How YouTuber LaurDIY Became the Millennial Martha Stewart

Lauren Riihimaki has turned how-to videos into big business

Lauren Riihimaki, the reigning queen of YouTube do-it-yourself craftiness, couldn’t be bothered to coif it up during the filming of a recent vlog post. Donning a hoodie and her usual caffeinated perkiness, the 24-year-old who’s known as LaurDIY on social media explains the situation from the bedroom of her downtown L.A. apartment: “I look like poop, and I’m fully aware of this. I did a face mask this morning, and I’ve just been chillin’, living in the no-makeup life and greasy-hair life, hence the hood.” Yet her comfort with rolling onto social media without camera-ready glam is a big reason her 7 million YouTube subscribers—known as Pretty Little Laurs—fanatically follow her.

When Riihimaki isn’t accessorizing phone cases (“these sequins will fight you to the death for a precise cut”), reviewing her phone apps (she’s impressed with Notes: “I feel like they’ve really upped their game lately”), plugging her upcoming product drops, or sharing hacks that help keep her anxiety in check, she vlogs about her adventures with her boyfriend, fellow pro YouTuber Alex Wassabi (née Burriss) and their mini bull terrier.

This G-rated approach has turned Riihimaki into a coveted commodity. She’s inked sponsorship deals with mega-corps like Fanta, Starbucks, CoverGirl, and Tampax, and she’s parlayed her fame into movie and TV cameos (her most recent: in Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween). A signature line of merch released online late last year, including preteen-friendly onesies, plushies, and hoodies, sold out within hours. “The response was insane,” says Riihimaki, who recently traded her apartment for a house.

The LaurDIY brand began in 2011 when Riihimaki, an only child from the small Ontario, Canada, town of St. Catharines, began shooting DIY tutorials in her dorm room as a freshman at Toronto’s Ryerson University. “I was so awkward,” she recalls, sitting in her publicist’s Universal City office. But as her fan base grew, so did sponsorship deals with Canadian companies. “Nobody thought you could make money from it back then. It was a surprise to all of us,” says her mother, Gail, in a phone interview. (An occasional costar on her daughter’s videos, @momdiy has 80,000 Instagram followers of her own.)

A post shared by Lauren Riihimaki (@laurdiy) on

“By the end of my fourth year I knew this is what I’m doing the day that I graduate,” Riihimaki says. “I mean, by that year I was going back and forth between L.A. and Toronto, going to events, still super-consistent on my channel—that was my focus.” She relocated to L.A. in 2016, because that’s what serious professional YouTubers do.

Since her move, LaurDIY’s YouTube subscriber base has more than doubled. “Being creative—I realized it was something that not everybody had. Not everyone had that drive to have something different, to have something custom-made that’s unique to your personality,” she says. “What I realized was that this was something I could capitalize on. I can share my passions with people.”

Evan Asano is the CEO and founder of Mediakix, a Santa Monica-based social media marketing agency. “As with almost all top social media influencers,” he says, “LaurDIY has a knack for creating authentic/personable, timely/relevant creative content. She was also one of the first to start the crafting/fashion/home DIY trend.”

On camera, Riihimaki is bubbly and casual, balancing authenticity (“everyone on social media has a little bit of FOMO when they’re not, like, reading what’s new on Twitter and seeing what’s on Instagram”) with business savvy. “There’s, like, Martha Stewart for the older generation, Lauren Conrad for the next step down, and me as, like, the millennials,” Riihimaki says at one point, tracing her DIY lineage. “I think they’re both really amazing homemakers in that women’s lifestyle area. I’m actually working with someone who works with Martha Stewart to develop some products, so it really is coming in parallel with her.”

Oddly, Riihimaki’s most viral post (24 million views so far) is a satiric music video, “My Side,” that she shot with her boyfriend. She’s not quitting her day job, though. “That whole thing was a parody. I don’t know if people fully understand that,” she laughs. “It’s just something I love doing for fun; I’m not trying to be the next Miley Cyrus or Rihanna. It’s just not something that I’m talented at.” But she also knows that the story “My Side” told—about the relationship between LaurDIY and Wassabi— is a valuable part of her brand. “Viewers want to see exactly who you are,” she says. “Anyone can do a room decor tutorial, but it only becomes individual and different when you’re able to bring your personality along with it. People come back to see what’s happening when I share an element of my life.”

“That’s the whole thing with YouTube, right? The engagement with the fans,” says her mother. “That’s why people gravitate toward Lauren. I think it’s a necessity, and it’s genuine.”

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