If you’ve only watched Miranda Sings videos on YouTube, you might not even recognize Colleen Ballinger — the real person behind the unusual character.
This month, the weirdly genius phenomenon is headed to Grand Rapids for LaughFest. The variety show, billed as Miranda Sings with Special Guest Colleen Ballinger, goes far beyond her classic YouTube vids.
“My live show is full of singing, dancing, magic and comedy for all ages,” Ballinger, 33, told Revue. “Performing is my favorite aspect of my job, because I get to show everyone a side of Miranda that you can’t find on YouTube.”
The gist: Miranda Sings is a YouTube train wreck. She sports overdrawn red lips, delivers deranged advice and spiels about life and singing. She exudes a deluded self-confidence and responds to negative comments on YouTube with her go-to comeback, “Haters back off!” That sick burn is what also inspired the name of Haters Back Off!, her Netflix series.
However, to truly understand this online sensation, one must start at her YouTube channel. Miranda vlogs over-the-top dialogues and her massive fanbase loves every hot-mess second of it. Since Miranda’s inception in 2008, she’s amassed more than 20 million social media followers and surpassed 2 billion views on YouTube.
Ballinger said she created Miranda with the intentions of parodying young, self-absorbed YouTube singers with far more confidence than talent. Miranda’s official “bio” on mirandasings.com (written in-character) explains a lot:
“it was a cold winters day on december 24 when I was borned. My mom always new I would be a singer because when I was cut out of her stomach i cried. I was homeschooled my whole life and won a lot of tonys for my musicals in my backyard. In 2008 I decided the world should no how famous I am so I put my videos online. Now I tour all over the world performing for my mirfandas. I have millions of views online and have performed in Australia, London, Ireland, Canada, New York City, Hollywood, and of course Pennsilvania. I love my mirfandas!” -Miranda Sings
Of course, this is all the brainchild of the well-educated Ballinger, who’s grown a grassroots following into mainstream notoriety. Appearances in 2014 on both Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon thrust Ballinger into the Hollywood spotlight. From there, stacks of book, film and television deals fell on her lap. And, for those who haven’t seen some of Ballinger’s regular press interviews, they might be surprised to see how different she is from her cringy Miranda persona.
“Miranda’s aggressive and confident personality was inspired by a few rude girls I went to school with (at Azusa Pacific University) and her weird quirks and passions are inspired by my childhood,” said Ballinger, who was home-schooled in Santa Barbara, California.
“Being home-schooled really allowed me to embrace my weird quirks and passions because there wasn’t anyone around to bully me. I wore homemade dresses and weird cat sweaters every day as a young teen and never thought it was weird — they would later inspire the signature Miranda look.”
Thinking back to her teen days, Ballinger said she’s always had the soul of an entertainer, but had to fight through some rough awkward patches.
“I always wanted to be an actress as a child, but I became so insecure once I started public high school that I thought it would be absolutely impossible,” she admits. “I was positive that I wasn’t talented enough to make it in the industry. It’s kind of ironic that I’ve made a career for myself as a character who is untalented.”
Beyond YouTube, Ballinger is also the co-author of the New York Times No. 1 Bestseller Selp Helf, a self-help parody book written in the voice of Miranda. She has her own brand of lipstick, too. Recently, another milestone occurred for Ballinger: motherhood.
“Being a mother is the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me. I don’t think it has affected my comedy too much. ... It just gives me more material,” she joked.
In January, a new Miranda Sings video titled “BABY GENDER REVEAL!” went live, and it indeed addresses the complexities of parenthood — through the distorted lens of Miranda, of course:
“I’m really excited to be pregnant again. … Last time it really upped my views, my sales and just got really more famous-er from it. So, I really hope that I have a really good baby this time and it gets more views and money.” - Miranda Sings
In reality, Ballinger spends every free second with her husband and son — though free seconds are sometimes hard to find.
“My career and my little family keep me busy 24/7 with no time to relax,” she said.
“But this actually works out in my favor because I don’t really enjoy relaxing anyway. I adore my son and my job and I feel pretty lucky that I get to fill every moment of my day with the things I love most."
Miranda Sings with Special Guest Colleen Ballinger
Fountain Street Church
24 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids
March 6, 7 p.m., $35-$80