franchesca-ramsey_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

WEST PALM BEACH — Humoring yourself – and others – on YouTube can bring you a check for $35,000.

That’s what an aspiring actress and West Palm Beach native discovered and it could be the start of a potentially lucrative career, not on stage or screen but on the Internet.

Franchesca Ramsey, 27, has caught the eye of YouTube executives with her online demonstrations of hair styles for “natural” – non chemically straightened – hair and with comedic sketches.  She won a national YouTube contest and a prize of $35,000 that she plans to pour right back into her new career.

Ramsey was among 25 “video bloggers” who captured the prize in the YouTube NextUp contest in which hundreds of people submitted entries, vying for the money as well as the opportunity to attend a camp where they would learn how to turn their hobbies into a well-paying career.

The contest was for YouTube “partners” who produce videos that are accompanied by advertisements. It was open to partners who have less than 300,000 subscribers, those who have tuned into their videos on the Internet.

YouTube executives, industry executives and online voters picked the winners. Ramsey was among the top vote-getters, landing her among the 25 winners.

Those in the  YouTube Partners Program are video bloggers whose videos are good enough for advertisements to be placed along with their creations. The partners get paid depending upon the number of viewers who tune in to their videos.

Annie Baxter, of YouTube’s Global Communications and Public Relations department, said the company has hundreds of partners who make six-figure salaries from their partnership with the online social network. The company has a vested interest in helping video bloggers become more professional and creative and thus offered the camp to winners of the contest. The campers learned enhanced techniques of producing videos.

“Depending on how many views and how many ‘clicks’ I get on my videos and Web site determines how much revenue I make,” Ramsey said.

Baxter said Ramsey’s videos  caught Google’s attention. But that’s a result of hard work, said Ramsey.  Like all other careers, you get out of it, what you put into it, she said.

“People think, ‘Oh, you make videos –that’s so easy!’  But that’s not so.  I have to film, edit, spend money on equipment and spend time editing and, once I put the video up, I have to make sure people see  it,” she added.

She said she will spend some of her prize money on more advanced equipment.

Ramsey sort of “accidentally” fell into video blogging.  With her heart set on an acting career, she was a  theatre student at the prestigious Alexander Dreyfoos School of the Arts high school in West Palm Beach and did a stint in public relations in Miami, before heading for New York City to pursue her acting dreams. But a love of social media and online blogging on YouTube turned into more than she imagined it would be. She started out making videos for fun, demonstrating various hairstyles with her own “natural” hair. She eventually began producing comedy sketches online, as well.

Her hobby is now a career.

“Now I’m at a place where I realize that being successful in the entertainment industry isn’t as traditional and cut-and-dried as it used to be. It used to be that you had to go to Hollywood and be a movie star and now you don’t have to do that,” she said.

“I make videos in my living room and I get paid and I’ve gotten to do some really cool things. I’m a video blogger and I like that,” she said in a phone interview from her apartment in New York. 

Ramsey said her immediate goal is to produce two videos a week. She’s expanding her hair tutorial videos into a broader range of “beauty” tips and she’s increasing her sketch comedy videos.  She describes herself as clearly a “21st century girl,” completely plugged into social media. “I loved it before it was a job for me,” she said.

Ramsey said even her mother, despite the generation gap, has become hooked on her daughter’s online activities and is among her biggest cheerleaders.  Learna Ramsey, who still lives in West Palm Beach, helped spread the word about Franchesca’s videos and the contest.

“She’s realizing this is a different career for me,” Ramsey said.
Daphne Taylor can be reached at

Photo: Franchesca Ramsey