Eugene Lee Yang talks putting it all online

Eugene Lee Yang talks putting it all online

I was being as guilty as any old exec saying ‘This guy can not do anything, he got famous on YouTube.’ It kind of struck me like I have millions upon billions of people who have seen me in videos and I am not giving them
1000% of what I could do as a filmmaker. When you did, when you finally did it,
how did it feel? It was actually scary, and I never felt
that scared putting something online. The coming out video, I think, is
one of the most important things I will ever make. I think is a huge statement from me. Eugene Lee Yang became famous after producing, directing and starring in in countless YouTube videos for BuzzFeed for five years. We worked together in LA before Eugene
quit to create his own channel with three other producers – The Try Guys. They now have a podcast, have released
a book and have toured Australia, the US and Singapore with a live show. We sat down to talk about the cost of
being ‘YouTube famous’ and what inspired him to come out to
millions of strangers and fans online. With your ‘I’m Gay’ video, what made you finally think “I’m gonna do this?” Which is so funny because you
knew I was gay way before that. You walked into the office and
I was like “Gay! Gay!”. So, I was very worried about putting
it out there Cause I thought this weird dance
video that I created would either come off as insincere or they just wouldn’t
understand what I was trying to say. I think the complete opposite actually happened. Many other YouTubers have come out online but none have done it quite like Eugene’s
silent arthouse film that garnered a whopping 14 million
views worldwide. Eugene starred, choreographed and directed
in the very raw coming out video that doesn’t shy away from the brutal
reality many LGBTQI+ people face at home and on the streets. But you’ve known me for years
now and you knew ever since I met you when we worked at BuzzFeed that
I was very active in the queer culture there. You weren’t saying “I’m gay”.
You weren’t screaming it from the rooftop. But you were very playful in
the content that you created. Dressing up in drag, queer prom. At some point I was able to slip out
the queer and the LGBT keywords. Just *cough* gay *cough*. It was a wink to the audience
that understood what I meant. I was getting children who told me that
whatever I have been able to share online for the five years I worked on it as a
vaguely queer person helped them come out to their families. It really shocked me when I first heard that
because of how bad it made me feel about the withholding and why I was withholding. Me being confident, me being queer
and Asian, face value, I know is greatly helpful for a lot of people but the full
breadth of my journey and my story and what I want to say as an out, proud, gay
man wasn’t being reflected in my work. For me it was always a when.
When can I be 1000% about it. My particular background with my family
growing up a little more conservative and coming from a culture that’s a little more open currently to queer identity. You know, it was always a sort of
‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ situation. It became so clear to me that for me to pursue
a career in entertainment. For me to have the privilege of the
platform that I was sitting on and for me to treat others who were
so much like me, who were struggling with their identities as if they were like
my family, who I still skirted issues with at the dinner table, was inane. It was tremendously upsetting to realise that
I was withholding so much out of my own selfish fear when I was in a position
where I was actually safe. I was in a position where I was actually
secure in my identity. It was so obvious that it had to happen. Giving them a side of myself that was essentially screaming to get out. – For a very long time.
– Yeah. See, that’s what I find very interesting too. This
world that you’re in, it does require a lot from someone. You’re constantly offering yourself. Is it ever just exhausting? Yeah, I mean I think viral content
really does demand a lot more out of you. When it comes to things like traditional film
and television you can still construct a wall. The internet just broke that down
and removed it. If you imagine being in a room with 1000 people
and having to talk to each one individually and respond individually, that’s how
I kind of compare working online. A lot of what people feel most
from you is the truth of your own life somehow being mirrored on screen. – They see through it don’t they?
– Yeah. I happened upon working really well
with these three straight, white guys who are wonderful but at the same time
I’m the person of colour, the gay one in the cast but I was able to be the strong one, the one
who won, the one who is glorifying his own differences. While at the same time, so much of what I’m
sharing that is important is very painful. So much of what’s in this is wholly me.
When I say I’m bleeding this video out It’s not even like a baby for me it’s
like slice me open and let my guts spill out. I’m just in constant emotional pain right now. No shade on BuzzFeed but one of
the words we used all the f**ing time was digestable. Making things palatable. So
I can imagine that being completely autonomous with full agency over how
you directed something for the first time this choreographed art piece would have been
scary for you. But the world loved it! It was everywhere. It certainly has a lot of darkness to it
because I reference things like bullying that happened to me. There’s no sugar-coating
to the harm and potential danger that comes with being LGBTQ+ but I used myself
as the vessel and I used my story in a way
where I was just 100 per cent myself. You should have seen me, I was like
“My baby boy!” Even from that opening shot, I’m very
obsessed with family dynamic, and that I think especially spoke to people of colour,
queer people in particular. When we watch that video we just know
the truth in so many shots and scenes. It’s just something that I hope will carry on
with the rest of my work. How nice was it that you were able
to throw some friends in there too? – I know!
– Curley and Jasmine! – If you were local you would have been in it for sure!
– I knew that. In true gay, people of colour fashion I want to say “mabrouk” which in Arabic means congratulations for that beautiful
video because I know I saw myself in you and that millions of other people
around the world did too. Not many people can say that, not
many people have that impact. Yeah, mabrouk. You know how much that means to me
coming from you. Ugh, I’m not an emotional person Tania
I save that for my work! You promised me alcohol. *both laugh* I’m gonna get you a martini after
this, don’t you worry.

