Vanessa & Veronica Merrell are some of our 2016 Famechanger honorees. For more, click here.
The indefatigable Merrell Twins just finished their freshman year in college — all the while posting weekly videos to YouTube, managing their social channels, and hosting shows for AwesomenessTV.
“We’ve always just loved making people laugh,” says Vanessa. “It doesn’t feel like a job.”
The cheery 19-year-olds produce videos ranging from challenges, like performing partner yoga poses (spoiler: pratfalls ensue), to original songs and skits. They’ve also had recurring roles on the CW’s “Jane the Virgin” as Jane’s evil stepsisters, and are the stars of AwesomenessTV’s “What the Truck,” “Food Truck Fanatics,” and “Teen Survival Guide” series. In September, they’ll appear in the indie teen comedy movie “The Standoff” starring Olivia Holt and Ryan McCartan. And now the twins are developing a scripted TV show with AwesomenessTV, details of which are still under wraps.
“That’s still the dream: to have our own television show, to be actresses,” Veronica says.
Three years ago, their parents moved the family from Kansas City, Mo., to L.A., after Vanessa and Veronica landed a deal with Disney Channel to make digital shorts. That didn’t pan out the way they’d hoped, but the twins, to their surprise, found their silly sketches on YouTube were amassing fans.
Now their income from the YouTube channel, which is part of AwesomenessTV’s network, and other gigs is covering their college tuition and letting them pay for the family’s L.A.-area house. Vanessa is studying TV production and Veronica is majoring in screenwriting (they aren’t disclosing where they go to school). Their dad, Paul Merrell, is a freelance producer who produces and edits their videos.
The Merrell Twins have 1.18 million subscribers to their YouTube channel—relatively modest when stacked up against the platform’s biggest stars. But their fan engagement is very high, with their videos generating upwards of 14 million views per month.
The twins, who recently signed with UTA and have been managed by Roar for more than four years, also have 237,000 fans on the YouNow live-streaming service, which they use for regular broadcasts and special events like red-carpet interviews at the MTV Music Awards. “YouNow has helped all our other social-media outlets, because they have such an active audience,” says Veronica.
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“Roni” and “Nessa” have similar personalities and tastes, although Veronica says she’s more reserved and, unlike her sister, doesn’t like ketchup. “We never get tired of each other,” says Vanessa, who has deeper dimples.
The biggest lesson the Merrell Twins have gleaned during their rise to digital fame: stick to your guns. “People have said, ‘You guys need to do more mature material — raunchier stuff — otherwise you’re going to lose fans,’” Veronica says. “That’s not true! We’ve kept it clean. You don’t have to be sexual or curse to be funny.”
Adds Vanessa, “What we take from this is it’s OK to be ourselves. We’ve had confidence over the years to express ourselves.”