Food

HellthyJunkFood

How the Couple Makes Viral Videos and Hits More Than 2M YouTube Subscribers.

Full-Time Creators
October 20, 2020
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Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

We were dieting at the time, and we were making our recipes at home. I was addicted to fast food, and since it was just like a lot of junk food, we thought we make healthy junk food. So Julia said that if I want to eat a Big Mac, I should make it at home.


And I wanted to record it. That way, if we ever make a Big Mac again or whatever else we decide to cook at home, we will have documentation of it, like a video diary. When we first started dating, we ended up cooking at home a lot. We just like doing it, so it made sense. 


Julia: We officially met at a theater in Upstate New York that I hosted a show at. JP came to do stand-up comedy. It was like an All Arts Open Mic. I hosted the show for three-four years at this theater. But before that, I ran some other stuff at some art galleries and such whatnots. When JP and I started dating, I continued to host the show, and JP was a frequent performer. 


Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

JP: I was adopted from Seoul, South Korea, when I was six months old, to a primarily Italian family, who raised me too traditional. I had a very sheltered but loving life. So I felt like I had a pretty very typical suburban upbringing. 


Julia: Italian parents...


JP: With an Italian focus. I went to study mechanical engineering and worked as a mechanical-electrical engineer for about ten years before I took YouTube full-time, so I skipped a bunch of years there. 


Julia: I am one of seven. I have six brothers, and I have been there their entire lives until I went to college and had to work. To some of the years he skipped, JP worked in food on top of college in the Interim. So we have a background in that, where we kind of fell in love with food probably through working in restaurants. 


JP: From ages 15 to 25, I spent working at a local chain in Upstate Rochester, New York. I worked there for about seven years as a line cook. 


Julia: We just want to acknowledge, that is from the upbringing of our families. We worked in the restaurant business when we went throughout college. JP grew up in Rochester, New York, and I grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York. I also got a job doing radio advertising. I did that for four years. I ended up quitting that job and worked as a paralegal at a law firm, which I did for about a year. I was also bartending part-time. We met before I graduated from college. 


At that time, we were making videos like it's just something that became a passion as we fell in love doing it, and it's always something we just did in addition to our work. And then about four years ago now, we both quit our jobs and left Upstate New York. We went right down to Orlando, where we live now. And I love Orlando. It's my favorite place ever. 


JP: We love it more every year. I think it is healthy to have the place that we decided to go to live in. I believe we are fortunate because I think about all the places you could choose to go to, you don't know what place will make you happy. But I guess I’ll throw that out there as a preaching type of thing, but you had to have a positive outlook on life, in general. You could live anywhere, be happy, and make it work. 


Julia: JP has been making videos back before iPhones existed. People used DSLRs. 


JP: I started the minute I saved up enough money to get a camcorder. I wanted to craft like parody satire stuff that I would see on websites like eBay bombs world and break.com before YouTube existed. I always just wanted to make some funny videos. So, all I did was an experiment with a camera and made funny videos around 2002. 


Julia: Since then, before JP and I met, he created videos that went viral for the time, like those cool Guitar Hero videos. JP’s kind of famous. He was in one of the top leading Guitar Hero bands of his time.


JP: We were offered to go on MTV, and we also were paid to go to like bars to compete against other bands with plastic instruments, and all we had to do was win, and they would pay our bar tab and feed us. We turned into a real rock band; we were getting gigs.


Julia: Initially, I was super disconnected with content creation as creation. I just wanted to cook with JP. You won't see me. You’ll see my hand cooking and stuff like that. I didn't watch YouTube at that time for entertainment, but I did like music videos and things like that. I didn't have a passion for video editing the same way that JP did.  So, I feel like JP created this. I was there on the idea, and JP and I work together on that like initially in the first ten videos. JP's the host; he is the one talking to the audience and creating it. So I think that’s his passion, like Jenna Marbles with everything and she's from the same town JP's from. 


