This is Team 10, bitch, who the hell are you? a crowd of 9-year-olds chanted to passersby at 10:30 a.m. Friday morning in New York.
The tweens, along with their parents and hundreds of their peers, had swarmed West 37th Street and waited for hours in the sub-freezing temps to catch a glimpse of their idol, Jake Paul, at his limited edition pop-up shop.
Jake Paul is a 20-year-old former Disney Channel star and social media influencer with more than 30 million followers across social media. He is arguably the most iconic YouTuber working today and he, along with his squad of fellow creators known as Team 10, has hijacked YouTube and teen cultureinspiring legions of dedicated followers called Jake Paulers. These Paulers, mostly children aged 8 to 15, will stop at nothing to serve the whims of their master.
In this case, that meant traveling from as far as California, Chicago, and London to stand in line for hours in the freezing cold and spend, in some cases, upwards of $1,000 at his pop-up shop.
I would do anything to meet Jake, said one 10-year-old, who told The Daily Beast that she cried for days before her parents agreed to drive her into the city from New Jersey.
Hes always positive, hes funny. He just has a great personality and with all the hate to him, he can just be strong and its really good. He is absolutely my role model, said Alex, a 12-year-old.
If I could say one thing to Jake, it would be, mmmmmm, call me! said one pre-teen as her friends giggled. Another group of girls who had barely entered middle school made comments about the sexual acts they wanted to perform with the young star.
But while many young girls in the crowd said they wanted to date Jake, just as many kids said they want to be him.
Paul is such an icon to his tween fans that they go through great effort to emulate his every move. They dress like him, speak like him, shout the lyrics to his hit song Its Everyday Bro, and many showed up wearing his signature yellars (yellow-tinted sunglasses).
In a world where 75 percent of kids between the ages of 6 and 18 aspire to become YouTubers or vloggers, Jake Paul is the embodiment of success.
The fact that he vlogs every day of his life and lives in a mansion in L.A., its like a dream come true, said Dalton, aged 10.
I started vlogging because of Jake Paul, said Caden, a 12-year-old from Westchester who has formed his own vlog crew with a 9-year-old sidekick and some friends known as Team Kabbage.
Hes inspiring us to be YouTubers, said one 10-year-old boy waiting in line with his friend. Were actually making a YouTube channel, his friend added, explaining that theyve already begun to assemble their own vlog crew. Its gonna be called KJEC bros.
Kids sport the merch of their favorite YouTube stars the way others might wear jerseys emblazoned with the name of their favorite sports team, and they root for Paul and his squad with the same level of veracity.
I have Jake Pauler to my Instagram bio, said one young girl. She has a Twitter account, she continued, gesturing to her friend. The friend said she started the Twitter account, which features Jake Pauls face as the avatar, a year ago and uses it to share news and defend Jake on social media.
Teens said they like to wear Pauls merch because it feels like theyre in a club and other Jake Paulers get jealous when they see someone with a particular limited edition sweatshirt, for instance.
As tweens lined up outside the store early Friday morning, they unzipped their jackets to compare merch. Two young boys refused to wear jackets despite the cold because they wanted to show off their pink and blue cotton candy Jake Paul sweatshirts. Their mother fruitlessly tried to drape a coat over ones shoulder while he rolled his eyes.
As parents entered the pop-up shop most said they were prepared to spend hundreds of dollars. This is my sons Christmas present, one mom said. Others said their children had performed chores or saved up years of birthday money to be able to purchase items from Pauls line.
I have $300, said one young girl. Its more money than Ive ever had in my life Im going to spend it all today.
Though Paul makes the majority of his millions through brand deals, partnership, and monetizing his vlog content, in recent years he has become the undeniable Merch King of YouTube.
In close partnership with e-commerce platform Fanjoy, Paul designs, produces, and promotes hundreds of rotating items ranging from a black nylon vlogger backpack to signature iPhone cases to novelty T-shirts.
By the time the doors opened on the first day, the line to enter the pop-up shop snaked around the block, and the energy on the street was tense. Several parents hadnt realized the first day of the event was ticketed and were terrified that theyd be forced to return home empty-handed.
Pauls pop-up store in Los Angeles had been forced to relocate before ultimately being shut down due to out-of-control crowds just a few weeks prior.
If he doesnt show and I have to take my daughter home crying, Ill never forgive him for this, one mom said.
But Paul arrived on Friday and spent the entire weekend shuffling in and out of the crowd signing sweatshirts, iPhone cases, and taking selfies.
Everywhere he went, Paul was surrounded by sobbing young girls and hysterical fans. A 5-year-old shouted I love you Jake! at the top of his lungs over and over until he lost his voice.
For those lucky enough to make it inside the shop, Paul and other Team 10 members watched over the balcony as kids and their parents doled out cash for products and took endless selfies with a giant cartoon of his likeness.
Songs off Pauls newly released Christmas album blared over the loudspeaker.
