YouTube is a vast land of opportunity where, with a camera and a charming smile, you can amass an enormous following and influence a new generation of fans in a self-made empire.
Wendy Huang, or as she's known to her audience of more than 7 million subscribers, 'Wengie', is a Chinese-Australian YouTuber who has done just that.
At YouTube's VidCon, a massive conference where fans, creators, industry types and influencers come together to celebrate online video, Huang is ushered from panel to panel with hoards of screaming fans behind her.
It's a surreal world.
The tagline for the conference, in its eighth year, is, "For people who love online video". And the excitement in the air is immediately apparent by the young fans waiting in lines for meet and greets, panel talks, appearances and even a solid 40-minute wait at Starbucks.
This year VidCon was not only held in its usual home of Southern California, but also ran its first European iteration in Amsterdam as well as the first ever VidCon Australia to launch in September.
Huang had arrived in Anaheim as one of the stars of VidCon, appearing on panels like 'Beauty 101' and 'Where I've Been and Where I'm Going', as well as meeting her fans, but the vlogger had much more humble beginnings.
"Remember Geocities?" the vlogger asked HuffPost Australia when we caught up with her at VidCon.
"I had my own Geocities page that I'd deck out with really bad midi music and pictures. That's how I got started."
The 31-year-old branched out into fashion blogging when her relatively small readership began asking her about makeup.
"After someone asked me how I did my makeup, I did a tutorial post. It took 12 hours having to take and edit each photo step-by-step. It didn't even make sense because it wasn't happening in real time. So I decided to use YouTube as a platform to host videos for my blog. It was just to give content to my blog readers, but my YouTube ended up doing a lot better."
Huang quickly began to see that YouTube wasn't just a place to dump video content as a third-party host, but was full of users who were extremely engaged with the content. People began requesting specific makeup tutorials, and she was more than happy to oblige.
"What people don't know about me is that I'm a huge nerd. I would code whole websites in HTML just for fun, and I really fell in love with the editing process. So I started doing these makeup tutorials as a way to go through the editing process."
There's a video before Huang became Wengie where she was interviewed by ABC's 'Good Game' about her love of the arcade game 'Dance Dance Revolution'. She told 'Good Game' she entered a competition and ranked third in the eastern states and 17 overall.
Now, she leans into her persona of lifestyle and beauty blogging, but her nerdy obsessions have evolved from gaming to blogging to video editing. Her journey with vlogging began because she wanted to better understand this emerging space, not because she was looking for fame.
"I used to do social media consulting for a few brands. I was an accountant, then I switched to marketing. Back then no one really knew much about social media so I couldn't be pitching to brands without data. I ran my own blog where I'd try my own strategies before pitching."
That blog expanded into video, which continued to grow until eventually Huang became a full-time vlogger, leaving the traditional marketing world behind and making herself the product, the brand and the marketer all at the same time.
With that background, she understood how to recognise and capitalise on consumers' demands, and respond in an agile manner to their needs.
In April 2016, Huang broke the 1 million subscriber mark; by January 2017, she had surpassed 5 million. Now, she has more than 7 million and counting, and that's just on her main channel where she posts life hacks, DIY experiments, crafts and pranks alongside sketch-based videos.
She also has a separate account Life of Wengie with over 1.4 million subscribers, but Huang calls them her family.
"I think every YouTuber goes through the same thing. For the first two years, I saw them as these weird people who would talk to me on the internet. Some of them were nice, and some were really mean. Then something snaps."
"It's a weird relationship you have to admit, being friends and family with people you've never met before but one day it clicks and it just made sense to me. I would tell them things I wouldn't tell anyone else, I'd be chatting on my blog and telling people things before I had told my mum, dad or boyfriend."
Wengie speaks often about being introverted, a self-described "loner'" -- How does she deal with the strange relationship of disclosing her personal truths into a camera broadcasting to over 7 million fans?
"The thing about introverts," she said, "is that they're always friendly to people they know and shy to people they don't.
"Introverts that have a passion or a purpose can seem like extroverts when they talk about something they love, that's why people don't see me as an introvert because I tend to always talk about the things I love."
Passion projects are constantly on the boil for Huang. She recently started an education-based channel on YouTube which used the inbuilt Adsense model of monetising videos to raise money for charity.
"My fans are young, they don't have credit cards so my idea was what if they gave their attention for money. Some way to give back and they can learn at the same time. It was a win/win where kids in the developed world were raising money in developing countries and learning at the same time."
She's also pursuing a music career in China after recently recording her album there.
"There's no YouTube in China so no one knows me there, I'm doing it as a side project for myself."
She's releasing an app which she'll film custom exclusive content for, and is working on a scripted show, moving away from standalone videos and into serialised content.
"I don't think I've had a day off in two years," she said, "But that's me. If I had a day off... I think I'd be working."
Mat Whitehead travelled to Los Angeles to attend VidCon as a guest of YouTube Australia.
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