A little about each of them:
Flavia Calina started off as a Brazilian beauty vlogger, but then made a more personal shift by sharing her struggles with fertility. Now a mother of two with a third on the way, she offers up parenting tips and tricks to her channel's 6.4 million subscribers.
Nikita Dragun is an American makeup and beauty guru who made her transgender transformation into an honest, unfiltered series on her 2+ million subscriber channel.
Yammy is a top global gaming creator based out of England who aims to make gaming fun for all audiences. She's nearing 2 million subscribers on her channel.
Komal Pandey is an Indian lifestyle creator with a quickly growing subscriber base of over 690k users...who swears she'll never judge a girl who has nothing to wear out of a closet full of clothes.
And I Get Dressed is an up-and-coming style U.S. channel run by fashion expert and proponent of “inspired inclusive style,” Kellie Brown.
Tell us about starting up your own YouTube channel. What was your motivation and what did you feel like your voice could bring to the world?
Flavia Calina: I first started as a hobby, I wanted a creative outlet to share what I was learning on YouTube. [At the time] it was makeup. But once my audience grew a little, I knew I wanted to talk about my passion and really share my expertise on early childhood education and the importance of raising children with respect in a peaceful environment so we can build stronger individuals, families and communities.
Nikita Dragun: A lot of my first initial trans kind of education came from YouTube in terms of things that weren't necessarily taught to me in my conservative Virginia school. But by doing so, I grew frustrated because I just didn't see anyone like me talking about the things that I needed in terms of my trans identity.
When I first started making videos, I actually wasn't as open about my trans identity. But the second I started being honest, in my very first I'm transgender video, that was the first real viral moment I had. And also too, it was the first time I ever said I'm transgender even to myself. I didn't tell my parents, I didn't tell one person in my life. Once I did that...it's just crazy how much support I was getting from people all across the world from all different types of walks of life And so documenting like my surgeries, documenting my hormones, then just every little step in my transition, was obviously hard and revealing. But I knew a lot of people just didn't know all these things that trans people kind of go through and it opened a lot of eyes.
Yammy: When I originally started my channel, I just started it to make friends. I wanted to be a part of the community. And specifically I wanted to find other females who played games, because back then it was quite hard to find other people with the same interests.
Komal Pandey: Youtube was always a far-fetched dream, but one morning I woke up and decided to just shoot a video and put it up...In a week I bagged 100k subscribers (almost 700k now in a year) and since then my channel has been my first and last love. I am the personal stylist every girl can have at one click and I TOTALLY have their back when they say "I have nothing to wear."
Kellie of And I Get Dressed: I felt like a lot of the fashion people on YouTube, especially the plus-size fashion people, it's more like they're trying things on, different brands. But me having actual fashion industry experience, gives me a little bit of a different vibe. And it could be something cool that people will see that the fashion industry is not only for thin people. Fat people work in this industry. We're successful in this industry. We are stylish and authoritative and the rest of the world, they're listening and paying attention, you know?
Were there any female creators that you admired or found inspirational when you started—and why?
Yammy: There weren't that many females in the gaming community, but there was a channel called iHasCupquake. And she was a huge inspiration to me because her friendly and bubbly persona was kind of—it reminded me when watching the videos of when I would sit on my brother's bed and watch him play on the Mega Drive. It didn't feel like I was watching a game. It kind of felt like I was with a friend. So she inspired me to kind of be the same when I was making my videos. Not be like just a tutorial channel, kind of just like a friendly video.
International Women’s Day is about celebrating and empowering women. From what you’ve experienced, how does YouTube help further these causes?
Flavia Calina: YouTube is an amazing platform to give women a voice. All of us women have a place to talk about sensitive issues such as maternity, loss, infertility, struggles, resilience, strength. We all learn from each other’s experiences and can apply to our own lives and our own community.
Women creators are also businesswomen now, thanks to YouTube, and I feel we are given the same opportunity as everyone else on the platform.
Yammy: So now one of the top gaming channels in the world is run by ItsFunneh, who's a female, and I never thought I'd see the day...but because YouTube is such a worldwide platform, there are so many other people like me who wanted to be a part of the community and found her channel. I just think that's amazing.
