Liza Koshy is much calmer in person than you’d think—that is, if you’ve been following her hella-viral YouTube videos for the past five years.
When you picture a YouTube personality, your brain probably summons the loudest girl in your dorm, the type who answers a casual “What’s up?” with her entire life story, including her recent messy breakup. On the surface, Liza fits that narrative—she even made mainstream news with a breakup video that hit almost 60 million views.
But sitting in a booth at the Standard Grill in New York City’s meatpacking district, sucking down an iced vanilla latte with almond milk from an environmentally friendly bamboo straw—VSCO girls would approve—she doesn’t give off that vibe. Her hair’s in a loose bun just like you’d see in most of her videos, but this isn’t Liza Koshy, YouTube star with 25.4M combined subscribers from two accounts and 17.9M followers on Instagram. Right now, she’s just Liza.
From the beginning, the 23-year-old’s channel offered her young followers something they were missing amidst an endless sea of mostly rich, white lifestyle gurus: videos that parodied real life and were hilarious. The comedian/actress/creator originally started sharing six-second videos on Vine (RIP) in 2013 and began posting longer content to YouTube around 2015. After just three months, she dropped out of college at age 19 and moved from her hometown of Houston, Texas, to Los Angeles.
She started by posting tongue-in-cheek day-in-the-life content similar to OG YouTuber Jenna Marbles, like straight-to-camera vlogs about driving in Los Angeles and OTT cooking vids. Soon, Liza was writing comedy sketches about the off-brand products you can find at the Dollar Store and started featuring a slate of original characters. Her channel became filled with SNL-esque sketches her fans could actually relate to.
“Dollar Store With Liza Part 2!” is Liza’s most popular video to date at 59M views. By 2016, she was influential enough to interview President Barack Obama. In 2017, she became the fastest YouTuber to reach 10 million subscribers. She’s got more stats than an NFL player.
But after five years of uploading videos every single Wednesday, collabing on other channels, and launching a scripted YouTube original series, the burnout was getting real. As a creator, Liza was evolving with Liza on Demand—a scripted comedy series following a young woman trying to make it in L.A. by working the gig economy to her advantage—but in interviews and on social media, she felt pressured to remain the same “little brown girl with big dreams” her devoted stans looked up to so much.
“There was a point where I was like, I have to be this one person. I have to stay at the same pitch in my voice at all times,” Liza explains, emphasising with a very “on camera” tone. “Otherwise, people are gonna think I fluctuate in my personality.” After all, the biggest crime a YouTuber can commit is being fake.
This “point” in Liza’s life was just over one year ago when Liza on Demand first aired. At the same time, Liza was hosting the Met Gala red carpet for Vogue, working on a movie, and starting to dance again (something she’s been passionate about since she was a child). What should have been the best, most creative time of her life was sharing the spotlight with some of the worst. She broke up with her boyfriend of three years—23-year-old fellow YouTuber David Dobrik—took a break from her weekly posting schedule, and agonized over stepping outside her lane.
Things shifted when she finally debuted her scripted comedy series for YouTube Originals. “I went into this spiraling dialogue, thinking, People are going to hate me for doing something different. I read things online that weren’t the nicest things, I started being even more judgmental and not so nice in my head.” She likens that time to an “internal battle that you’re constantly losing.”
YouTube is kind of like the Wild West for creators. There’s room for comics like Liza—whose iconic 73 Questions parody scored Liza a real one and a spot as the magazine’s go-to red-carpet host. “I was scared to be myself, so I created a character so I could portray that confidence,” Liza says of Jet Packinski, the “alpha male” featured in the video. Another character, Helga, serves as her maternal figure.
And, of course, there are the influencers who’ve cultivated massive followings by sharing every single moment of their day-to-day lives, like the seemingly overnight sensation Emma Chamberlain. They post about their bacne or document getting their wisdom teeth removed. For better or worse, everything is content.
YouTube’s also famous for beauty gurus like James Charles and shock vloggers like Jake Paul, who seem to thrive on controversy and drama. The platform can barely go a week without Twitter throwing a #FillInTheBlankIsOverParty. Liza admits she can see how audiences outside the YouTube bubble might look down on the platform when they’re mainly exposed to its worst moments.
“You see it on your timeline or in the Wall Street Journal and you’re like, What the hell’s going on on that platform?” She just doesn’t think it’s her problem. “It kind of sucks that people will group YouTubers into a category and be like, ‘Oh, that person did something sucky, so everybody on there must suck.’ But I’m just going to continue doing things that don’t suck.”
Speaking of other YouTubers, 2015 was also the year Liza began a relationship with David, who she met at a Hollywood party. She popped up more and more on his channel—the Kim to his Kanye. Or maybe they’d prefer to be considered the Meghan and Harry of YouTube. Either way, he posted videos to his channel titled “SURPRISE MADE LIZA CRY!!!” and “SURPRISING GIRLFRIEND WITH BABY KANGAROO!!” Stans instantly fell hard for the ’ship. At the time, she was quickly becoming the funniest girl on YouTube, and he was the happy, outrageous vlogger who would go on to lead The Vlog Squad, a group of clickbait stunt creators that could be classified as a nicer version of Jake’s controversial Team 10.
So in June 2018, when Liza and David posted a video to his channel announcing that she broke things off—which they’d been keeping a secret for months—it was a Big. Fucking. Deal.
