Your Favorite Internet Cousin
By: Monica Valenzuela
Photography and Makeup by: Jackson Montgomery Schwartz
Evelyn from the Internets hasn’t always been Evelyn from the Internets. In the very dawn of You Tube Evelyn’s username was something a little different: Spicyeve. The name Spicyeve originated from her AOL instant messenger handle and then found its’ way to her newly-acquired You Tube account. Spicyeve was a fun juvenile nickname, but it didn’t really convey the type of personality that Evelyn wanted to put out to the world. “During that time on You Tube people were using their government names and I didn’t want the CIA coming for me, so I wanted to change it up to something pretty simple. I just chose Evelyn from the Internets because thats exactly what I was doing. I was being myself on the Internet.”
If you don’t know who Evelyn from the Internets is, then you probably don’t like funny people or you didn’t see Beyoncé live in concert in 2016. Just a quick refresher, 2016 was a big year for Beyoncé. Her much awaited album Lemonade dropped at the end of April and she had announced her iconic Formation World Tour. Lemonade was nothing short of perfect, and the only thing greater than the album itself was people reacting to it. Type into the You Tube search bar “lemonade album review” and you’ll find 1) a pretentious white man, 2) the biggest Beyoncé stans I’ve ever seen, and 3) Evelyn. Evelyn’s review of Lemonade is the only review of an album you’ll ever need because it’s the most accurate. She starts with “Beyoncé… what are you going to say at my funeral now that you have killed me”, and what follows in the rest of the video is comparison after comparison, metaphor after metaphor of the album Lemonade and the culmination of everything great and true in black culture. “Beyoncé was giving me waiting-to-exhale meets their-eyes-were-watching-god.”, “She was giving me Iyanla-fix my-life, but with better boobs, better advice, and ACTUALLY fixing lives”, Then there is my personal favorite, “She called James Blake out of whatever forest in Narnia he resides in to give you British Aaron Neville teas.” The video is beyond hilarious but seems to be fitting in the best way possible. Lemonade was a whole movement and everyone, including Evelyn, was responding to it.
On May 8, 2016, Evelyn was at her parents’ house in Fort Worth, Texas. She was visiting for Mother’s Day when she got a notification from her friend who was attending a Beyoncé concert. After a few seconds she starts to realize what she was actually seeing, her Lemonade video review was being shown on the giant screen at the Formation tour. The audio of the video is echoing in a huge stadium while people are clapping and screaming at her descriptions of the album. Even though it’s just a small clip it projects so much power. The clip comes to an end, and across Evelyn’s face the words “stay mad” are shown in a bold font. As soon as it registers, Evelyn becomes overwhelmed and runs out of her parent’s house screaming with joy and runs down the street.
With over 160,000 subscribers on You Tube and over 12 million views on her channel alone, it’s safe to say that her Internet cousins are loyal to her brand. Evelyn’s channel is best described as authentic black girl magic. Evelyn’s personality is warm and inviting. Her ability to be naturally funny makes her videos bingeable. She talks about the human experience from her point of view. Being the first generation of Kenyan parents in America, growing up in the South, and learning to navigate life as a creative in 2018 seems like an oddly specific experience, but she wouldn’t want it any other way. She is doing something that most modern content creators steer away from, she has gained a following just by being herself. Having Beyoncé as a viewer is just the cherry on top of it all.
I met with Evelyn on a Saturday afternoon at a local coffee shop in North Austin. It was a surprisingly cool day, something we are not used to in late September. It was the official first day of fall, and it felt comfortable enough to sit on the patio for a chat while drinking soy chai tea lattes. I was really excited to meet with Evelyn for many reasons. I had been following her for sometime on social media and she had been my number one option for our cover story. She had been traveling for some time and had recently gotten back from New York.
MONICA: What were you up to in New York?
EVELYN: I was there for Texture on the Runway. In the past I’ve usually gone with my previous job but this time around I was just invited as a content creator, so it was nice to kind of sit back and enjoy the event without having to work the whole time.
M: What is Texture on the Runway, is it a part of New York Fashion Week?
E: It runs during New York Fashion Week. Its main focus is hair and how it relates to fashion. It’s interesting to see because there are some insane hairstyles that I’m not sure how they manage to do. It’s very impressive.
M: You’ve been traveling on and off this whole year. What other places have you gone to?
E: Earlier this year I visited Kenya for about a month. Then I went to Nigeria to join my friend in this social media conference. I went to Atlanta for a little fun trip, I went to see Desus and Mero who are my little dose of problematic. Another great trip was Cleveland, Ohio, where I got to see Beyoncé perform OTRII. The best part was that Parkwood Entertainment flew me out and, it was right before my birthday so it was kind of amazing.
