Logan Paul is thinking about legacy – namely his, and what he hopes it to be.
"How do you leave actual, meaningful impact? That's the golden question. Cos it's not through just video content. I don't know what it is yet but I will figure it out."
That last statement is not an ambition so much as a promise. He will figure it out.
Paul has figured out a lot of things over the past decade: Vine, YouTube, Hollywood, and, most challengingly, himself. The last one is still an ongoing process, as it is for everyone – regardless of your age (25), profile (global), and number of YouTube subscribers (21.4m and only going up).
One day, somebody (most likely Paul) will make a film about the video-obsessed kid from Ohio who built a global brand using his life as the prime commodity, learnt his lessons beneath the harsh and unflinching spotlights of early 21st-century social media – so bright they occasionally blinded him – and emerged into adulthood as... what? We'll have to wait until he figures it out.
We speak over Zoom: Paul is in Los Angeles, hoodied and hunched on the set of his podcast Impaulsive. The podcast is one of a number of ways Paul keeps busy: along with upcoming fashion line Maverick Clothing, the boxing matches – his rematch against fellow YouTuber KSI sold out the Staples Centre – the forays into music and film, and of course the vlogging. Presumably he sleeps as well, occasionally.
Even out of a computer screen, Paul is engaging company: self-aware, introspective, quick for a laugh and a joke, often at his own expense.
We talk about new musical Valley Girl – Paul plays the preppy love rival to the sensitive heartthrob from the wrong part of the town – as well as a life lived through a lens, his dream boxing opponent (historical), and of course his legacy – whatever that may be.
What made you do Valley Girl?
Yeah, I think I liked the excitement of a) being in a musical and b) the musical taking place in the 1980s. Let's be honest, the world's kind of going to shit right now. It's 2020, there's a global pandemic, we're all stuck inside, it's not been the best year – so it's nice to get out of this millennium for a second! I was playing a tennis player from 1980s; what's better than that?
You didn't have many songs!
Why didn't they give me more songs! [Laughs.] I'm a platinum recording artist! Technically. Why didn't they give me more songs?
What song would you have chosen?
I would have liked to sing Rich Girl by Hall and Oats. I think it would have fit, too. 'You're a rich girl, but it's gone too far...' But nah, I only had one line.
I liked the bit where you ask the girl to prom via the medium of butts...
I feel like I would do that in real life as well... They told me my friends were going to paint 'P-R-O-M-?' on their butts, and they were going to pull their pants down as I shot them with a big shotgun. I was like, damn. I should definitely have done this for my prom.
Valley Girl, your Baywatch cameo – there's a certain type of character you seem to be cast as...
Yeah, except I don't want to do that anymore. It's so funny: you hear about being typecast when you come to Hollywood, and I'm definitely typecast! Probably because I play that kind of character so easy: big, dumb jock. But I think my big dumb jock days are over. I don't wanna do that anymore.
When you moved to LA, becoming a film star was your initial plan, right?
Yeah, I wanted to be an actor and I went hard for three, four years on it. I got to experience the world pretty in-depth, and not being able to control the stuff you're making was a bit of a hurdle for me to mentally conquer. Because with the internet stuff, I can do anything: I can put it out when I want, I can hold it, I can do whatever with it.
With Hollywood, there are so many people to trust, you know? I have trust issues. And Daddy issues. And Mommy issues. I've got all kinds of issues! [Laughs.] I'm kidding, my parents love me.
I watched your Maverick documentary – don't take this the wrong way, but I wasn't prepared for how good it would be...
No, bro, I get it! I really appreciate you recognising that because I think that's definitely one of the more defining pieces of work on our page.
With vlogs, you shoot a couple of dumb things, you put it into a four-to-six minute video, you move on.
That documentary was an eight-month shooting process, a four or five month editing process, and in it all sorts of emotional trials and tribulations, and physical ones too, with the boxing.
That attempt to bounce back after Tokyo was fucking hard, man. It was very trying.
We were able to shove it into a sixty-minute mini-doc for YouTube and I liked the way it came out, and I'm glad you did, too.
Obviously you had that video background with Vines – can you remember your first one?
My first Vine ever... It was dumb, man! OK, so on Vine you could do effects, like you push into the phone and then it loops. So I set my phone up, pushed into it and then it looped. It was dumb, man.
I wasn't, like, built for Vine. I didn't randomly get good at Vine. I just did a LOT of them, and eventually some of them started to work. I tried everything, and then I found a formula and a model, and started to copy it.
What was the formula?
You gotta be able to tell a story in six seconds. A story is three parts: A, B, and C. Vine is the B. But what happened before and what happened after, to give it the context, that will make the clip funny. Add that with my physical comedy, and what I thought were funny little skits, and you've got yourself a famous Viner.
