Meet Kara Stanton

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

I recently had the pleasure of meeting up with Kara 'Karakamos' Stanton, a twenty-year-old video blogger and all round cool-Canadian. She was on her way out of the U.K after a year abroad in sunny Aberystwyth, but had stopped for a refuel in London. We met in Notting Hill and took up camp on the top floor of a farm café, each ordering an apple juice and a peach. Somewhere among the peach-slurps, we managed to exchange a few actual words. But Kara is a vlogger, so she's used to editing out the inaudible and obscene.

We met in the run-up to Girlcon (check it out!), a two-day event which provides a safe "space where people can connect; talk about their lives. But really, I guess, we're just a diverse group of people who are excited about cool things". Kara is one of the organisers; second-in-command aboard the Girlcon ship. Here's hoping it catches wind! This summer's event has been a success by all accounts, and Kara hopes to take it across the Atlantic: "My dream is that it becomes a summer camp, I'd love one in Canada near my home", she says. The event has brought online friendships offline and given a platform for internet discussion in the real world. She says:

"The internet has been really great at getting people's voices together, people whose voices aren't always heard".

Is her's one of these voices? Not now, surely. On YouTube, she is heard. Her most popular video, 'On Being Ugly', exploded overnight, racking up nearly half a million views - and counting. But it hasn't always been that way: "Maybe it's a place where I talk about things that I feel like I couldn't talk about in real life". She continues: "In general I feel like I've always been a really personal, quiet, enclosed person, and I wouldn't talk about most things, so the internet has become one way that I'm like - bleurgh - let me say all the things that I wouldn't, [she pauses] which is nice." She certainly has made a habit of talking about the things that we wouldn't: have a quick scroll through her feed to see that time and time again, she tackles the taboo - and fearlessly. Her videos are titled 'An Ode to Acne', How To Be A Loner', 'How To Be Hairy', and 'Let's Talk About Pain!', to name but a few. She's honest and vulnerable and completely unpretentious and that, I think, is endearing. And refreshing.


 I don't know about the rest of you, but I log onto YouTube for a quick fix. A cheap laugh. A glimpse at the glamourous. It provides bitesize nuggets of entertainment which need neither the commitment nor the emotional investment of a twelve-part, five-season TV series. If - like me - you are a) brain-dead, b) horizontal, and c) scared of being alone with only your thoughts for company, then YouTube is your friend. It's a wormhole of wasted hours and I've lost a lifetime to shows like 'The Woman Who Ate Rocks'.

Okay, okay, I'm exaggerating. There are plenty of inspiring and innovative YouTube content creators, but still, the ingredients rarely change: flash a pretty face, splash in some relatable content, and - hallelujah - you've risen to the YouTube boil! But Kara's vlogs don't follow the recipe.

 So how does she explain the success of 'On Being Ugly', an unscripted, unedited vlog which opens "Okay so I'm a mess and I haven't showered"? Clearly, there's no magic algorithm to creating a viral video - but she has a suspicion: "It felt like one of those things people always deal with but never really talk about. A lot of the conversation around body image and self-esteem comes from actors and models and people you don't really need to hear from...". À la Jennifer Lawrence? "Hmm, yes, like thank you", she laughs.

If good art makes you think and great art changes the way you think, then Kara's vlogs are great. She doesn't preach, nor does she ever claim to offer solution. What she offers is perspective - and isn't that what we seek out of any interaction? In 'On Being Ugly', she asks why we keep preaching that 'all bodies are beautiful' when we should really be hearing that "Being beautiful is not an accomplishment and being ugly shouldn't stop you from making accomplishments." Again, it's about perspective, she says:

"When you think about being alive and you think about the smallest and biggest thing - breathing - prettiness becomes so insignificant and tiny. Tiny."

Kara doesn't seek a career out of YouTube; nor does she dream of a Karakamos-empire. If you want T-shirts, you might be waiting a while. She describes her creative process as 'piecemeal' and says that "Really I just make the thing and hope it helps someone along the way". Still, I bug her for an answer: so what's the plan? She has a year left at university and then would like to write, or work for a non-profit, or help out teenagers, or run a convention like Girlcon: "I always have a ton of ideas, but it's like, well, is that a career path?". I'm with you, Kara; I think we all are.
Okay, so her blog is a blog - and just that. Its future? "You know, I don't know how long I'll keep it up... but I still have ideas in my head. Always". 
Watch and learn, everyone. Oh, and subscribe.

Follow her on Twitter: @karakamos

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