It’s been a year since internet celebrity Logan Paul uploaded the now-infamous YouTube video of an apparent suicide victim hanging from a tree in a Japanese forest. The backlash to the vlog, in which Paul laughed with friends and asked the body, “Yo, are you alive? Are you fucking with us?” was explosive: Brands axed deals with the influencer, YouTube slashed his advertising privileges and more than 750,000 people signed petitions calling for him to be banned from the platform.
In his latest video, Paul insists he’s learned his lesson and says 2018 was “the most important” year of his life. It was also the most lucrative: The 23-year-old was the 10th highest-paid YouTube star last year, according to Forbes. Despite the Japan calamity and subsequent controversies, he said he raked in “pretty friggin’ close” to Forbes’ estimate of $14.5 million in the 2018 review period, eclipsing his 2017 earnings by $2 million. The vlogger has emerged from scandal relatively unscathed, with a higher income and more subscribers than ever.
Born and raised in Ohio, Paul skyrocketed to fame as a teenager on the video-sharing app Vine. There, he shared viral six-second clips of his daily antics, such as screaming at seemingly unsuspecting grocery store shoppers, climbing into strangers’ cars and leaping over moving vehicles (one stunt apparently resulted in him losing part of his right testicle). When the app shut down in 2016, he migrated to YouTube and amassed 10 million subscribers in less than a year, becoming the fastest content creator to do so on the platform. Paul’s main channel now has nearly 19 million subscribers, up from 16 million at the start of last year. His team did not respond to a request for comment.
In early January 2018, as Paul now tells it, he became the world’s “most hated man” overnight. His since-deleted “suicide forest” video gained some 6.3 million views in 24 hours and drew fierce condemnation from mental health advocates, high-profile celebrities and other vloggers.
“I didn’t do it for the views. I get views,” Paul said in his first of several apologies, claiming he’d “intended to raise awareness” for suicide prevention. YouTube dropped Paul’s channels from its exclusive Google Preferred program on Jan. 10, cutting off his access to premium advertisers, among other consequences. Paul took a monthlong break from vlogging “to reflect,” then returned to social media to joke about doing the highly dangerous “Tide Pod challenge” and post a video of himself shooting two dead rats with a taser. Citing the star’s “pattern of behavior,” YouTube temporarily suspended ads on his channels, then restored them a couple weeks later.
Since his removal from Google Preferred, Paul has continued to profit off his YouTube videos — content creators can earn an estimated rate of up to $5 per 1,000 views through the platform’s general monetization program — but he recently revealed YouTube’s punishment has probably cost him around $5 million overall. His brother and fellow vlogger, 21-year-old Jake Paul, said in October that the “suicide forest” video also “dramatically affected” him financially because his name “got looped into everything.” He still earned $21.5 million in 2018, per Forbes.
Paul enlisted 33-year-old Mike Majlak, a babysitter-like adviser figure, last year to help him control his reckless urges and keep him out of trouble. With Majlak’s help, he has successfully shifted his attention from vlogging to other revenue opportunities. He halted his daily videos in April and debuted his new podcast, “Impaulsive,” in November. That same month, he attended a Flat Earth conference as a keynote speaker and announced he was “coming out of the Flat Earth closet” — a move that has been derided as an attention-seeking stunt.
Paul’s podcast is featured on iTunes and Spotify as well as YouTube, where it has gained nearly 1 million subscribers in less than two months. He also makes millions from his popular clothing and merchandise line, Maverick, which he promotes on YouTube and other platforms. And he still cashes in on sponsored content: Paul can earn around $150,000 per Facebook post and $80,000 per Instagram post, Forbes reported last year.
In August, Paul faced off in a boxing match against rival YouTuber KSI, whose real name is Olajide Olatunji, after spending months hyping the event. More than 800,000 people paid to tune in to the official livestream. Business Insider estimates Paul earned up to $5.5 million from the fight, which is not included in Forbes’ $14.5 million figure, and predicts he could double that amount at the rematch event this year.
The disgraced influencer has cut back his “edgy content” in the past year and worked to rebrand himself as “more than ‘the controversial YouTuber,’” he told entertainment news program “Access” last month. “It’s time for me to exceed expectations,” he said. “The stigma of being a YouTuber is getting old.”