He’s the most viewed YouTube star of all time and his name is Felix Kjellberg — but millions know him as PewDiePie. So, how did he take over the Internet with just a video game controller and a microphone?
Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, 29, is one of the biggest names in the world right now. If you’re confused because you’ve never actually heard of him, it might be because he goes by the name PewDiePie. The controversial YouTuber came to fame by being a talented gamer who peppers his sessions with colorful (and sometimes extremely offensive) commentary, and it’s garnered him millions of subscribers and fans. Still unfamiliar? Here’s what you need to know:
1. He has millions of subscribers and billions of views. PewDiePie’s reactions to horror and action video games quickly found an audience. He reached his first one million subscribers in July 2012, and by December 2015, that number had reached 40 million. He even eclipsed Rihanna, 28, to have the most viewed YouTube channel of all time, racking up over 10 billion video views. As of March 2019, PewDiePie had 89,476,930 subscribers.
2. He was named in the manifesto of the New Zealand mosque gunman. One of the suspects who massacred members of a mosque in Christchurch live streamed his attack on Facebook. The horrifying video showed the gunman, allegedly 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, shooting his victims as they prayed at a mosque on March 15, and he ended the nearly 20-minute long video by saying, “subscribe to PewDiePie.” Forty-nine people were murdered, and another 48 people injured, in the attack. The YouTuber responded to the disturbing shoutout in a statement on Twitter, tweeting, “Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch. I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person. My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
3. He’s been called out for racism and anti-semitism. PewDiePie has a history of racist humor, including using the N-word in a September 2017 stream. And when people rightly criticized him, right wing bloggers and YouTubers leapt to his defense. The Wall Street Journal even got involved, cataloging his repeated use of anti-semitic humor and use of Nazi iconography the same year. This came to light when he posted a video in January 2017 in which he used Fiverr to pay two Indian men to hold up a sign that read, “death to all Jews.” He also praised an openly neo-Nazi YouTube account in one of his videos. He later said it was an accident.
4. He got his start in his homeland, Sweden. It’s quite obvious from his accent that PewDiePie is not from the Deep South. Felix was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, and this Scandinavian sensation began his career on YouTube in 2010. While attending Chalmers University, Felix registered the username “PewDiePie” to upload vlogs and “Let’s Play” videos (vids of people playing games, often adding their own commentary.) He eventually dropped out of college, where he was studying to be an engineer, to pursue his YouTube career.
5. His earlier career was fueled by hot dogs. To support himself, PewDiePie worked in fast food, selling hot dogs. ‘Thinking about it now, it was utterly absurd. To get into Chalmers for industrial economics you need straight A’s,” PewDiePie said, according to the Daily Mail, “but somehow I was happier selling hot dogs and making my own gaming-videos.” Thankfully, he wouldn’t have to sling mustard for long.