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Emma Chamberlain is changing YouTube for the better by keeping it real

The 18-year-old from California has some advice for young girls who look up to her.
/ Source: TODAY

If you're a parent and you haven't heard of Emma Chamberlain, there's a good chance your kids have.

The teen vlogger has more than 8.5 million subscribers on YouTube, where she shares seemingly mundane glimpses into her life in surprising detail — cooking vegan mac and cheese, cleaning out her closet, exploring the coffee shops in her city. The video that kicked off Chamberlain's status as the platform's "it girl" involves her cataloging her purchases from the dollar store, including a container of "Frozen"-branded Q-tips, a set of orange hair extensions and a light bulb.

While vlogging about everyday life is nothing new for Generation Z, Chamberlain, 18, has been almost single-handedly credited for shifting the industry from filtered, polished content to something less manicured — and, many of her fans say, more relatable. In many of her videos, Chamberlain, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in Los Angeles, appears without makeup and with her hair disheveled and skin blemishes on full display. True, she's still gorgeous, but to viewers, those details matter.

A profile published in The Atlantic in July called Chamberlain "the most important YouTuber today."

"Unlike those other YouTubers living in mansions with perfect hair and expensive clothes, she's just an average teen," the article read. "Sure, she lives in L.A. herself now and is undoubtedly a multimillionaire, but the point is, she doesn't care. She doesn't take herself so seriously."

That unvarnished style has made her a star and one of our Groundbreakers in TODAY's celebration of International Day of the Girl. Chamberlain told TODAY Style in an email that she gets where her fans are coming from.

"I would hope that young girls could relate to me and see that the lives of people on the internet are not as perfect as they seem," she said. "I want to be a lighthearted reality check for them. I grew up watching YouTube and it was tough feeling like everyone I watched had a perfect life. I couldn't help but feel that my life sucked when I watched their videos. Now that I have a platform of my own, I do my best to be an honest voice that makes young girls feel understood.

"It is so rewarding to have a community that I can interact with," she added. "Whether it's meeting them in person or reading their comments, it's all so surreal and humbling."

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Emma Chamberlain is one of the biggest stars on YouTube. She's also one of TODAY's Groundbreakers, our list of 18 girls who are changing the world.Getty Images

Chamberlain has said that she taught herself how to edit videos during high school.

"I learned from making random little personal projects, like school projects or little GoPro montages with music," she said. "Then once I made my channel, I really improved just by making video after video."

Each video takes 20 to 30 hours to edit, Chamberlain said in an interview with W Magazine. And each one, no matter how frivolous the content, is deeply personal to the teen.

"I've cried multiple times after posting a video," she told the magazine. "It's like giving birth. Like, oh, my God, that's my masterpiece. And every single video is like that for me. So much work goes into each video that I don't know how I'm still alive."

Chamberlain dropped out of high school and got her GED, and two years later, her passion for sharing diary-like vlogs is a full-fledged career — not that she really thinks of it as work.

"This rarely feels like a job," she told us. "I don't even like calling it a job. Talking to the camera is such a comfortable and safe environment for me, it never feels forced."

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Chamberlain recently started collaborating with Louis Vuitton.FilmMagic

It's not just the videos that are keeping Chamberlain busy these days. She has a podcast, "Stupid Genius," and has recently been getting more involved in the world of fashion, even landing a partnership with Louis Vuitton.

She believes being true to yourself is the key to success — and hopes other girls know it, too.

"Make sure you are in touch with yourself," she said. "Make sure you are doing things for YOU and being firm in your beliefs. Once you are in tune with that, everything becomes so much clearer."