If you have ever turned on a computer and gone to YouTube, you have probably seen a video featuring Tyler Oakley. The social media mogul has been on the site since 2007 and has amassed more than seven and a half million subscribers. With his first book, “Binge,” Oakley divulges information that he has never publicly shared before, including his childhood eating disorder, his first love and his coming-out story.
In 2007 as he was starting college, Oakley decided to start posting videos on YouTube to keep in touch with his friends at other schools.. These simple videos began to gain hundreds and thousands of views, which led him to quit his job in 2012 and begin pursuing YouTube full-time as a career. After attending Michigan State University, Oakley moved to San Francisco with his best friend, Korey Kuhl, to get away from the Midwest and further his job options.
Many people do not understand what a career in YouTube really is. While some people go to YouTube for a funny cat video or the newest music video, others go to watch thousands of online personalities such as Oakley vlog about their lives. These vloggers talk about current events in pop culture, unique challenge videos or even serious topics such as body issues and self esteem. Oakley is known for his activism in LGBTQ+ issues, working with the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ hotline for struggling teens that need someone to talk to. He has raised over a million dollars for the charity, becoming its largest donor for the last two years. Oakley uses his YouTube platform to better the lives of others rather than those that use social media for fame.
With “Binge,” Oakley brings his bubbly personality from online to literary form. He has managed to connect with a wide audience of people who are able to relate to him. Oakley describes himself as a professional fangirl and has interviewed many celebrities including One Direction, Paris Hilton and Michelle Obama. He brings these hilarious and often heartwarming stories to “Binge.” The title “Binge” comes from Oakley’s eating disorder as an adolescent and his difficulties with food throughout his life. However, he hopes for people to indulge instead in devouring the book page by page.
There are several highlights of the book, including what Oakley would do if he was Beyoncé for the day, ranking the hottest Disney princesses and the trials of being Yearbook Editor-in-Chief. While those are all fun to read, the heart of the memoir is in Oakley’s advice for struggling teens, whether that be coming out, eating disorders or dealing with a breakup. Oakley did not have a difficult coming out story as he was able to accept himself at a very young age and come out to his mother when he was 13. However, it led to a period of silence between him and his father for years.. He discusses his privilege in being able to come out and be accepted and warns his readers to only come out when they feel they are ready and in a safe environment. With his coming-out story, Oakley states, “If someone cannot accept who I am, I do not need them in my life”
Like most adolescents, Oakley had self-esteem issues due to his weight. He became anorexic and refused to recognize that he was harming himself. Looking back on it years later, Oakley remarks, “Your brain gets better at caring less about what the mirror actually shows, realizing those few extra pounds aren’t a matter of life and death. I still deal with this now a decade later, but I’m getting better at it.” This is an important message to relay to anyone dealing with an eating disorder or a body issue, and Oakley is able to relay it to his sizable, younger audience that may be struggling with the same issue.
While Oakley has been private about his relationships, in “Binge” he reveals his first love, who he calls “the one that got away.” The whirlwind relationship resulted in the pair breaking it off after a year, but it destroyed Oakley. It took him years to realize that his ex was the love of his life. He explained, “There are multiple loves of your life, who are supposed to join us just at the right times. Throughout our entire time on Earth, we end up meeting all of them.” This part of the book really speaks to others going through rough times in a relationship or who just broke up with someone. It is hard to think about, but just know that it will all be okay and you will find your true love soon.
“Binge” is a memoir of Oakley’s childhood, discovering YouTube and developing his career to where it is today. It is a remarkable book that all teens should read to figure out how to deal with the trials of growing up. Oakley’s writing is filled with care and thought, and he makes it feel like he is personally talking to each person, just like in his videos. This internet star has successfully crossed over into the literary genre, and it is just the beginning of exciting things to come for Oakley.