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Ashland High School grad 'Meekakitty' earns YouTube following

When Tessa Violet was 17, she started experimenting with video blogging her music and social commentary, expanding it as her senior project at Ashland High School, and now she’s made a career of it, snagging over a million subscribers on her YouTube channel, organizing her own Living Room Shows around the nation and selling her albums.

Using fast cuts, cute bangs and a spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness chat style, Violet manages to keep a smile on your face while dishing out a lot of practical advice — as in the video, “How To Get a Boy to Like You,” which has an impressive 1.87 million views. 

Her advice is common sense: listen and learn what he likes, express interest in it, but don’t pretend you’re someone you aren’t because then you have to keep up the lie. Be yourself.

Her audience is mostly female, and she loves connecting with young women. In her delivery, she affects an ingenuous, vulnerable-yet-wise tone, discovering herself, life and love. It’s charming.

However, her first love, she says, is being a singer-songwriter. Her songs have that same innocent charm and rhythm of youth and energy.

Staying this past week in Ashland with her aunt, Kimberly Hall, Violet — also known as "Meekakitty" — describes a self-made career in which she started "vlogging" about modeling in Hong Kong, then was a retail clerk in New York but, three years ago, was getting enough views on YouTube to monetize it with sponsors and gigs, such a segment on a 48-hour live Target music broadcast.

Violet, 23, acted at AHS but soon found she was most comfortable acting as herself, sketching out the main points of her commentaries and delivering it improv while walking down the street, then editing it into a smooth piece on her Final Cut Pro 7, a system she learned by trail and error.

She is on YouTube’s Partner Program, which allows her to run ads on original content with high hits. She signed with Maker Studios, which brings her brand opportunities, she says. In the same DIY style, Violet realized she didn’t need a manager or agent and was able to set up Living Room Shows by putting out the call on Tumblr, letting hosts in free, and charging only $10 to some 15 or 20 guests. She tours with singing partner Rusty Clanton and the “People You Know” band.

“I really enjoy this form of getting to connect with people,” says Violet, now a Nashville resident. “I’m a singer-songwriter and also a sort of standup comic, but doing it on videos, without the risk (of live comedy). I like the opportunity to be funny with an audience.”

Is there a message in her material?

“The message,” she notes, “is invest in and get to know who you are, your quirks and interests. Know your worth … and be kind to people.”

She also wants to open things up for women in our culture where, she says, “You go to movies and he’s the protagonist. The woman is ‘other.’ He’s the stick figure and she’s the stick figure with a skirt on. I so saw this in high school.”

Violet would eventually like to do something toward relief of human trafficking and the sex trade.

“It’s so deeply tragic and heartbreaking. There’s so much we can do,” says Violet, a Christian who went to India with World Vision and vlogged the experience.

Her Wikipedia entry notes, “Violet is known for her trademark flaming red hair and array of large-frame glasses worn in her videos. She is sometimes referred to as a geek girl for having an interest in Digimon, Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and The Legend of Zelda.”

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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Tessa Violet performs on The Living Room Tour in Portland. Photo by Max Huskins
Tessa Violet in a screen grab from her YouTube video 'Don't Not Do Things Because You're Bad At Them.'