Meet Felix Kjellberg - the new 'King of the Web'
His rapid rise has established him on Hollywood's radar
Paul Gallagher is a reporter for the Independent and Independent on Sunday having joined the group in 2012. He has previously worked for the European Voice, Daily Mirror and the Observer and been based in Brussels, Belfast, Tokyo and London.
Friday 15 November 2013
Swedish internet sensation Felix Kjellberg has been dubbed the latest 'King of the Web', so it is rather appropriate that after moving to the UK he has ended up living in Brighton's Regency Square.
The 24-year-old, whose online alter ego is PewDiePie, recently unseated Miley Cyrus as the world's most popular YouTube channel. He now has more than 15m subscribers - more than Sky and Virgin Media combined. His rapid rise has established him on Hollywood's radar as he appeared on the red carpet at the LA premiere last month of Harrison Ford's latest film, Ender's Game, with Italian girlfriend Marzia Bisognin.
The couple had been living with her parents in Italy but Kjellberg has now based himself in Brighton - a move he said was attractive not because of the proximity of the sea but because the UK's faster broadband connections.
Originally from Gothenburg, Kjellberg's recipe for success has been to film his reactions to playing action and horror video games and uploading the results on his YouTube channel, which he set up in April 2009 and called PewDiePie (think Cutie Pie, fans - or 'bros' as he calls them - say).
In 2011, Kjellberg quit Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden where he had been studying Industrial Economics and Technology Management to focus his growing YouTube celebrity status and it seems to have paid off.
More than 1,500 of his 'Let's Play' clips have been watched more than 2.7bn times. In October, when he knocked Miley Cyrus off her wrecking ball after the singer had temporarily overtaken him in the charts, Kjellberg racked up almost 200m views in that month alone and his fan base is global. Underneath a Q&A video where he revealed he was moving to England, girls from Czech Republic, the USA, Indonesia, Malaysia and many more countries left messages with dates when they first became a 'bro'.
Kjellberg's net-worth was estimated at £4 million when he had amassed 870m views - a figure he has more than trebled - with ad sales accounting for most of the channel's revenue.
Swedish columnist Lars Lindstrom said Kjellberg's popularity was down to being "a great comedian and a natural talent".
He said: "That Felix Kjellberg has a comic talent is indisputable. It is both amazingly awful and amazingly funny when a father bikes around with his son in the game Happy Wheels and both get crushed and bloody again and again and PewDiePie improvises absurd comments as the game continues. The secret is that he really loves to play these games and that he has fun doing it."
Kjellberg was not at home when the Independent tried to speak to him on Thursday but he told the Brighton Argus last weekend that while he may not yet be a household name in the UK, he gets mobbed on his travels. Discussing a recent trip to Singapore, he said: "They had to hold me back because there were so many fans. It was insane, the most unreal experience, literally like I was a rock star. I felt like I was part of The Beatles or something, people were screaming everywhere."
Neighbours at the 19th century sloping residential development that overlooks the burnt out remains of Brighton Pier were nonplussed by their superstar neighbour. A young couple arriving at the square's Hotel Una had never heard of Kjellberg, nor had a woman emerging from the same block of flats that he lives in.
It may be a while before adults recognise him but an ever increasing number of 'bros' have taken Kjellberg to their hearts. Devoted fans have a chance to get even closer to their internet hero if they have a spare £210,000 - a sign in the window of Kjellberg's block of flats is advertising a ground floor flat for sale.
One elderly resident looked blankly when told who had arrived in Regency Square. "Mind you, I haven't heard of Miley Cyrus either," he smiled.
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