JP: I'm so glad that she is from my town. We have the best food. To add another person like back when we first started is Hannah Hart. We did meet her. We know these people personally from these conferences that we've gone to, and our projects are hand in hand. Like you'll see, Harley and Josh in our video, where we recreated one of their epic meals, and we had them as special guests in our video. It was so cute. 


I would love to meet Pewdiepie because he's the number one creator, and I love just to see what he's up to. He is a good representation of what YouTube is. But I'd say the biggest YouTuber we met recently, though, would be Mr. Beast. He’s grown so much. So that's why it's cool. He knows that he is committed to just number one. That’s his role. He loves it. If the people ask him, “What do you do for fun?” He says, “YouTube,” and that's what a successful YouTuber would say. 


How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing?

Julia: Yeah, it's been a long time to create videos now where you can backlog into some of our computers and just see lists and lists of ideas, and ideas are great. But a good idea is tough to choose from. We usually find something that works and go with it, but you have to keep the ideas coming. Like we're always kind of just on it, like watching the trends, via the Internet, and paying attention to what we can do creatively. Like the Chicken Nugget video back in like 2016, or whatever year we posted that. That video did well, not because of a trend, but because it was a good recipe. So we have to pay attention to our craft, and with that, you know hand in hand, it's my process. Maybe JP looks at it differently because sometimes he just puts things inside things, and then people have to watch it. 


JP: Well, that's what experimentation is all about. We did a video where I did something inside something, and it did well. So, once you realize something like that does well, you grab a scrapbook, and you write all the things that go inside things that make sense, and then you keep producing that until people are like, “I'm sick of this.” And then you do something different. I think people do need one something works; people need to capitalize on it. They shouldn't ignore it if something works. We like to do something else that's similar to that right away because you got an audience because of that. So why do something different? Why not just ride it out? But when things start to fade, or people start to get annoyed, you got to consider that and do something else. And then, that's when you're in kind in that limbo phase where you're trying a bunch of different things, and then you might get discouraged. Still, out of that moment in limbo, where some things aren't working, something will, and when it does, you repeat the process. So then you realize, you do your passion project as you love. Then you find out no one else loves it, and then you have to deal with being happy that you love to.


Julia: On top of that,  think about your audience and recognize what they're looking for. What did they subscribe to? He's talking about the “Dave and Buster's” video that went up, and he was excited to do it, and they played Dave and Buster's all day, and it didn't get the results. He thought, and the repercussion of that now is kind of obvious. It's not food content, and it's probably not going to get as many hits because there's no cheeseburger or something like that in the thumbnail. Maybe that’s one thing that we did wrong, which is why we kind of started over with our second channel, JP and Julia. We learned to put our names on things. That way, people aren’t pigeonholing our content to be something specific because you don't want to feel stuck as you have to do the same thing repeatedly. We can do other things too. I don't know, you always just to film me while I'm eating. 


Everybody's different because everyone has a diverse talent, but I think on top of that, you just have to pay attention to the filming aspect. You have to be inspired to film and edit because the “idea part” is a big part of getting hits in the long run. But if you can't do all of the other details, it will be hard to host a channel. 


I wish I could show you how many things are on these lists and things to do. There's just so much to do, and there are only two of us, so we're always just trying to pick our favorite and read comments and take requests from people. I think there's just continuously more things to do. We have started our travel segment, trying and taste-testing fast food and junk food around the world. Last year in August, we went to Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand. We're still editing content from unique places that we got to experience. Like in Singapore, we went on a Ferris wheel and had a sufficient dining experience. It was amazing. Nobody likes things that are already produced. So now it's our job to do the back-end work. We get a lot of screen time, but I think it is because of our niche, and it's because we do enjoy filming food, as well. It's also kind of a play on our personalities at that point as well because anybody can go and do this. We ask ourselves, “How do we make it different and fun for our audience?”


What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?

Julia: We edit it ourselves. JP has been editing all of our videos, but I think I've edited two or three of the videos on our YouTube channel ever. Everyone plays their roles. We do have someone that we've been training to help us with our second channel, and she's terrific. We have 700 videos on Hellthy JunkFood. We use Final Cut Pro and Photoshop. What motion do you use?


