Melanie Murphy started vlogging two years ago. Now 26-years-old, she’s a bonafide YouTube celebrity, her every upload a guaranteed hit. We got her on the phone to talk about her astounding career to date, airing her laundry in public for good, battling an eating disorder and how JK Rowling is the boss.
What was the impetus to start vlogging?
I started in my final year of university. There was a bunch of reasons. The main one was that I was really bad at the public speaking part of my teaching degree. Other YouTubers I was watching had talked about how doing YouTube had enhanced their confidence. That was a big draw towards it for me. Also, I really wanted to get involved. I was a huge fan of certain YouTubers. I was watching a lot of people at the time, and I wanted to make friends on YouTube. I had a lot to share. I’d been wanted to do it for a couple of years, and I finally got a push to do after getting inspired by other Irish YouTubers.
Regarding the Irish vlogger scene. There are so many people aspiring to become names and getting their voices out there – do you think it’s reaching saturation point?
I don’t think so. I feel like if you have something you need to share, and you actually go on and be yourself – once you just learn the tips about getting your videos seen, there’s a lot to learn about how to design a thumbnail and how to optimise your video for the search engine – if you put the time in and learn all that stuff and just be yourself, I feel like there’s no reason anyone can’t take off. There are so much more eyes on YouTube every day. More people are tuning in constantly and leaving television in favour of online video. There’s Netflix, Youtube, everything is online.
There’s obviously going to be a lot of noise. Trying to rise about that is the hard part. I still think it’s worth doing, even if no one watches it. Just do it for yourself. It’s a great hobby to have.
There’s obviously going to be a lot of noise. Trying to rise about that is the hard part.
You cover lifestyle and beauty, as well as personal issues. How do you pick a topic before you make a video?
I always try to film stuff I’m interested in and that I’d watch. The videos I prefer watching are vlogs where you get to know a person and their life story, what they’ve been through. Rather than just straight-up make-up tutorials, because I’m not a make-up artist. I have no aspirations to be an amazing make-up personality. It’s more for me an online friend, and that’s what I want to be. When I think about topics, I think what have I been through? Do I have anything to offer to help people? Can I share anything unique I haven’t seen in a video before?
I really like the Melanie’s Moments series you started in the past few weeks and that you’re so open talking about your sexuality and struggles with anxiety. A lot of women get hassle for posting online. How important do you think it is that you have a voice and that you’re going to use it?
I think it’s important for everyone to have a voice. To be able to have it heard by so many people is absolutely amazing. It comes with a lot of responsibility to talk about things that will improve people’s lives in some way, things that might make them more open to sharing and talking and communicating. I think talking about stuff that people are usually scared to speak about is really important. You have all these people watching. You have the opportunity to impact a lot of people at once and inspire them to open up.
That’s what happened with me. I started talking to a counsellor because of another YouTuber and started talking more to my friends about how I was feeling. It helped me through hard times. Now that I have that audience I definitely feel a responsibility to talk about those things. I feel a lot more comfortable with myself the more layers I peel back online.
You’ve mentioned orthorexia and how that became a problem. There’s such a lot of the whole clean eating/living stuff on the internet on the moment, how do you scale back from that? As someone who has come through orthorexia? It seems to be everywhere at the moment and coming at you from all angles.
I feel that because there’s a big dichotomy between the diet industry and then the fast food industry, it’s very hard for people nowadays just to understand what normal healthy eating is. With the internet, you can be so bombarded with information that is so conflicting. I found that when I was researching what’s the best diet to follow. People were saying eat loads of protein, eat loads of meat and don’t eat any carbs. The other side was vegan, eat loads of potatoes and don’t eat any meat. It’s very hard to work through, and that’s where the orthorexia was born.
