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More than red lipstick

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | APRIL 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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While studying music and musical theater in college, Colleen Ballinger met a lot of confident people. Some of them, she believed, were too confident. Confident to the point of absurdity.

Ballinger saw overly confident singers posting videos on YouTube, arrogance on full display, so she decided to make her own videos. A classically trained singer, Ballinger had the talent to post excellent videos, but she instead decided to poke fun at other YouTubers for her friends’ amusement with videos full of terrible singing and irritating habits and mannerisms. When one of her videos went viral five years ago, the character she created, Miranda Sings, actually became as famous as she always believed she was. Ballinger now travels performing shows as herself and Miranda.

Ballinger will perform at 7 p.m. April 13 at the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St. Ballinger spoke to The Daily Iowan about Miranda, her YouTube fame, and her upcoming performance.

The Daily Iowan: You studied music and musical theater in college, but did you have much comedic experience before Miranda?

Colleen Ballinger: No, actually, I didn’t. I always just studied music; I wanted to be a singer. I grew up in a house with a lot of people I thought were really funny. I went to a lot of my brother’s improv shows and saw him be really funny, but I never participated. I just sort of blasted onto the comedy scene. I made a video, and it went viral, and I’ve kept going from there.

DI: A lot of the things Miranda does you say you copied from other people after you found them annoying. Has anyone ever gotten angry over you using one of her or his habits?

Ballinger: Yes. One time only, because usually people don’t know that I’m making fun of them. I’ve never had someone come up to me and ask, “Were you making fun of me?” So it was just this one time. I was making a video at my parents’ house, and I went into the garage and my mom’s garage is just disgustingly dirty and full of junk, so she was very upset that I had shown that and gone through and was making fun of her heirlooms and things. My father asked me to take the video down. I think that was the only time I’ve ever actually hurt someone’s feelings with one of my videos. I don’t think anyone actually knows I’m making fun of them.

DI: You’ve made a career out of your videos that started as a joke between friends, but have you ever thought of leaving Miranda behind?

Ballinger: I haven’t ever thought of that. And I get that question a lot; people always assume I’m resentful of Miranda or want her to die so I can do other things, but I can’t imagine my life without her. She’s like a part of my family, which sounds really weird because she’s me, so I sound like a crazy person when I say that. But I love Miranda. The only way I would leave her behind would be if my fans didn’t want to watch her anymore. Certainly, I enjoy working on other projects and ambitions, but I think the only way Miranda will ever die is if my fans force me to make her die.

DI: You credit Miranda with opening a lot of doors for you. What’s the best experience/opportunity you’ve gained from your YouTube fame?

Ballinger: Oh wow. Hmm … I’ve had so many amazing opportunities happen since I started doing YouTube, it’s hard to pick just one. I think touring is my favorite thing, because I get to travel all over and perform for a living, which I never thought I’d be able to do but I dreamed about as a little girl. One of the most memorable things was performing in New York City and seeing my name in lights up on the marquee, which was unbelievable and something I’d always dreamed of.

DI: How did your videos lead to touring with live shows?

Ballinger: My first video that went viral was “Free Voice Lessons” five years ago. I was getting a lot of emails from people on Broadway and the West End when that happened. Live performance is the only training I have, and I was thinking, “What can I do with this?” because I don’t know much about the Internet and YouTube success. My friend in Manhattan asked me to come headline a show at a club he owns, and so I wrote an hourlong one-woman show, and then I was asked to perform in New York and London and after London is when I feel things really began to kick off, and now I’ve begun performing all over the world.

DI: After making short videos, was it difficult to create an hourlong show?

Ballinger: Yeah, I was nervous about it; it was really hard. I went with my brother to New York the first time, and I remember telling him I was used to short videos, so I wasn’t sure anyone would like [the live show]. Who would want to watch an hour of bad singing? And I think I’m still working at that, updating my shows and keeping them interesting so people will want to come see my shows instead of just watching me online.

DI: For people only familiar with your YouTube videos, what should they expect out of your show?

Ballinger: The show is so much different from my videos. There’s a lot of singing, of course, because that’s Miranda’s No. 1 talent, but there’s reading of hate mail, which is pretty funny — that’s usually everyone’s favorite part. It’s a variety show, so I do a lot of different things. It’s sort of like seeing a vaudeville show but in modern day. It’s fun.

DI: One question for Miranda — how much money do you spend on lipstick?

Miranda Sings: You know what, I don’t even have to spend a lot of money on lipstick because my fans just give me bootyfull of  lipstick, and if I run out, I just use my mom’s. I’m really good at saving money. But if I ever have to buy any, I only spend about 99 cents at Walgreen’s or Walmart, just find the cheapest kind, I don’t like to spend a lot of money. But I don’t ever have to buy any because my fans always give me some at shows. I have hundreds of tubes. I’m really famous.


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