While Instagram and YouTube may be the first platforms that come to mind when we think of influencers, Laura Clery has found a way to use Facebook Video to reach a massive audience. She’s one of Facebook’s most popular creators and her videos are known all over the globe.
After deciding to take control of her career, Clery began creating her own content. With some ingenuity and plenty of consistency, she found a loyal and engaged following of over 3 million users on Facebook. She’s known for her characters, like Ivy and Pamela Pupkin, and she’s begun working with networks like Comedy Central to produce content for other platforms, too.
We caught up with Clery at VidCon 2017 to talk about how she began creating her own work and what’s next for her. Read our exclusive interview with one of Facebook’s biggest stars to find out more.
How did you get into creating content for a huge audience on Facebook?
Facebook was a timing thing. Although it’s been around for 12 years, it’s only really been doing video for two. And I was one of the first to really do it, whereas YouTube is very saturated. They’ve been doing video forever and so it’s harder to get in and grow because you’re competing with so many creators.
I started more traditional. I was doing commercials and sitcoms and I was a full-time actress. My whole life was auditioning and I felt like I had no control or power over my career. I was at the whim of producers and casting directors and I was so creatively frustrated. One day, about two and half years ago, I said, “Enough, I’m going to start creating my own content.”
I saw the success of other influencers who took their careers into their own hands. I told my agents to stop sending me out and I spent a whole year creating. I didn’t get paid anything, I lived off of savings, and I basically said, ‘I’m going to post a video a day for a year’ and that’s how I grew so fast.
What was it like creating in the early days of video on Facebook?
We were making short viral content for Instagram — I think at that point it was 15 seconds — so when I had that freedom to do even longer (and by longer I mean 45 seconds to a minute) on Facebook, it was really exciting.
At the very beginning, the first month of creating on Facebook, I would boost posts here and there just to get my videos out because I didn’t have any followers and I needed people to see my content. I recommend that new creators do that if they’re struggling to get followers because it really does help people become aware of you.
Now I don’t do it. I’m all organic. I know my fans are hardcore and they found me organically and I have really good luck with my numbers. Within 2 years I’m at over 3 million followers on Facebook. A year ago, I was at maybe 300,000 and then I had a hugely viral video and I grew a million in two months or so.
You use some iconic characters in your videos. Where did these characters come from?
I had shot a pilot for NBC with Don Johnson and Ellen Barkin that was written and created by the creator of Sex and The City, Michael Patrick King. He wanted a dumb, vacant, monotone model for the character. I do a really good dumb model, and so Ivy was born through the character that I created for the pilot.
The pilot never got picked up, but I fell in love with the character. Everyone on set really loved the character and Jennifer Coolidge even came up to me when I shot a Two Broke Girls episode and said, “I loved that character you did, the model. She’s hilarious.” I just knew there was something to this character.
When I started growing on Instagram it was so perfect because I was seeing Instagram models posting motivational quotes, but their asses were out. It happens all the time and I thought, “I need to make fun of this. I need to make fun of the Instagram model.” And so that’s kind of how Ivy was born on social media. I had a little experience with her in TV but I had never introduced her to social media, so I made her my own.
Now I’m pitching a show starring Ivy. I just went to Adult Swim yesterday and I’m going to Comedy Central next week, so it’s incredible.
What are some of the short-term projects or initiatives coming up for your channel?
I just finished shooting a three-part series with Comedy Central that’s going to live on their Snapchat. I directed it, I wrote it, and I played all the characters.
For my channel, I just want to keep growing and getting bigger and better. My secret is just, ‘Do what works.’
I have a live show every Sunday at 3 where I interact with the audience as one of my characters, Pamela Pupkin, and that, for me, is just very new. It’s a totally improvised show, and the audience shapes the show because they’ll comment to Pamela and say things to piss her off and Pamela will yell at the audience and threaten to get them kicked off Facebook and they love it. It’s like they’re the co-stars of the show.
It’s all about just growing and expanding my characters. My mission is to make millions of people laugh around the world on a consistent basis. And that’s it. It’s very clear. Facebook has allowed me to do that, so has Instagram, so has Snapchat.
We heard that your origin story involves Brooklyn Decker. What’s that about?
I was driving home from a pilot audition and I thought I had it and my agent called me and told me they were offering it to Brooklyn Decker. It was at that point that I decided to create my own content. I’m gonna make it happen because I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do it. I have no control over my career and I’m going crazy.”
So I went into Russell Simmons’s office and we pitched a show about two aging models who were incredibly under qualified to do anything else, so you watch them fall and fail. He loved the show, so that was my first taste of digital.
I did a YouTube series for him. I wrote it, produced it, starred in it, and then I did another one with him. At that point, he said, “Laura, you need to get out there and create your own brand.” And that was it.
I was super nervous, because as an actress if you’re in something and it doesn’t do well it’s not your fault. You didn’t write it. But as a creator, if it flops, it’s your fault. There’s a lot of pressure — am I smart enough? Am I capable enough to do this, to create my own content? To direct and write and edit and produce? Can I do this? Are people going to hate it? Are they going to like it? Is anyone going to care? There were so many fears.
Then I remember one of my friends said to me, “Laura, you’re an artist, you make art. Stay in the action and out of the results. Just make the art.” And that was it. I held onto that.
How has your life changed since finding success on social media?
It’s been an incredible change. It’s been so empowering for me to go from having no control to being in control of my career. I make more money than I ever did as an actress and I get recognized all over the world, which is still mind-blowing to me because I’m somewhat of a hermit.
Those networks where I was banging on the door saying, “Please see me, I’m funny I swear,” now they’re coming to me and they’re sitting down with me saying, “Laura how can we better our social media?”, “Laura, will you pitch a show for us? We want to do a show with you.” They see my numbers and they want to work with me.
It’s this shift that I never could’ve imagined. It’s a really exciting time for content creators — artists, and just creatives in general.
Steven’s a big part of your videos. How did you two meet?
We met at a party. I thought he was cute and I went up to him and said, “Hey, where did you get your water?” Then I kept talking about water because I was nervous.
I literally would not shut up. I was like, “Yeah, I love water so much. It’s really important to stay hydrated.” Those were the first things I said to him, I swear. He looked at me and said, “Obviously you don’t love water or you would’ve brought some yourself.” And we get in this whole water fight.
“Are you accusing me of not liking water?”
“I’m just saying if you did, you would’ve brought some.”
He asked me to go to lunch the next day and it was a three-hour lunch and the rest is history, really. That was six years ago. He didn’t know what he was signing up for.
Why do you come to VidCon and what’s your favorite thing about being here?
I love meeting fans and I like meeting other content creators and talking to different creators about their process.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.