I got so obsessed with trying to find the perfect diet that I became afraid of loads of different food groups, and I wouldn’t eat anything. I lost my period. My health plummeted because I wasn’t getting enough nutrients and I was exercising way too much. I feel like when someone feels like they’re getting that obsessed with it, it’s really important to see a professional. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t seen someone at that time. Otherwise, I would have kept facing stuff on blogs. You need proper help and advice.
With the internet, you can be so bombarded with information that is so conflicting… I got so obsessed with trying to find the perfect diet that I became afraid of loads of different food groups, and I wouldn’t eat anything.
What helped me the most was I stopped counting calories, I stopped cutting out any food group. I allow myself to eat anything. I made a rule, if I want to eat something, I eat it until I’m full. I’m trying to learn my body’s natural signals for hunger and fullness. I’m lactose intolerant. I’m not meant to eat dairy at all. I get really bloated and barfy. It does not go with my stomach. Nearly every day I eat stuff that has a little dairy in it, because if I have to cut that out I start obsessive thinking again. I try to go to no extremes, even if it means sacrificing and being a bit bloated and getting a few spots. I feel my mental health is almost more important than my physical health.
I’m trying over time to develop a healthier relationship with my self-image and body. I had a diary and wrote down all my feelings, and I kept seeing someone once a week. That’s the most important thing. Acknowledge it first and then make baby steps. Know that it’s not going to change overnight. You have to work at it over time.
What video are you most proud of?
The acne one definitely helped a huge amount of people accept their skin. At the time when I uploaded that there were only two other girls that I could find on YouTube who had ever shown their acne on camera. That’s why it got so many views so fast. A lot more people have done it, and a lot of them have messaged me saying, “You inspired me to make this video and show people I don’t have perfect skin.” That’s amazing to me.
In the voiceover to the video, I said how you don’t need to wear make-up at all but I just that for me make-up helps me get through day-to-day, and it’s just something people shouldn’t be judged for.
Aside from that one, I’m most proud of the video about how to come out. I made that with two of my YouTube friends who are gay, and we made it a couple of week before the Marriage Referendum. We did a lot of campaigning offline, but I felt really proud of that because everyday I get messages from people who have come out because of that video. Sexuality is something I’m very interested in. A lot of people are on this spectrum, and a lot of people are afraid to live their lives as who they are because they feel like they have to fit into this box or that box. I’m so glad we made that video. I told Stephen Byrne from RTE over drinks that I was bisexual one night and he said I should talk about it in a video.
What does the future hold for your career?
I feel like YouTube isn’t my career. It’s one of the things I’m doing. Most of my job is now offline, doing different types of presenting, talks. YouTube is such a brand new platform; it’s going to be evolving for the next ten, fifteen years. I want to go with it and see where it takes me. I’ve had opportunities to publish and all these doors are opening. I’m interested in trying out acting and all these different things, because I can now. I have the audience. If people follow you online and like you for who you are, they’ll stick with you and support you. You can share that journey with them. I’m seeing where the wind takes me, and I have my degree to fall back on if anything falls through.
If people follow you online and like you for who you are, they’ll stick with you and support you.
I saw you were at the Women in the World Summit last month. Who’s your heroine?
JK Rowling. I’m a massive Harry Potter fan. I saw a documentary about her when I was quite young. She went through hardship. She had no money and a baby, her marriage broke up. She was as poor as you can be in Britain without being homeless. Her mother died – all this horrible stuff happened but out of that came Harry Potter. It changed my life and who I am as a person. She made me want to be an author from a young age, and I’ve been writing young adult fantasy because of her. Seeing how far she’s come and she hasn’t changed as a person. She gives so much back to charities and amazing causes. She sets a great example to never give up on your dreams.
Melanie Murphy is one of the ambassadors of the Let’s Talk / Becoming A Teen campaign for feminine hygiene brand Lil-Lets. Let’s Talk is a series of interviews with celebs brought to you by Lil-Lets to educate young girls and chat openly about periods, body changes, emotions, mother/daughter relationships and everything else that comes with becoming a teen.