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Meet Lindsey Stirling, the Highest-Earning Female YouTuber

Meet Lindsey Stirling, the Highest-Earning Female YouTuber

If there were a poster child for the power of social media to make career dreams come true, it would be Lindsey Stirling.

Her one-of-a-kind dancing-while-playing-violin performances were too offbeat for the music industry to initially get, but rather than change who she was, she took to YouTube to do her thing. Today, 7.2 million subscribers, two albums, and a world tour later, the Brigham Young grad whose parents couldn't afford dance lessons is officially YouTube's highest-earning woman, with a memoir, The Only Pirate at the Party, out this month. So how did she do it? I caught up with Stirling in New York City, where she was shooting a new video, to find out.

Cindi Leive: In 2010 you got to the quarterfinals of America's Got Talent, but Piers Morgan said, and I quote, that your music sounded like "rats being strangled." What would you say to him now?

Lindsey Stirling: I feel like I owe a lot to Piers Morgan! He gave me a reason to fight. After I had a good cry and pulled myself up by my bootstraps, that hurt and embarrassment turned into extreme motivation — "I'm gonna prove them wrong!"

CL: And you went from America's Got Talent to YouTube — how'd that happen?

LS: I was very unfamiliar with YouTube; I thought it was the place for dog and cat videos. Then [videographer] Devin Graham opened me up to this world, and I just knew it was what I was going to do. It was like, "I don't have to wait for someone else to invest in me. I can invest in myself." And Devin taught me that people don't just get viral videos; there is a strategy. One of the tools was doing things that are searchable, like cover songs. Because "Lindsey Stirling violin" was not!


CL: It was a big moment for you when you went from YouTube to live performances. Tell me about your first show, at Webster Hall in New York City.

LS: That night still gives me chills. I thought, People will click on my links, but will they purchase a ticket and go somewhere to see me? I was terrified no one would come. And the crowd started chanting, "Lindsey! Lindsey!" That night changed my life.

CL: You're very comfortable owning the spotlight. Any tips that women should know?

LS: Absolutely: Visualization — it's been huge for me. Your mind doesn't know the difference between imagination and reality. You can't always practice perfectly — my fingers will play a little bit out of tune or my dance moves might not be as sharp — but in my mind I can practice perfectly. If you're public speaking, imagine yourself feeling confident; if you're nervous about a date and thinking, I'm gonna be a dork, picture yourself being funny. Then it will be familiar to your brain.

CL: You open up in your book about your eating disorder. What do you hope a girl struggling with those issues learns?

LS: I want people to have hope. I was 23 the first time I went to a support group. As I listened to the other girls talk, suddenly I didn't feel like a freak. You're told that it's an incurable disease, but I want people to see that I was deep in it — and that now I am out of it.

CL: How much do you think about the fact that you're providing a different kind of image of what it means to be a woman in music?

LS: I don't like the fact that people are put into boxes based on what we look like and what we have to wear. Categories are meant for cookies, you know? Not for humans. And so the fact that I've been able to be successful and do it in a way that's very outside the box, I hope that that makes women feel like they can be beautiful in an authentic way. Self-esteem takes work; it's not luck.  

CL: And now you're the highest-paid woman on YouTube.

LS: When I saw that, I was like, Really? It was almost a slight identity crisis. It's so weird to think of myself as this businesswoman. I watched my parents be very frugal; I always knew I'd marry a poor man and we'd scrimp and save together. I still put myself on a budget, but I don't see myself as this rich woman. I like to imagine that I'm that girl I always thought I would be.


More From Glamour:
• Lindsey Stirling on How She Battled and Overcame Depression
• YouTube Star Lindsey Stirling on How to Overcome Rejection
• High School Student Tells Strangers They're Beautiful and Their Reactions Are Priceless
• Miss Piggy and Kermit Just Gave Us the Best Adele "Hello" Spoof Yet

Photo Credit: Glamour