“I“It was the scariest day of my life,” says Amin Mohamed, also known as Chunkz, of the day in 2016 when he told his parents he was dropping out of college to focus. on his YouTube channel. “I remember waking up for a lecture in the first few weeks of college, staring at the ceiling for 45 minutes, on the verge of tears, thinking: I can’t do this. I had this pressure [weighing on me] that my parents wouldn’t accept me leaving. “
Chunkz is a first-generation British Somali (his parents moved here from Somaliland in the late 1980s). For me, also a first generation British Somali, he is, as a genuine celebrity of our community, a unique figure and a local hero. Following in the footsteps of her three sisters, who had graduated from college, she was studying financial mathematics at London Metropolitan University. For Somali children, it is not uncommon for their parents to propel them into a “trustworthy” career. So he stuttered during that moment and told his parents that he had dropped out of college. His father avoided eye contact and his mother became very upset. “While I was talking to them, I was doing damage control,” he says.
Chunkz is also a social media phenomenon. His YouTube channel has more than 1.8 million subscribers. Your Instagram, 2.3 million. His videos – a mix of pranks, challenges, sports commentary, and contests – regularly top one million hits. The content Chunkz posts feels natural and honest, unlike that of many of the more refined, wealthy, and reputable YouTubers. His warm and charismatic personality makes him feel like someone you could really be friends with. Speaking to him on Zoom, it’s easy to see why he has such a massive and loyal fanbase.
Chunkz has had the kind of dream career on YouTube that many kids fantasize about. He began filming videos in 2015 at his family home with his cousin and fellow YouTuber. The darkest man. Series like Cooking with Chunkz, where he was teaching his friends how to make ridiculously basic meals, first caught his eye and his appearance in the 2017 Big Shaq viral parody music video Man is not hot (more than 390 million views) made it even more popular. He followed a musical contract, and in 2018 he won the Somali International Award for Best Artist, followed by a Mobo in 2020, the same year he co-hosted the awards ceremony with Maya Jama.
His growing profile earned him a spot in last year’s Soccer Aid match at Old Trafford, where Chunkz missed a crucial penalty (he jokingly refers to this as the worst day of his life) – another viral moment, which in turn has led to a permanent concert featuring Sky’s weekend soccer entertainment program. Social Saturday.
BBorn and raised in North West London, the youngest of five (he also has a brother), Chunkz says his parents played an active role in keeping him away from problems that could come in the way of young children growing up on a council . estate in Brent. “I was lucky to have so much Mother [Mum] Y Security [Dad]. “He says.” By the time we were between 12 and 15, a lot of the kids I grew up with were going to the right or to the left. “
Early in his career, Chunkz noted that there weren’t many YouTubers like him. He says he admired KSI, Poet and David Vujanic, but did not feel represented. “I couldn’t really relate to anyone else, so I paved the way for myself. I liked the content of the YouTubers I saw, I thought they were funny, but I couldn’t really see myself in them. “Although he says he avoided speaking Somali in his previous videos, in case it was typecast and limited his audience, he felt he could connect with a whole community that was not represented online.
“I love being a Somali,” he says. Her descriptions of her childhood are familiar: the sweet chaos that comes with growing up with many cousins; the strong iftars and sleepy suhoors (morning meals) during Ramadan. And play outside as late as possible: “Everyone’s mom had to come around the corner and yell our names. I’d run inside to eat food [lunch] and comes out again. “
However, for many young British Somalis, myself included, it was not always easy to find a sense of pride in our culture and heritage. Even though my own school has a diverse student body, anti-Somali rhetoric was rife, something Chunkz says he also experienced during his school years: “For some people, being a Somali was an L [loss]. “
The only time you heard about Somalis in the media was in relation to hunger, refugees, pirates or al-Shabaab militants. Like many Somalis in this country, his parents fled to the UK as a result of the Somali civil war in the early 1990s. Growing up, there were hardly any high-profile Somalis in the news, certainly not many in the UK. We were not represented in the culture or in positions of power. Today, Somalis who are part of the global diaspora are making their presence known. From politics to film to fashion, young Somalis can admire Mo Farah, poet Warsan shire, Boxer Ramla Ali former Mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid and award-winning Rocks actor Kosar Ali.
But the British Somali community remains underrepresented and often underrepresented. Disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and police misconduct, the past year has been particularly challenging. Last summer, at the height of global protests following the murder of George Floyd, activists took up the case of the 12-year-old Somali girl Shukri Abdi, found dead in the River Irwell in Bury, Greater Manchester, in 2019 after her mother saying that the police had not adequately investigated allegations that she was a victim of bullying.
Somalis from across the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada organized protests and demonstrations demanding an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. In a message posted on Instagram, Chunkz encouraged his followers to contact their local MPs to demand answers in the case of Abdi and spoke at a demonstration in London. As he watched the Abdi case unfold, Chunkz says, there was no way he couldn’t get involved.
“When I started out, the number one rule that another YouTuber gave me was: don’t get involved in politics. They told me to make people laugh and then tune out. But as I grew up in this industry, I felt that responsibility fell into my lap. Not only am I black, I am not only young, I am also a Muslim man. Now I am seen as a role model, I have to think about everything I do and it can be difficult to balance all that. “
SSince 2019, Chunkz has been living in a £ 5 million house with four other black British YouTubers, all friends of his, known as the Beta Squad. The group films content together and they have spent most of the pandemic together. YouTubers creating group concepts often feel forced, but for Beta Squad it’s different. “We are all like brothers who happen to be YouTubers,” he says. On camera it is very easy to see their chemistry, comfort and jokes with each other; you can tell that they are genuine friends. But like the rest of us, Chunkz has had to accept the strict truths of the blockade. “The kitchen has been awful,” he says.
We discuss the pitfalls of fame and success, but Chunkz says he feels confident that he can stand his ground. He attributes it to his family, who still see him as “little Amin,” the youngest in the house, and to his faith, which keeps him level-headed. “When I go to a shoot or am filming, as soon as people hear adhan [Islamic call to prayer] from my phone, everyone knows what it is. I will get up wherever I am and go to pray, ”he says.
In a recent video posted on his YouTube channel, Chunkz announced to the world that he would be leave the music. Speaking with fellow Beta Squad and YouTuber Sharky, he shared that he feels that performing music is incompatible with his religious beliefs. “I have to stop for the love of God,” he says in the video. The announcement immediately became a trend on Twitter, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. As we ponder this, Chunkz says it was a pleasant surprise. “It wasn’t what I expected, but it was the best reaction I could have asked for.”
Today, he tells me, he measures success in terms of being able to take care of his family. “I remember when my mother’s dishwasher broke, and being able to say, ‘Don’t worry, I got it,’ is something very important to me. Knowing that my parents can trust me. “He says. Chunkz wants you to know that he’s grateful. So he repeats”Alhamdulillah”(Praise God) more times than I can count during our conversation.
I ask him about his future plans. “I just want to be happy,” he says. He hopes to do more television and make a movie. “The sky is the limit for me.”
As the lights begin to dim and Maghrib, the penultimate Islamic prayer of the day is fast approaching, we conclude the call.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism