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Interview: Talking ASMR with Lily Whispers

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“My close friends and family were accepting, however, my school totally freaked out. I withdrew for a semester, took the summer to re-think my channel and what I wanted to do. People thought it was sexual and weird and I was ostracized at school because of it for some time.”

You might at this point be wondering what Lily has done to warrant this response.

Lily’s channel, Lily Whispers ASMR has over 170,000 subscribers with over 37 million views. She makes ASMR videos.

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and YouTube is awash by a growing community of artists and watchers.

These videos feature a variety of sounds that are intended to be relaxing and to cause tingles in the brain.  Lily describes it as “a wave of relaxation, ‘tingles’ we call it, although I like to describe it as a warm shiver.”

As for dropping out?

“No one really knew that I dropped out. My parents were concerned so I went on mild antidepressants during this time and stayed on them until March 2016.”

Lily had to take online summer courses to catch up.

“I was very sad during this period of time. I felt like the whole school was now watching my videos so during the summer of 2014, you will notice that I did not really upload any roleplays or anything. I didn't want people thinking I was weirder than I already felt and I think that roleplays tend to stray on the stranger side of ASMR, even though they're my favourite types of videos to watch. 

Lily’s first video was uploaded on 14th July 2013 and is a make-up counter roleplay, featuring a wide variety of sounds. Rubbing, opening containers, all the sounds associated with cosmetics.  

This video drew inspiration from an earlier video watched by Lily: “I got suggested a video from AppreciateASMR's Lana Del Ray makeup video,” she begins, “once I put on headphones I was intrigued and fell asleep! I found it both entertaining and relaxing.

“I had dabbled in YouTube before and thought hey - I could give back to the community too!”

She says she began making videos because she “wanted to find a corner of the internet that I could always escape to and call home.

With lots of different videos out there, it can be hard to think of original material. Lily tells me she just watches videos to stimulate her imagination and provide fresh ideas for her loyal following.

Lily has a wide variety of videos – you can find her telling crime stories, smoking hookah, making unintelligible mouth sounds, and performing in roleplays acting out as Kylie Jenner and Princess Kida.

ASMR can seem rather strange at first glance, for example, a 2015 video from Ricky Odriosola ASMR featured the artist running a knife against his beard in front of his microphone. First-time viewers are often taken aback by the level of intimacy.

Indeed, some comments from viewers have also been unhelpful with people calling her, “a slut, a whore and talking about my appearance”. This means she has had to “block people like it's my third job.”

A lot of ASMR artists receive requests from viewers for video ideas, another way in which the videos can be interactive and intimate.

Lily’s uploads feature six requested videos– a men’s shave roleplay, a shoe show n’ tell, one of her make-up collection, gum chewing, a girlfriend roleplay and some lip smacking.

Some requests can be strange. A quick trawl on reddit will show a rather specific one – “Do a nurse RP where you flirt and congratulate an amateur MMA fighter that just won a debut fight from socal”.

Lily has had some weird requests herself: “A lot of feet stuff for sure, some guy asked me to do a video like I'm talking to a miniature person too.”

ASMR is a growing industry with a lot of potential for the future, some artists get donations in order to buy recording equipment and this is due to the importance of it in the lives of some viewers.

This is shown in the comments below those videos.

One commenter on one of Lily’s older sister roleplays, a fellow ASMR artist, Midnight Tingles ASMR wrote: “Ur the best older sister I never had <3”, whilst over users wrote “They (Lily’s older sister roleplays) inspire me to be a better older sister to my lil sis” and I’ve only watched about 48 seconds but I'm already in love”.

She has encountered some of these followers in her daily life: “It's really humbling,” she begins “I am so blessed to have people approach me and tell me how my videos impact them. People are always like, "OMG do you make ASMR videos?" I immediately blush when they say that though since I'm not too good on-the-spot.”

She admits that she’s also “a lot less calm and relaxed in person” because she has “a lot of anxiety and I talk very fast.”

But, she enjoys making ASMR as many viewers got positive results from watching it: I work from 8:30-5pm every day of the week and so I'll usually get home, eat something and then film. So usually start filming between 7-10pm then editing and exporting/uploading takes me usually until 12-2am.

“I find comfort in helping people. It gives me a sense of purpose outside of my 9-5 that fuels a capitalist culture.”

 

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