Creator Voices: Alyssa McKay
Alyssa McKay is an actress, writer, content producer and YouTuber based in Portland, Oregon. She has been named one of Tubefilter’s “Creators on the Rise” and also designated a featured creator at the upcoming 2022 VidCon U.S. Alyssa is widely known for her characters, which include “The Rich Girl,” who has become a short-form global phenomenon and a testament to the power of YouTube Shorts.
When I started my YouTube channel in 2018, I wanted to share my voice with the world. Little did I know that after just a few years into my YouTube journey, being a creator would also teach me several meaningful lessons about my own life. These lessons continue to inform my work and life, and I want to share them with you.
Find your "forever community"
As a young child, I grew up in “less than ideal” living conditions. I was in an abusive household and then starting at the age of 9, I ended up being placed in a few foster homes (commonly called “the system”). Then at 15, my life changed forever when I moved in with my forever family. I am so grateful for them, as they taught me how to love and also love back.
As I look back now, these experiences have and will always shape my future. While I couldn't control my childhood or those that came in and out of my life, as a creator, I feel I do have influence over the community I want to attract. In many ways, a community is a mirror for a creator. Respect your audience and they'll respect you. Demonstrate empathy for your audience and they'll do the same for you. Elevate your audience and they'll lift you. And you'll also likely learn a lot from your community as you build it.
Lead and learn by example
I became interested in acting and creating content when I first entered high school. I was immediately drawn to the ability of inventing and living inside characters other than myself. I wasn’t sure if my videos or the characters I developed would break through the noise and build an audience on YouTube, but I knew I had a definite passion for it.
And then the YouTube Shorts beta was announced. Alongside my management team at The Network Effect, we devised a short-form content strategy specific to YouTube. Shorts seemed like an ideal format to quickly test different characters/formats and learn how quickly they did - or did not - resonate with audiences. On YouTube, even before monetization, subscriber growth or engagement, it is always about being FIRST, so we made leveraging Shorts an instant priority. It has always been a dream of mine to build an audience on YouTube. And since the U.S. Shorts beta launch in March of last year, my channel has gained 190 million views and 561,000 subscribers. And this is a lesson I also try to apply in my everyday life, even outside of my content creation work: Be first, and as you lead the way, learn along the way.
Explore the character within the character
People ask me all the time how The Rich Girl/Lyss actually came about. As a young girl living through the foster-care system, I always dreamed about the “glamorous life,” where money was not the main focus because it was a given - something I never experienced as a child. I was immediately drawn to, and inspired by, characters from my favorite movies like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde and Cher from Clueless. While these characters are financially wealthy, they also have core values and great hearts, something we might not have ever suspected if a story didn't explore their characters in greater detail and reveal what truly lies beneath the surface. It has been an amazing experience to define The Rich Girl’s evolution as she takes on different situations in her own special way. And moving forward, her various stories will continue to uncover more layers and greater complexity, which will surprise and give audiences a new appreciation for the depth of her character.
For me, this is something that also applies to children in foster care. From my own experiences, I know there is more to such kids than what being in "the system" might immediately convey to outsiders. That's why I will always continue to advocate for those who find themselves on a similar path. I want them to know that things are GOING to get better. They should NEVER give up - their dreams CAN come true. And if we all look a little deeper into who we are and embrace it, we can also make our dreams become a reality.