Derry YouTube sensation sacrifices Oxford for web career

Adam Beales – ‘a not so funny person trying to act funny’ – has 700,000 subscribers

A year ago, 18-year-old Adam Beales was looking forward to studying at Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard. Now he's sacrificing it all for YouTube.

The head boy at St Columb's College in Derry, Beales – otherwise known as TheNewAdamb99 – is among the most popular YouTubers in Ireland, with almost 700,000 subscribers to his channel on the video-sharing website.

He was among the invited guests at a major YouTube convention in London and recently signed a promotional deal with Disney – all while studying for his A-levels.

“This year’s been life-changing for me,” says Beales. “The other day I went to my corner shop for a bag of spuds and a pint of milk, and literally 18 wains came along with me back up to the house to get their pictures taken.”


Billed as “a not so funny person, trying to act funny in front of a camera”, his popularity rests on the homemade videos he uploads to his channel.

“I just be me in front of the camera,” says Beales, “and see what happens.”

Many of his videos feature pranks he plays on his little brother, Callum (8). His most recent post, where he tries to scare Callum with a giant teddy bear, was watched more than 300,000 times in the first two days it was online.

“Callum loves it, and he does it for the same reason I do it, he loves seeing people laugh and he loves the banter between the two of us when we’re making videos, and seeing people’s reactions.

“He’s like a mini-celebrity in his school now, people are constantly saying to him, ‘good video’, or asking him, ‘where’s Adam’?”

Four million views

Beales’ big break came with a video he posted in March, which was based around Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant, Siri, on his iPhone.

“Basically it was just saying funny things into that and seeing Siri’s response,” explains Beales. “That video has had over four million views now, but there was a huge element of luck there in just getting the right video out there at the right time.”

His success brought him not just more subscribers – Beales is projected to reach one million by February 2018 – but also an agent. Rumoured to be earning thousands of pounds a month, Beales is coy, saying his income goes up and down.

“I wouldn’t like to say how much,” is as far as he’ll go.

It is some achievement for a teenager who started out making videos in the street with his friends. TheNewAdamb99 moniker began two and a half years ago, when Beales was 15.

He taught himself how to shoot and edit his own material using – what else? – YouTube videos.

“All young people know about YouTube, but maybe the older generation need to get their heads around it more because I do feel in school there should be more teaching about online.

‘The new world’

“There’s a whole new life out there. YouTube is the new TV and online media is the new world.” With 11 A* grades at GCSE and studying for four A levels, Beales is among the top students at a school which boasts two Nobel Laureates, the poet Séamus Heaney and the politician John Hume.

“That was one of the most difficult things, because last year before this all happened I was thinking, I can do this, I can go to Oxford or Cambridge, or to America.

“Then after YouTube happened I had that conversation with my mammy and daddy.

“They think everything’s happened too fast, they’re still very cautious, but in the past few months they’ve seen the potential and the opportunities which have been presented to me.”

Seeing himself as pursuing a hobby, but earning from it, Beales has chosen to stay local – most likely at Ulster University’s Magee campus in Derry – to study computer science. But he has big plans – for television, a book, and a UK tour.

"There's a YouTube star on this year's I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, the first ever," he says.

He is expanding his range of merchandise, and wants to bring sales and distribution “in house” as part of a family business run by his mother, who would quit her job as a civil servant.

And what would Heaney make of Beales’ success?

“I think he probably wouldn’t understand it either,” laughs Beales. “He’d say, ‘what’s YouTube’?”

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times