One song called Fanjoy to the World played on loop throughout the day encouraging kids through the chorus to, buy that merch, buy that merch. In the song Paul literally sings out the full URL to his online merch store.
Several kids FaceTimed other friends from the store to share in the experience.
I could die right here now, one girl said in front of her mom.
Pauls millions of fans love him so blindly and unconditionally that its easy to laugh atteen fandom always seems irrational to adults. But Paul in particular seems to inspire a certain level of disdain.
In the minds of his haters and many Olds, Paul is the embodiment of everything thats wrong with social media and youth culture today.
To them, hes a young, white, privileged male who bucks authority and spends his days in a $7 million house where he pranks (some would say bullies) his friends and innocent people to rack up views on his YouTube channel. Paul has also been called arrogant by those who have spent time around him.
But you dont reach Pauls level of fame or success by being modest, and Paul, like many young stars, has been forced to learn from his mistakes under the spotlight. And he recognizes that there have been times where hes taken his pranks too far.
I definitely toyed on the line of what is too far with the prank and I think Ive really learned my lesson there, Paul said. Moving forward its just about pulling it back a little bit. I still do want to be myself… and I dont want to lose that authenticity, but at the same time I do know now that theres a line.
Overall, I do think he sets a good example, said one mom. I dont hear him cursing or doing anything illegal. I wish he went to college.
Im fine with it, said a dad who had driven four kids in from New Jersey. I dont really get it, but my parents never understood what I liked back in the day.
Would it be nice if most teens looked up to a boring, modest, rule-following, straight-A student who wants to go to Harvard and never picks a fight? Sure, but a kid like that wouldnt get 10 followers on YouTube.
When she gets home from school she just sits there and watches him for hours, said Millie Richards of her 10-year-old daughter Chloe. I do think hes a good influence. He does a lot. I think hes funny, hes got a great personality.
Look, its nuts, I dont understand it, said Joe, a father from Long Island who had brought his two daughters, aged 11 and 8, to see Paul. The vloggers, online, I dont know what theyre doing but they follow them on their computers night and day, he said referring to his girls.
He makes my daughter happy and thats all I care about, said one dad.
The online snark and backlash to Paul is beginning to feel stale as he continues to succeed and legitimize himself in the business world.
While clueless millennials pretend to not know who he is on Twitter, Paul is busy building a multimillion-dollar empire, speaking at places like Google and Instagram, hobnobbing with A-list celebs, and transforming what it means to be a social media influencer today.
In the past few years alone Paul has raised a $10 million VC fund called TGZ capital with friend and fellow social media influencer Cameron Dallas, formed his own talent and creative management agency called TeamDom, founded an online education platform Edfluence that offers courses on how to become an influencer, and maintains a punishing work schedule that includes producing content for his vlog every day.
When asked how he plans to reach his dream of becoming the first social media billionaire, Paul said hes inspired by people like Dr. Dre for the way theyve successfully launched consumer products.
I think its about being really smart about hitting the right consumer product spaces at the right time. Paul said. I think its going to take really good timing on the things that were dropping and compounding the money Im making into investments in other things, not social media but things like real estate.
Paul also makes an effort to help those in need, yet his charity work is frequently maligned or goes unnoticed by the mainstream press, something that clearly frustrates the young star. In a diss track titled That Aint On the News which he released over the summer Paul raps:
Pressure hard, they all watching now
Make a mistake, world on me now
It aint easy, just a kid from a small town
To every news publication tryna take me down
Im sorry for my actions, man, Im asking for forgiveness, man
Im asking you to witness my growth in this business
My growth as kid, shit I know you cant admit it
His New York pop-up shop itself doubled as a toy drive for the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association, and its Pauls charity work that many young fans said was a reason why they admired him.
Chloe, a 10-year-old girl who missed school to stand outside and wait for Paul said, Im a Jake Pauler because hes nice and he does a lot for other people. In one of his videos, he gave food to the poor. He gives a lot to charity, for example the water incident, she said referring to the Houston flood, he made a charity and raised a lot of money, now hes raising money for the fires in California.
I think hes more than just drama, said Kara, a 17-year-old. He gives back to everything, like today he asked people to bring toys for the toy drives. He takes money out of his own pocket to sell merch to give money for the forest fires.
As the pop-up shop wound down, parents and kids who waited for hours in the snow said they ultimately had no regrets.
Im shaking. Im so happy, one girl said with her friend as they exited the store on Saturday night. Were so happy.
I would tell Jake, if I could tell him something, said her friend, to just keep doing what hes doing, hes making millions of people happy every day.
Jake is just so inspirational, said Regan, age 14. Hes helped me with anxiety. When I have anxiety or am upset I just feel so down in the dumps and mad and sad, but then I watch his videos and he just puts a smile on my face immediately with his pranks and when he does stupid things.
Hes amazing. Hes so funny, added her friend Isabella, age 13. He makes me happy and I laugh every day because of him. I wish people understood that.