There's a YouTube compilation of your best Vines. Obviously there's a lot of goofing around, but it's very creative goofing around...
That's my secret. I intentionally make content and come off as a dude who is a little superficial and whose brain tends to be shallow.
Not necessarily to other people, but when you see someone on screen, whether it's a piece of their content or an interview or on a podcast or whatever, you don't know anything about them: humans are very complex, dynamic creatures.
So when you see my six-second Vines, although they may appear knee-slappers or just a kid on Vine, there's a lot of thought behind all of them.
That's transferred to YouTube and Facebook and Instagram – I've just been able to trick people into thinking I'm dumb! [Laughs.]
When really, I like to consider myself to be perceptively intelligent. I feel like I just trick people. [Laughs.]
There's a real joy to them. You seemed like a kid who really loved what he was doing...
Well, that was it. That's why this has worked for me, because I've never done it for money or to get paid: I really just like making videos, basically.
It's a conversation I'm forced to have with everyone who gets involved in my life – I'm like, hey, I love making videos. 'That's great, man, that's cool!'
I'm like, no, you don't understand: I don't do this because it makes me money or gets me clout. I've been making videos since I was nine. You will end up on camera. You've just got to tell me what you're cool with and what you're not.
I did start off pretty innocent, you know? Fun and jovial. And while I still definitely am, I grew up! I grew up online, on the internet, for all to see!
You see my success, you see my failures, and throughout the years, if you continue to like what I'm doing, hope on the train, man! We're going to some great places so join the club!
Where does that love of video come from?
I don't know. I have no idea. I was eight years old and I found out what a video camera was. I was like, 'Mum, I need one!' She barely knows what it was – you can be your bottom dollar that my mum and dad didn't have a camera video. So I snowblowed driveways for an entire winter, and finally I was able to afford my first video camera at, like, nine years old, and just started doing some dumb shit.
Some people are just born performers...
There's something so magical about living in the moment, which I do try to do, often, but I often wonder what's more magical: living in the moment, truly embracing this current, specific, fleeting moment of presence – or being able to capture that moment, and watch it, think about it, ponder it, enjoy it for the rest of time? And I think I like the latter better. It's why I'm so willing, apt and enthusiastic about putting my life on camera.
Do you rewatch many of your vlogs?
Hell no! [Laughs.] Hell no! Especially not the ones from 2017, 2018. Maybe when I'm older. Or maybe not, I might delete all of them. I don't know.
There aren't many people who'd enjoy watching themselves as a teenager...
It's weird, man. So much of my growth online is true growth: I'm going from a young child, who has no idea how to navigate the world. When I was making Vines, I didn't know that you had to pay taxes.
I remember I got my first brand deal, my mum was like, 'oh you made $2,000? That's great! Just be prepared to give $1,000 to the government.' I was like, 'what are you talking about, why would I give $1,000 to the government? This is my money.' I was 18 years old, I didn't know what taxes were! No-one taught me this!
A lot of my growth, you can see: I go from young man-child to grown man-child. Still a man-child. But yeah, there's a path.
What made you a successful vlogger, as opposed to millions of other people who do it?
I think it's a combination of a couple of things. I think the fact that I'm blessed inherently with whatever physical attributes I have that allow me to do physical comedy: backflips, boxing, whatever. That, combined with my storytelling ability – like you saw in the Maverick documentary.
When people are watching a vlog, they have no idea, they have no idea the amount of intricate, complex, detailed storytelling beats that me and my editor aim to hit.
You are being told a full story. Not in every vlog, some are just a bunch of shenanigans, but we know exactly what we're doing when we assemble a piece in a certain way.
And should we expand to longer content, we can do it.
That, combined with the resources I have now, it's just a combo that's hard to recreate, and it really helps me and Team Maverick standout.
It must blur that line between reality and fiction, living so much on camera?
It's the worst. That's the hardest part about this job: trying to figure out what is appropriate to share and what's not.
When you're stuck in this cycle, which I'm not yet, but 2017 Logan Paul was, and every other fucking vlogger who has done videos on YouTube, you're literally getting paid to exploit your life – but some things you can't exploit.
Yet your audience wants you to, and you get caught in this cycle of trying to appease people who you don't even know in real life and trying to stay true to yourself.
Then you get caught up and you get screwed.
I think relying on the people around you to pull you back to reality and go 'this isn't cool, you can't be doing this stuff', and at the same time encourage you to do the good parts of it, is real important.
It must be tricky being the first of your kind – you're the roadmap...
Yeah, it's tricky. There was no blueprint: I was the blueprint. Specifically with mistakes, because there were vloggers before me but they didn't push the envelop like I did or my brother did.