JP: I just pretty much found Final Cut Pro and Photoshop. It's crazy how much you can do with so little resources. That's why if people take the time to learn, they can do a lot when they start getting into anything else. It's all about the idea. It's all about just being creative, because even production-wise doesn't matter so much on YouTube if you're slightly different or out of the box. You can stand out, and all you need is an iPhone. 


I was self-taught in Photoshop. I did watch a lot of YouTube to learn. There are like Final Cut Pro tutorials. I was good at iMovie because, for me, it was easy to use. And when I switched to the Final Cut Pro, it was rough, but it's just growing pains. You learn and get better. Right now, I want to learn Illustrator.


What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

JP: The only fear we had was quitting our job before we were ready to leave our job. 


Julia: Yeah, when we quit, we weren't ready. 


JP: That was scary. You know how it is. You're upset with your day job. Your boss doesn't appreciate you. You’re like this, “we can make it; we’ll make it by.” And believe it or not, when we took YouTube full-time, we started getting sponsorships, which is pretty impressive considering we weren't a big channel. We're probably at a hundred and twenty-five thousand subscribers getting pretty deep, not good sponsorships, but just sponsorships. I know some YouTubers that don't even get sponsorships exactly. 


Julia: What happened was right after I quit Advertising; I applied for FameBit, which is now acquired by Google. You can just go there, and you just write a proposal to these different brands for sponsorship. So we got a bunch of them that way initially.


JP: And back then, when fame wasn’t immense, there were a lot of startup companies with their pots and pans, or oven mitts. The rates were really in line with what kind of audience we had. So these couple of $250 sponsorships here and there helped us get through the month. 


Julia:  I think that's the main thing. If you're posting content that is outrageous or swears words, then it’s hard for any brand to put their name on that. 


JP: Handling negative comments is brutal because I was on someone else's channel through four episodes. Everybody would just like to laugh at how horrible the words were. 


Julia: People on the internet are mean and well, we don't discredit all of the friendly people but the mean people stand out because they're saying something mean. All of the “I love yous” or “Your content is great” or whatever compliment to your art or your craft or sending pictures through social media recreating your recipes or you know your look or whatever you're doing. I think like those are the biggest compliments. They share and like your videos. Enjoy those moments because when someone jumps on there and says, you're fat, or who is this silly looking Asian guy, he's not funny. Stuff like that, things like that are so hurtful because that's not who you are. You just have to ignore it. Initially, I wasn't good at that. Actually, because of the channel, I gained a bunch of weight, which was the opposite reason for us starting the channel. So, I had to go through this whole diet thing afterward, but there was a period when JP calls me Fat Julia, it exists on the channel. It's sad but true.


JP: What?


Julia: Yeah, you did. People will comment and either make fun of you for how you look like your teeth look crooked or if your nails don't look right. If I'm touching food, I have to have perfectly manicured and all of that. It kind of does bother me, but it’s okay. 


JP: As I said, I got it so bad. I don't even care. We don't even have to brush over the negativity.  We don’t read the negative comments any more.


Julia: Yeah. That's true. 


JP: The video that went viral video was Mac and Cheetos, like DIY Burger King Mac and Cheetos. It was organic, but it was also the right timing because Burger King came out with these things on their menu, and every famous YouTuber started buying and trying them. Everyone’s video was, “Have you tried Burger King’s Mac and Cheetos? How did it taste like?” So we have a video titled we know how to make them. So I think that's pretty much the secret sauce right there. 


How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

Julia: When we first started YouTube, Hellthy JunkFood was not our primary focus. It was just something that we did on the weekends and our off times. It was never something good or bad or ugly in the beginning. It was always fun. And now that it's full-time, it almost feels like there are more edges of the good, the bad, and the ugly because there's so much pinpoint focus on it, and we don't want to mess it up. It's everything that we do now.


