Emma Chamberlain was the icon, trendsetter and “it” girl around whose lifestyle I shamelessly modeled my own back in 2017. Trademarking yellow sunglasses and bringing originality and honesty to the YouTube landscape that had thus far been lacking, she hit one million subscribers only 10 months after uploading her first video and continued to gain support exponentially from there. When I started high school, all the girls knew who she was; and it wasn’t just a familiarity with her content that plagued us, it was an outward reciprocation of Emma’s style and identity. We wore ripped jeans and checkered vans, vlogged our weekends for fun, became vocally critical of the public education system, and showed up each day with a coffee in hand. Life was fun, our problems were minuscule, and our biggest concerns revolved around which photos to post on Instagram. But it was very much a phase.
Slowly but surely, I stopped keeping up with Emma.
When you decide to leave school to pursue social media (and have the resources to do so without worry), you’ll receive some backlash. Like many people, I felt a little bit of resentment toward Emma when she moved into her own apartment, started hanging out with big creators in L.A., and began indulging in luxuries that the average American could never afford. Maybe it was my inflated ego, but in no way did I feel happy for this girl; actually, I felt jealous and angry that I couldn’t resonate with her content in the same way that I could only a year prior. She stopped being relatable, so I stopped watching.
Emma really didn’t cross my mind until I saw that she was partnering with Ramble a couple of years later to release a podcast: “Stupid Genius.” The vision for this project was to prompt Emma with a puzzling question like, “why do we dream?” and have her give her take on the matter. Hoping that this would give me a chance to develop a new appreciation for her content, I listened to a couple of episodes but couldn’t finish the whole podcast. I thought the material was limited and somewhat annoying, and maybe Emma wasn’t entirely in love with this production either – “Stupid Genius” was canceled in February 2020 and re-branded later that month as “Anything Goes.”
Admittedly, I did not give “Anything Goes” a shot until the summer of 2021 after I heard an audio clip on TikTok. The excerpt struck me as notably reflective and showcased a maturity that I’d never identified in Emma’s previous work. It was from her episode “success kills creativity” and in it, she says, “I think that trying to work through it can do more harm than good. But I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what the ‘right’ way to handle it is. Maybe there is no ‘right’ way.” It was heartening to hear her just talk through frustrations and revelations and uncertainties.
I ended up listening to the entire episode and was moved by the unpolished yet beautifully honest thoughts and sentiments spread throughout the recording. I came to learn that her podcast as a whole courageously touched on subjects like mental health, loneliness, identity and spirituality. The more I listened, the more comfort I felt in knowing that she, too, (though in a Los Angeles mansion and not a middle-class suburban home) was trying her best to become an adult amidst the struggles of introversion, anxiety, fading friendships and a full-fledged pandemic. For me, each episode was something like a therapy session or a FaceTime with a friend, but I found that a lot of people did not share my newfound fondness for Emma and “Anything Goes.”
A lot of users on TikTok and Twitter mentioned that they felt the podcast is sometimes classist in the way that much of the advice Emma relays is only applicable to people who have a lot of money and free time. Some even claimed that Emma was — for lack of a better word— “blinded” by her privilege because she has the resources to take spontaneous day trips, lay in bed all day, or pursue any other activity that will serve her at any given moment. Most people don’t have that kind of freedom.
While these are valid claims, I think that Emma succeeds at frequently transcending socioeconomic barriers and not letting her status be the focal point of her content. She knows she’s well-off — that’s no secret — but is able to bring virtually any subject to light in a universally relatable way.
If you’re thinking about giving this podcast a try, here are my favorite episodes to get you started:
If you’re struggling to identify what your purpose in life is or struggling to work through feelings regarding a “purpose” in general: “existential crisis.”
If you’re feeling like you’re “missing out” on the social scene or wondering how to make the most of your time alone: “alone but not lonely.”
If you’ve been dealing with feelings of apprehension or if you’re an overthinker (like me): “regaining perspective.”
If you’re struggling to find balance in your life or feeling like a lot of things no longer serve you: “growing HURTS.”