IN CONVERSATION WITH THE STOKES TWINS

interview by JANA LETONJA

Alex and Alan Chen Stokes are Chinese American twins and content creators who are best known for their massive social media following and comedic videos.  As of 2022, their YouTube channel ranked 9th largest in the world in terms of viewership.   

When did you start creating content for YouTube and what sparked your passion for content creation?

Alex: We started when we were little kids in 5th grade and just made videos for fun. They were goofy random videos that we showed our friends and family. We really just loved getting people’s reactions and making them laugh. 

Alan: Trampolines and wrestling/WWE moves were our first few videos. We would come up with choreographed moves and that carried over into videos now, when we overexaggerate things. We are able to express our moves from WWE.

Today, your YouTube channel ranks as 9th largest in the terms of viewership and your content has amassed more than 2.4 billion views across all of your social media platforms. Have you ever, even in your wildest dreams, thought that your content will become so popular?

Alex: Definitely not. We never did it for the views. It’s great to see our channel interact with the community in a positive way. It gives us a purpose and motivation to make these videos, but we never thought it would resonate with our audience so well. 10 years ago this would be a tickle me to death moment. 

Out of all social media platforms that are popular today, which one do you believe is the one that presents the most opportunities and has the most success for social creators?

Alan: YouTube for sure. YouTube is the most dominant platform that continues to grow. You can constantly see analytics and watch your channel grow compared to other social platforms. People go on YouTube and it’s the halfway point between the movies and Netflix. It’s a form of long term content. If you have someone’s attention for that long, if you have that skill and talent, you get the most return out of that platform, having that audience retention.

You write your own material and execute your videos by yourselves. Besides that you work hard to be ahead of trends and challenge yourselves to do things that no one else is doing. How challenging is it for you to stay ahead of trends and everyone else these days, when so many people are trying to create social media content?

Alan: We love competition. We don’t compare ourselves to other YouTubers, we compare ourselves to our old videos. Every new video we try to make better, more creative. It’s good to keep in mind which trends are popular, but you still have to find a rare, popular, niche topic that draws attention. It’s very rewarding, but it’s challenging since videos take a long time. Even if a video is unique, it may not be so popular. 

Alex: Constantly thinking, researching on YouTube, seeing what people are watching and what do you think the audience wants to see. It’s hard, but mainly we think about what our 10 year old self wants to watch and enjoy. It makes it easier for us when we think about what we would want to do when we were teens. 

full look BALMAIN
sunglasses WALTER VAN BEIRENDONCK

What is your main drive behind your social media creation?

Alex: Main drive is audience reaction. It’s hard to tell in the comments, but you can tell audience reaction and interest in the comments by what people are saying. We try to put forth the best video every month and it’s nice to see that viewership. It’s not about the video or the views, it’s about how the audience is engaged with us both in person and over the internet. People will tell us our inside jokes when they meet us in person and that really motivates us. 

What would you describe as the biggest perks of being social media creators and influencers?

Alan: Being your own boss and having your own schedule. We are working 24/7. It’s nice to be able to take the day off and be in control of our own time, but it’s a double edge sword. The more we invest in our videos and business, the better reward.

You were born and living in China before you moved to Tennessee. How would you compare opportunities in China and US for social media creators?

Alex: In China, it’s definitely gotten better in the past couple years in terms of opportunities for social creators. China is very academic focused. Their version of TikTok is where creators can receive the most return for their work. If China had YouTube, opportunities would be a lot different and better. But from what we can tell, there’s a lot of social influencers from their version of TikTok. If we were still in China, we’d be doing their version of TikTok as well.

Besides social media creation, what are some of your other passions in life?

Alan: We love animals, they’re a huge passion of ours. We love basketball and staying active. We love movies, superhero movies and going to the movies. In our free time we watch ‘Daredevils’, which is a ‘Marvel’ TV show. When we get opportunities to see ‘Marvel’, we always try to fit it in our schedule and make time to see it when it comes out. 

I know that you both also love traveling the world. What do you think is best thing that one can learn through traveling?

Alex: Different cultures and seeing the beauty of nature. When we do, we go for the experience and the memories. We love nature and see how it’s different from where we live and how the people and culture are different from ours. 

What are your next plans, especially for the coming year?

Alex & Alan: Making each video better. Short term goals are getting better with our videos and being more efficient. In the future, it would be great to have an opportunity to work alongside ‘Marvel’. Maybe make a cameo in a ‘Marvel’ movie or show. Being a part of something that people are so drawn to, like a project as big as ‘Marvel’, would be amazing. Maybe this would help us transition to the big screen which has always been a dream of ours. 

full look ENTIRE STUDIOS
sunglasses SOFT PEOPLE AREA
full look SAINT LAURENT
balaclava WALTER VAN BEIRENDONCK
full look ISSEY MIYAKE
shoes VANS
jeans MAISON MARGIELA
jackets CHENPENG
hoodies CEEC
shoes VANS

photography BEN COPE 
styling DOUGLAS VANLANINGHAM 
styling assistants JEREMY FRIEND and JOSE SANTIAGO 
groomer HAILEY ADICKES 
editor TIMI LETONJA 

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