Jessii Vee believes in the power of transparency when it comes to how we’re feeling. In fact, she’s cultivated a massive online platform regarding this very topic. Through her YouTube, TikTok and the YANA (You Are Not Alone) group, Jessii has advocated for safe spaces on social media as well as given her followers a place where they can thrive.
I had the privilege of chatting with Jessii Vee about her personal mental health journey, what inspired her to create YANA, her future in acting, living with Lyme disease and much more.
Melody McCune: We at GGA love a good origin story. So, what’s Jessii Vee’s origin story?
Jessii Vee: I was super shy in high school, but I loved to write! So, one day I started a blog where I’d post short stories, diary entries, movie reviews etc. After a couple of years, it gained 30,000 followers — I couldn’t believe it! I started to get emails from my followers asking me to start up a YouTube channel because they wanted to actually see and hear me tell my stories. I was incredibly nervous to start a channel because of how antisocial and quiet I was, but I took the chance and it changed my life. It’s made me so much more confident with who I am!
MM: Besides your regular YouTube channel, you also have another channel dedicated to your fun alter ego “Moot.” Can you talk about the inspiration behind creating this character?
JV: In 2016, I went on a six-city tour around Ontario, Canada. It was called the “Embrace Your Weird Side Tour.” That’s something I’ve been telling my subscribers since day one. I asked my subscribers to send me videos showing their most unusual talents so I could compile them into a video to show on the tour.
Well, my “Weird Side” to include in the video was this character named Moot. That’s where he made his first appearance. He’s a silly character that doesn’t talk and always gets himself into peculiar situations. I don’t like to take myself too seriously, so Moot was the perfect way to show people that. Making videos for Moot’s channel is so much fun and I love that it makes people laugh!
MM: You founded YANA (You Are Not Alone), a platform that encourages connection, in 2019. Of course, the pandemic has drastically altered our ability to connect on a physical level and has certainly felt isolating. Can you describe what YANA is and how it’s positively impacted your followers?
JV: School is not always an easy place to be — I can tell you this first hand. I really struggled growing up being shy and I was bullied quite a lot. I’d eat my lunches alone. I found it difficult to make friends. That’s where the inspiration for YANA came from.
It’s a group in school where people come together to support one another. A place to make connections and where students reach out to people that seem isolated. The goal is to have a safe space in schools all around the world where no one feels judged. YANA is now in over 50 schools around the world. It’s growing each month. I’ve already gotten so many messages telling me how much this group has changed their lives. It makes me so happy.
MM: Originally, YANA started out as a school initiative that morphed into a social platform once the pandemic hit. What was that transition like and what inspired you to make said transition?
JV: Once the pandemic hit, I realized I needed to come up with another way to continue YANA. Especially because this past year has brought so much anxiety, worry and isolation. Being stuck at home by yourself can be just as hard.
So, I created a YANA Instagram page (@yana_group) where I post inspirational quotes and positive affirmations so people can have some positivity on their timelines. I’m also doing monthly live streams called “Jess Checking In” where I cover different topics like bullying, anxiety, chronic illness etc. I’ve also heard that many schools that started YANA groups have moved them online and they do weekly Zoom calls to check in on everyone. I think that’s great!
Pictured: Jessii Vee.
MM: A large part of your online presence has been about helping those who struggle to fit in and addressing vital, timely topics such as bullying and depression. Do you feel that shining a light on these important issues has also positively affected your own mental health?
JV: Yes! I think YouTube made it so much easier for me to open up about these topics. Every day I would get comments from people telling me things they were struggling with and I realized that I needed to use my platform to spread awareness. The more I spoke about anxiety, depression and other important topics, the more I made connections with people that helped me in my own mental health journey. There are so many people out there in the world that are just like me. It’s comforting.
MM: Social media can be such a volatile place. But now, more than ever, it’s become our only method of communicating with people from across the globe and fostering a sense of belonging. What advice would you give to young kids who are feeling ostracized because of the toxicity of social media?
JV: Social media can be exhausting sometimes. It can make us feel insecure and wish our lives were different. But I promise you, most of what you see on social media isn’t a real representation of what life really is. People only show the best parts of their day. Just remember that the most important thing to focus on is your happiness. There’s only one of YOU and that’s what matters. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Enjoy your life. Don’t take social media too seriously — you can’t trust it.
MM: You do monthly Instagram LIVEs entitled “Jess Checking In.” What’s the thought process behind these LIVEs? Do you encourage people to be honest about their struggles amid the pandemic?
JV: I really wanted to have a place where I could connect with my following each month. Where they could ask me questions and tell me how they’re doing. I have a different topic for each live stream that covers real struggles that people go through in life. I’ve been through a lot and I hope that speaking about my experiences can help others. It’s also great that it’s in real-time, so I can actually respond to people and have those conversations.
MM: You’ve also dabbled in acting. You starred in the web series Running With Violet as Frankie. The show centers on a lonely housewife, a single mother and her toddler as they try to escape their small town. However, they soon become entrenched in a thrilling open road adventure. What was the process behind securing that role? Do you have any plans to continue acting in the future?
