YouTuber Johnny Orlando and Producer/Sister Darian Orlando

Darian, Lauren and Johnny Orlando

Johnny Orlando gets the fame, but the fortune is pretty much split 50/50 with Johnny’s big sister Darian. From the minute Darian started shooting hobby videos for her 9 year-old brother, she had the magic touch. Videographer, editor, content creator, producer, social media and business manager, 17 year-old Darian has spent 4 years learning the ropes of YouTube career management. Last year, Darian’s parents moved the family to LA, and 128 million views later, Darian is taking a bow. We talked to her about #Instafame and #BrandofMe


It would be easy to say that Darian Orlando is a typical teen who got a few breaks and lucked into a successful YouTube franchise. It’s just that she’s in no way typical. Over four years she’s been the creative power behind her brother’s rise to YouTube stardom. Her brother is Johnny Orlando, a 12 year old with a great voice and a charismatic screen presence. His videos regularly rack up millions of views on YouTube and he has a presence across multiple social media platforms.

For Johnny and Darian it all started 4 years ago when they posted a cover of a Justin Beiber song. Flash-forward, the family has moved from Oakville, Ontario to LA to support Johnny’s emerging career and Darian has earned a “YouTube MBA”. Stephanie West, kidsmediacentre researcher, spent some time with Darian and started by asking her to explain just exactly what she does.

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So, she comes up with the ideas, shoots, edits, manages social media, email, and works with Johnny on the comments and feedback. That would be enough on it’s own. But Darian is also his business manager and she’s had a four-year lesson in marketing and brand development. Johnny’s career and his popularity are growing, and Darian understands what it takes to manage that trajectory.

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Darian in action

Improvement, development, more views, all of it means more opportunities and in the business of YouTube, that means opportunity to make money. The formula used to be simple, post a video, get lots of views, run some pre-roll ads and get a percentage of the ad revenue from YouTube. Not any more. As tradition TV advertising has declined, companies look to get their brands and products in front of new eyeballs. Those eyeballs are watching YouTube and more particularly the new YouTube stars. In the language of social advertising these stars are influencers, and companies are now paying these influencers to push their products. Predictably, there are new ad agencies (called Multi Channel Networks), which connect brands and influencers. And as part of her “YouTube MBA”, she’s had to learn this side of the business.

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The money is starting to flow and Johnny’s popularity continues to grow. Darian has learned a lot and she’s got plenty of advice for YouTubers (and their parents) who are just starting out. But of more immediate concern, Darian is 17, and this fall she’s supposed to head off to university. She’s already applied to a couple of schools for business studies. But as you talk to her, you get the sense that she’s a bit ambivalent about giving up control of the business she’s built from the ground up. So Darian and her parents are trying to figure out what to do in September. 

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Darian Orlando, a YouTube sage at 17. For the moment Darian is content to live in LA, work on Johnny’s videos and grow the business even further. She likes the community of YouTubers she’s working with and there are many other families like hers; LA transplants trying to make it big on YouTube. So for now, the YouTube MBA continues.

Darian Orlando Interview Transcript - here