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YouTube star Tyler Oakley shares motivational message at SEFCU arena

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Famed YouTuber Tyler Oakley filled SEFCU arena with students, fans, and faculty as part of the University at Albany’s Speaker Series last Tuesday.

Now with 7.8 million subscribers, Oakley began his YouTube channel in 2007, using his platform to speak on social and political issues particularly those the LGBTQ community faces. He has since released an autobiography, “Binge,” and produced and acted in several television series.

“I get to do a lot of really fun things with my job because it’s a weird job and it opens a lot of doors and a lot of platforms to talk to people,” said Oakley. “But what I love most is coming to schools with young people that are especially now in the political climate and the cultural climate activated but maybe are unsure of how to get involved.”

During his talk, Oakley emphasized the importance of young people making a difference in the world.

“They want to do something, they want to make a change, they want to make a difference, but sometimes it might feel like ‘how do I even begin?’” he said. “Hopefully I can inspire them to think, ‘What’s unique about me and what’s unique about my passions, how can I approach the world based on what I’m good at?’”

Oakley said people shouldn’t feel obligated to use social media to make political statements, but said not doing so would feel like a missed opportunity.

“While I don’t thing anybody has an obligation to get politically active or stand for something or do any of those things… I think it’s a missed opportunity if you don’t lean into the chance to use your platform for something good.”

Oakley explained speaking at schools like UAlbany is reminiscent of his time at college where he regularly attended events like the Speaker Series.

“I used to go to all of the campus events and see all the speakers and maybe tell a little bit of my story or how I got involved and how I found, I guess, my voice in my own way,” he said.

One of the first personalities to launch a career on YouTube, Oakley recently celebrated 10 years on the platform, an anniversary that surprised even him.  

“It’s bonkers, because when we first started it was not even a career option,” said Oakley, who explained he began uploading to YouTube to express himself and connect with others. “Now as years progress, it is wild to see the world it’s become. It’s culture, it’s a way of life for people. It’s a way to feel seen and represented.”

As his platform evolved, so has his message: from entertainment to social activism a shift Oakley said has made a difference.  

“I truly never predicted that one day an adult would come up to me and say ‘You’re the first gay person I saw on the Internet,’” said Oakley. “To realize what that can mean to somebody really puts it into perspective on what you’re making. So, while I still want to make dumb, idiotic, goofy things on the Internet, I now feel like, ‘Oh, this will have an impact in some way, shape or form.’”

Oakley’s success has taken him beyond the internet to the Oscars red carpet and the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. His favorite venture: a trip to the White House.

Playing with the Obama’s dogs Sunny and Bo in the White House library made Oakley’s dog-loving heart swell.

Oakley left students with a few key pieces of advice for making a difference.

“You don’t need to change the entire world at one moment,” he said. “Even if you put in a little bit of work and help on person, one day, that is going to have a ripple effect. You never know who’s going to be inspired by that or know who’s going to be impacted by you.”

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