Just chatting by phone with the polite and somewhat soft-spoken Kingsley Russell, a 19-year-old University of Missouri freshman, you’d scarcely believe he’s the same fiery YouTube personality behind such vitriolic video clips as “Things I Hate,” which has racked up nearly 2 million views in less than a month. Dealing with homophobic Internet haters of his own, he’s certainly got plenty to bitch about, but as he explains in his very first interview, he’s much more likely to make you a sandwich than spit in your face.
The Advocate: What are you studying at Mizzou, and what do you want to do after you graduate?
Kingsley Russell: I’m studying communications. I want to be on the radio or a television commentator — you know those countdown shows with people talking about celebrity events or top movie moments or whatever? I wouldn’t want an actual show by myself, but I like how Chelsea Handler sort of started out as a comedic commentator on E!
Are you just a student or do you also have a job?
I have a part-time job at Subway. I liked it at one point, but it’s right on campus and people are starting to recognize me, so it’s a little bit awkward.
So the public recognition has already advanced from exciting to annoying?
Yes, it has. [Laughs] That’s why I don’t think I could ever be a legit celebrity. One guy asked me for an autograph for this girl he liked, and one time me and my friend Andrew were walking and these girls screamed from across the street, “Kingsley, we love your videos!” It’s weird for me to respond because I’m not used to it, but I’ll always ask their name and thank them for watching. I just don’t know how to handle it yet.
It’s hard to imagine the guy from “It’s Kingsley Bitch!” having the patience to deal with people asking for extra toppings on their Italian BMT.
I have a professional attitude. In my videos I’m a little bit extra, but I’m basically nice, for the most part. The person you see in my videos is the person that’s in my head. I can’t usually say what I want to in real life when something’s actually happening, so I get on YouTube and say it later. If I acted like that in real life, I’d probably be murdered by now.
You record most of your videos in your dorm room. Does your roommate hate you?
He doesn’t even know. [Laughs] He’s a foreign exchange student from Singapore, so he’s kind of oblivious. But when he’s around, I’ll go to one of my friends’ rooms, which is why you can see, like, three different rooms on my channel.
Is your room the one with the Jonas Brothers posters?
sir. When I first started on YouTube in July 2009 — before a lot of my
early videos got deleted — my very first video was about the day the
Jonas Brothers came to St. Louis. I tried to get to Applebee’s with some
friends, but there were all these Jonas Brothers fans in the parking
lot, making posters and listening to their music, so I went off on that.
My first subscribers were a bunch of Jonas Brothers fans, so that’s how
I got started. I do enjoy them — well, I enjoy Nick anyway, because the
other ones are just there — but I got the posters one day as an inside
joke for the people who’ve watched me from the beginning.
Did you think that first video would catch on?
I had no idea. I went to sleep and there were 200 views, and when I woke up there were 2,000, which was a big deal back then. I was very happy.
What was the moment you realized you were onto something big?
In September, after Kanye West stormed the stage at the VMAs, I made a video about that. That was my first video that had over 100,000 views, and YouTube featured me in their little “People & Blogs” section, so that was the first time I got really excited. Recently, of course, Ashton Kutcher tweeting my videos was a really big deal for me. He tweeted “Wild Animals in Spring” and “Birds.” I woke up on Easter Sunday, got on Facebook, and some of my friends had written on my wall that Ashton had tweeted my videos. And everyone on Twitter was like, [email protected] tweeted you!” I was freaking out the whole day. I wrote him and pretty much said that it meant a lot coming from one of the most hilarious people in the galaxy.
Did he write back?
No. [Laughs] But I wasn’t expecting him to.
“Things I Hate” is your most popular video yet. Why do you think it became such a breakout hit?
A lot of people can relate to some of the things I’m talking about, like the skinny jeans and stuff, but then other things, like birds, are just so unexpected and ridiculous. I don’t know why it took off like it did, but everyone has pet peeves, so maybe they like seeing someone getting them off their chest.
Do you now get people coming up to you to tell you what else they hate?
Oh, yes. I guess that’s the easiest way to start a conversation with me.
So you’re basically starting friendships based on hatred and bitterness.
Exactly. I met this one girl, and after we talked for about three minutes, she said, “I’m so surprised. I thought you were going to be so mean to me.” I was like, “No, I just yell for three minutes a couple days a week.”
Some might say that bitching and complaining, even for just a few minutes a week, is unhealthy and nonproductive.
I think it’s worse to keep your feelings bottled up inside and pretend everything’s happy when it isn’t. People have different ways of dealing with things, and my YouTube videos are like therapy for me.
I didn’t have
YouTube when I was your age. What would you do if you didn’t have that
as an outlet?