M: What! That’s crazy, did you party with Beyoncé and then have to sign an NDA?
E: Naw. Or maybe I did and I just can’t tell you about it.
M: I respect that. Is it nice being back home? Are you from Austin originally?
E: No, I grew up in Louisiana. Then moved to Ft. Worth/Dallas area when I was twelve. Then made my way to Austin when I started college at UT in 2008.
M: What did you originally go to school for?
E: I actually pursued journalism. I wanted to be the next Anthony Bourdain or Lisa Ling. I like writing. But I guessed if I told my parents I wanted to go to school for journalism then they would be less disappointed instead of me saying I want to get a degree in writing. I probably just should’ve done RTF, because I knew very early on I wanted to create shows, videos, or write for both.
M: So how did you get into making videos for You Tube? And when did you start?
E: I started early on like 2008-2009. Well, I just started using it to make friends and just put my thoughts out there. I always made videos in some way. Even before You Tube, my brother and I would make our own videos that we would burn onto DVDs. I remember us doing a fake cooking show, I would prop up the camera on a cabinet and pretend we were live and there was a studio audience. It’s definitely embarrassing now that I can think back but I’ve always enjoyed creating videos. You Tube was just a natural transition.
M: When you started You Tube back in 2008-2009, did you ever think you would still be doing it now, ten years later?
E: In some way, yes. I knew I would still be making videos in some capacity, I never thought I would be creating them this frequently.
M: In one of your most recent videos, “3 ways to get your creative juices flowing”, you mention that the reason certain TV shows are so popular is because they create a conversation worth discussing and allow our imagination to run wild. What are some TV shows that you are watching right now that are inspiring you to allow the creative juices to flow?
E: I just started the new season of BoJack Horseman, and I love it. They have such great stories and amazing characters. The thought that the writers put into each episode is inspiring and allows me to think outside the box. Another good show is Insecure. Loving the new season for sure. What I love most about Insecure is that you get really invested into certain characters that you end up becoming obsessed with them, in a way. My friends and I will have a watch party and then discuss the episode afterwards and some of us will die for our character if we have to.
M: What team are you on for this season? Team Issa or team Lawrence?
E: I’m team Everyone Needs a Therapist because they are making all the wrong decisions. Also, the new guy from Houston. He is very nice to look at.
M: Haha, I agree I’m a huge fan of Nanceford.
M: It seems like you’ve done a lot of amazing things this year. It’s crazy to think that we are entering the last quarter of 2018, so how can you sum up 2018 so far?
E: 2018 has been the year of doing things I never thought I’d do before. Saying yes more and sticking to choices I have made like quitting my job and taking what I like to call my sabbatical year.
M: Choosing to leave a job is tough no matter which way you look at it. How did you get to that conclusion of finally leaving?
E: Well I officially left my job the end of December, right around the holidays. Giving my boss my two weeks’ notice was probably not the best Christmas gift. According to a timeline in my head, I knew around August 2017 I wanted to leave my job but, according to my diary at home, I wanted to quit my job somewhere in 2016. I loved my job and I enjoyed creating videos and working in the department I was in. But I knew early on that I was climbing the ladder really quickly, and that eventually the only other job that I would apply for would be my bosses job, and I didn’t want that. So once I got all the way to the top, I knew I was ready for something more.
M: What was it like to make that transition from working full time to being funemployed?
E: I’m not going to lie, it was pretty tough. All of January, I was in Kenya visiting my family and just taking a break from it all. But I’m inherently the type of person who wants to do 17,000 things and think I’m going to do them all. I’m always about the next move and how I’m going to do it. I had it in my head for some reason that I was gonna come back home and start growing basil in my backyard. I don’t know why. I obviously never did that. To be very honest it took me a long time to unlearn all the things that working in a corporate environment teaches you. I had to teach myself that work isn’t tied to productivity. It wasn’t until late spring that I started realizing that.
M: I like that, “work isn’t always tied to productivity”. What are some other things that you’ve learned along the way since leaving your job last year?
