Date: 18 January 2017 18:08
As outlined in one of his more personal and popular videos, "KSIOlajidebt Vlog's – The History of My Name", KSI's given name is Olajide Olatunji; however, it's common knowledge that he most often goes by JJ. His full name stems from his parents' Nigerian roots. Meanwhile, his pseudonym and main YouTube channel, KSI, emerged from his second YouTube username, KSIOlajideBT, which in and of itself is a unique conglomeration of the Halo clan gaming community to which he belonged (KSI Global), his actual name, and British Telecom. The above mentioned nickname JJ, then, is derived from his given name. It also inspired his original 2008 YouTube channel name, JideJunior. And now we've come full circle.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, KSI reportedly has a net worth of $3 million. As with many people who have quickly earned that kind of cash, KSI is exceedingly aware of how lucky he is, as disclosed in an interview with the Telegraph. "I have to pinch myself sometimes…I am living a lifestyle most guys my age would love to lead, playing computer games and earning good money," he said.
But when KSI dropped out of high school following the beginnings of his YouTuber career, his parents, with whom he lived during that time in Watford, were incensed. As explained in this same interview, he was deeply unhappy in school, but was earning about £1500 per month playing video games and uploading videos, more cash than his own teacher. Still, they couldn't believe his decision to quit his education: "They said this is the dumbest thing you have ever done, you are going to throw your life away, why would you just want to play games, you can't make money from games, it's stupid." Now that he's proven otherwise, their tune has since changed. "Now they have completely changed," he told the Telegraph. "They're doing videos with me and my brother all the time and they completely get it."
KSI reportedly now lives in an extravagant home in Kent and admittedly likes to splurge a bit, such as on a collection of gold shoes (as mentioned in Business Insider) and his £260,000 Lamborghini Aventador (as attributed in The Sun). He tells the Telegraph, "I bought the car last year…I hardly ever splash so I thought I might as well get something really good." But he's wise enough to know that this wave may not last forever, as he continues, "I guess I spend my money quite wisely…I am trying to make sure that I don't spend on ridiculous things, so that after all this YouTube thing goes I'm not left there, like, 'uh oh, I have nothing.'"
As KSI's audience continues to grow and opportunities swing his way, he is well aware of the great responsibility that comes with his abundant success, popularity, and recent fortunes – and so he gives back to his fans, to his community, and to his parents. It's been reported that he paid off the house his mom and dad live in now, as he proudly told the Telegraph: "I was able to pay for my parents' house which was really, really cool, it was the best thing I could ever do for them. They have looked after me so it was awesome for me to be able to look after them."
But his good deeds extend far beyond even this, as KSI does his best to utilize his influence for good, to inspire change and action, and to raise money for charity. In June 2016, his gamer group, The Ultimate Sidemen, hosted a charity soccer match in Southampton against another team of YouTube Allstars. The event was a massive sold-out success: In addition to the £10,000 added by the event's JustGiving page, the money made from ticket sales – an impressive £100,000 – was donated to the Saints Foundation, which works to engage with thousands of young people in the surrounding area to promote, according to its site, "positive change and equal opportunity" through "youth inclusion, lifelong learning, health & wellbeing, education, schools & enterprise, and football & sports development."
Additionally, in 2015, KSI reportedly and quietly donated £10,000 of his own money to Castro1021, which raised money through a 30-hour livestream event for Macmillan Cancer Support. He also participated in the Race Against Slime via Seriously's Best Friends mobile video game competition. It raised thousands of pounds for SpecialEffect, a foundation that works to promote inclusion, fun, and rehabilitation by helping people with physical disabilities play video games through technological advances.
KSI embodies a collaborative, creative spirit and is notoriously supportive of his fellow YouTubers' channels and careers. His younger brother, Deji Olatunji, is also a YouTube personality who goes by the name of ComedyShortsGamer. KSI and Deji often appear in one another's videos as an endearing display of simultaneous sibling rivalry and love (mum and dad even pop in from time to time in enjoyable cameos). In 2015, they were respectively ranked #1 and #2 on a list of the UK's Most Influential YouTube Creators.
His gaming group, The Ultimate Sidemen, was created in 2013 and consists of his fellow gamers and closest friends: Tobi Brown (TBJZL); Vikram Barn (Vikkstar123); Simon Minter (miniminter); Josh Bradley (Zerkaa); Ethan Payne (Behzinga); and Harold Lewis (wroetoshaw), who later joined in 2014. In addition to their charity work and YouTube collaborations, the group also has an internet TV show for Comedy Central UK called The Sidemen Experience, and released a book in 2016 called Sidemen: The Book.
