Community gathers for Tyler Oakley

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Multimedia Editor
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — YouTuber Tyler Oakley pointed to the crowd from the stage of Hendricks Hall, singling out digital media production student Erin Wides, who sat in the front row. “Erin, it is possible,” he said.
Wides, a sophomore, handed Oakely her resume in an envelope addressed to Ellen Degeneres right before the show, expressing dreams of one day working for the TV personality.
Oakley gave a keynote speech Thursday, Feb. 17, on achieving dreams despite adversity as part of UCM Student Activities’s final event for UCM’s Unity Week – four days of celebrating diversity in the UCM community.
Oakley took questions from the crowd and incorporated conversational style with the audience during his interview/speech.
More than 200 UCM students and others from the surrounding areas came to hear the YouTube star speak and attend his book signing.
Attendees filed into the seats as President Chuck Ambrose held the doors open to the auditorium.
Crowds cheered as Spotlight executive board members Mitchell Campana and Sean Ryun announced Oakley to the stage.
“There are a lot of people here!” Oakley said as he walked on to the stage.
Ryun joined Oakley on stage, and interviewed him in front of the audience for more than an hour. Ryun asked Oakley how he got his start on YouTube and how he uses his online platform to reach out to underrepresented demographics such as LGBTQ+ youth.
“It was never an intention to be a huge voice for gays, it still isn’t an intention, but I am aware that I may be somebody’s first glimpse into that realm, or I may be an opportunity for a LGBTQ+ kid to feel less alone,” Oakley said.
Oakley started vlogging on his MacBook laptop when he was a freshman at Michigan State University in 2007. Since then, Oakley’s videos have been consistently popular among high school and college-age students.
Kamaran Sheriff, a freshman majoring in digital media production, said he enjoyed the show, having spent time on YouTube, watching Oakley’s videos through his teenage years.
“I actually want to become a YouTuber myself and make my own videos, with it being my major and all,” Sheriff said. “I’ve been hanging out with a lot of people who feel like they don’t have a voice, and Tyler has gone through similar hard stuff that my friends have gone through.”
From his own beginnings of filming in his dorm room, Oakley now has a regular position as a co-host on the “Ellen Degeneres Show.”
“I have always treated my YouTube channel like my own little show from my living room,” Tyler said. “So it is cool now to have it be seen on a bigger platform like Ellen’s show, so that has been a crazy adventure.”
Tyler said his proudest moment was when he was a first-time guest on the “Ellen Degeneres Show”, and he saw his mother in the crowd.
Although Oakley is seen online and on network television, some people who attended the event were not familiar with his work.
Isaac Thomas, member of PRISM, UCM’s LGBTQ+ organization, said the group collectively attended the event.
“I am not tech-savvy or YouTube anything,” Thomas said. “I am older than Tyler, and when the younger PRISM members expressed interest in going, we all decided to go together to show support.”
Thomas said he enjoyed the way Oakley expressed his stance on social issues and how he supports those communities.
“He knows that it is his duty as a human being to push his platform and not worry about being everyone’s friend,” Thomas said.
Oakley is involved in many charitable and governmental organizations, including the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth.
“I would get messages from young, queer kids from a place where they did not feel comfortable and they did not feel like they had an ally, so getting involved and helping them get those resources literally saves lives,” Oakley said.
While interviewing Oakley, Ryun said he was once, “one of those sad little gay boys,” and that Oakley’s videos let him know it was possible to be both gay and successful.
“There are some people who can kind of enjoy the lightness of not touching heavier topics, but I can’t enjoy that lightness because I know there are people out there who don’t have the privilege to ignore getting involved,” Oakley said.
When asked by an audience member if it is hard to deal with doubt and criticism, Oakley said he likes to stand firm to his beliefs, and shrug off the criticism.
“If me being me, sharing who I am, or me standing up for what I believe in pushes someone to press the unsubscribe button, I don’t know if I even wanted them to begin with,” he said.
Oakley said he appreciated Student Activities reaching out and giving him the opportunity to speak at Unity Week.
“I was really excited to hear that you guys are having these heavier conversations, topics that were never discussed when I was your age,” he said.
Oakley finished the night by describing what unity means to him.
“Unity for me is coming together for the greater good, and recognizing that your greater good might not be somebody else’s greater good, but by helping them achieve their greater good, it is everyone’s greater good.”