E: I’ve discovered the importance of showing up. I don’t doubt myself when someone wants me to be a part of something. I had this realization when talking to a friend of mine. A few years back, I had an offer to write for a TV show, and at that time I remember thinking, “I dont write for TV, why would they ask me to do this?” I ended up turning it down. But as I was telling this story to a friend of mine, they just said, “So you didn’t believe them? You thought they lied to you? Why would you think they would lie to you?” and then my brain exploded. Haha, it never crossed my mind that people would be interested in things outside of my channel, that I can have opportunities outside of what I’m currently doing. I recently went to an event for PBS, and everyone there was a PBS affiliate. I was the only one not a part of PBS, but in that I had an advantage. I ended up learning a lot about broadcasting and journalism, and just tons information I would’ve never known unless I would’ve been invited. I think that every decision I make is important for myself and it doesn’t hurt to yes. Ultimately, a big thing I’ve learned this year is that being an adult is just finding out what works for you and what doesn’t.
M: That’s a great realization to have and I feel like I need to realize that, too. It seems like discovering that has helped you tons in your career. I see you everywhere! You seem to get all of these opportunities because of your content. You’re very relatable and family-friendly, did you mean to go that direction? Did you have any set intentions for your content?
E: The only intention I had was to not curse. Being family-friendly is just a bonus. It’s also great for advertisers. I personally think cursing or being profane isn’t funny. I feel like true comedy exists without all that. I feel like when you curse, it’s because you don’t have anything funny to say. And as for being relatable, I hope that I am because most of my content is me seeing things out in the world and translating them into my perspective. I think being specific is also important. I don’t think anyone benefits from casting a wide net in comedy. Thats how you get unfunny Instragram comedians.
M: RIGHT! Haha I want to through away my phone when I see bad comedy on Instagram.
E: Girl, don’t we all.
M: I love talking about your work. You seem to be busy most of the time. But are there times when you just want to log off and get away? How do you unwind and recharge?
E: I think it is important to say that I’m Evelyn from the Internets, not Evelyn always on the Internet, haha. I love to log off. I try and do it as often as I can. And when I do, I end up cooking. I love cooking. Cooking is my favorite recharger. Also, now that I’m funemployed cooking is my only option. I don’t like to go out too much especially if I don’t have to. When I want to have a good time, it usually is me finding a good concert that I can dance too. Austin doesn’t have the best dance options. It’s like a drink-beer-and-drink-more beer type of city, and I’m not into that. So, finding a good concert or show where I can just let it all out is my idea of a good time.
M: What is the best concert you’ve been to?
E: Wow. Yeah, that’s an embarrassing story. So, I saw James Blake here in Austin, and it was a beautiful experience in real time. I’ve heard of people getting emotional at shows, but I was on an entirely different level. I wasn’t just shedding a tear, I had full on streams-running-down my-face-type-crying. At one point, one of my friends tried to look my way, and I just yelled, “DON’T LOOK AT ME, NOT IN THIS MOMENT.” It was visually powerful. He was this shadow on stage playing the piano— all he had was this one purple light hitting the side of his gorgeous British face. Of course, I couldn’t sing along because I can never understand his words, but it sounded beautiful.
M: Haha! You’ve once called him the British Aaron Neville.
E: Yes, exactly! Like what are you saying! I need subtitles!
M: So, we’ve talked about what you’ve done in 2018 and what you wanted to accomplish this year, so what do you have for the upcoming year?
E: I try not to talk about what I’m doing. I like for it to be a surprise. I enjoy doing that, because sometimes certain projects will come out around the same time, and I end up being everywhere all at once which is nice to see. There is this quote I see all over social media, and I might make it my own If I can’t find the origins of its owner, but it’s “booked and unbothered.” That’s my mood for 2019.
I check my phone and realize that we’ve been talking for a while, and I have a barrage of messages because I’m late to an early dinner. We both decide to end the interview there. Before we leave, Evelyn asks to take a boomerang. She puts her to-do list on her Insta story every day, it helps her be more accountable. I think it’s genius and if I wasn’t so scatter-brained I would probably steal this idea. The boomerang is of us clinking our almost-empty chai teas with full smiles. She puts a check mark next to the words “meeting complete”.
Later that day, I head back home and open up You Tube and do a little research on Evelyn before I start to write. In order to dig further, I decide to see what her audience thinks of her. I go to the treacherous place of the Internet that is You Tube comments. I start to smile, because what I see is surprising. Maybe I’m watching the wrong videos or maybe it finally hit me what type of effect Evelyn seems to have on her viewers. All I see are positive and uplifting comments, each person telling Evelyn how much they appreciate her videos and how it impacts their lives. Evelyn likes to refer to her viewers as her Internet cousins. As I’m going through each comment I start to understand why she calls them that. These comments remind me of playful critiques and real conversations you would have with your family members. Watching her videos kind of feels like home.