KSI has made a name for himself as a hard worker who doesn't actually have to work too much in the traditional sense – according to him, anyway, as addressed in his appearance on the VICE eSports documentary series: "Essentially, I'm a 21-year-old who's a millionaire through gaming, vlogging, and my online experience. Yo, I'll take it!" But in addition to his unique business model, as covered by Business Insider, which highlights his gaming skills in 40-plus videos per month, he can now add rapper, writer, and actor to his already long resume.
His endeavor into the music industry apparently began as a bit of a joke amongst friends in December 2011, with a collaboration with fellow YouTuber Randolph on "Heskey Time", which poked fun at footballer Emile Heskey's missed chances on Fifa. This soon led to a regular "Football Rap Battles" segment, where he and Randolph portrayed various famous figures in football history through hip hop.
Following a collaboration with, and friendly encouragement from, London rapper Sway (who recognized KSI's talent on his single 2013 "No Sleep"), he began to take music more seriously. His playful music making spiraled into a fully fledged musical career full of features, leads, the release of two EPs, and European tours. In March 2015, his first song "Lamborghini" became a Top 40 single in the UK. His latest single "Jump Around", featuring Waka Flocka Flame, is what he referred to in an interview with The Sun as "hype rap". It has garnered more than 6 million views on Vevo.
KSI's passion for music clearly knows no bounds, as he often compiles interactive playlists on Spotify to showcase his favorite music of the moment. This includes an end-of-2016 list titled "BIGGEST DROPS" – a collaborative social media effort with his fans to keep track of "up to date tunes with the maddest drops."
Following a recent trend in YouTuber book deals, KSI's September 2015 HarperCollins-published book I Am A Bellend (alternatively, I Am A Tool in the US) made fairly impressive sales on both sides of the Atlantic, debuting at #23 on The Official UK Top 50 list. Described by HarperCollins as "a hilarious, in-your-face guide to the online universe from the wildly popular YouTube sensation and undisputed BEAST of the Internet, KSI," this "all-out assault on the online universe" is a survival guide to the internet age. It managed to take KSI's unprecedented, rapid-fire, and controversial style and condense it into a more traditional medium.
But is this a path on which he's willing to continue? In a charming thank-you video following the book's release and tour, he admitted that despite his pride in and excitement about the book, the old-school format and means of publishing content was not necessarily conducive to his quick-paced, improvisational style: "As a YouTuber, I like to make something and put it out. That's just how I am: Make, put, make, put. So that's why it's annoying, because I never get ahead of anything…This was done, and I had to wait a couple of months for it to just come out…but finally, you guys! I've got the book," he said.
In September 2016, KSI made his acting debut in the direct-to-digital release of Universal Studios' Laid in America – starring himself and South African YouTuber Caspar Lee. It was written and directed by Sam Milman and Peter Vass, and produced by The Fun Group LLC (Rock of Ages) and Max Gottlieb (The Full Monty and The Royals). The movie's business model was reportedly expected to change the digital media game forever, as estimated by Forbes.
Indeed, the main strategy behind this American Pie meets Superbad-esque coming of age movie was to not only rally various YouTube fanbases to financially support their favorite YouTubers' future content, but to also introduce the idea that YouTubers may yet comprise the next wave of international superstars. As Gottlieb attests in an interview with Variety: "It's so exciting to work with a new generation of young multihyphenate personalities who have the talent and charisma to become the next wave of international movie stars. The combination of KSI and Caspar Lee is explosive on-screen and the fans will love it."
The projection, then, was to also change the ways in which the Millennial generation consume their entertainment content. While Forbes states that it is too early to tell, the commercial success of this unique pivot in the straight-to-video-home-entertainment model could reach unprecedented margins. Due to this pioneering tactic, the end goal seems to be that the theatrical may just become the digital.
In the age of the geek-chic, KSI may just be the coolest nerd around – which in and of itself is saying something. But underneath all the zany bravado is a down to earth kid who just really loves video games. As he tells the Irish Examiner, "I'm a really nice guy when you meet me and that surprises a lot of people. I'm not that eccentric in real life – and certainly not that disrespectful. In my own time I like to just chill out with friends and not get in people's faces."
