Campus Life | March 1st, 2022
The Imminent Superstardom of Danielle Boyd
By: Mia Diamond Uzzell
“I love videoing things because I have a hard time remembering things,” Danielle Boyd admits at the start of our interview. The enduring presence of cameras have become customary amongst an internet age that can immortalize the present into digital souvenirs. However, for Boyd, her memories — captured on her YouTube channel “Lyfe as Dani” — seem more than just momentos of sentimentality.
On her channel, 11.7k subscribers are enthralled into the intrepid chronicles of life as a Florida A&M University student. It’s a common vlogging niche that turns everyday students into de facto campus ambassadors — and Danielle seems to helm the pack. Her towering presence across YouTube has become more than scrupulously-edited day-in-the life episodes but an aide-memoire of authenticity and hilarity.
When her mom gifted her a camcorder for her fifth grade graduation, Danielle began recording “every single thing,” unknowingly preparing herself to be a digital maven. “I’m definitely a memories person, I’m very very sentimental so I’m capturing the moments you know. YouTube is a way to document myself and look back, especially when I’m older,” she says, describing to me her infatuation with the nostalgia in her mom’s childhood scrapbooks.
Photo courtesy Kenton Elliot
Deep into her animated storytelling, which hallmarks her on and off screen personality, Danielle halts herself: “I’m going into a lot.” It’s how easily she is uninhibited; it’s how easily she can entrance anyone into her world.
When we meet, her endearing homegirl next door warmth speaks for her before we begin. Her black hair coiffed in a side part frames her amber face. Brown liner — a Black girl’s staple — runs along the perimeter of her lips that part to show her winsome smile. In just a hoodie-windbreaker getup paired with crocs, she illuminates my shabby office (might I add, in typical Leo fashion). Even her eyes beam with a mirth that makes you wonder, how could anyone not become besotted with her larger-than-life personality?
Danielle explains that she wasn’t always the “carpe diem” person that she is today. Like anyone entering into the digital limelight, the fear of perception can feel crippling. “I’ve wanted to start YouTube since middle school. Even in high school, I was just so nervous. I don’t know why but I think it was like the judging. I was afraid of being judged. Everyone was telling me, ‘Don’t do it. It’s corny.’”
After many unreleased vlogs in high school, Danielle’s “fresh start” to finally launch her YouTube channel to the public came in the summer of 2019 at her freshman orientation. Evidential of her midas touch, her nascent beginning was doubly her first-of-many viral moments with over 62k views on the video.
“I was like what the heck!,” she says in a guffaw. “I didn’t even post it for that necessarily like I was just posting for memories and just to document my time. When people start commenting and reposting, I was like ‘Oh crap, people watch me foreal.’”
The comments are riddled with remarks like, “This makes me wanna go to FAMU,” and “Girl, I wanna transfer to FAMU. You convinced me.” For those weighing their academic options, her channel — capturing everything from block parties to football games — is a digital archival of FAMU’s culture, swaying students across the nation.
For Danielle, her superstardom wasn’t crafted in just the release of her first video, but in the unrelenting mantras of her grandmother. “I used to think she was trying to grow me into a narcissist,” she says. “When I was younger I was like this lady is crazy because she was like ‘Dan, you’re a star! You’re the best!’”
Photo courtesy Kenton Elliot
She can recant those feelings now. After all, she now knows that the incessant love was to shield her. “She wasn’t saying that I was the best at everything, but letting me know that I was going to do my best at everything. She definitely helped me pulled my personality out,” she says in a moment of realization.
When I ask Danielle how she feels about her pseudo-celebrity stature, she appears blissfully unaware of her seismic impact. “I think I’m really thinking about it now that you’re asking. I guess I don’t really notice that,” she says. “Everyone comes up and is like ‘Hey, you’re Dani from YouTube’ and I’m just like ‘Yeah!’”
It could be her humility or it could be because she’s actually an ambivert who likes being with herself “a lot.” She’s the life of the party online but she ironically doesn’t want that expectation always looming over her identity. “People just expect you to be on ten all the time, and that’s not me. I enjoy my space and my time. When you’re good with yourself and want to be around yourself, sometimes you don’t want to be out.”
Luckily, Danielle has evaded the underbelly of sharing her world online: the trollish comments that find fodder in popular channels and even users feeling entitled to every sacred moment. “I think they think they are seeing everything so that’s why my subscribers don’t ask for more.” She’s mastered the art of condensing her world into thirty minute videos that appease even the most insatiable subscribers while only sharing 20% of her reality — and maintaining her privacy.
Nonetheless, Danielle’s realism is more than enough for viewers who’ve become fatigued with the aesthetically curated lives of exclusivity and grandeur in the platform. “Even when watching television, waking up or going to sleep, girls always have makeup and hair. I don’t want people to feel like they can’t be themselves because of the media they consume,” she contends, pointing to the inescapable standards of perfectionism. ”I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t look a little crusty or a little crazy sometimes.”
In breaking the boundaries of what beauty is for herself, she hopes she’s wielding her influence for others to detach from the shame as well. “That’s why I want to be more authentic and show everything. I rather people take me for me then take me for the dolled up version of me.”