Interview: Nayna Florence on how she’s turned the Edinburgh aesthetic into a YouTube career
Chilly’s water bottle not included
Having a conversation with Nayna Florence, you would hardly know she had over 100K YouTube subscribers, 34K followers on Instagram, and just signed with a management team. She’s unassuming, genuine, and wants to stress that she’s no celebrity. “Sometimes people will DM me to tell me they saw me in the library and were too scared to say hi, which is so awkward,” she says. “I mean, I’m probably more nervous to talk to you than you are to me.”
It’s this grounded energy that brings Nayna success as a lifestyle YouTuber. Her videos radiate #Edigirl energy with her vegan “What I Eat in a Week” content and shots of Arthur’s Seat from her kitchen window. But Nayna is more than just an Edinburgh student with aesthetic vibes and a vlog camera. When Nayna sits down with her morning avocado toast to talk about her day of lectures ahead or turns on the camera when she’s curled up in a hoodie on a Friday night, she hits the YouTube gold standard: she makes her aesthetic and appealing life look attainable to the average viewer. More than that, she makes you feel like you’re watching a friend.
While talking to her, it became apparent that this energy is not put on or a carefully crafted brand. It’s just Nayna.
Nayna: Basic Edinburgh Girl
Her brand may be Edi girl, but Nayna isn’t so ready to admit she’s the perfect representation of the Edinburgh student. She explains, “People would probably say that I am the stereotype. I’m from London. I think it’s a certain vibe that I have, but I like to think I’m not that basic.” She pauses to think and laughs. “I do have a Chilly’s water bottle, though.”
Talking to the second year economics student about her experience at university, it’s clear that for better or for worse, she is Edinburgh. She tells me about cheer practice, and we talk about our love for the fourth floor of the library (although she prefers the Meadows side and I’m more of a George Square gal). We even bond over the trek that is walking up Marchmont Road.
On top of that, the girl loves her vegan food. “I love Brochan, the porridge café, and Paradise Palms,” she tells me. And of course, her face positively lights up when she mentions Hula café. She says, “I love the ‘Maca Nana’ smoothie bowl – I still haven’t been able to recreate it at home.” Nayna Florence has the Edi girl vibes, and even she can see it. But different from most Edinburgh students, Nayna has turned her vibe into a successful YouTube aesthetic.
What is it actually like being a University YouTuber?
Nayna may be just another Marchmont girl like you or me, but she’s still a successful (and growing) YouTube in a time when YouTube stars are pretty much celebrities. I congratulate her on hitting 100,00 subscribers, and she beams, “Aw, thank you so much! I was so excited. I made myself a cake.” She’s even just signed with a management team, which is a big step in growing a career as a public figure.
I know plenty of people who struggle to submit one essay a semester so I was especially curious about how she manages to balance a full YouTube career along with her uni work. “My mindset is so different about it,” she says. “I can watch Netflix or edit a video, they’re all something fun to do. I don’t really think of it as a chore.” Chore or not, it’s still pretty impressive. Most of us struggle to balance more than one module let alone a full online career.
Even with her success, Nayna still struggles to take on the role of celebrity. Besides the DMs she receives from people who have spotted her in the library or at Teviot, she explains, “I’ve only been recognised and come up to a few times at uni.” What about vlogging in public? That’s a hard no. “I barely ever vlog in public. In uni, I would never, ever, ever. I would never just sit down and talk in public. I’m so awkward for that,” she tells me. She might be a public figure, but that aspect of the job isn’t very appealing to her. She says, “It sounds counter-intuitive with the whole YouTube thing, but I don’t really like drawing attention to myself especially in person. Like, you know how you have those outfits where it’s like, ‘I would only wear this on holiday’? It’s kind of like that.”
There’s no question that Nayna works hard at what she does. One look at her videos shows the amount of time and effort she puts into her uploads. But for her, YouTube remains low-key. For one, she’s not particularly bothered about upping her tech game. She explains, “I definitely want to but I feel like not now. Like, until January, I was filming on my phone. There’s no point upgrading to stuff I don’t know how to use.”
Nayna isn’t sure where her YouTube career will go, but she knows she doesn’t want it to be everything. “I feel like it depends because I still have another two years,” she starts. She pauses to think. “I don’t think I would ever want to be where YouTube is my only thing, but I definitely want to use it and my degree to go into something like business or marketing.” The important thing to her is that she’s enjoying it. “If I didn’t want to do it, I would just stop,” she says. “I’ll only keep doing it as long as it’s still fun.”
Creating content during a global pandemic
Just like everyone else in the world, Nayna has had to change up her plans because of coronavirus. Along with her university career, her content in taking a hit. “It’s quite difficult because what I was looking forward to was holidays and making those kind of videos,” she says.
On top of losing potential content, she’s in the unique YouTuber position where instead of a break, this time has made her feel even more pressure to produce. The pressure isn’t all bad. She explains, “On one hand, I’m quite a ‘wake up in the morning and get stuff done’ kind of person so that naturally lends itself to making more videos.” However, it’s not easy to give her fans what they want while also taking care of herself. “I feel like there is a pressure [to produce] because people DM me, which is so nice, and tell me that they love my quarantine videos.” She adds, “I feel sometimes like I should make more, but at the same time, if they’re struggling with lockdown and everything, I have every right as they do to just do nothing. We’re all equal.”
At the end of the day, this is Nayna’s message. She and her viewers are one and the same. She’s afraid to draw attention to herself in public and loves her Hula smoothie bowls. She’s an Edinburgh student just like you or me.
The only difference? You paid full price for your vegan Doc Martens. She got hers from a brand deal.