But he's well aware that his more real and mellow side may not create the most entertainingly fresh content on the internet, and even prescribes that it'd simply be "boring." Still, old habits prevail, and he's admitted in the same interview that, "to this day I still watch the Dragon Ball Z cartoons – that genuinely excites me. I'm really looking forward to the new Pokemon app coming out next year as well. I'll probably do a video on it."
And his association with Fifa is something of which he'll never tire: "I would say in a year I spend maybe half of that playing Fifa. I love it that much. I think I must have spent 200 hours on the new game already," he said. He was also noticeably shocked when given the chance to play it with some of his favorite footballers, such as Rio Ferdinand, Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs, Wojciech Szczęsny, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as he explains further to the publication: "It was amazing that playing Fifa had got me into that position."
Since joining YouTube in 2008, KSI has become one of the most successful and largely followed vloggers; according to International Business Times, he is the second-most subscribed British YouTuber (behind only One Direction). On November 13, 2016, his main channel reached a whopping 15 million subscribers; as of January 2017, that number has risen to 15.6 million. And according to StatSheep.com, the videos on both of his channels have amassed more than an astounding three billion views. Most impressively, his main channel, KSI, became the 23rd most subscribed in YouTube history in 2015. In recognition of these accomplishments, he won Vlogger of the Year at the NME Awards in 2016.
As he continues to branch out into other entertainment occupations, these numbers are only expected to increase exponentially. Indeed, as he tells International Business Times: "I feel like people still don't take YouTube as seriously, that's another reason why I'm still always doing music and acting[,] just trying to show you can take YouTube as seriously."
Despite these milestones, however, it's really the passion and love of the game that drives his work, rather than a strive toward digital media greatness, as he explains in the same interview: "I was always driven to try and make content people would enjoy or laugh at or be entertained at – that was my main goal. I never really cared about the money. Obviously the views were important just to see how well I was doing. If my views were increasing I knew I was doing the right thing."
Having covered his multiple accomplishments, good deeds, and strong presence in the digital world, no discussion of KSI is complete without acknowledging the controversies spiraling out of his work. Most famously, Eurogamer reported that KSI was accused of allegedly sexually harassing women attending the Eurogamer Expo in 2012. This was documented in video evidence that KSI himself edited and uploaded onto YouTube. (The video was later withdrawn).
Soon after, he was banned from attending any future Eurogamer events, and the controversy spread so deep that former corporation sponsors, including Microsoft, cut all promotional ties with him. An apology was issued on his behalf by his manager following this incident: "KSI is a character of Olatunji, a young man with great humility and politeness and far from the character portrayed in the Eurogamer video. Sexism is not something he condones or wants to be associated with," the statement read, according to Eurogamer.
However, KSI has since been widely criticized for his actions; according to Gaming @ The Digital Fix, the incident has left many in the gaming community, in particular, with severe doubts as to whether he learned his lesson at all. Indeed, the Eurogamer event was not an isolated incident, as KSI has allegedly exhibited similar behavior through his many media outlets. For example, his most popular running joke since his earliest videos is called "Rape Face". When performing this bit, he peers directly into the camera with a predatory or playful expression while music, sound effects, and graphics accompany his voice over, which asserts, among other phrases, "You're getting raped today – LOL!"
Additionally, in a video collaboration with Caspar Lee that has since been deleted, KSI graphically described his desire to have sex with Lee's sister, Theodora. In a response video called "Breaking the Silence" (also later taken down), she expressed her discomfort, hurt, and embarrassment by being publicly objectified like this, as documented by SuperFrame.com: "KSI talked about me in a derogatory and sexist way…I'm ashamed of it. His video happened to set a great example of society, where women are treated as objects, put down by men, and spoken about in a derogatory way."
According to The Guardian, many women's rights groups hold him accountable and have spoken at length about these issues by repeatedly calling out KSI's pattern of propagating sexism and trivializing victims of rape and sexual assault through his behavior and language.
To his credit, KSI not only realizes that any further controversy could permanently harm his career, he is also aware of the powerful influence his words and actions have on his young viewers. As expressed in his interview with the Telegraph: "KSI, if you want to talk business, is a brand, and I have to do stuff to protect that brand now so it doesn't become tarnished and I am not seen as a hated person, or in a bad light." He continues, "when I started out, I was able to do whatever I wanted. I would play with more ideas and push the boundaries a lot. But nowadays I'm not able to do that so much. The amount of people that watch me, they are influenced by a lot of the things that I do. I wouldn't want to annoy people's parents."