Jimmy Donaldson, best known by his fans around the globe as MrBeast, has the best job in the world; making people happy. A philanthropist and entertainer, Donaldson has built the foundations of his YouTube empire donating millions of dollars to charitable organizations and his large fanbase of followers. At only 20 years old, he's the fastest-growing influencer on the platform with over 63 million subscribers and over 3 billion total views at the time of this writing.
A constant learner and student of the YouTube algorithm, he's known for his crazy and unique videos, such as spending 24 hours in an insane asylum, building a giant house made only of legos, and buying a car with only pennies. His signature style of outrageous stunts and growing generosity has helped Jimmy donate over 1.5 million dollars through his content.
I got the chance to catch up with Jimmy about his unique strategies for coming up with video ideas, the origin story behind Mr. Beast, and much more:
James: What was your inspiration to start a career in YouTube?
Mr. Beast: I started YouTube like every other inspiring 13-year-old trying to make it on the platform. I shot the videos in my room (while my mom thought I was studying). My first few years of YouTube were gaming channels, so it was easy not having the expensive equipment; yet, many of the first in real life videos were shot with an iPhone. I saved my allowance and slowly upgraded my equipment over the years.
James: Where do the origins of Mr. Beast come from?
Mr. Beast: My channel name is always such an interesting source of conversation. The honest answer is MrBeast6000 was my original Xbox gamertag; years later I dropped the 6000 when I noticed the bigger YouTuber's didn't have numbers on their channel name.
James: Were your friends and family always supportive of your channel since the beginning?
Mr. Beast: Many of my high school classmates helped me out a lot during the earlier videos; we always had so much fun! I can't say everyone was supportive of my lifestyle decisions early on as I always chose YouTube, whether it be analytics, filming, or watching, versus hanging out with friends or going on family vacations. I'm very close with my mom and she has always been extremely supportive of my dream.
James: How do you come up with your signature style ideas? Can you tell from the moment an idea comes to mind that it will become a viral video?
Mr. Beast: Over the years I have developed multiple ways to come up with video ideas. I study the platform daily, therefore I've learned how to identify what is working and what ideas have stalled out. Sometimes we create a video off of a meme (like the egg video) or sometimes we start a new trend (like the recent influx of challenging videos). Some days a spontaneous joke turns into a brainstorming session for a video; some days no ideas seem to be good enough. Our video creation model is normal: brainstorm the idea, scriptwriting, set up crew, rehearsal, videotape, clean-up crew and edit. Some videos we can do in a day; some videos take an entire week. It all depends on the location and set development.
James: You've done many crazy videos throughout your career, and this is only the beginning. I know this sounds cliché, but which video do you hold closest to your heart?
Mr. Beast: My favorites are the rewarding ones. Very recently, we gave a local homeless man in my hometown a house. One of my friend's dad knew about him and his situation and we set out to make a video about providing him with a fully furnished and stocked apartment, all expenses paid. He didn't know what we were up to until we told him the good news and his reaction to the generosity is why I do these type videos. I like to help people.
James: At the beginning of your start on YouTube, you gained traction through a series of unique yet tedious challenges. What thoughts were circling through your mind while you were filming those?
Mr. Beast: This was during my make it or break it time. I had just moved out of my mom's house and I knew if I was going to make it on YouTube, I had to grind like never before. I took the chance that since I had the time, doing these boring, unique challenges might get people's attention. The video where I counted to 100,000 was so outrageous that it caught people's attention. Once I realized people were going to watch me do these boring challenges, it became a personal challenge for me to keep one-upping myself on which crazy challenge to put myself through next.
James: How much of a risk has it been for you and your team to constantly put the money earned from ad revenue back into the channel?
Mr. Beast: Honestly, up until about four months ago, we were living paycheck to paycheck. I took a chance and reinvested everything we earned, either from a brand deal or AdSense, right back into the channel; whether it be for hiring people, video production, or giving away money. I have used brand deal money for donations up to $100,000. Although I donate a lot of my own money, within the next week, I am posting my first video where I am donating $100,000 myself.
James: What motivates you each week to make consistent, high-energy content?
Mr. Beast: The core component to my drive to success is that I love to make a difference in other people's lives, whether it be to the people who work for me or those in need. I am happily motivated by knowing my ability to ease the burden on an otherwise stressful day or situation for another person.
James: Are there any video ideas you have personally turned down or thought were too over the top?
Mr. Beast: Yeah, we try to stay away from anything that would be dangerous enough where someone could get hurt. This isn't Jackass or Ridiculousness. We're trying to put a lot of thought, creativity, and planning into making an interesting video that our subscribers will enjoy.
James: In recent months, you have created multiple stunts promoting fellow YouTuber Pewdiepie. Why is the subscriber count race between him and T-Series so important to you as a creator? Have you and Pewdiepie met since?
Mr. Beast: Pewdiepie is a YouTube creator and has been the most subscribed on the platform until T-Series. But T-Series is basically a corporation, not an individual. I think the creators on the platform should support other creators to keep original content popular. No, I've never met Pewdiepie although we have talked after a couple of my campaigns to assist him.
James: What's something about you that you wish the fans knew?
Mr. Beast: I like to keep my private life as private as I can, but I'm very close to my family especially my mom. I have an older brother and a younger sister and we're pretty tight-knit. They keep me grounded and don't let fame go to my head. Whatever I'm doing off-camera, I always strive for positivity and no drama.
James: In the future, do you have any other plans or goals in the entertainment industry? What videos are you planning on releasing this year?
Mr. Beast: YouTube will probably always be my primary platform to communicate with my fans and subscribers. Videos are just so compelling that they have to be the primary means to share content. We have lots of great ideas for videos' coming up, but I'm not going to ruin the surprise!