The career of PewDiePie, the controversial 29-year-old who became the first solo YouTuber to reach 100 million subscribers

The career of PewDiePie, the controversial 29-year-old who became the first solo YouTuber to reach 100 million subscribers

Pewdiepie


YouTube/PewDiePie

  • PewDiePie is one of the most popular YouTube personalities in the world with over 100 million subscribers.
  • PewDiePie, aka Felix Kjellberg, got his start doing gaming walkthroughs and reviews, but has since expanded to more satirical commentary and meme roundups.
  • Here's everything you need to know about how the 29-year-old got his start on YouTube, immersed himself in controversy, and reached more than 100 million subscribers.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Felix Kjellberg, who goes by PewDiePie online, was born October 24, 1989, in a city in southwest Sweden called Gothenburg. As a child, Kjellberg quickly developed a passion for video games, despite his parents wanting him to play less.


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Source: ESPN

Kjellberg attended Chalmers University of Technology, located in the city where he was born, and pursued a degree in industrial economics and technology management. However, Kjellberg dropped out in 2011, saying he lacked interest in his major and "couldn't relate to f—ing anyone."


BirgittaPhotos via Flickr

While at school, Kjellberg registered a YouTube account in 2010 under the name "PewDiePie," a combination of some words including the sound a shooting laser makes. After dropping out, Kjellberg decided to pursue a career with his YouTube channel, at a time when being a YouTuber wasn't seen as much of a viable career path, compared to today.


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But Kjellberg's parents refused to support him financially after he dropped out of college. To earn money for his YouTube passion, he worked at a hot dog stand and sold his artwork.

PewDiePie released a video "congratulating" T-Series

PewDiePie/YouTube

Source: ESPN

Just as he started to take off on YouTube, Kjellberg met his now-wife Marzia Bisognin. Bisognin reportedly emailed Kjellberg to tell him she found his videos funny, and the two have been together ever since. She started her own YouTube channel called "CutiePieMarzia" in 2012.

Felix Kjellberg and Marzia Bisognin.

Jessica Kobeissi via Marzia Kjellberg

By 2014, Kjellberg made an estimated $7.4 million. That was up $3 million from his estimated earnings a year before, showing the incredible growth of his channel in just four years. Kjellberg said he was "extremely tired" of constantly discussing his income.

PewDiePie/YouTube

PewDiePie released his own video game in 2015 called "PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist." The $5 mobile app for iOS and Android devices is an action-adventure game with references to PewDiePie, his girlfriend Marzia, their dogs, and fellow YouTubers. It was a hit. He launched another game, "PewDiePie Tuber Simulator," in 2016.


Outerminds, Inc.

Also in 2015, Kjellberg released a satirical self-help book called "This Book Loves You." The book parodying motivational texts rose to #1 on The New York Times bestseller list when it was released in November 2015.

PewDiePie/YouTube

But in 2017, Kjellberg's antics cost him. A Wall Street Journal report found that nine of his videos, between August 2016 and February 2017, included "anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery." One of those videos showed two men, paid by PewDiePie, holding up a sign reading "Death to All Jews."


YouTube

In the fallout from the WSJ report, Disney and YouTube both cut ties with Kjellberg. Disney owned Maker Studios, the creator network Kjellberg was affiliated with, and called his videos "inappropriate." YouTube killed the second season of its series "Scare PewDiePie," and removed Kjellberg from its preferred advertising program.

PewDiePie

Kjellberg later criticized YouTube for treating him unfairly by severing ties. He referred to the platform's reaction to Logan Paul's suicide forest controversy, after which YouTube still rolled out Paul's latest movie on its Premium subscription service. "Maybe it's because I joked about Jews and that's a more sensitive topic than showing a dead body," Kjellberg said in a video.


STRF/STAR MAX/IPx

After being dropped by Disney and YouTube, Kjellberg released a video calling the backlash against his behavior "an attack by the media to try and discredit me." He flipped off the camera, and invited the media to "try again motherf—er" to take him down.


YouTube

Not long after, Kjellberg announced he was turning to Twitch to launch weekly livestreams and a new series called "Best Club." The decision to stream on Twitch came as YouTube was dealing with its ad-pocalypse, which saw advertisers boycotting the platform because ads were appearing next to extremist content.

Kjellberg in the first episode of "Best Club" on Twitch.

Twitch

Kjellberg's history of making Nazi jokes didn't age well, especially after the fatal 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Kjellberg promised to stop making Nazi jokes, vowing he had "nothing to do with these people" and was alarmed he "actually got grouped in" with them.

YouTube/PewDiePie

Kjellberg then faced criticism after posting a meme on Twitter in 2018 that mocked Demi Lovato shortly after she was hospitalized for a reported drug overdose. The meme showed Lovato asking her mom for money to buy a burger, which she then uses to buy heroin. He deleted it after a few hours and apologized for being "insensitive."


Getty Images

Kjellberg announced earlier this year that he would start regularly livestreaming again, this time on the relatively unknown livestreaming platform DLive. The blockchain-based platform says it doesn't take a cut of the revenue generated from livestreams, unlike similar platforms like Twitch.

PewDiePie/YouTube

The Washington Post reported in August that YouTube was allowing its most popular creators — including PewDiePie — to have more flexibility with the platform's rules and moderation policies. YouTube denied the claims, and said it applies policies "consistently, regardless of who a creator is."


Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty

Kjellberg got married on August 19 to Marzia, his girlfriend of nearly eight years. The two got married in London, and some of Kjellberg's YouTube pals were in attendance at the wedding.

Jessica Kobeissi via Marzia Kjellberg

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