PASSAIC, New Jersey - Coby Persin isn't your average YouTuber. He's a bona fide YouTube Star. His popularity on YouTube turned him into a millionaire. He has 3.6 million subscribers to his channel and his and videos have been viewed more than 626 million times.
With such a huge following, he says he landed deals with 20th Century Fox and Tinder.
So what's all the buzz? Persin who moved to Passaic, New Jersey from Orlando, Florida when he was 10-years-old, loves to create hidden camera content. He sets up different social experiments to see how people would react. Imagine walking down the street and thinking that you've just seen Barack Obama. Or hearing hype that a famous person is due to arrive in your neighborhood. Except it turns out it wasn't anyone famous at all, but just a lookalike. This is content that Persin specializes in, and he loves to push the boundaries with fresh and exciting content.
Persin began his YouTube career in 2012, when he was 19 years old. He was working two different jobs at the time--one in a warehouse and the other at a catering company. He discovered how other people were using the platform to make a living, and he realized he had his own great ideas to contribute. So he got to work, planning video ideas and posting online for a cameraman. Once everything was in place, Persin started shooting.
"(The man he hired) had a camera, and we bought a $150 mic," Persin explained. "Next thing you know, we're out every Sunday filming videos in New York or wherever it is. And then the videos kept progressing- bigger videos, bigger budgets. It just got bigger."
Whatever money he earned working, he poured into making his earlier videos. At that time, it was more of a hobby than anything else. Persin had a dream of making it big online, and he was trying as much as he could to make that dream a reality.
His first major viral video? A prank where he pretended to be a celebrity, he hired a camera crew, entourage and even a fake girlfriend to make the stunt look realistic. The encounter was in Times Square and everyone assumed he was famous without even knowing who he was. The video received over 600,000 views.
Once that video went viral,Persin continued to crank out even more content. He has hired actors to pose as celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Zac Efron, fooling thousands of people at a time with his intricate pranks. Some other videos of his have included other hi-jinx like picking up Uber riders in a Bugati car and even making a suit completely out of money. As his subscriber count grew, so did his budget. He describes each video now as its own television show, each one typically costing around $2000-$3000. And now, he is finally living his dream of creating profitable content.
"I never give up to be honest, so I was going to go forever," Persin explained. "Even if (his videos) didn't hit, I would still be doing it for 300 views. I love YouTube at the end of the day."
But, in the last few months, Persin decided to expand his horizons and add more serious content to his channel. Because he was seeing success from his videos, he decided that he wanted to start doing real-life experiments along with fun pranks.
He has covered topics like homelessness and education issues, but his more viral hits include experiments targeting child kidnapping and marriages.
A bonus round with Coby Persin:
7 Rounds with Coby Persin
One of his most popular videos includes a Facebook test, where he created a fake account posing as a 15-year-old boy and friended different teenage girls (with their parent's permission, of course). Then he would wait and see if the girls would communicate with him. They schedule a meeting place, and then he and the parents confront them--sometimes even pretending to kidnap the kids themselves. That video has over 32 million views.
Sometimes, Persin receives criticism for his setups, but he believes that the real life encounter would have been a lot worse.
"If that were real life, they could have been dead. This is better than what could have happened, and they're going to learn a lesson," he said.
From fun to serious content, Persin is extremely happy over the positive reactions to his videos. His fans continue to inspire him to create more. And for him, that isn't too difficult. He finds inspiration everywhere.
"Everyone is supportive and it's amazing. I love it. It's a dream come true at the end of the day," he explained.
He has no intention of stopping content creation. In 10 years, he hopes to make even more YouTube videos because there will always be something new to produce.
"I don't think it's gonna die," he said,"There's always something going on in the news."
You can find him on YouTube as Coby Persin.
This story is part of our ongoing digital series: Social Superstars.