JV: Running With Violet was the first time I ever tried out acting. The creators, Rebecca Davey and Mary-Claire Marcotte, reach out to me in 2016 and said I’d be perfect for the character of Frankie. I was so excited about this opportunity and I couldn’t turn it down. Acting was like stepping into a whole different world. When I filmed YouTube videos, I didn’t have to memorize lines and I was by myself in front of the camera. On set, there are so many people watching and it’s just such a different experience. I’m definitely open to doing more acting in the future!
MM: In January of 2017 you were diagnosed with Lyme disease. I’m sure the journey behind that has taken a toll on your mental health. What do you want folks who aren’t familiar with it to understand about Lyme disease?
JV: My diagnosis in 2017 was so unexpected. I was living a healthy life. As soon as I was bitten by a tick my whole life changed. I was sick, every part of me hurt, I was exhausted and I spent most days in my bed. Honestly, I thought I was going to die. Lyme disease isn’t talked about enough. I had never heard of it until I was diagnosed. Whenever people ask me what they can do to avoid getting bitten by a tick, I always tell them to cover any visible skin when they’re going to be immersed in nature and to wear tick spray.
Whether you’re having a picnic, going hiking, camping etc. it takes two seconds to get bitten and then your life can drastically change. If you do happen to get bitten, keep the tick if you can and go see a doctor. The illness presents itself differently for everyone. If you’re diagnosed quickly enough, you can live with the bacteria for the rest of your life. It took doctors almost a year to figure out what was wrong with me and by then it was too late. So, please be careful out there. I encourage everyone to do some research on Lyme disease because it’s becoming more and more of a problem.
JV: I was able to meet so many amazing individuals through the Magnotta Foundation. Rossana Magnotta, who is the co-founder and CEO of Magnotta Winery, started this foundation in memory of her husband, Gabe Magnotta, who passed away after battling Lyme disease.
When you belong to foundations like this, you meet people that are going through the same thing you are. You’re able to learn more about your illness through other people’s experiences. So yes, it has definitely helped broaden my own understanding of Lyme disease. I had to learn as much as I could in order to spread awareness.
MM: You’ve also worked with Storybooth, a platform that animates real stories from kids in their own words and voices. Do you think this encourages transparency and promotes the importance of giving kids the space to tell their stories?
JV: Storybooth is such a great platform, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to work with them. They animated my anxiety story and my bullying story. It’s reached millions of people. It’s so important for kids and young adults to hear other people talk about very real, tough topics like divorce, losing a loved one, sexuality, mental health etc. Like I said before, it makes them feel less alone and comforted knowing they aren’t the only ones going through something.
MM: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to create a YouTube channel or broaden their online presence and share who they are with the world?
JV: If you decide to start a Youtube channel, make videos about something you love and feel passionately about. Don’t try to follow the trends. Stick to something that makes you happy. When I started out, I found joy in telling crazy stories from my life. Don’t be afraid to be unique and different! Also, don’t let negative comments bother you.
Once I stopped caring about the haters, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I was able to enjoy what I was doing even more.
Pictured: YouTuber/actress/activist Jessii Vee.
MM: Have you binge-watched anything interesting during the pandemic?
JV: I re-watched The Office! One of my favourite shows of all time! It’s strange because I normally don’t enjoy comedies, but something about this show has me coming back for more. I re-watch it every couple of years! My husband also got me into watching Breaking Bad. It’s actually quite a good show!
MM: Is there anything you want to say to your Vee Team?
JV: Always be yourself and embrace your weird side! “Normal” is boring. People will love you for who you really are!
MM: Last question! Name your top five favorite films. And … go!
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with GGA, Jessii! You can follow her on Twitter (@JessiiVee) and Instagram (@jessiivee). Additionally, be sure to check out her YouTube page here and her alter ego channel, Moot, here.
What I do: I'm Managing Editor, Senior Contributor, and Press Coordinator. I manage, contribute, and coordinate. Sometimes all at once. Joking aside, I oversee day-to-day operations for GGA, write, edit, and assess interview opportunities/press events.
Who I am: Before moving to Los Angeles after studying theater in college, I was born and raised in Amish country, Ohio. No, I am not Amish, even if I sometimes sport a modest bonnet. Bylines in: Culturess, Sideshow Collectibles, inkMend on Medium. I love cheese. I love geek. I love lamp.
Melody.McCune@geekgirlauthority.comWhat I do: I'm Managing Editor, Senior Contributor, and Press Coordinator. I manage, contribute, and coordinate. Sometimes all at once. Joking aside, I oversee day-to-day operations for GGA, write, edit, and assess interview opportunities/press events.Who I am: Before moving to Los Angeles after studying theater in college, I was born and raised in Amish country, Ohio. No, I am not Amish, even if I sometimes sport a modest bonnet. Bylines in: Culturess, Sideshow Collectibles, inkMend on Medium. I love cheese. I love geek. I love lamp.