What does it take to be “Internet famous” these days?
“Just be yourself,” says Steven Fernandez, a 15-year-old YouTube sensation and skateboarder born and raised in Compton, California.
This Mexican-American teenager rose to Internet stardom when he started posting homemade skateboarding videos on YouTube—he was just 11 years old at the time. Fernandez became notorious for playing pranks on people and doing outrageous things that showcased his loudmouth and carefree personality, earning him the nickname “Baby Scumbag.”
On YouTube alone, Fernandez’s videos have garnered more than 30 million views. When I first interviewed him at the end of March, he had 890,000 followers on Instagram. Today he has almost one million.
That success has brought financial opportunity. He’s partnered with professional skateboarder Keelan Dadd and opened up a skate shop in Granada Hills, California. They’ve also paired up to launch a lifestyle line called Honey Brand Co.
When I started producing this story, one of my editors couldn’t wrap his head around Fernandez’s popularity.
“Is he like Tony Hawk?” he asked. Not quite.
Fusion flew out to California to get a closer look at Fernandez. We started off with an interview at his mother’s home in Compton, where he lives half of the time (he spends the other half living with extended family in the Valley).
Fernandez is, by most accounts, an average teenager. He doesn’t drive, spends the majority of his time glued to social media, and was late for our meeting—three hours late, to be exact.
Once we assured him our interview would be edited for curse words, he let loose, and opened his world to us.
We met brothers, sisters, neighbors, and cousins visiting from Mexico. He took us to Compton Skate Park where we met his childhood friends and also got a private skateboard show full of fancy tricks. Throughout our time together he was uploading and posting photos to Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. Fernandez clearly understands where his fame comes from, and doesn’t let too much time pass without interacting with his followers and fans, giving them access to his private life.
The next day we met up with Fernandez at a Honey Brand Co. merchandise signing, which, we were told, was the best insight into the scope of his popularity.
About 2,000 people were waiting for the teen sensation when we arrived. Some had even lined up overnight just to get a moment with him. The crowds were so big, in fact, the entire event was quickly shut down. Of course, Fernandez made sure to immediately post an apology to his fans on Instagram.
“I was pretty bummed that the event didn’t go on. I was really surprised that many people came,” Fernandez told us over a phone call a couple weeks later.
These days Fernandez is moving away from the nickname of his youth and prefers to be called by his first name.
“I’ve had to clean up my act a little bit. I don’t like being a bad influence,” he admits.
I ask him over the phone if that’s really him in those videos. Is that really Steven Fernandez? Or is it all just an act?
“Yeah… that’s really me,” he says nonchalantly.
If I was ever skeptical of Fernandez’s popularity, this trip proved me wrong. I left California understanding he wasn’t just some kid; he was a street-smart, social-media savvy kid who knew exactly how to make the most of his carefree personality and unique talent.
I asked him what advice he would give to other kids if they wanted what he’d done for himself.
“Just be yourself, have fun and don’t take everything too seriously,” he responds. “Oh and have great hair, it’s all comes down to what conditioner you use.”