JP: I think I would agree with that. If you're going to be successful on YouTube, there really shouldn't be too much wrong and ugly, because anyone keeps doing it. I think the bad and ugly comes once you become something that you need to maintain, that’s one of the hardest things ever. When I see many of our friends blow up on YouTube and are still doing well, it's incredible. But in the back of my mind, I hope they can deal with the decline because many people mostly can deal with that. They work so hard, and then they're like, oh, why are my videos not getting as many views, and then they take it personally. You could keep getting better and better. But as cruel as the world is, you're not always going to be relevant. You're not always going to be on top, not going to be getting what you want, and you need to be able to deal with that when it happens.


I think it's harder for Julia to deal with this stuff because it's you know, I get that it hurts. I was raped like self-deprecating in the comedy world, so I kind of just like don't care, you know, and I think it's hard because I need to be sensitive. After all, other people care about a lot of this stuff and can affect them really psychologically. I'm just so immune to some of this stuff that I just don't see it the same way, but I do think it's horrible. People should block certain words that way. They won't see repeated insults come up. 


Julia: I feel like that's more important, especially it one thing triggers an emotion.

For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

Julia: Just do it because you want to do it. Have just as much love for your talent or your hobby or whatever you want to share as editing. And Photoshop, too, because thumbnail-making is an aspect of YouTube, actually, one of the most important things because it's the first thing that gets somebody to click on your YouTube video. And if you have passion and motivation to do all of those things and be kind of sustainable doing that for some time without burning out, then possibly, it's for you. That's why a lot of people do YouTube channels together. 


JP: I don’t think it needs to be a team. 


Julia: It doesn't have to be. But everyone does it their way. 


JP: I think it'd probably be more demanding with the team because then you have to rely on everyone's passion on the same page. My advice is, to be successful on YouTube, you need to have several things that you're willing to do. First, don't have any expectations. You should just be doing it to spread a message, share an interest, or show a talent or hobby. Make sure it's something that you like and love doing. You should not do it because you think it'll go viral, or you believe you'll make money, or it's trendy. 

If you build your dreams, they will come. If you produce content, someone will watch it, and maybe it'll motivate you to get better and improve. 


When we started doing it, we didn't plan anything. I just grabbed my iPhone and hit record. I see many people who want to get into this and want to set up this huge foundation. They want to establish a brand, get all their graphics done. They want to get all their stuff set up. They want a beautiful name. They want it to make sense with hashtags. And then you look at their channel, and they got no videos.


Just make videos, and then the other stuff comes later. You can always change your brand, your name. Think of when you're at 10,000 subscribers. You can change it to whatever you want. I would say you can change it at any point. There's no one telling you that you can't change it. A lot of people just need to do stop procrastinating. Don't be a perfectionist. You're on YouTube. That's the last thing you need to be, being a perfectionist. 


We've been doing a lot of YouTube conventions with a lot of talented people. The work ethics and the drive that they all possess are incredible. So if you're not that yet, you got to think to yourself that you can be like that. Seek inspiration through those that have ground that hard and have done it.

How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

JP: When we took it full-time, we weren't ready, and we're at over a hundred thousand subscribers, and we worked from January up until July 4th. I know this day because it's when we went viral, and I'm a numbers guy. So we were just doing whatever we could from January till July 4. Julia goes to work at the restaurant, and I'm home editing, and I was looking at the numbers. As I was looking at Social Blade, I found it odd. It says we got a hundred subscribers in the past hour. We don't normally do that. We usually average that in a day. So, I thought it's probably just a glitch and then another hour goes by, and it says 200, so I'm like, oh my God, I got to look at the live counter. So I went to the live counter and was just refreshing that our subscribers were like going up to ten every minute or something like that or 20 every minute. Then I ran to the restaurant. I just busted open the doors of the restaurant, and I screamed, “We're going viral!” That was like always, the goal for me was just to have that one viral video.


We didn't learn (which was awesome) when you go viral, and you have like 300 videos, they watch all the other videos. And they were good videos. We're proud of everyone that we put out. Going viral at like a hundred twenty thousand subscribers how many we were, I think we’re more than that. I believe we might have been at like 150-200 thousand at the time.


