Korty Is Leading A New Generation Of Youtube Stars

Korty's power comes from social media, which is the biggest driver for her cultural acclaim

YouTube has become the premier video streaming platform in the world. It was popularly acclaimed as, firstly, a platform which could be very educative, but also as entertaining. Nigerians began owning channels and producing content not long after and in 2017, Mark Angel became the first comedy content creator in Africa to hit one million subscribers. 

In the five years since, YouTube has been favoured by Nigerians in showing the myriad stories emerging from the country. Earlier this year, Business Day reported that in 2021, the percentage of Nigerian YouTube channels that made above 1million in revenue increased by over 60% in the space of just a year. With programs like YouTube Black Voices, it’s increasingly being acknowledged as an important section of popular media and has become a favourite among Gen Z audiences.

A name that needs no introduction on Youtube is 22-year-old Eniola Olarenwaju, popularly known to fans as Korty. Korty’s status as one of the most exciting YouTubers is hardly a subject of debate. In a little over two years she’s become an important force in the Gen Z narrative, owning their skills and creating fierce work that speaks to their experience. She’s well acclaimed in the Lagos art scene, and even better, it’s because of her hard earned work. 

With an adequate grasp on youth culture, she’s a daring storyteller and an even better filmmaker. Her well-paced transitions, the peaceful cinematography, the alternative-inspired soundtracks, the freewheeling nature of her questions, her relentless curiosity—every one of her interviews, from Rema, to Ashely Okoli, Chuuzus, T.G Omori possess these qualities. Watching the ebbs of her art, you just know she had different influences than the previous generation of YouTubers. She’s less of a journalist than she is a filmmaker, creating situations and scenes where humanity can be better experienced in full colour. 

Recently, Korty was the topic of contention on social media timelines when the rising star shared a tweet declaring that her career trajectory was not paved by anyone else. A bold statement to make, many opponents seemed to miss out on the fact that Korty was simply taking pride in her abilities and speaking to her reality. As a Gen Zer, she’s bound to make such self-aggrandising statements in this age of bigging up oneself and ones achievements on social media. However, that single post has generated a lot of interest as a lot of people who felt she was disrespectful of her seniors in the scene, especially with the last part. Already the placing of “stupid” lathers a disregarding vehemence on the tone, and in an online reality where correctness is strictly enforced, it wasn’t long after people started calling her out.

Many opponents of Korty’s statement felt that she was minimising the valuable contributions of Nigerian Youtuber’s that had been operating before her, as the mid 2010’s was the heat period for Youtube. Figures like Tayo Aina, Sisi Yemmie, Fisayo Fosudo, Dimma Ummeh and Jackie Aina are names that would be amiss to mention when stating the famed alum of African entertainment on Youtube. Looking at their work, it’s easy to see why—their relevant fields cut easily across travel, lifestyle, food, design, fashion, community, beauty, politics, finance, tech and culture. Individually, they’ve amassed subscribers in millions and other relative numbers, but it is the humane quality of their productions that makes them so influential beyond the continent and globally.

While Korty could have better framed her statement, there’s no denying that she could be referring to the novelty of her craft. As a storyteller offering different ways for audiences to get into the minds of their favourite African creatives, Korty could be severing herself from the canon of Nigerian YouTubing, from their artistic traditions and vision. But more realistically, Korty is most likely referring to her own work in getting to where she is today.

As far as we all know, Korty has carved a lane for herself, all by her own doing. One of her earliest videos recounts how she quit her A&R job at EmPAWA and took to Youtube full-time. During her journey, she’s got very few cosigns from established YouTubers, or the assistance of a union. Korty’s power comes from social media, which is the biggest driver for her cultural acclaim, which is the reason why we’re having this conversation today. She speaks directly with her audience and bypasses industry gatekeepers by relying on the power of social media and her loyal following. Now, she’s found herself becoming a poster girl for those who don’t quite know where they belong–which many Gen Z’s relate to.

In truth, there will always be forerunners but the next generation equally has to offer—style, outspoken about social justice, well-read, thoughtful about any number of topics while keeping things fresh—and easily the coolest young people on the planet. The impact of those who came before should not be affected simply because there are others satisfying new tastes in audiences. However, their palpable influence of the frontrunner should not be downplayed because they created initial excitement around the scene. They might not have influenced Korty stylistically but they did set the wheels running for the industry. 

In the grand scheme of things, everyone is born to a certain generation, and it’s the nature of art to progressively improve on what has been done. Some artists fail to do so; others succeed and go on to become great. Everyone admits that Korty is well on her way, and deep down, every great creator is a fine student. 

The only lesson revealed is the power of storytelling. Korty’s presence online is intentional. She’s deliberately revealing of her day-to-day activities, as well as commenting on hot topics with a voice that’s recognisably hers and very Gen-Z in tone. She also places her unique career trajectory in perspective quite often, combining her natural curiosity with a humane way of reflecting those wins and losses, and that is why she stands out. That is why she was a chosen influencer for Fenty’s entry into the Nigerian market, much to the criticism of people who felt beauty YouTubers were best equipped for the role. 

Considering the number of informative threads that’s spurned off her comment, the overall reaction should be a lot lighter. She didn’t shade anyone, and now, it’s given way for people to know a lot more YouTubers than before. Given the vast interest points that YouTube covers, this will serve as a stark reminder to curators, that they need to keep adapting with the times and consistently meet the demand for content that is instant, defiant, boundary-pushing and above all, authentic.