Kris Herzog predicts a YouTuber will be murdered in the next year or two.
Herzog, the owner of Bodyguard Group of Beverly Hills, which has protected stars like Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, and Tom Cruise, thinks that because YouTubers and social media stars bare all to the world and run around unprotected, there could be disastrous consequences.
“The one that always stuck out to me was when a crying (former YouTuber and NBC late-night host) Lilly Singh called me at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” Herzog says. “She goes, ‘There’s this guy and he is stalking me and threatening me that he’s going to rape and murder me and he was just at my house, which we just rented this house, like, yesterday and he already found me.’” (Singh did not respond to requests for comment by press time.)
And it’s not just Singh. Several prominent YouTubers are complaining about fans finding their homes—and it’s making them nervous.
YouTubers have been putting their homes online since they first realized home tours would garner views. Just this last month, megapopular YouTubers JoJo Siwa (10.5 million subscribers) and Jeffree Star (17 million subscribers) gave their millions of fans a home tour, where they showed the exteriors and interiors of their new expensive homes. Star’s Calabasas home featured an underground garage and in-home security and Siwa’s house has her custom Tesla with her face plastered all over it parked outside her home. Inside her home, there are mannequins sporting Siwa’s signature looks throughout the years.
But even as YouTubers invite subscribers into their homes virtually, it doesn’t mean they want fans there physically. David Dobrik, head of the Vlog Squad, and a YouTuber with more than 15 million subscribers, tweeted on Dec. 27, “Hello guys I love everyone that supports me and shows me love. Truly. BUT PLEASE STOP COMING TO MY FUCKING HOUSE.”
He then posted stories on his Instagram of random fans showing up to his home. The fans peered into the window and waved. And according to Dobrik, the fans said, “I’m sorry, We know David’s been getting annoyed by people showing up to the door.”
YouTubers and sisters Rachel and Colleen Ballinger expanded on Dobrik’s tweet on Rachel’s podcast, All Things Internet.
“Don’t come to my home, where I’m supposed to feel safe, and I’ve always felt that way and I’ve had to move in the past because of that,” Colleen said on the podcast. “My last house, people were going through my mail, people were coming and banging on the door, people were throwing stuff in my yard. People were screaming ‘Miranda’ (the name of Colleen’s online alter ego) outside the front door. It made me so uncomfortable and it made me feel so unsafe. I would have anxiety attacks. I would cry every time it happened because I felt so unsafe.”
Rachel Ballinger said via email that fans have shown up “countless times” to her childhood home, a house her parents still live at, and a place Rachel has filmed at several times. But she makes a concerted effort to not film outside her own home.
“There are definitely times where I fear for my safety and for the safety of my dogs,” Rachel wrote. “But I mainly fear for my privacy. I’m constantly scared that my address or phone number will get blasted on the internet because some person on Twitter or Instagram wants attention or likes.”
Still, if people are still driving to The Brady Bunch house in Studio City—a show that is 60 years old—then it’s not hard to imagine kids will ask their parents to drive them to see Siwa’s home, especially when she makes an entire video dedicated to it. On top of that, Dobrik and Singh have rewarded fans for “stalking” in the past — Dobrik featured fans in a video after they showed up to his house and Singh thanked her hotel stalkers on Tumblr.
Fans and stalkers don’t need much information to find out where someone’s home is. Some addresses pop up on Google and there are multiple guided tours in Hollywood that drive customers by the homes of the biggest YouTubers in the world. Fans have also done more sophisticated detective work and chronicled it.
Glenn Cummins, associate professor of journalism and creative media industries at Texas Tech, studies the kind of parasocial relationship between fan and star.
“The personalities we see on screen, they’re speaking to us directly,” Cummins says. “In contrast with a character we might see on a fictional TV show, we feel like we know them because we’ve seen them so much, but they’re not really talking to us directly. YouTube personalities are speaking to us.
“Because it’s a real person, there’s a chance to take this level of fanaticism to the next level and actually find that person.”
Even when YouTubers and social media stars beg their fans to stop showing up to their houses, Cummins believes it’s a mixed signal.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” he says. “On the one hand, they’re saying please stop doing this and on the other hand, they’re saying please like me, please follow me, so it’s mixed signals to say the least. It’s hard to attract an audience and cultivate a following while at the same time, asking that audience respect these limits. ‘Hey, I want you to follow me, just literally not follow me.’”
In an email, LAPD officer Drake Madison wrote that the police department doesn’t “track celebrity calls,” so he’s not sure how many calls they get about fans showing up uninvited to a YouTube celebrity’s home. But regardless, it seems to be a problem.
“I just had a very unpleasant conversation with one of the biggest female celebrities in the world,” Herzog, the Bodyguard Group owner, says. “She never listens to me and she just went on fucking YouTube and gave—with her children—a tour of every inch of her house. ‘Great. Now all the kidnappers are taking fucking notes.’ That’s what I told her. And she gave them a tour of every inch of her house. Her bedrooms, the children’s bedrooms, all the access points, the doors, the patio, the cameras pan around the surrounding neighborhood, so everyone definitely knows where she lives now. And I just wailed against that.”
Herzog takes his job seriously. That’s why when someone like Jake Paul requests Herzog’s services, Herzog declines.
“If you seem like the type of client who’s not going to do what we say to do when we say to do it, and if you’re not manageable from a personal protection standpoint, we won’t even try to protect you,” Herzog says.
Vlog Squadder Dobrik’s personal security has seemingly gotten so bad that now he’s house hunting. And of course, he’s showing the entire process on Instagram.