We fucking sent it! We sent it! We become the roadmap for what was right and what was wrong, what was appropriate and what wasn't.
And now we're in a really good spot, where we have a really awesome team around us and there's no room for error anymore. I'm grown, the people around me are grown, we got a really solid organisation.
You sound like you're in a good place, which is good...
Yeah. Yeah that is good. [Laughs.]
I can't imagine what it's like having so many people you've never met invested in your life...
It's cool and it's frustrating. I need to acknowledge my privilege where I'm in a blessed position, I have the ability to do this now, but also yeah, speaking candidly about it, the entire internet becomes your parents.
What made you do the boxing?
Why did I do that? Man, I'm always up for a challenge. When I moved to Hollywood, my goal was to be the biggest entertainer in the world, and everybody was like, 'how are you going to do that and more importantly what does that mean?' And I'm like, I just want to conquer each vertical and do whatever to the highest degree.
So with YouTube it was like, OK what do I need to do to be the biggest YouTuber in the world? I just got challenged to a boxing match, this is interesting, but also it's a vertical of sport that I've not yet done. And I'd like to consider myself an athlete, so I did it.
KSI challenged me, I accepted it, screw it, let's try something new, and it became one of the best decisions of my life.
I really love boxing now, and I'm going to have more fights in the future. Probably even some MMA fights to be honest. I think it's a cool lane.
There's a stigma that comes with being a YouTuber but there's no stigma that comes with being a boxer. Boxers are badass. The energy's different when I walk into a room now versus when I was just a vlogger. Now I'm a vlogger-boxer! Watch out.
What do you mean by a stigma? People not taking you seriously?
Not people. We live in LA, so it's a bit of a bubble, and traditional Hollywood don't respect vlogging like they do their traditional talent. Unless you're top tier, cream of the crop, making some really meaningful content, I don't know, you don't get the respect that we all like.
Is that changing?
Nah. It's not. It's changing on the surface level. We're getting opportunities that we used to not. We're getting calls that we used to not. But look at results. Look at actual stats, and the reality of the situation. How many YouTubers are going on late night talk shows? How many YouTubers have been on late night talk shows? How many YouTubers are starring in movies, how many YouTubers are platinum recording artists? The answer for all of these is little to none.
The worlds are still very divided. There's digital media, and there's traditional media. And the crossover has not happened yet. There're a few people who are doing it, but we're not there yet.
Would you count yourself among those people? Or on the way to being one of them?
I would. But also, I don't know. I don't care anymore. I used to care so much about being respected by traditional Hollywood and traditional media. And why? Why do I give a fuck? I'm doing what I love, every single day, I know I bring a massive value and appeal to whatever project that I choose to sink my teeth into. If my synergy matches up with a project in Hollywood and it's perfect, I'm gung-ho, man, I'm enthusiastic, but I'm no longer seeking validation from it.
It could be maturity as much as anything...
That too, man! Everything I say could be attributed to maturity. Humans grow! So yeah, when I was younger I was like, 'yeah, I want to be the best actor ever!'. And now I'm like, I don't know, man. I'mma let the actors be actors.
There'll be a lot of young people wanting to be vloggers – wanting to emulate you...
Yeah. Don't. Don't do that. [Laughs]. Don't do that, guys. Emulate someone else. Emulate David Dobrik! Please! [Laughs.]
It's good. A lot of responsibility but you're part of the future...
Yeah, you start this stuff, and I gotta be honest with you, man, nowhere along the line do I remember checking a box that says 'I wanna be a role model'. Cos I didn't. I really didn't.
I've always considered myself a leader but not a role model on what is right and wrong. And then you get thrown into this world, and now you have an audience, now you have a responsibility, and you have to be a role model.
If you have eyeballs on you, it is important for you to set a good example.
So now I try to preach the message of the importance and significance of being unique and using that to fuel you. Which is my clothing line [Maverick Clothing].
It's the entire secret to my success. I was the isolated kid. I was the weird kid. Cos I made videos. And yeah, in a small suburban town in Ohio, it was fucking weird – till you started making some money from it and people like your videos.
Do you think you've done the things that you'll be remembered for?
Nah. I haven't, I haven't. To be honest, man, I'm just getting warmed up. This is all petty fun and games to me. I really, really enjoy making video content and entertaining people, it's my favourite.
If I can distract people from whatever hardship they're having and take their mind off this quarantine bullshit – like, look at us right now, this is ridiculous. If I can get people to move about their life in a lighter way because of my content, that's a win. What more can I ask for?
And so, no. I'm nowhere near. I'm sixth of the way through my life, I have a lot to go.
What would you want to do?
