I can’t tell you how – or where or when – I first started watching Claudia Sulewski online, but I do know that, for the longest time, I kept it a secret. It’s not that Sulewski is doing anything particularly nefarious; conversely, since she started posting YouTube videos in November 2009, you can categorize Sulewski’s Internet Corner is one of its more active neighborhoods. But back in the early 2010s, when I definitely stumbled across her burgeoning lifestyle channel, YouTube content creation was a stub. No Emma Chamberlains transitioned from YouTube star to Met Gala host; I don’t even have Instagram yet. So I watched Sulewski and the other creators I love in private, mesmerized as they showed off their shabby clothes and favorite makeup products — unaware that the What I’m actually watching is a new group of celebrities, slowly but surely forming, one person uploading at a time.
“It really started with this love of filmmaking,” Sulewski told ELLE.com, thinking back to his early days on the platform. It’s a summer Friday, and she’s talking on the phone from her home in Los Angeles, a sunny and colorful space where she lives with her dog, Peaches, and her boyfriend her, Grammy Award-winning musician Finneas O’Connell, who also happens to be Billie Eilish’s brother and main collaborator. (Their home is well documented — but not also recorded — on Sulewski’s channel.) We’re talking because Sulewski, who has nearly 2.5 million YouTube subscribers and two million Instagram followers in his years online, is being introduced to an audience Brand new fake. She will play Becca in the new movie I love my dad, in theaters August 5, written and directed by James Morosini and starring Morosini, Patton Oswalt, and Rachel Dratch. The film is based on the incredible Morosini practical experience, in which his estranged father, looking to reconnect, encouraged him by posing as a beautiful girl online. Naturally, Sulewski is playing a girl, her first role in a major movie.
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It’s been a dream come true for 26-year-old Sulewski, who started all this when she was 13, lives in suburban Chicago and is passionate about shooting and editing videos. Around the same time, a wave of beauty creators exploded onto the scene — women and girls, like Michelle Phan and sisters Blair and Elle Fowler, are filming in their bedroom, buying Forever 21 dresses, or reviewing MAC eyeshadows and uploading their videos to YouTube. “I look for the connection they seem to form with their audience,” says Sulewski. “I was thinking, well, I love the tech side of all this, and beauty and fashion are definitely my concerns as well. Watching their videos helped pave the way and vision for where I thought I could place myself in this digital world. “She took inspiration and ran with it. (A true sign of the times, her original username was BeyondBeautyStar, a possible nod to Blair, Juicystar07.) “For whatever reason, I took YouTube very seriously, ‘ Sulewski recalled. “That consistency and momentum is what has allowed me to turn it into something much bigger.” Over the years, as more companies pay attention to the power and influence of YouTube users, “much larger” has included a hosting contract with Teen magazine, a clothing line with Nordstrom, her own Wildflower phone case, and a variety of acting gigs. “I’m grateful for that little girl.”
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Recently, Sulewski’s videos, which often garner hundreds of thousands of views each, feature intimate yet aspirational snippets of her daily life, all creatively edited to her signature style. In process One video, she can celebrate her dog’s birthday, discuss her journey with therapy, and catch a glimpse of a date night in Nobu. But despite Sulewski’s huge success, she still has her eye on YouTube. She moved to Los Angeles in 2014 and told her subscribers that she has dreams of becoming an actress. “I remember feeling like, okay, I understand I’m from another world, so how do I approach this in a really thoughtful way?As a result, her acting career has “taken a bit of time,” she explained, as she worked to take classes and work as a coach among other projects. that she booked. “In many ways, I feel like I love my dad landed in the perfect place and time so I could put all my knowledge and practice into one project. “Although in reality, I love my dad didn’t land as much as it crashed into Sulewski’s life. After going through a fairly standard audition process, she went to breakfast one morning when she received a call from “flaming gun” Morosini, she recalls. “’Claudia, are you free to start next week?” I was like, ‘I’m so sorry, who is this?’ He was like, ‘James, come from I love my dad. ‘ I was so shocked I asked if it was another role.” At 10 a.m. the next morning, she left for Syracuse, New York, to begin filming.
