In the relatively short life of YouTube and the rise of “user-generated content,” the story of Lonelygirl15 has already become a legend. An innocent girl named Bree uploads videos from her room, drops some hints about her weird parents and her boyfriend, and becomes a bonafide sensation, with millions of people watching her videos. Then the story breaks that she is an actress in her 20s, and the whole thing was dreamed up by some independent filmmakers (which is still an interesting story).

It’s not quite in the same category, but Virginia Heffernan — who writes the Screens blog for the New York Times and was one of the first to jump on the Lonelygirl15 bandwagon (just shortly before yours truly) — has turned up another YouTube sensation/mystery, one that goes by the name YsabellaBrave, or maybe MaryAnne. An attractive blonde with Raphaelite curls, large eyes and a strong singing voice, she has about 16,000 subscribers to her channel on YouTube, and is #34 on the “most subscribed list” of all time at YouTube. She sings classics such as The Band’s Weight, As Time Goes By and Swingin’ on a Star.

Ms. Heffernan points to a post on the blog of crime writer Steve Huff, in which he does some digging into the background of the singer, who claims to have little or no training. He turns up a video clip of a brunette Ysabella — calling herself MaryAnne — trying out for a job as the host of a horror movie TV show, and also produces blog entries in which she describes herself as a devout Christian, and mentions that she is an actress.

But just when we are ready to dismiss MaryAnne as a fake, Huff gets a comment from the singer herself, then exchanges emails — and becomes convinced that she is genuine. Ms. Heffernan isn’t quite so convinced, but she has yet to respond to a comment from MaryAnne on her Screens blog, in which the YouTube video star says

“Remember when reporting, even scandalous reporting, was built on fact and only rarely seasoned with hearsay? If you want to know about me, I’m here. You have my email.

Please don’t let an article consist of verbal allusions or 3rd party quotes about a woman; that’s just a flush away from ‘Call MaryAnne for a good time’.”

Whatever the truth might be, it isn’t nearly as crucial to the picture as Lonelygirl15’s real story was, since part of the reason people got interested was that Bree seemed to be under lock and key to some extent, and possibly in danger. MaryAnne is just a singer — and a pretty darn good one too. Who cares what her real name is, or whether she’s a horror movie fan, or a devout Christian, or both? Lots of artists change their names, and we rarely find out their real life story until after they’re dead.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

4 Responses to “Lonelygirl15, the sequel — or one of them”
  1. I was one of her early subscribers. I found her channel while browsing around YouTube last year for jazz and it’s been fantastic to see more people discovering her.

    After the whole lonelygirl15 thing, I guess it’s human nature to be skeptical. But honestly, it’s not that hard to do a bit of investigation – the bottom portion of left column on her website has links to “more” videos about her. In these videos, she answers tons of questions fans have about her.

    And she’s super easy to get in touch with via email. This is a completely different scenario from lonelygirl15 where people were trying to solve a mystery. In this case, information is readily available.

    It’s kind of annoying to seeing you jump on this sensationalist bandwagon. She was also be at the SF YouTube gathering yesterday. Think Jessica Rose would come out to something like that?

    Do journalists/bloggers even try to contact people these days? Or do just feed off of Techmeme or other blogs or publically air people out?

  2. I’m everything I say I am.

  3. Thanks for the comment, Trex. I think sometimes people just like a mystery — who doesn’t? And as for jumping on the sensationalist bandwagon, I don’t think I was doing that. I just thought it was interesting. If I wanted to be sensationalist I wouldn’t have mentioned that Huff changed his tune and believes MaryAnne is for real.

    And MaryAnne, thanks for dropping by. If that’s really you, of course :-) You have a lovely voice.

  4. Trex, yeah you basically nailed the thing on its head.

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