Dr. Sandra Lee is a breakout television star with Dr. Pimple Popper, but anyone who has followed her career on social media could have seen the meteoric rise coming.
The TLC docu-series that shows the dermatologist popping pimples, cysts, and all kinds of other gross skin conditions debuts on Wednesday and already has some good reviews (including one from Entertainment Weekly that highlights the “can’t look away” appeal of the show).
“Like E!’s plastic-surgery-gone-wrong series Botched, Dr. Pimple Popper takes our natural — if not exactly admirable — tendency to gawk at the grotesque and wraps it in a gauzy blanket of human interest,” the review noted.
But Sandra Lee is no overnight success. She has been building her popular YouTube channel that exploded, going from about 500,000 subscribers just a couple of years ago to nearly 4 million today, with her videos being viewed half a billion times.
As Dr. Lee told Forbes in early 2016 (when she had about 700,000 subscribers), she was able to capitalize off a generation that, for some reason, loves to watch giant pimples and cysts being popped.
“I get approached for Dr. Pimple Popper all the time,” she said. “It’s crazy. ‘Popping’ is a phenomenon that has hit younger generations, and that generation is the one that’s out there. I just think the exposure from social media is stratospheric in comparison to your exposure on a TV talk show, it’s like way more. It’s amazing.”
Dr. Sandra Lee found that by monetizing her YouTube channel, she could also go the extra yard for her patient. She explained that insurance doesn’t cover blackhead removal, so most dermatologists simply skip it, even if a patient is in dire need. But Lee started doing the removals for free as long as the patient agreed to let her use the video (while keeping the patient anonymous), and shared the videos with her quickly growing group of followers.
Dr. Sandra Lee said some of her initial Dr. Pimple Popper videos were removed by YouTube for graphic content, but she fought back, arguing that it was a medical procedure and she’s not doing it for shock value.
Dr. Pimple Popper will now make the transition to television, and Dr. Sandra Lee said the show will have a different approach. The biggest difference will be the patients — instead of hiding their faces and concealing their identities, the new show will focus on their stories, so the audience isn’t just watching how she pops their pimples, but why she’s doing it as well.