Over nearly eight years, YouTube stars Veronica and Vanessa Merrell have never missed a weekly video upload to their channel.
That work ethic has helped the identical twins grow their fanbase to nearly 6 million followers on the platform for their comedy sketches, original songs, vlogs, and other light fare.
And their tenure puts the Merrell Twins, now 24, in a class of OG digital influencers. The sisters (along with their parents) have established a production company, True Image Productions, with several TV shows and movies they’re pitching to studios and networks. They’re also hosting season 3 of their reality dating show “Twin My Heart,” shot last fall and currently airing on ViacomCBS’s AwesomenessTV channel on YouTube.
Some digital creators, after hitting a fame spike, have burned out and faded away. But the Merrell Twins expect to continue making YouTube videos, the mainstay of their business endeavors, for the rest of their career.
“We don’t see ourselves ever quitting YouTube,” says Veronica. She adds, “Someday we might be the Merrell Twin Moms!” — clarifying that there’s no actual news on that front.
Currently, the Merrell Twins have nearly 6 million subscribers on their primary YouTube channel. “We never blew up overnight,” says Vanessa. “It’s been steady, consistent growth.”
In “Twin My Heart” season 3, Vanessa and Veronica help new bachelor Nate Wyatt, a popular TikTok creator, find his “one true love” among a field of 10 contestants through a series of competitions, challenges and one-on-one romantic dates. The 12-episode run debuted on Valentine’s Day (naturally) with new episodes releasing Sundays at 7 a.m. PT on the AwesomenessTV channel.
“Twin My Heart” season 3 was shot last November at a house in Temecula, Calif., south of L.A., produced with COVID safety protocols. The cast was tested four weeks before they were on set, and self-quarantined leading up to the shoot. “Because we had to stay in a bubble, we had to get creative with the dates and challenges. We had to figure out how to make it interesting without leaving the house,” Veronica says.
The third season of “Twin My Heart” was a departure in having a bachelor love interest. In season 1, Veronica was setting up dates for Vanessa and in season 2, the twins tried to make love connections for two friends. The energy on-set was different — in a good way, says Vanessa: “Nate as a person is just very open and kind. He’s a great guy, respectful and funny.” Needless to say, the twins aren’t spilling any tea about the ending of this season’s “Twin My Heart.”
The Merrell Twins, who are repped by UTA, have their eyes on projects beyond their YouTube channel. They’ve been shopping a few movie proposals in the rom-com genre, and they have an idea for a scripted road-trip series where they will go on a “crazy adventure” across California, Vanessa says.
With the pandemic and backlog on current productions, “It’s so tough to pitch projects in Hollywood right now,” Veronica says.
Getting a “no” hasn’t held them back from self-funding their bigger ideas. Last year, the Merrell Twins produced and released “Prom Knight,” a scripted series about a girl who goes to her high-school prom with her YouTube crush. The four-part special came out last April, right after COVID shut just about everything down in the U.S.; to date, it has more than 16 million views.
With their large YouTube audience, Vanessa and Veronica have a stable revenue stream from advertising and brand deals. They’re on other platforms, including TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram — but the twins basically use those to promote their YouTube videos.
“At the end of the day, we always direct people back to YouTube because that’s where you make more money,” says Veronica. Vanessa says she typically makes $1-$4 per day from TikTok videos: “It’s not the money. You get exposure and engagement.”
The twins acknowledge that it’s a challenge adapting to YouTube’s constantly changing rules and recommendations algorithms (“You have to play the game,” Vanessa says). But they avoided getting burned by the so-called “adpocalypse,” when YouTube starting in 2017 began demonetizing videos and channels that ran afoul of advertiser-friendly guidelines. “Luckily for us,” says Veronica, “we’ve been family-friendly from the start.” Vanessa admits with a laugh that “Twin My Heart” is “a little more PG-13.”
The Merrell family, originally from Kansas City, moved to L.A. when Veronica and Vanessa were 16 — and the twins’ ambition, at the time, was to break into TV with their own show. In 2015, they enrolled in Cal State Northridge (Vanessa was planning to major in TV production, Veronica in screenwriting) but left before graduating because they were traveling all over the world for shoots and events, including Paris, the Philippines, Indonesia and Dubai.
Over the years, they’ve landed several TV and film roles, including on the CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” MTV’s “Faking It,” “The Standoff” movie, and last year’s comedy film “Like a Boss” starring Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne.
As for how they’ve avoided burnout that has beset other creators, the twins say they have made a point of taking extended breaks (they basically took off the month of December). They also have the full-time assistance of their dad, Paul Merrell, who handles the production side; their mother, Wendy, who manages scheduling; and writer Dustyn Lotz, who helped write “Prom Knight” and has scripted other projects.
“The key is to have people help you,” Vanessa says. Adds Veronica, “Sometimes we just have no ideas for our next video.”