Influencer award shows are still a relatively novel idea with kinks to work out and quirks all their own. Still, their practice speaks to the future of the internet and the growing impact of influencer culture.
The Streamys: It’s the Streamys of Award Shows
The first Streamy Awards took place in 2009. It is likely the most dominant of any influencer award shows, as it caters specifically to YouTubers, however, it was not until 2014 and 2015 that the award show really established itself. In 2016, Viner-turned-YouTuber King Bach hosted the Streamy Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. He was the first Black host of the Streamys, and he was the first host to come from Vine, instead of YouTube.
The Streamys are often streamed live on YouTube with special presenters – typically YouTubers and other internet personalities. 2016 was the first year that Vine content creators made their debut at the Streamys and created a crossover within the industry.
There are clips of the Streamys from each year on their YouTube channel, similar to the Oscars and Emmys. With the rise of influencer award shows, YouTube officially became a hub where all internet creators would eventually migrate to, and the Streamys would reward and celebrate them all.
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In 2017, Jon Cozart, a musical and comic YouTuber, hosted the Streamys. In his opening monologue, he spoke to the necessity of the Streamy Awards, or rather lack thereof. And in Jon Cozart fashion, he did it all through song.
His song, which he played on a ukulele in true 2017 fashion, poked fun at Liza Koshy being the new Lilly Singh and Jake Paul’s nomination for Creator of the New Year. The highest honor at the Streamys is the Creator of the Year award, and yet only 5 out of the 10 creators made an appearance that year. Cozart said himself, “If you win tonight, if you lose tonight, you’ve lost, right?”
YouTube was embroiled in controversy during this time, akin to the country’s upsetting politics. The 2016 presidential induction created divisions in the country, and the actions of YouTube brothers Jake Paul and Logan Paul created a stain on the YouTube name.
Jon Cozart cleverly used this to his advantage and wrote another song to coin YouTube’s very own creator Jake Paul “YouTube’s Trump”. Jake Paul, who had been nominated for Creator of the Year, did not make an appearance, but his character did, and a figure similar to Jake Paul came out during Cozart’s performance prancing and dabbing on stage.
On stage, presenters King Bach and Destorm announced the “First Person” award as the nominees were presented by Nailogical, who painted each nominee on her nails. Winner iiSuperwomanii, a.k.a. Lilly Singh, brought light back to the show with her acceptance speech saying, “I think so many of us are caught up on the views and ‘trending’, and do you ever just stop to think, like, our job is so awesome! Our job is so awesome, you know what I mean? I am so happy to be doing what I am doing, with all of you.”
The YouTube community in 2017 was weary of the gaze of traditional media which painted them as a low-tier industry. Host Cozart did as well. Thus, he played into this idea throughout his performance. However, the overall derogatory motif of YouTube as second class would not last long, and we began to see an emergence in the age of new media.
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In 2018, Emma Chamberlain and Liza Koshy were YouTube’s golden children. They were brand-friendly and YouTube shot them to the top of its trending page nearly every week, so it was natural that they dominated the conversation at the influencer award shows.
Emma Chamberlain won the Breakout Creator of the Year Award, but her acceptance speech was where the talk began. At the show, Emma Chamberlain nervously and awkwardly accepted her award, and the comments were quick to criticize her inability to be natural and genuine. Many called her cringy and claimed that editing is the only reason why Emma Chamberlain is funny.
However, a year later, Chamberlain made a video with the Streamys to aid future award winners where she watched her own acceptance speech and spoke to the audience’s criticisms.
Liza Koshy also won the “Best in Comedy” award, which she accepted in tears and ended with a call to vote. She thanked her team and her fellow nominees for her award, and, before she left the stage, Koshy urged everyone to register to vote. It is not an odd or jarring practice for public figures to use their time in an effort to get draw attention to social issues.
That same year, actress Zendaya won the Choice Summer Movie Actress Teen Choice Award. In her speech, she addressed young people, telling them to use their voices for change through voting. The charged nature of the political climate was fervent, and it spread to YouTube and the act of being a public figure as well.
Read more about the changing landscape of being a public figure in the Creator Economy here.
Tana Mongeau made an appearance at the award show, and, despite not being nominated, she accepted the Creator of the Year award in honor of Shane Dawson. In the speech, Mongeau cheekily said, “I think we all can agree that this is the only time I’ll be holding a Creator of the Year award” and ended with heartfelt words for Shane Dawson.
Yet, only a year later, Mongeau claimed her very own Creator of the Year Award, beating out nominees such as Mr. Beast and David Dobrik. Casey Nesitat presented her with the award, and she walked on stage with shock and appreciation in her speech. Her win was met with controversy as viewers felt Mr. Beast should have won, instead of her.
Other Influencer Award Shows
Influencer award shows are few and far between. However, with the strides of new media, more traditional award shows such as People’s Choice and Kid’s Choice have made room for YouTubers. The Teen Choice Awards officially has a category titled Choice Webstar, with David Dobrik as the latest winner. Dobrik also beat out Tana Mongeau for Choice Social Star in 2019, at the People’s Choice Awards where the two shared a photo on Mongeau’s Instagram with the caption, “not THE people’s choice but SOME people’s choice so that’s cool”.
Influencer award shows are indicative of the shift in media, and the new importance of recognizing these public figures because they have an extreme influence on their large audience. The Streamys are simply the beginning of more shows and ceremonies dedicated to recognizing these figures from YouTube and now TikTok.