YouTube is such an integral part of our lives that it’s hard to remember a time before it was ubiquitous. Back in 2006 – a year after the platform launched and before it was acquired by Google – Corey Vidal became one of YouTube’s early stars. His most popular video, an a cappella tribute to legendary composer John Williams, has nearly 23 million views and launched him as a household name. From there, Vidal continued to make music videos, educational and instructional videos, sketch comedies, vlogs, and short films, which led him full circle to being hired to host and direct numerous Star Wars videos for Lucasfilm and Disney.
He recruited a team of writers and filmmakers to help him create content, launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign that raised more than $200,000 from viewers on YouTube, and created a feature-length documentary called Vlogumentary that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was eventually bought and distributed by YouTube Red (now known as YouTube Premium). He also launched Buffer Festival in 2013; inspired by the Toronto International Film Festival, Buffer was the first film festival dedicated to celebrating YouTube filmmakers. But in recent years, Vidal’s career has taken a different turn, and he has now become an active advocate for legal cannabis.
In a recent interview with Corey Vidal, we delve into why he made this major switch in his brand and this next stage of entrepreneurship.
Why make such a radical change after carving out such a large YouTube presence?
Corey Vidal: In my 20s I spent all my energy focusing on being a YouTuber. The stress was overwhelming, and I didn’t have the tools to manage it, so I just kept going. After more than a decade of being a full-time creator, I really burned out. I tried to take a break, but instead of feeling better, I felt worse. I had chronic levels of stress and anxiety and didn’t have the energy to do anything at all. I kept getting worse. After I hurt my back last year, a friend suggested I try edibles. I had previously avoided cannabis and all recreational drugs, but now that it was legal, I decided I felt comfortable giving it a try. I fell in love immediately. I can’t put into words how dramatic an effect it had on me. It didn’t just help my hurting back; it also soothed my mind. In fact, it had such a huge impact on me that I eventually worked with my physician to come off of all the antidepressant and antianxiety medication I had been on for many years. Over the last year, through research and rehabilitation, I’ve become somewhat of a cannabis evangelist.
What made you choose cannabis as your new path?
Corey Vidal: Cannabis is different for everyone, and for me, it connected me to both my mind and body. I started practising yoga and meditation every day, and I’m the healthiest and most grounded I’ve ever been. I feel a newfound sense of freedom, and I’m so grateful that I’ve finally been able to find something that works for me. If there’s a chance that it can help others, then I feel compelled to use my platform to share what I’ve learned. Cannabis culture is all about sharing.
Through my research, I discovered Lift&Co. Expo in 2021, a fun, educational event that welcomes both industry members and consumers to share ideas and explore products across the cannabis landscape. I knew this is what I wanted to be involved in. I want to connect with others who are as passionate about cannabis as I am. That’s why I can’t wait for Lift&Co. Expo 2022.
What is involved in being a cannabis influencer? How do you get the message out?
Corey Vidal: Today I act as a brand ambassador for Lift&Co. Expo by promoting this year’s event, which is coming up on May 12–15 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. On my first anniversary of using cannabis, I took to social media to finally tell people about my new passion, and to help people learn more about cannabis and how it might benefit them.
Did you ever feel that becoming a cannabis advocate could have a negative effect on how you are perceived, especially by people who have been following you for so long?
Corey Vidal: I admit I was nervous about sharing this publicly, due to the stigmas attached to [the industry]. But honestly, the feedback I’ve received has been amazing. I’ve had many people reach out to me with questions about trying cannabis for the first time. I’ve also had people tell me that the way I approach cannabis – with a focus on education and mindful consumption – is helping them reframe their relationship with it. Cannabis helps me connect not only to myself but to others. I believe this highlights the importance of in-person events, which can raise awareness of cannabis, the different strains and methods of consumption, and their myriad applications. Most importantly, I value any opportunity that brings people together peacefully to explore who they are. You never know what you might learn.