In the film, Sulewski actually plays two characters: the real-life Becca, who works at a diner and meets Oswalt’s Chuck when he comes over for coffee one day, and the catfish Becca, who looks like Becca is real but is saying all the words Chuck is typing to his son, Franklin (Morosini), via Facebook or text. The whole movie runs smoothly – and the results can easily turn out to be trouble – but instead, the cast keeps the movie feeling playful and the odds high. Because Becca only materializes whenever Franklin is using his phone, Sulewski appears to appear throughout the scenes, appearing in a grocery store freezer or on a rooftop. “I had so much fun imagining this conscious being that suddenly appeared out of nowhere because of Franklin,” she said. “I actually lean towards that when I think about Becca’s physicality and facial expressions in fantasy. I wanted her to feel light on her toes… as if she barely knew about anything bad in the world.” She also wanted the difference between the imaginary Becca and the real Becca to be clear and obvious. I told Sulewski that it was interesting to watch her play a girl who is, in many ways, bigger than life – the same way she tells so many fans who only know her through the internet. “There’s so much about Becca in my imagination that reminds me of pieces of myself on YouTube,” she said. “I think it could just be the perception of being seen.”
“I have to give up my control and power to all others. It’s something that’s still new to me.”
That’s a boon to draw from, although, logistically, being in a movie is almost the exact opposite of shooting YouTube content. For her own videos, Sulewski is in charge of every aspect of the production, from the lighting to the direction to the music that will play in the background. On a project like I love my dadshe has to let go. “For that reason, acting is fun,” she said. “I have to give up my control and power to all others. It’s something that’s still new to me.” (She recalls a moment when she first started acting, and she moved a piece of tape on set instead of waiting for the crew. She was briefly told: thank you, but no worries; that’s not your job.) But that doesn’t mean she left her creative tendencies behind. “One of the most interesting parts about the process I love my dad It’s James and I’ll talk about the shots all the time. There are some scenes in the movie that I have suggested or might think, what if my foot just appeared in the shot? I should walk on the counter. It’s a pleasure to feel heard and seen with those little ideas… Bless James’ heart for entertaining all. “
This is probably the biggest difference between Sulewski and Becca, aside from the whole fishing incident. While Sulewski is, to a lot of her audience, a solid 2-D character that exists within the confines of their screens, she remains firmly in the driver’s seat, deciding how and what. she presents to the world. And these days, that is changing. In Her latest YouTube video, posted on July 15, she sat down to tell her audience that she was yearning for a change. “There are so many things that I can’t say, even just things going on in my personal life that I want to protect and keep private. I felt the wave of just wanting to be alone,” she told the camera, her voice beginning to crack.
She doesn’t say this in the video, but it’s worth noting that her personal life now includes hugely popular musicians and actors, perhaps limiting what she can comfortably share. share online. But she doesn’t shy away from talking about Eilish and O’Connell or what it feels like to have a front seat to their massive success. “Finneas and Billie are the two hardest working people I have ever met,” she told me. “The creative confidence of those two, it’s a lesson learned, just got to witness it.” O’Connell has a recording studio at their home in LA, where Sulewski also has hers, so the two are constantly motivating each other. “The other day, he said, ‘Claudia, you talked about writing this one script idea. What will you do tomorrow?’ I’m like, my day is pretty clear. He was like, ‘Well, let’s try to take a page down.’ The valve is multi-active. Aside from who they are and what they do, even just from a relationship [or] best friend perspective, it’s fun to be surrounded by people you really admire. “
As for what exactly O’Connell has encouraged her to do, Sulewski can’t say much. She revealed that she’s been hard at work writing her own projects and self-funding a completely separate project – and that she still hopes to be in front and behind the camera. “I have never been proud of anything else in my life,” she said of I love my dad. “I feel very playful. It’s very weird. “
“I hope that my viewers will enjoy it,” added Sulewski, tying her two worlds together. “They are used to seeing me on the computer screen, and this is completely different. Not me. It’s a character. So I’m a bit curious to see how that goes. “
Madison is a writer/senior editor at ELLE.com, covering news, politics, and culture. When she’s not on the Internet, you’ll most likely find her napping or eating banana bread.