In the world of YouTube fame, the Butler family is a big deal.
With more than 3.5 million subscribers and almost 2 billion video views on their channel, “The Shaytards,” the Butlers have made millions of dollars by simply living their everyday lives and pressing record.
“Like to me that’s the ultimate answer to, ‘Why do people watch your videos?’ It’s because inside I think people want a happy family,” Shay Carl Butler, 35, told us, “I think that’s a longing for a lot of people. I think people watch to get hope that they can have that.”
Eight years ago, Butler said he was living on food stamps. But when he posted a video of himself prancing around in his wife Colette Butler’s unitard, everything changed.
“So when we started YouTube and we got this small audience and all of a sudden our first Google AdSense check was for $300. I was like, ‘That’s groceries. That’s a big thing of groceries,'” Shay said. “I was like, ‘If I can make $300, what if I can make $1,000?’ That would pay our house payment, a lot of groceries.”
“As we realized that we could actually make a living doing this, it changed everything for us. We know what it’s like to not be able to pay your bills,” Colette, 33, told “Nightline.”
The Butlers have taken family vlogging to a whole new level, becoming millionaires and turning themselves into a full-fledged brand. They’ve got endorsement deals with household names like Band-Aid and Target and have even started their own clothing line, Trixin.
Butler is also one of the founders of the online media company “Maker Studios,” which was bought last year for approximately $500 million by ABC’s parent company, Disney.
Their five children, nicknamed “Sontard,” “Princesstard,” “Babytard,” “Rocktard,” and “Brotard” have all grown up on YouTube. Eight-year-old Emmi said she’s never known life without cameras rolling.
“I don’t want to feel like I forced them into this stardom, and they’re like, ‘Wait a minute, dad,'” Shay said. “But hey, if your dad is a farmer, you have to get up at 6 a.m. and milk the cows. If you’re my kid, you have to be cute on camera.”
Even with all their fame and countless clicks, the Butlers said they have no Hollywood aspirations.
“You see it all the time in Hollywood that child stars grow up to be a mess, and I really just want to not have that happen to our kids,” Colette said.
“We say what kind of content we make because we want to represent ourselves for who we are because that’s what the appeal of this is. … This is the real reality TV. This is really our life,” Shay said.