So me and my friends talk about this often. How do you leave actual, meaningful impact? That's the golden question. Cos it's not through just video content. I don't know what it is yet but I will figure it out.
I guess as an artist it's through art – films, music, books – and as an entrepreneur it's through changing the world, even if only a little bit of the world...
That's the answer: the latter. Because, man, you can be the best artist in the world, you can be the best artist in the world, and you will not leave a legacy. Maybe. Like, I'm talking about a true legacy – we talked about this on my podcast.
Not: people remember you 50 to 100 years after you die. I'm talking about a profound, prolonged worldwide impact. And I don't know how to do that, you know? I'm a YouTuber and I'm gonna crack the code but at this exact moment I don't know how to do that just yet.
What kind of people would you want to emulate in that way?
I look at Elon Musk as being a dude who could potentially leave meaningful impact. If he does what he says and we do go to Mars and start colonising, he will forever be known as the guy who took us to Mars. Picture Martin Luther King, picture Gandhi, picture Thomas Edison – true legacies. One of one, the very first to do a certain thing. You've got all sorts of artists, man. You can make as many good films as you want, you can make as many hits as you want, musically. I don't know. I think it's going to be through business or tech.
This might be the way for me to do it, talking out loud here is actually making me realise: one thing I know I'm good at is empowering people. I'm so good at helping people unleash the greatest version of themselves.
Everyone in my life, every single person that has ever come across me in my life, has become or is on their way to becoming the best version of themselves. I demand excellence from the people around me – as I would hope that energy is reciprocated and they do the same for me.
So through content, through the screen, maybe my legacy, maybe my purpose on this Earth is to empower people to believe that they can. To believe in themselves. Cos people are lost, man. Most people don't know what to do. Most people have no purpose or don't know what their purpose is or haven't discovered yet what it is. Do you know how frustrating that is? That's the worst feeling in the world, man: if you don't know why you're on this spinning rock.
So if I could help people realise that, I think that may be the key to the meaningful impact that I'd like to leave behind.
You sound like you're speaking from experience?
Yeah man, I've been lost just like everyone else. And what's worse is, I thought I wasn't! I thought for sure I knew what was happening! And then you get smacked in the face and you realise you have no idea what you're doing! And you're back to square one – you're not even at square one! You're in the negatives. Nah, bro, nah! You below ground! And so, I emphasise with people who may not know just yet – what the deal is here on this fucking rock.
I don't think you ever find out the deal. You're never the finished product, right? You just improve and tweak as you go...
You know what's helped me? Letting go. Stop trying to understand what's happening. Just live each day, day by day, until you find something that piques your curiosity or interest. Go down that route, see if it works for you, see if you can find a future there or you enjoy what you're doing – even if you're not good at it yet. Cos it takes time to get good at something.
Watch the first YouTube videos I made. They were shit. Go watch my first day of boxing, it was shit. Go watch my last fight at boxing, it was shit! I'm still shit! But guess what? I ain't giving up. I got a lot more life to live! I got a lot more to go!
If you could box any person in history, who would it be?
If I could box any person in history? Adolf Hitler. I would beat the fucking shit out of Hitler. Beat the shit out of him. Or any dictator or evil leader in the past. I would use this opportunity to reign down a wrath of punches on any of these monstrous people from the past.
Would you ever go into politics?
Yeah, I'm gong to run for President in 2032. Nah, it might not be 2032. But I will run for President before I die.
The current incumbent proves anything's possible, right?
Facts, dude. And bro, I'd be a sick President. Not like this one. By the time I'm 40, I'm going to have my shit together, I'm going to want what's best for this country, and I'm going to act on it.
Funnily enough, that was the final question – aged 40, where do you see yourself, personally and professionally?
Oval Office, baby! [Laughs.] Er, married, with kids, not in LA, probably some beautiful mountainous landscape, raising my kids to be the best versions of themselves. Maverick Clothing one of the most prominent clothing brands in the world. Getting ready to start my Presidential campaign. That's where I'm going to be at.
Still videoing every day?
Hell fucking no. Nope. I'll do it because I love it, but I don't know what it's going to be.
My guess is it will transform into film and television – just longer form content, you know? Not so much exploiting my life.
Because when I have kids, I don't know if I want to put them on camera. It would be hilarious and it would be awesome – maybe when they're little baby kids.
But once they start to develop real emotional maturity I'm probably not going to film them anymore. That's whack.
But who knows? If I'm struggling for money, yeah, I'll exploit my kids! I'm just kidding.
Thanks for your time! Anything else you want to say?
Watch Valley Girl! Enjoy the film, and keep an eye out for Maverick Clothing, May 22nd.
Valley Girl is out now.