One notable Asian Australian on YouTube is Sydneysider Natalie Tran.
With over 400 million channel views, Tran’s communitychannel is the most subscribed YouTube channel in Australia. She uploads videos in the form of short skits pointing out the intriguing banalities of everyday life, scripting each one and playing all the characters herself. Reality TV drama, racism Down Under and the frustrations of finding dropped food on the floor are just a few of the topics Tran has addressed.
Just why are so many (young) Asian Australians drawn to Tran, whose parents were Vietnamese refugees? Why are so many non-Asians, Caucasians drawn to her and her rather humorous videos as well?
Tran’s tendency to subliminally break down typical Asian stereotypes – in a way embodying the average Asian Australian – in her videos is arguably what makes her so attractive to Asian Australians. Attractive in the personality sense, that is.
Through her skits, Tran indirectly sends out the message that it is extremely normal for Asian Australians to eat Aussie (Western) food, shedding the common conception that Asians consume rice and noodles day and night. In Re The Australians Are Fooling Us, Tran professes her undying love for Vegemite. In Couldn’t Fit Another Bite, she gobbles down mouthfuls of lamingtons like it is the end of the world.
From such videos, Tran conveys the notion that “if one is Asian, it does not mean they cannot like Western food”. Many Asians in Australia do consume Aussie foods such as Tim Tams, their palate for this fare most likely developed at a young age while sharing lunch with Australian friends at school. But this is not exactly a common sight; it would be heartening to see all races enjoying Australian food. How can Asian Aussies not warm towards fellow Asian Aussie Tran who stuffs her face with local foods non-discretely, proudly?
Confidence exudes from Tran as she speaks directly to the camera in her videos, stripping the stereotype that all Asians are passive. She even throws in vulgar language to emphasise her points. Racism against Asians is common Down Under, possibly encouraging Asian Australians to keep quiet. Through her opinionated videos where in one she claims to be a proud to be Australian, Tran asserts her right to speak as an Australian citizen of Asian ethnicity. It is only natural for Asian-Australians to pay attention to her – here is someone of the same ethnicity as them standing up for what she believes in, what they believe in; it is time Asians spoke up.
There is evidently an overarching theme of “no shame” in Tran’s videos and she comes across as an adventurous Asian Australian on YouTube, shedding the closed, conservative mind-set stereotype that Asians are thought to possess. In Just Keep It, Tran bids viewers farewell by pointing to her face, jokingly saying, “This probably ruined it anyway”. Then there are numerous times where Tran unglamorously dresses up and acts like a kid or gets naked (censored, of course) in her videos.
In a modern, multicultural Australia where there are countless opportunities for one to develop their talents, Asians are increasingly or at the very least tempted to do what Asians are not traditionally known to be good at. Today, many of them boldly pursue creative passions and proudly study the Arts as opposed to carving out a prided career in law or medicine. And so it is fair to say that they are able to relate to Tran’s open-mindedness and fearless ability to try new things and put herself in the shoes of the weirdest characters.
At times, there are glimpses of Tran conforming to the Asian stereotype. Tran features her mum every now and then in her videos and from this it is clear Tran values filial piety and is a filial Asian daughter herself. It is possible Asian-Australians relate to her because of this – there is still a strong yearning to show utmost respect to elders in Asian cultures today.
Tran’s appeal to the Caucasian Australian audience can be put down to a few reasons. For one, she speaks impeccable English and is able to articulately convey her opinions to a predominantly Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking population, encouraging them to listen to her.
Also, Tran does not let her ethnicity get in the way of what she tries to say in her videos and does not draw too much attention to it. That is, apart from a few occasions, she rarely refers to herself as Asian in her videos (although she is proud of being Vietnamese). She – perhaps unconsciously – comes across as just another ordinary person living in Australia.
This puts the focus on the range of everyday topics she addresses in her videos, puts the focus on the everyday events so familiar to each person watching, in a sense putting the focus on their lives and enticing them to watch.
In recent times, Tran has been sporadically putting together videos, sometimes even taking months in between uploading a new one. However, her videos reap hundreds of thousands of views within a matter of days of being upped onto YouTube.
It will definitely be interesting to see if Australians will continue to watch this outgoing, strong-headed Asian Australian’s videos in the years to come.
Given that Tran has an extremely likeable down-to-earth, fair-go persona, why would they not?
Great topic. I must say that I enjoy seeing those little Australian characteristics in her videos, even including Aussie street scenes and I like seeing her refer to herself as Australian. In this way, I think she helps build a positive Australian image because she is such a multi-talented individual that she makes a great representative.
