For Haley Raines, 20, creating YouTube videos is an art form. The eccentricity of the Louisiana native’s channel has attracted more than 35,000 subscribers. One thing that is guaranteed from watching Raines is that warm feeling you get from being around someone you love. “Haley has this empathy, compassion, and life cleansing vibe that makes you feel better, more motivated, happy, fulfilled, and loving,” said Allison Redlich, Haley’s best friend. No matter what video you click on, whether it is vegan meal ideas or unfiltered chats about mental health, Raines’ realness is undeniable. By openly discussing her struggles with dissociation anxiety or self-confidence, Raines’ content is undoubtedly authentic. At only nine years old, she began her YouTube journey under the alias BB, making iCarly inspired videos with her childhood friend and neighbor, who went by GG. Over the years, her channel has evolved into an imaginative safe space, where Raines says she has the freedom to be patient with her ideas to create videos she truly loves. She uses her platform to spread awareness about issues like Black Lives Matter, by posting a series featuring Black artists and donating the ad revenue to BLM organizations. This fall, Raines is taking off a semester from her studies at Loyola University New Orleans to pursue a number of her creative outlets, including acting, sewing, and of course, YouTube. Recently, she moved into a cozy abode in New Orleans with three friends, where she will be practicing mindfulness and caring for her mental health. In the darkness of 2020, Raines hopes her videos can provide positive inspiration for her viewers.
Where does your creativity come from?
Raines: My creative outlets, they’ll come from drawing from different pieces of art, people, or little things. For my most creative videos, it will be one thing that makes the whole video that I want to do. The one I can think of — “Let the Music Run Through You” — it was the place. For that, I had an idea that I wanted to do moods with songs, but I was like, “I don’t want to just do that. If I want to do it, I want to go all in.” I went to my friend Coco’s house, saw her place, and was like, “This is perfect. This is where I want to do it.” It takes time. It’s a work-in-progress deal for me when I do projects that are more on the creative or individual side.
What’s your favorite kind of video to create?
Raines: I like advancing in editing. Whenever a video looks a lot different from the rest just because of the editing, that’s what I like most. I like feeling surprised at myself after I finish it, watch it back, and seeing the graphics I put in, or something I did differently, because it makes it so much more fun to edit. I love editing because I can constantly learn something new with it. I like color schemes. I get inspired by films too because if there’s muted tones, I’ll do that for a video. I take a lot from films, or songs even. It gives it more of a cinematic feel. Videos like that, I tend to like more.
What motivates you to keep creating?
Raines: It always challenges my creative side. Whenever I get a new thought or idea and I’m fixed on it and married to it, I’ll go so hard with it. It’s exciting and refreshing. It gives me adrenaline working on something, or getting something together and having people work on a video. It’s so much fun to me. Also, documenting everything. I always think about how later in life, I can look back on them. That also is a big thing that motivates me.
One video that stands out is the suitcase look-book because your editing was so seamless. How long does it take you from when you get the initial idea in your head to creating a video like that?
Raines: I was in San Francisco for that. I filmed that because my best friend, who I was there with, she wasn’t feeling well and was in bed all day. I found that suitcase on that same day on the road. And so, I filmed it and right away, I started editing it. Since I was sitting down with it the whole time, it was probably a five-to-ten hour thing. Sometimes, I can just sit down if I get in a groove. There are a lot of times when I want to think more about what I want to make different and I’ll come back to it. What will happen is I have a notebook of videos and a lot of them, I’ll just scratch and just not ever end up doing for different reasons. There’s one that I’m doing next week that I’ve had in my head for a really long time now, but it’s like I didn’t want to do it until the room that I wanted to film it in was done. I’d rather do it well and feel good about it. I’ve gone down that route, just pumping out videos just for the sake of the numbers. That’s just never, never worked in my favor. I definitely just like to be patient with them.
Do you find it therapeutic to express yourself through videos, music, or fashion?
Raines: It is therapeutic. I like it a lot just because it’s my own. I can do it by myself and it’s something that exercises my brain. It’s also calming, especially whenever I see and feel it coming together because then I get more in a groove.
So, creativity is therapy for you. In what other ways have you been taking care of your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic?