Danny Hutson

100 thoughts on “Eugene Lee Yang talks putting it all online

  1. Eugene is an amazing person and artist he’s just real and he’s himself and it shines through I’m so happy he’s able to put any art he wants and it’s respected and valued

  2. Eugene done so well and all I can say that he deserves a lot of respect to come out. He is such an amazing guy and I wish him all the best and that he will get more recognition. Good to see Tania is around still too. 🙂 Great interview.

  3. i love your dynamic. seems like y’all are friends and that there’s a lot of trust there. would love to see you do a project together.

  4. I am not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but Eugene's video spoke volumes to me and helped me understand that community better. I also completely related to the family dynamic issues he portrayed. His coming out video was ridiculously powerful in so many ways. Loveeee

  5. Omg I miss Tania so much!!! She’s so lovely, warm and genuine. She can be fun and super professional too.

    Just like eugene, they grew wings once leaving buzzfeed

  6. I have so much respect for Eugene, and so much love for him. I have respect for anyone who accepts who they are. Much love to you all “ finding your one true self “

  7. I love the both of them. Tania gave me lots of hope for the few years I was watching her. Just the fact that she is so openly queer was so meaningful to me as a young closeted teen. Also, the fact that she is Arab makes me feel even closer to her. Eugene is just so cool, and him seeming so queer while he was in the closet made me feel like no matter what I deserve to be safe and well treated. I guess they wouldn't read that, but if they do, I must thank them from the bottom of my heart for being with me whenever I needed, even if it's just in a video ❤️

  8. I’m gay. When I watched the video, I saw myself in Eugene. It did remind me that I’m not alone.

  9. Beneath his good looks, his natural athleticism, and his creativity is an Asian-American man who still tries to find himself. As a fellow Asian man, I believe that Eugene is doing well given his work and the millions who were impacted by him and his work. I'm sure that many of us would dream of working with Eugene at some point.

    There's word that The Try Guys are coming to my hometown for a book signing in November. Kudos to all those who will meet them there. If I could, I'd fill Eugene in on various video game franchises that he might have missed over the years.

  10. this is shocking reporting. They were the try guys ast buzzfeed and thy ll left together to pursue the tryguys as its own channel
    whoever didyour research needs to be shot

  11. I've watched Eugene for a long time since BuzzFeed and the Try Guys, but I never knew about the coming out silent video! I just remember that in one Try Guys video, he all of sudden said something in passing like "As a member of the LGBTQIA community…"

  12. This is such a beautiful honest video and I want to thank you both. You are so damn precious. Because of people like you my niece can grow up in a world where she can question her gender identity and not be afraid to tell me about it. I can help her grow. I can help her move forward. I can be the person she can lean on. And it's all because of people like you. So thank you. <333333333333333 A million times thank you.

  13. Seeing Eugene even mildly emotional just fricken. Breaks me, man. He's done so much for himself, for BuzzFeed and The try guys, and now the community and it's just so beautiful seeing him be so much more comfortable in his own skin. He deserves all the good things coming his way 💕

  14. I really wish he could sit down and have a discussion like this with George Takei. I feel like the generational difference, but maybe so many similarities, and cult following would all flow and resonate so well.

  15. So glad Tan has moved on to bigger and better things ❤️
    As one of my favourite Try Guys love you Eugene you’re inspiration to so many ❤️

  16. Tania is talking in arabic !!!!
    Btw mabrook Eugene, We love u <3

  17. When I first saw try guys I had a huge crush on eugene. Seeing how much hes grown I'm really really happy for him. I'm glad he figured everything out fully and I hope he can be fully happy

  18. Oh… I think I was one of those people who saw his coming out as disingenuous. I thought “why did he do it, we all already knew. This is a cash grab”. I get it now. I’m happy I saw this, it taught me differently. I was wrong.

  19. I was so happy so see the real Eugene after they left Buzzfeed. It seemed like you were all the sudden freer and happier. Congrats.

  20. On the other hand, I absolutely don’t believe that public figures are obligated to publicly come out because, ultimately, it is very personal.

  21. The video meant so much to me because of the truth in it, and that someone I look up to as a role model finally shared that is so inspiring and helpful.
    also Eugene, you're beautiful.

  22. He may be the only POC and only queer person in the try guys but I have always strongly suspected that he is THE most popular member of the group. I love all of them, but Eugene has always been what makes it work. If he weren't in the Try Guys I probably would have stopped caring about them a long time ago.

  23. Eugene is so hard on himself and so kind to make his coming out moment about others feeling safe.
    I hope he got a sense of support and relief from making the video as well

  24. Eugene's video is the reason why I'm a huge fan of the try guys now!
    It was the most amazing film art work I've ever seen!

  25. Such a wonderful interview about Eugene, and his amazing video. And I loved seeing Tan again. Much success and happiness to you both.

  26. I'm 43 years old, mother of the 3, wife and bisexual. I've been out since I was 14. But Eugene's video brought more awareness to fully and truly accepting myself that I thought I had but, after watching his video, realized I didn't completely. I am forever grateful to him for sharing his video and story with us ❤❤❤❤

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