When I previously thought about her popularity I thought much of it could be attributed to her style of humour. Much of it is that same Seinfield type of humour that looks at common occurrences that we have almost all experienced. Like Seinfield, it is not necessarily witty, but it is very accessible.
There is also a deliberate sexual tone, even the way she refers to “porno music slash comments time” but the sexual suggestions are always subtle so she comes across as the girl next door.
Ironically, I stopped watching her videos because some of her depreciating jokes started to annoy me. So much of Australian humour is that Hey Hey its Saturday Red Faces humour where people make fools out of themselves. After a while it gets same old same old. Additionally, I struggled to laugh as she made jokes about herself because she was so multi-talented that the self-depreciating jokes didn’t match the respect I had for her abilities.
I also loved it when she features glimpses of Australian street scenes. Sort of gave more of an Australian feel to her video.
I’m quite the opposite of you. I still watch her videos, and do like most of her jokes. Although I must say, I feel that her past videos are more creative and engaging. I don’t really know how to explain this, but perhaps you are right in that her humour gets old after a while.
I’m glad she continues to make videos, even though if it isn’t that often. She definitely loves Australia and is proud of it, and is extremely comfortable being Asian in Australia. A role model for all the other young Asians out there.
I love her videos! She has a very self-deprecating and intelligent sense of humour. I think another thing setting Tran apart that wasn’t mentioned in your article is her age – she’s much younger than the kind of comedians we would see ordinarily on TV, and I think this makes it easier for audiences of the same age to relate to her. Her jokes are the kind of things that other under-30 Aussies would say amongst themselves and which probably wouldn’t have mainstream appeal to older generations.
Thanks, Mark. You’re very observant and it’s very true that Tran is a young Australian. This is definitely an advantage for her – as you mentioned, it’s easy for her to reach out to the younger Aussie demographic.
But her appeal also does lie with the slightly older crowd (though not too old). it’s also quite possible that because she’s a young person, she is able/does bring fresh ideas to the surface, adding variety to what has been already said out there over and over again by old fuddy-duddies. Hence her appeal to the 30-40 year old demographic as well (as shown in her demographic video stats) 🙂
I remember the first time I saw her I wondered whether she would make the transition to mainstream TV. She presented so well and many of her jokes were very intelligent. (My favourite was the devils eyes media one and there was one in a hotel room that was all about using various appliances like an iron for cooking.)
It seems she never made that transition. I think I saw her once on TV as a kind of correspondent and if memory serves me correctly, some travel company probably paid her to travel around the world, but overall she remained on youtube, which has got me thinking why.
I suppose one of the problems would be that she has typecast herself. I can’t really imagine her on the news with a serious face saying, ” Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a shy boy.”.
I also imagine that she might struggle to be a cog in a machine rather than the complete package. As a cog, she would probably lose all of who she is.
Anyway, I once read an article that estimated she was earning at least $100,000 a year just from the youtube cut on advertising. All things considered, its probably less than she deserves but you would have to be happy with that.
I definitely remember her iron for cooking video – she cooks bacon using an iron!
I remember seeing her as a reporter for a segment on the then titled ‘7pm Project’ on Channel Ten. She was lucky enough to travel the world with Lonely Planet and blog about it http://www.lonelyplanet.com/blog/natalietran/.
Perhaps Tran doesn’t want to break through and be a success in the mainstream media, maybe it’s just not what she wants to do. Maybe she really does want to live a simple life and stay out of the limelight. If that’s so, I’m sure she’ll be putting her ideas and energies to creative use beyond YouTube and pursuing other projects that matter to her – all the while learning and living. And I’m sure that’s what she’s doing given her irregular video uploads and her recent small stint in the film Goddess.
I’ll have to look her up! Hadn’t seen her before. But, then again, I’ve never been to Australia… I have a Vietnamese friend who lives in Australia, though. He moved from Vietnam several years ago. I’d love to visit all of you!
I’m sure one day you’ll come visit Australia and we’ll welcome you with open arms! You’ll get to see just how diverse Australia is, so many people of different cultures everywhere. Not to mention the variety of ethnic food here 🙂
Yeah I’ve seen a few of her videos. I think people like to watch her because she is pretty . I prefer watching Shaytards.
Nigahiga is also a popular Asian american on YouTube.
There are definitely a number of prominent Asian-Americans on YouTube. Nigahiga id definitely one of them. Then there’s also Wong Fu Productions, KevJumba, Michelle Phan, Freddie Wong etc.. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many Asian Australians on YouTube. Apart from Natalie Tran, there’s Chonny and Jayesslee. Australia is a multi-racial country. Would definitely love to see more Australians from ethnic backgrounds up on YouTube.