First came reality TV stars, then came YouTubers, and then came Summer Mckeen. The 20-year-old influencer has her hands full as a vlogger and star of Snapchat’s first reality series, Endless Summer, which debuts its second season on the app June 15, in addition to her collaborations with make-up companies (most recently, Nudestix, which has drawn some controversy) and fashion brands (Mckeen models for Brandy Melville). At 2.3 million YouTube subscribers, it already felt like the whole world was watching her — and that was before 28 million viewers tuned in for season 1 of her digital series, according to Snapchat.
As the show’s Laguna Beach-esque introduction states, Mckeen started making YouTube videos when she was 14. It didn’t take long for her channel, Summer Mckeen, to blow up and prompt her to move to — wait for it — Laguna Beach. However, the similarities to the cult MTV show end there. Fifteen years later, just as the show’s spinoff The Hills is gearing up for its reunion, Gen-Z is playing by brand new rules. Endless Summer is a reality show about popular YouTubers — YouTube-ception, as one viewer called it — not regular teens. In the series, Mckeen and friends like influencers Olivia Rouyre (600k subscribers) and McKenzie Luskey (243k subscribers) are captured making YouTube videos, discussing the pitfalls of online fame, and navigating social media. And of course, all the episodes are formatted vertically to be easily watched on your smartphone.
Still, Endless Summer is addicting for the same reasons any reality show before it: drama. The technology may be new, but the plot is a tried-and-true potion of friendships, relationships, and long, brooding stares off-camera. Season 2 picks up during the aftermath of Mckeen and her ex Dylan Jordan’s (143k subscribers) break-up. Viewers of season 1 may not find that surprising, since much of it was dedicated to the tension in their relationship as Dylan pursued his music dreams and Summer tried to figure out her true friends. While fans learned the news of the breakup on Instagram Live back in November 2018, Endless Summer has its cameras on even when the smartphones are off. And at just five or so minutes an episode, all 12 in season 1 can be consumed in less time than just one episode of The Bachelorette.
Ahead, we spoke to Mckeen about what it’s like living life so publicly, especially when it comes to relationships, and what season 2 of the Snapchat series (exclusive clip below) has in store.
Did you watch The Hills or Laguna Beach?
“A little bit. That was definitely the inspiration for Endless Summer.”
What do you think is the biggest difference between traditional reality stars and this new generation?
“It's really interesting because you can watch [Endless Summer] on Snapchat. It's all right there and you don't need like a Netflix membership or Hulu or cable or anything. It's cool because the viewers are able to interact with me on all my different social media platforms. But that wasn't really the case for the reality stars back in the day when The Hills was a thing. I feel like I'm a more tangible, approachable, real person.”
What’s the difference between documenting your own life through vlogs and having it documented for you on Endless Summer?
“What I film on my channel is just me and my life and it's created by me because I'm the editor and I'm the filmer. But then Endless Summer, there's a lot of other people involved. There's a whole production team and then there's also all of my friends. It's definitely much more dramatic than my YouTube channel. I try to keep my videos positive and simple and not so much about like my drama that I go through. I don't really open up about that. So it's interesting to have it completely there on Snapchat.”
Your relationships, both platonic and romantic, were a huge part of the first season. Now the end of the romantic relationship is a big part of the second. Has the public nature of your life changed how you’ve approached relationships?
“It has a little bit, almost without me thinking about it. I live my life in the public eye, and so naturally my decisions are probably a lot different than people who aren't. When I make friends and when I decided to involve them in my life, there's a lot of different things that go into how I go about those friendships.”
Is it nice to know fans are there to support you, or is it ever hard that fans know so much about your life that is usually private?
“Half and half I would say. It's really cool that I have these people that are so involved in my life and they're still supportive, but there's also a part of that that's really hard to have that many people watching you and judging you and your decisions. I'm just like all of my followers. I'm a 20 year old girl who is learning and growing every day. Sometimes I feel like it could be hard for people who follow me or people who don't follow me and just come upon me on social media to remember that I'm a normal person. I'm just broadcasting my life.”
What are you most excited for fans to see?
“There are more situations that deal with boys, because I'm no longer dating Dylan. You can see everything that kind of came after the break-up. You can see our full conversations about the breakup and it's probably the most vulnerable position I've been put in.”
I'm a normal person. I'm just broadcasting my life.
How does it feel to watch it back?
“Oh my gosh, it's so weird. I don't really know who, exactly, my audience is. Anyone and everyone can watch it so everyone's going to have a different opinion about it. It's a lot mentally and emotionally, but it's also really cool.”
Thanks to Snapchat and Instagram Stories, we’re all kind of hosting our own reality shows. What advice do you have for people who put themselves out there like that?
“I think the amount of time that you spend on social media is really important because the longer we're looking at our phones and other people's perfect lives — well, they're not perfect, they just look perfect — the more we focus on that, the easier it is to compare our lives and to get a little bit too wrapped up in that. I think it's really important to remind yourself that anyone you see on social media is a real person. We're all humans, right? Some of us just decide to put more of us out there in the world than others.”
Will you always share your life like this?
“I don't know what the future holds, but I know that I really do enjoy doing what I'm doing. I also love to venture into new journeys and different parts of this whole business. It's really fun to be creative and a lot of different ways. So I guess we'll see where that takes me.”