Paris Sumpter said she never meant to be a YouTuber, but she now has more than 69,000 subscribers.
Students come up to the fourth-year Japanese student on campus after they recognize her from her YouTube channel, “LeSweetpea.” Sumpter has posted more than 70 videos on topics atypical of many YouTube stars, covering subjects including making money on YouTube and caring for curly hair.
Sumpter first gained a following on Tumblr, where she would frequently post pictures of herself to a follower base of around 10,000 users. She began responding to inquiries on a daily basis from viewers who would ask her how she straightened her naturally curly hair.
Sumpter said she was initially hesitant when a follower asked her to make a video showing her hair straightening process, since she felt unnatural speaking in front of a camera. However, she eventually relented and filmed her first video with her mother’s camera in 2011.
“I ended up filming it as a joke for myself and I was just like, ‘Oh I’ll just film it and we’ll see what happens,’ and I ended up liking it,” she said.
About a year later, she began growing out her hair and wearing it curly, which led to a crop of hair-care videos demonstrating how she kept her natural hair healthy through deep-conditioning and scalp massages. She said the hair-care videos were some of the first videos she came up with on her own, without requests from her subscribers. From there, she began posting makeup and lifestyle videos as well.
After graduating from high school, Sumpter said she began uploading videos once a week and reposting them on social media websites such as Facebook.
In one of her most-viewed videos, Sumpter explains how she makes money from her videos – a topic she says most YouTubers avoid discussing in detail.
“Once I realized that you could make money on YouTube, I was like, ‘Wow, why is no one talking about this?’” she said.
YouTube’s terms of service don’t allow her to reveal how much she makes per click or advertisement, but Sumpter’s video does disclose how she makes money on YouTube and even the specific amount of money she makes per month.
Sumpter explains that as her subscription base grew, she jumped from making two cents per month to $30 per month. She panned over her computer screen to show viewers the exact dollar amounts she received throughout the year.
“No one was really specific when they made their videos, and it kind of bothered me,” she said.
Sumpter also makes informational videos and vlogs about her experience transferring to UCLA. She said her move-in vlog brought in a lot of subscribers from high school students who were interested in applying to college.
Yukina Takamura, an exchange student from Tokyo, started watching Sumpter’s videos about six months ago. Takamura said Sumpter’s vlogs helped familiarize her with the campus and dorm life before coming to study at UCLA.
Takamura said she was excited to see Sumpter walking down Bruin Walk last week on her way to class; she stopped to snap a picture with her.
Sumpter studied abroad this past summer in Japan, vlogging her experiences attending a Japanese university and speaking the language. She filmed her day-to-day activities such as visiting historic parks and riding the metro.
“It was so fun to watch (her) videos because the things that I see as normal (are) so special to her,” Takamura said.
Julia Trees, a fourth-year financial actuarial math student, first met Sumpter last year when she lived across from her in a dorm in De Neve Gardenia. Trees said Sumpter aims to make videos for viewers who want to learn the Japanese language, as well as people who are interested in makeup and fashion.
“I think, in a way, she targets both audiences,” she said.
Sumpter’s mother used to stay in Hawaii for a month each year to visit her grandparents, who lived among a large Japanese population. As a result, Sumpter grew up watching Japanese-made films such as Hayao Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke,” which inspired her to begin learning Japanese in 2013.
Over one year later, she learned enough vocabulary to speak in sentences and decided to film a video encompassing her experience.
“I was pretty hesitant to post it because my channel had nothing to do with Japan at the time,” she said. “But it was a big part of my life and I felt like I didn’t want to be hiding something, especially when it was something I really liked and was really passionate about.”
Sumpter plans to film a video about learning kanji, a Japanese system of writing, per a subscriber request. She said she has always sought to help people with her videos, whether it be with hair care, learning Japanese or transferring to a new school.
“That’s the only reason I made my channel, I didn’t make it for myself,” she said. “I think I’ve always had a YouTube account, but I didn’t start posting videos for me, I just really wanted to help people with stuff that I had already figured out.”