There’s no one more surprised that Judy Travis is a household name than Judy Travis. While studying at UW, she posted a hair-curling how-to on YouTube (after seeing an amateur makeup tutorial and thinking, If she can do that, I can), and within days viewers begged for more. That was five years ago. Since then her two YouTube channels—It’s Judy Time focuses on beauty tips; It’s Judy’s Life chronicles her daily life with husband, Benji, and daughter, Julianna—have amassed nearly a million subscribers and more than 200 million views. In June she’ll appear at Seattle’s VloggerFair, a first-of-its-kind gathering of the Internet famous and wannabe Internet famous. But don’t call her a star. She’s just the girl next door. To everyone.
I didn’t have any high expectations for this. At all. I was a full-time college student and I worked at a retail store. It was just for fun. But then that first video started getting views, and then I got requests to do more tutorials. It was exciting. I mean, when I got five views I was ecstatic.
There was this trend going around YouTube a couple Octobers ago called Vlogtober, where you would vlog every single day for a month. So we jumped on the bandwagon. And then Vlogtober ended, and people wanted more. I don’t know why. But after the requests, I said, “What the heck? Why not? I mean, I’m living my life anyway, so I’ll record it and edit it. I have nothing to hide.”
In the beginning I was uncomfortable filming myself in public. I’d think, People are looking at me. What are they thinking right now? Or sometimes I’d think they thought I was vain and taking pictures of myself. But I see this as something that’s for me, like a daily diary. And I probably won’t see these people ever again in my life. So who cares?
It’s not like I have the camera on all day. I have it with me, and whenever something is happening I’ll bust it out, I guess for like 30 seconds, then put it away. And on average I spend an hour and a half or two hours every night editing. It’s part of my routine.
We set boundaries. Like, say I’m filming something and then Benji doesn’t feel good about putting it up online; I respect that. And likewise, sometimes he’ll film something and I’m the one doing the editing, so I’ll decide, Okay, that’s not going up because it’s too private. For instance, my daughter’s middle name. We don’t put it out there, because we want to keep it to us.
I don’t pretend to be someone else when I’m on camera. I’m still my true self. I just won’t state everything that I think. Just like people on the streets have their opinions, right? But they’re not going to tell you right then and there if they don’t really know you.
Unless I’m 100 percent behind a subject, I try not to push anything controversial. I want our vlog to be entertaining, something that people can watch and relate to. Last year there was a bombing in Israel, and I seriously just referred to it as “a terrorist attack in Israel” and I got my ass chewed by the commenters. Of course people are going to be watching and hating, but that video in particular was like a light switch: Okay, Judy, you need to watch what you say.
Yeah, it’s weird that people know me but I have no idea who they are. That’s why I enjoy meet and greets. When we travel we go out of our way to meet our viewers. We were in Tokyo the other day, and these girls would come up and say, “Oh my god, it’s Judy in real life!” Of course, I’m excited to meet them, too. But when I get comments like, “I was pregnant when I found your videos and my husband was deployed, and you kept me company,” that’s really touching.
Was I a ham as a kid? Oh heck yes. I’m a military brat, and when my dad was deployed my sister and I would record videos for him with one of those big cameras that you put VHS tapes in. We’d sing karaoke. We grew up in front of that camera.
I vlog with no makeup every morning. In the beginning that bothered me because I didn’t feel comfortable. But then again I think, Well, I’m an everyday girl. Hopefully that can show other girls that I’m relatable.
With Julianna, I don’t ever try to expose her in a way that’s inappropriate. We feel comfortable putting her on. It doesn’t seem to be an issue for now. But obviously when she grows up and she’s able to talk, if she doesn’t want to be on camera, we totally respect that.
I don’t know how I’d feel if I went a day without vlogging. I haven’t not vlogged since we started this. I guess you can say I’m hooked on it. People thought we were crazy because we even vlogged during our honeymoon.
I don’t like the word famous. Sometimes Benji will say that, and I cringe. I don’t know what it is about the word that I don’t like. I would consider myself well known on the Internet. But it’s almost like I’m accidentally well known. It’s not like it’s been a goal of mine. It just happened. To this day, Benji and I will wake up and say, “I can’t believe people watch us. Why do they watch us?” It’s honestly mind boggling.
Published: June 2013