That’s a very, uh, public way to end a relationship. Would Liza ever make a video like that today? “NO,” she practically gasps while shaking her head hard. “There’s a lot that people know about me, yes, but there’s a lot that people don’t. That’s why I made skits and sketches and characters. I always wanted to keep something to myself. I didn’t want to be like, ‘Hey, guys, today I’m going to poop—watch me do it. There’s corn.’”
But if given the chance, would she go back and change it—or would she delete it if she ever got ahold of her ex’s password? Also no, she says. It was an important moment in her journey. “I have no regrets, period. Like, I don’t even delete any pictures on my Instagram,” she jokes—but not really. You can scroll all the way back to cringe pics of Liza in high school if you have that kind of time.
“We needed to get our truth off our chests,” she reflects, seriously. Considering she was basically a character on David’s reality show, think of it this way: Could you imagine if Kanye just stopped showing up in Kim’s feeds with no explanation? “Not that we owed it to the community—they deserved to know, but it was also for us. It was just our truth and we needed to live it,” she explains without a hint of shame. “Then as we were filming the video, it kind of went to an emotional place and I decided to be like, ‘Hey, you know what, this is my truth too. I’m going through a tough time, and I’m going to put it online.’”
Liza’s talking about the part of the video where she admits to struggling with anxiety and loving herself. Afterward, Liza decided to take a posting break for much of 2018 to work on her mental health. She spent time with family, “meditated a ton,” and turned almost all her energy into making the second season of LOD with her costars/best friends Travis Coles and Kimiko Glenn, who she literally lived with during production. “I just wanted to pour my heart and soul into a show with higher production value or that was 22 minutes long instead of a 4-minute video that I made in my house. I felt like I owed it to myself,” she says. “That’s why Liza on Demand was born, but also because it was a very isolated experience to be alone in my home.”
For most of her career, Liza has been her entire crew. She’d write a sketch, shoot, light, edit, and post all by herself. “Then I just…celebrated by myself. Like, yay, I put up a video. It sounds sad.” It does, TBH. “I eventually fell out of love with that. And slightly with myself, too, because I began to cater to what I thought people wanted to see from me.”
Now, a year later, Liza’s back without the pressure to give the people what they want exactly when they want it. Wednezzzdays With Lizzza is no longer really a thing, and she doesn’t start each new vid with, “Hey, what’s up, guys? It’s me, Liza!” Some of her fans mourn the loss of “the old Liza” in her comments. Sure, she’s posted fun videos of taking ballet class with her friends here and a flashy music video version of her Dollar Store series there, but it’s clear her focus has shifted to bigger projects—she’s even acting in the Netflix dance movie Work It, costarring Sabrina Carpenter.
Most important, season 2 of her series Liza on Demand is finally here and already a record-breaking success. She’s doing things she’s never done before, like getting naked on camera and directing for the first time. “I’m so proud to be healthy and love myself and be in this amazing place where I can have love and I can give it now,” she says, with a genuine smile on her face. “I can host and I can act and I can create a show. I got to step outside of my living room that I was so scared to leave.”
Liza on Demand season 2, episode 1, Naked has 77M views. Still, Liza stans might get some closure for her characters like Helga, Carlos, Jet, and lil Eliza. “I hope to give them some kind of ending of sorts, and I truly don’t know if anybody wants that. But at this point, I might make it for me. And that’s how this all started. Right?”
And if you don’t like that...tough. “If I did everything that people wanted me to do, I’d be dead.” Too often, creators are forced to focus on maintaining their “brand” as opposed to, you know, actually creating something. With a million controversies, challenges, and A-list celebs like Zac Efron and Jason Momoa joining YouTube every day, the most exciting people on the platform right now are the ones pushing boundaries and bringing something different to the trending page. Liza’s not the only one turning things around. Shane Dawson abandoned his daily schedule to produce in-depth documentary series, while Lily Singh has full-on transitioned into woke NBC late-night host, with most of her highlights ending up right back on YouTube.
In the long run, fans are going to be much better off with the “new” Liza Koshy. By giving herself room to breathe and her channel the resources to evolve, this Liza—the one comfortable talking in her “off camera” voice while still sipping her lactose-free latte in a hotel restaurant—is the realest she’s ever been.
Photographer + Associate Producer: Ruben Chamorro; Stylist: Kathy Lee; Makeup: Yumi Mori; Hair: Matthew Tuozzoli; Nail Artist: Kayo Higuchi; Prop Stylist: Chelsea Maruskin at Art Department; Senior Visuals Editor + Producer: Raydene Salinas Hansen; Creative Director: Abby Silverman; Entertainment Director: Maxwell Losgar; Video Supervising Producer: Abbey Adkison, Video Producer: Liesl Lar; Associate Producer: Meghan Allen; Director of Photography, Video: Janet Upadhye; Editor: Desi Sulca
Fashion credits: Pants look: Wonderment top c/o The Frankie Shop, Nanushka trousers c/o The Frankie Shop, Lizzie Fortunato earrings, Jimmy Choo shoes, and rings by Luz Ortiz and Jennifer Fisher. Dress look: Rebecca Taylor dress, Pamela Love earrings, Schutz shoes, and rings by Gorjana, Mejuri, and Sarah Chloe.