Komal Pandey: Like the name YouTube suggests, it's just YOU and your camera. You're one video away from voicing your opinion with the highest degree of freedom and that's a powerful weapon to have. Nothing is more empowering than being on a platform that allows you to use your voice as your weapon.
Kellie of And I Get Dressed: And when it comes to inspiration, there's no greater thing than like some girl who’s six, or some woman who's 60, who are able to turn on a camera, create content, be diligent, and then live the kind of life you want to live because the platform enables you to be an entrepreneur in the greatest sense of the word.
What has been most rewarding for you as a creator?
Flavia Calina: For me, it's to really have a place and a voice to share my experiences and advocate for children for such a large audience. We have an amazing opportunity and responsibility with our community and I’m able to push myself everyday to bring better days not only for my own children but for the children around the world. Another rewarding part of being a creator on YouTube is to be able to do everything from my own home and still be present with my children. YouTube has changed my family tree, my legacy, and I take it very seriously.
Nikita Dragun: I think it's so inspiring to see people who may or may not necessarily be trans or who have no affiliation to gender questioning or gender identity—who are cisgender females—they get inspired by my story because ultimately it's a story about trying to be the best version of yourself. I think everyone goes through this obstacle, right? But for me, three years ago, it was like night and day from now until then. So for people to see me struggle, to see me questioning my identity, to see me financially unstable and going through college and not having all the answers...and still fighting to be who I wanted to be.
Yammy: I've had a lot of comments saying because of your videos, you've inspired me to open up a channel and they're all from younger girls. And that really makes me happy that I've been able to inspire people just like iHasCupquake inspired me. The fact that I was inspired by her, and now I'm inspiring people, and then maybe they'll become a YouTuber and they'll inspire other females. It's kind of like this generational passing on of it's okay to be a female gamer.
Komal Pandey: My audience, for sure. YouTube is the only platform that helps you build a very very very loyal subscriber base. They will love you, protect you, critique you. And they will fight for you with the trolls too!
What has been most challenging about being a female creator?
Flavia Calina: The work-life balance. I’m so passionate about what I do that I find it hard to balance being a wife, mother, daughter, friend, businesswoman, all at the same time.
Nikita Dragun: What was so crazy when I took on this journey was that, you know, for 18 years of my life I was obviously considered a male. I didn't face certain things that women obviously face. When the switch happened, it just became so much more apparent that it was about so many other things than just who I am as a person. It became about what I'm wearing and how I looked and you know, my overall aura...If I wasn’t happy or if I was too confident and I was too stuck up and into myself and it was just so many more comments.
Yammy: So definitely people do judge your appearance a lot more. But also there's another aspect to it, which is because we are female, we tend to only attract a female audience. My audience is 80% female whereas a male gamer would attract both the female audience and the male audience. It's kind of challenging that way. I feel like it's a lot harder to grow if you're a female cause you kind of aiming at other females.
Kellie of And I Get Dressed: The main challenge for me is sort of being pigeonholed because if you're a guy, you can be anything. You know, you can be chubby, you can be classically handsome, you can be funny, you can be smart, and people will give you a chance. They won’t have an expectation of you based on your appearance. And with women, it's totally different. Especially being a plus-sized woman, I can be talking about like the best hotels, and just from looking at me people might say, "Oh, she's just going to do a plus size haul, so I don't need to watch that."
What advice do you have for other women thinking of starting their own channel?
Flavia Calina: Don’t compare yourself to others. You are unique, you have a special talent that no other woman has. Share your voice, your passion and be consistent about it.
Nikita Dragun: You know, everyone can be someone but no one can be you. And obviously, you have to be very strong. You know, lots of comments good and bad, but I just tried to focus my energy on the good and honestly, if I survived high school, I can survive your comments.
Yammy: I would say just do it. Just be yourself. It doesn't matter what you look like, just make videos and go for it. There's nothing to stop you anymore.
Is there anything YouTube can do as a company to encourage female creators more?
Nikita Dragun: I think just supporting the creators and really letting everyone flourish and highlighting unique stories is the way to go. Because obviously the more diverse the better. And I think YouTube is already on the right track with that. But you know, any way that they can help and continue to flourish that I think it will only grow and help everyone.
These responses have been edited and condensed.