Raines: Disassociation has been the biggest thing with me. I’ve talked about that very openly. It’ll spring up. I talked to my therapist once or twice — I did that whenever it got really, really bad — but for the most part, I try to handle it myself because I’ve been down it before and kind of knew what I needed to do. There’s always a root to those kind of things, too. It’s digging deeper within yourself and trying to figure that out. That was what let me actually progress in getting better. I wake up and I do journaling. It helps get my thoughts out. I do stream of consciousness writing, for the most part. There’s not a strict guideline when I journal. Stream of consciousness really helps because anything can spew out. I just feel so much better.
What does disassociating feel like?
Raines: You feel very out of your body. When you’re speaking, it doesn’t feel like you’re speaking. When you’re hearing things, you can’t understand things fast enough. A certain part of your brain legitimately just shuts off out of habit. A defense mechanism is what it is. It stops you from having panic attacks and anxiety. Your body thinks, let’s numb everything so you don’t feel anything. I would definitely rather have a panic attack and work through that than have no emotions at all because it’s harder feeling it whenever you’ve been shut off. Everything I do will feel like the hardest math problem. E-mailing people back, it will take me hours. It’s so weird. It’s weird to talk about. You just separate yourself from reality. I feel like maybe a lot of people do actually. Once it started happening, I felt really isolated and just alienated.
If you could go back and talk to yourself before you started your YouTube, what advice would you give?
Raines: [chef’s kiss] Ah, I love this question so much. It’s my favorite because if I’m confident about any answers — this one is do not conform. Do not conform to what everyone else is filming or what everyone else is putting out there. That’s what I did whenever I got more into the superficial side of me making makeup or fashion videos that just don’t really align with me now. I would literally film the videos that the bigger YouTubers were doing and thinking that I would get the views, the subscribers, and all that, but that’s not how that works whatsoever. I was not happy filming, editing, or creating any of that. My brainstorming would be: what is getting the most views? That’s not brainstorming. I hated the whole process. When I was around 16 is whenever I realized, I hate everything I put out. I can’t watch it. If you can’t watch your videos with someone else, that’s saying that you’re not proud of them. If you just feel so cringey watching them, that’s a big red flag that you’re not making what you love. Just do what you love even if it’s so different from everyone else. That’s what’s going to set you apart.
What’s the most important message you want your viewers to take away from your channel?
Raines: To appreciate and learn to love the process of every part of your life because we all have different chapters in our lives. How days unfold and what they look like is different for everyone. Enjoy your own process and be open and understanding to everyone else’s. Embrace that. Be open to other people’s change. With my channel, it goes through a lot of changes and I hope people will learn to love that. I hope that’s something they can learn for themselves and for other people as well. Also, to speak up about things going on in the world. That’s a big thing, too. I hope people take that as their duty and role. Not staying quiet about things going on like Black Lives Matter and other issues — political issues. Like, get political.
It’s really cool how you’ve been making Underground Tunes videos to support BLM. What issues are you most passionate about sharing with people who watch your videos?
Raines: Thank you. There’s only so much I can do with my channel, so if anything, I hope those will help. I don’t have one specific — with Black Lives Matter, that movement was really hot around George Floyd. Even now it is, but it’s definitely not as — if it’s not, check who you’re following and who you surround yourself with. Make sure it’s a constant conversation. It’s obvious that right now it’s not talked about as much as it was a month ago. Keeping that in mind has made me realize that I don’t want to be another person who does that. I want to make sure that whatever things do surface — movements or social injustices or issues — stay on the surface. They need to be worked on every single day. It’s not so much about specifically, but just making sure I’m emphasizing the importance of the ones I do talk about.
For this Q&A, I reached out to Haley Raines by sending her a direct message on Instagram. I have been subscribed to her YouTube channel for the last two years. Her vulnerability demonstrates her strength as a young woman in today’s society. The way she openly discusses personal struggles on YouTube is so inspiring and important, as it will hopefully get more people to start talking unashamedly about their mental health. Being that I am pursuing Journalism to tell the stories of strong women, I am over the moon that I got to interview her for this project. We had our conversation over Zoom on Friday, August 21, 2020.
Raines’ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/HaleyRaines/videos
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