We just got massive amounts of positive comments, which was great because you usually go viral and get negative stuff. We're getting people saying like, who are these people? How come I just found them now, you know, it's nice stuff. So they started binge-watching our content, and then I told Julia our video is going viral, just a fluke, it's just something that will die down, like that peak for a week. This isn't our lifestyle. It doesn't change anything. So we always stayed level-headed about it; that helped.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

JP: The first milestone was reaching 10,000 subscribers; got me seriously into what I was doing, and I got Julia on board too.  And then, the Mac and Cheetos viral video. It was so powerful. It changed everything. If you look at the date on the Social Blade, you'll see that they just kept climbing from there. The third one was so unexpected. We made a giant hash brown like a year and a half ago. That was the fastest-growing video we've ever done on the channel. Even though it's not the top view, it is the fastest. It has four million views in a week. For us, that's good. I'm saying that number in comparison to our channel, not Mr. Beast’s channel. I remember having that same feeling where I couldn't sleep. I was looking at the computer like a slot machine. We were going up 2000 views an hour. It was just remarkable to see something like that. 


Julia: I think, like generically, as we felt through every tiny milestone, it was the same milestone because JP and I just like celebrating everything throughout its growth. I can't say why a milestone is more significant or less than another. I think that there have been great things that have happened, and we're so fortunate, and it just pushes us and drives us to do more.


JP: I see people say, “Oh, I only got twenty-one thousand followers on Instagram.” I'm like, that's more than me. That’s huge. I was so happy when we got a thousand subscribers because that meant we had grown more followers than my Facebook friends. It means the people following my YouTube channel are not just my Facebook friends. I think once you can get someone to follow you that doesn't even know you and likes you, that's an accomplishment. 


It took us three years from zero to get to a hundred thousand subscribers. From a hundred thousand to a million, it took six months. So that viral video has a snowball effect, and we were getting three to five thousand subscribers a day. And that's kind of the number you need to get there within that period. So, I can always see the growth of someone's channel. If you're averaging like at least a thousand subscribers a day, you will get 365,000 subscribers a year. But once you start averaging like 10,000, no one’s stopping you. You’re a beast. You can't turn back. When we began growing like that, we thought, we can't want it right now. We have no choice. It's happening whether you like it or not.


What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

I used to do Reddit, but Reddit is not for self-promotion. I got in a lot of trouble with that. I did that once back in 2013, and I got our channel demonetized for like, a year. That was just because someone, a Redditor, got some negative karma, and they were like, “Oh, I’m going to attack this channel, they’re small.” So, we got our channel back, but that was pretty stressful.


How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

With Social Bluebook, it is easy to understand your value because many creators don't know that, and they need to because that way, we all live in a fair economy. It is pretty much just finding stuff that makes sense for a brand that won't interfere and make things awkward or weird. But with that being said, everything that we received just makes sense anyway because we're in food, we don't have a lot of gray areas where some channels do. So for us, it's pretty easy to not only integrate a brand but also like to speak positively about it and use it, and anyone watching I don't think would question it. So for us, we're lucky in that sense. 


Julia: All of our advertising in the first 10-20 spots we ever put in a video. We still work with FameBit. There are other sites out there like it, where all you do is write a little description about your channel and how you're going to integrate their product and their video and propose how much money the brand will pay you as the creator. You send it out, and you get a yes or no. It’s pretty simple. So the more proposals you put out there, the more chances you get a brand deal. 


In the Social Bluebook, you just put your Twitter, Instagram, and your YouTube channel and whatever other social media pages that you have. It’ll put together basically a rating for your channel. Then it'll give you your value. 


So it will tell you something like because you have X amount of followers on YouTube, you should be getting paid $250 per integration, and it'll be specific. Then a brand comes to you and says, they're going to give you $50, you might want to say well, you're not valuing to my work in my efforts in my audience, maybe you can charge more. So sometimes it goes into a little of a debate regarding the cost. But in sales, you always want to close, so don't lose the deal because you’re greedy. 

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