Felix Kjellberg, who runs the YouTube Channel PewDiePie, is being described as the “King of YouTube” after his channel received approximately four billion hits in 2014 and about seven billion in four years since he launched the channel.
The 25-year-old earned $4 million in 2013 playing computer games in a flat he shares with his girlfriend. Kjellberg creates and posts videos to YouTube which involve filming himself playing various video games while running animated and often funny commentaries on the games. In the last four years, he has accumulated over 2,000 videos.
With 33 million subscribers, PewDiePie is the most popular YouTube channel.
Despite his extraordinary success and immense influence, Kjellberg lives a quiet life in a Brighton seaside apartment he shares with his dogs and girlfriend, Marzia Bisognin, 22, a pretty girl from Vivenza, Italy, he met online in 2011.
She became a subscriber to Kjellberg’s YouTube channel after a friend sent her a clip, saying “Take a look at this moron.” But she soon became an avid fan and exchanged Facebook messages with him at a time he had only 1,500 subscribers. An online romance blossomed, and one day, Kjellberg left his parents in Sweden unannounced to meet Bisognin in Italy.
“If there was something I learned at this point was, if there is something you want, grab it, and otherwise drop it. So I went to Italy. I did not even tell anyone that I was going away. I just left home and left a note to my parents in the kitchen and told them that I could not watch the dog anymore.”
Bisognin is now a YouTube star in her own right, with five million subscribing to her CutiePieMarzia channel.
She has recently expanded her online “vlogging” enterprise into fashion promotion.
Bisognin moved to Sweden with Kjellberg, and later both moved to Italy. They finally moved to an apartment in Brighton in July 2013, partly to avoid fans who discovered their previous address.
“We actually moved, and yes, again. We’re still in the UK after all and I don’t think you bro’s need to know exactly where I live. If I wanted you bro’s to know where I lived, I’d tell you my address.”
Icon magazine visited his Brighton apartment recently and described it as a “Victorian apartment” with a living room “reminiscent of an elaborate cake.”
He prefers a quiet and private life. After granting his first interviews to the Swedish Radio, Icon magazine and the Wall Street Journal, he declined an interview with the Daily Mail, saying he had decided to stop promoting his PewDiePie channel through interviews with the media.
According Icon, he has regularly turned down interview proposals he receives daily from top media organizations. The interview with Icon was his first cover interview.
Icon comments he can afford to ignore interview requests because “[i]n order to ‘sell’ his YouTube-channel he doesn’t need to do interviews – he can speak directly to his own audience.”
“Barack Obama? Beyoncé? One Direction? Not even together do they come close to Felix’s numbers. No daily paper, TV-show or news site in the world can touch his reach.”
Kjellberg studied Industrial Engineering in Sweden at Gothenburg’s Chalmers University of Technology. His parents, Johanna and Ulf, are successful business executives. As a straight A student, he appeared set also for a future in the corporate world. But he said in an interview with the Swedish Radio that he soon realized he was unlike his classmates who talked only about wanting to become CEOs.
So he dropped out of university. But before he dropped out, he had been making videos and attracting some audience. After he filmed himself playing the game Amnesia, some of his subscribers, who were thrilled by the theatrics of his screaming through the horror game, began demanding more videos
“Thinking about it [i.e. the decision to drop out of school] now, it was utterly absurd. To get into Chalmers for industrial economics you need straight A’s, but somehow I was happier selling hot dogs and making my own gaming-videos.”
His videos soon caught the attention of Marker Studios, a company managing over 50,000 YouTube channels that was bought by Disney in 2014.
“What I and other YouTubers do is a very different thing; it’s almost like hanging around and watching your pal play games. My fans care in a different way about what they are watching. Unlike many professionally produced shows, I think I’ve established a much closer contact with my viewers, breaking the wall between the viewer and what’s behind the screen.”
His career has had some moments of controversy. At 25, many of his fans are teenagers and older children as young as 11. However, his commentaries sometimes include swearing with references to drinking and sex. On one occasion, he made a rape joke. But he has since offered apologies for those missteps.
He recently hinted that he could soon retire from uploading videos.
“I can’t be making videos every single day of the year, I’m sorry. I make everything myself and sometimes it takes a lot of time to make a video, so sometimes I have to postpone it. Right now I probably won’t last more than two years. I’m putting so much time and energy into it, [I’m] getting really burned out.”