TORONTO - Grace Helbig says being an introvert can be an asset in the YouTube age.
The 29-year-old comedian's videos have garnered her 1.9 million subscribers on the streaming site and she recently published her first book, "Grace's Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-Up."
But Helbig says it was only when she embraced her love of alone time that her career began to blossom.
"For so long I struggled with this idea that being an introvert was something I never wanted to be. It had a negative connotation around it," she said in an interview in Toronto. "(I told myself) 'I should try to put myself out there, and try to be really extroverted, and try to be the life of the party, try to have a million friends,' and I just couldn't do it."
Eventually Helbig says she realized that being an introvert isn't a bad thing — it's just someone that doesn't derive a lot of energy from being social.
"So I started celebrating the idea that I like hanging out by myself. By celebrating that, it's been really rewarding because now my career for the most part has come because I've hung out with myself and done things that I thought were fun, which were making web videos alone in my apartment and trying to make myself laugh," she said.
In "Grace's Guide," Helbig explores the daunting task of becoming an adult in the digital age. She said she has long been fascinated with self-help books but found many of them held the same lessons in different packaging.
"I thought it would be fun to write a self-help book, but a self-help book that went to happy hour, a self-help book that doesn't take itself too seriously," she said. "It's not a Bible or necessarily a life guideline. It's just personal experiences that have been reflected on ... that might be helpful, might not, but hopefully it just starts a conversation with the reader and whoever in their life it pertains to."
Helbig was born in New Jersey and began her career doing improv comedy in New York and auditioning for TV shows and films, hoping to break into the industry in a traditional way. She began hosting DailyGrace on My Damn Channel on YouTube as a hobby, and it quickly turned into something more.
"Then they became a survival job that allowed me to quit waiting tables in the city and stay at home making these videos as a means of financial stability while I was still auditioning," she said. "So it took me a long time to realize, 'Oh, I don't need to do this traditional path that causes me so much anxiety and is just a path of constant rejection.'"
She launched her own "It's Grace" YouTube channel earlier this year. She recently created a pilot for E! Television network — which she describes as an "introvert's talk show" in which guests visit her at home — and has been named one of Variety's "Top 10 Comics to Watch in 2014" and Forbes' "30 Under 30."
She said she hopes other introverts can learn from her experience.
"I want a lot of the people that watch the videos online or exist in the digital community that read this book to know that's not something to be ashamed of or not something to be embarrassed by. It's something that you should celebrate or use to your advantage," she said.
Helbig added that aspiring online stars shouldn't expect fame to arrive overnight. She advised content creators to think of their "ideal client" and question whether this person would enjoy what they're creating.
"This has been kind of a slow build for me in this world. I've been doing it for six, going on seven years now. And if I had had one of those overnight success stories, the anxiety that comes along with that would be crippling to me."
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By Laura Kane, The Canadian Press