I don’t even know. I’d probably just yell at
friends or punch pillows. Maybe I’d be a much colder person.
you yell at people on the street, you’re a crazy homeless person. When
you do it on YouTube, you’re an Internet sensation. It’s crazy.
You address some negative feedback you’ve been getting in your recent
video, “Hey YouTube Haters.” People are calling you “fag” and other
Yep. It’s only on YouTube, though. I haven’t
encountered comments like that in real life. Some people are just
vicious. You can never tell if they’re serious or just trying to press
your buttons, but I decided I’d respond to them all at once and get it over
with. I told myself that I wasn’t going to address it again after that
video because I like to be positive, and I know that there are more
people who do enjoy what I’m doing than those who don’t.
you prepared for that kind of negative response?
In a way. When I
told my mom I was doing these videos, she said that there were going to
be people like that, but I didn’t know what the specific responses
would be because I’d never dealt with major racial issues or teasing
like that in my life. It was weird for me.
Do you think those
comments stem from ignorance or jealousy?
Both. There are other
people on YouTube who wish they had a lot of views and probably say
things like that to discourage other people, but the bulk of it is just
Do those comments ever get to you?
feelings get hurt occasionally, but I’m more the type of person to get
hurt in real life. A bunch of strangers watching me and judging doesn’t
really get to me. I’m much more sensitive in real-life situations.
Have you always been comfortable with your sexuality?
The first person I talked to about that was my friend Erin, who’s actually bisexual, during my sophomore year of high school in St. Louis. That was the first year I was introduced to people who were free with themselves. Erin was very active in our LGBT club and going to pride parades, so I was very comfortable getting to know her, and she helped me discover myself. She was a big part of me stepping out of my box. I’ve never flat-out said, “I’m gay” or “I’m bi,” but one day I was talking to my mom and said, “I like girls, but I like guys too.”
She was cool about it?
She just always warned me to be careful. She’s actually a lesbian and has been in a relationship with a woman for nearly 15 years, so I was raised by a lesbian couple. I believe my mom always knew she was a lesbian, but she wanted kids, so she had me with my dad. Now she’s free and the best mom ever.
What’s the gay scene like in Columbia, Mo.?
The only gay club here is called the Soco Club. I haven’t been to it yet, but I have to because this guy I work with is a drag queen who does a show there. I watch RuPaul’s Drag Race and think they’re so brave. I’ve put on a wig and danced around to Britney Spears, but I could never be totally comfortable doing drag, so I really admire them for doing that. I’m not really involved in the gay community because I don’t have a lot of gay friends, but it’s definitely something I want to experience.
Have you gotten any dates out of your videos?
friend requests on Facebook from people who want to hang out, but it’s
weird to me — like the people from high school I haven’t talked to in a
year who are now like, “I miss you!”
Do you want a
I have no idea. I like talking to people, but I’m
not a big commitment person.
If I only knew you from your
videos, I’d probably be too intimidated to approach you. Your videos
make you seem a little high-maintenance.
I’m not at all! I mean,
right now I’m just sitting around in a T-shirt and shorts, checking
Twitter, talking to you. I don’t want people to think I’m being fake in
my videos, but I am trying to entertain people. I really don’t walk
around being dramatic and yelling at people.
As someone who
was still in high school a year ago, what do you make of these gay kids
in the news lately who aren't allowed to take their boyfriends or
girlfriends to prom?
Same-sex couples were allowed to go to prom
at my school. Everyone should be able to go with whoever they want to go
with, and I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t be allowed to go with
someone else they love or care about. I don’t understand the
limitations put on homosexual or bisexual people, but luckily I’ve never
experienced something like that. My school even had an LGBT club with
special events for those students, and aside from a couple ignorant
people, my school was accepting of diversity.
Did you go to
I did, but I went with my friend Grace. It was cool — the
dancing, the loudness, crowning of the king and queen — so I enjoyed
OK, so what’s your beef with Ke$ha?
don’t like her. I’m a Britney fanatic, so when she said those negative
things about Britney recently, the whole Spears community got upset, and
I wasn’t happy at all. I got “It’s Kingsley Bitch” from Britney,
Would Britney be your dream celebrity to meet?
want to meet Britney, but I think I’d have a heart attack, fall over,
and die. There’s just something about her. I went to her Circus tour,
and there was one point when she was performing “Radar” where she came
over to our side of the stage, and my mouth just dropped. I want to
protect her, because I know she’s going through so much, so she needs
someone to let go and have fun with.
Who would be your dream
celebrity to date? Nick Jonas?
No, not yet. He’s only 17. [Laughs]
Do you know Evan Ross? He’s Diana Ross’s son. He’s also Hilary Duff’s
love interest in Greta, which is a wonderful movie. He’s
beautiful. If I dated him, my life would be complete.