It’s the Thursday night before Pride weekend, and the line outside San Francisco’s Warfield Theater is filled with bears. And unicorns, giraffes, zebras, dinosaurs, sharks and the occasional Pikachu — basically any animal (real or imaginary) that can be made into a onesie and worn to a slumber party …
A slumber party in a 2,250-person theater, hosted by YouTube star Tyler Oakley, that is.
“I’ve walked past here,” said Oakley in a pre-show interview with The Daily Californian. “I’ve come to events here. And so, I would’ve never imagined to drive by and see an entire crowd of people in onesies and my name on the (marquee). That blows my mind.”
Inside the theater, teens and their accompanying guardians (a handful of whom are wearing onesies themselves) fill seats facing the stage, which is decorated to replicate the interior of Oakley’s Los Angeles home, the familiar backdrop of his immensely popular YouTube videos.
The goal of Tyler Oakley’s Slumber Party Tour is to bring his viewers into the world of Oakley’s videos by playing interactive games, telling stories on his couch and answering “video calls” from some of his famous pals, such as British beauty vlogger Zoe Sugg and Oakley’s mom, “Queen” Jackie.
But it is clear from the moment he steps onstage that this is not Oakley filming a video with a few friends in his living room. This is Oakley in his element, preaching to a choir of pajama-clad teens in the best way he knows how: while wearing a pink hippo onesie and champagne glitter heels.
“There’s a story to them,” Oakley said onstage, gesturing to his shoes. “I swear I’m not just this gay.”
The crowd responded to his joke with a cacophonous symphony of deafening, high-pitched screams.
Though Oakley’s live show takes on a talk-show-onstage format, the audience responded to his every laugh, twirl or subtle smirk as if the world’s hottest boy band had just taken the stage — except without the singing and dancing, and with 10 times the charisma.
As a self-proclaimed “professional fangirl,” Oakley knows exactly how to handle his own hysterical fans, even in the messiest of situations.
During the live “Q & Slay” — a segment of the show patterned after his beloved Q&A videos — selected audience members’ tweeted questions were projected onstage for Oakley to answer. One particular fan was so shocked that her tweet was chosen that when Oakley asked her to stand up and shout so that he could find her in the crowd, she screamed, “I think I peed!” Oakley kindly responded, “It’s OK — everybody pees! You have options.”
Oakley’s sincere compassion for his fans reflects his deep understanding of the importance of using his platform to influence his audience in a positive way.
“A lot of (other YouTubers) are like, ‘I didn’t join YouTube to be a role model,’ ” Oakley said in an interview with the Daily Californian. “But just because that wasn’t your intention doesn’t mean that’s not what’s happening.”
As he approaches his eighth year on YouTube, Oakley has never lost sight of using his position as a successful YouTuber to connect with and inspire his viewers, whether by spreading awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender suicide prevention through the Trevor Project, or by simply complimenting a fan on her adorable carrot onesie.
“You are my everything,” Oakley said, pointing to a girl on the balcony donning the bright-orange costume.
She screamed and fell backward into her friend’s arms, her face radiating pure happiness.
“There was a point when I realized that no matter what I’m doing on YouTube, it will have an effect on people,” Oakley said in an interview with the Daily Californian. “Even if it’s with one subscriber or 100,000 subscribers, it will impact people, for better or for worse.”
As the show neared its final moments, Oakley cozied up on his couch and asked if anyone in the audience made YouTube videos or would like to start. He knowingly smiled at the raised hands and flailing arms, looking into the eyes of his viewers — the faces that hide behind usernames and YouTube comments, brought to together as a real, thriving community.
“Maybe,” Oakley said teasingly, “I’ll be buying a ticket to one of your shows one day.”
Rosemarie Alejandrino is the assistant arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].