GloZell Green politely listened as one of the two security guards escorting her just 200 or so feet from her hotel to the Anaheim Convention Center rambled on about A-list stars — ahem, Tom Cruise — whom he has safeguarded at one point or another. He, though, had never heard of Green.
Then a corner was turned.
“Oh, my God, it’s GloZell!”
“GloZell, is you OK?”
One by one, then all at once, a crowd of mostly preteens and young adults waiting in the snaking line for the convention center to open spotted Green’s signature grassy green-coated lips and quickly transformed into a pipsqueak army of cellphone paparazzi.
An A-List YouTube star had arrived — and yes, that’s her real name.
“Security doesn’t know who us YouTubers are, but they know who Justin Bieber is,” she whispered. Guards hear they’re paired with someone named GloZell, and they’re not prepared to “get trampled by tiny girls.”
The equivalent of a video Pez dispenser was taking part in panel discussions and a signing at VidCon, the three-day online-video convention that ended Saturday. Green might not be a household name by traditional standards, but barge into a teen’s room and his or her computer history may well have evidence of Green’s star power.
The comic has produced an extensive library of outrageously off-kilter videos of random musings and bizarre challenges, including “My Push Up Bra Will Help Me Get My Man,” which arguably put her on the YouTube map, and her infamous “Cinnamon Challenge,” wherein she dared to put a ladle full of ground cinnamon in her mouth. Each video racked up more than 20 million views.
Then there are her celebrity impersonations of Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Lady Gaga that have users clicking up a storm. She has nearly 3 million subscribers and 500 million video views on her YouTube channel to show for it — and a legion of fans saying her catch-phrase intro: “Is you OK? Is you good, ‘cause I want to know.” Last December, YouTube used her as part of its video commemorating its most popular videos of 2013.
“She is such a character,” said super fan and VidCon attendee Katherine Berry, 18, of Palo Alto. “For a while I thought it was an act, but she’s authentic, and it’s crazy. Her challenges and music covers are my favorite to watch out of all other YouTubers.”
By Internet standards, Green, 41, is a veteran — much like Cruise — at a time when the likes of Tyler Oakley, a mid-20s vlogger for LBGT rights whose channel has more than 4.6 million subscribers, have popped up.
Her postings have been few and far between now that she’s a newlywed (Green married her manager in 2013), but her star power hasn’t weakened, as evidenced by fans tripping over one another, trying to snap a photo as Green made her way into VidCon.
“I can’t stop all of this even if I wanted,” she said. “Someone is always taking a video of me or snapping a photo. It’s almost like a Diana Ross. She is always going to be Diana Ross, she doesn’t have to put out another album to keep at it. I’m not Diana, but people know me from the stuff that I’ve done. And that stuff, those videos, live forever and will continue to be discovered by a new users.”
Her YouTube fame happened by chance. The Florida native moved to Los Angeles in 2003 to pursue a career in comedy. A friend who worked at NBC suggested that Green, who had grown tired of the night life of comedy, attend free tapings of “The Tonight Show” as a sort of crash course in comedy. Green wrote about her adventures on a blog titled “GloZell Loves Jay Leno.” She attended more than 600 tapings and posted videos of encounters with people in line.
“I only started uploading on YouTube because I was having trouble one day uploading a video on my blog,” Green said. Her first video upload was in 2008.
When Leno tried a show at the 10 p.m. hour, Green didn’t follow him, so the videos stopped. And people noticed.
“I was just posting so I could embed on my blog,” said Green, who at the time worked as a massage therapy instructor. “I had no idea I had a viral hit [the push-up bra video] going on because I wasn’t looking at it. And when I stopped posting, people were like, ‘Where are the videos?’ And I’d tell them that I hadn’t talked to anyone because I hadn’t gone to a Leno taping. And they were like ‘But we were watching because of you.’ And that’s when it clicked.”
Green, her boisterous persona dialed down when she’s not in front of the camera, admitted YouTube turned out to be just what she didn’t know she needed.
“YouTube is so much better than stand-up for me,” she said. “Comedy clubs are usually not in the best of neighborhoods. And being a female, you have to worry about dealing with weirdos at the club or walking to your car late at night. With YouTube, sometimes I’m in my pajamas. And I don’t have to worry about my set getting bumped.”
But even she admits the makeup of her fan base confused her. At her first meet-and-greet, which took place at a yogurt shop, Green thought she got the date wrong or the event had been double-booked because the crowd consisted largely of white kids.
“That’s when I realized this YouTube thing was something different,” she said. “They don’t care about your age, what your background is, what your religion is. I assumed my audience looked like me. I thought it was a bunch of Oprahs walking around.”
Although Michelle Phan, one of YouTube’s top beauty personalities, recently broke out with her own makeup line with L’Oreal, Green is still perplexed by the lack of diversity among YouTubers.
“The back of the VidCon packet was mostly sea of white faces — and that just represents a larger issue within the online video world,” she said. “Yeah, there are Asians and African Americans breaking through, but there could be more. And there should be more.”
While most YouTube personalities are content living in that world of notoriety, GloZell would like to transition to TV or film. She has a line in the upcoming Kevin Hart movie “The Wedding Ringer,” said her husband-manager, Kevin “SK” Simon.
Green is one of the few YouTube sensations who has sustained a living on her online fame. Revenue comes from ads placed on her videos or from companies that ask to use her videos on their site. Then there are brand deals. She recently scored a deal with shoemaker Crocs, which has made cameos in her videos before.
“I’m getting paid pretty good,” Green said of the deal. ‘I’m excited about it. It’s my first big one. And it helps out for a little while.” During a brief break between panels, Green was being assisted by reps from Facebook who were helping her eliminate fake profiles that drive away numbers from her total.
“Companies look at numbers,” she said. “Hopefully, this will drive up my numbers.
“I’ve blazed my trail. Now I’m looking for the next step, with the Internet and outside of it.”