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Meet Baylen Levine of BENITEZ in Northwest Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Baylen Levine.

Baylen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Whenever people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up as a kid, I would say a movie director. Ever since I was like eight years old, I’d record homemade movies, edit them on my mom’s computer, burn them to a disc, and then show my family. When people ask young kids what they want to do when they are older, they usually express their true dreams regardless of how far fetched those dreams may seem. Then, as they grow up, they think it’s impossible or unrealistic to actually achieve those dreams. In my opinion, the people who are truly happy in life are those that make their childhood dream a reality… remember that.

From the 1st day of kindergarten, I was always finding myself getting into trouble. I was not a bad kid or anything, I just liked to have fun by playing pirates or pretending to be Peter Pan. I was the type of kid that was constantly laughing and smiling, so much that I could never focus on my school work. My mind just would not allow me to sit there for two hours doing math problems; however, the second a school project rolled around that required making a music video, skit, etc., I was top of the class. As school years followed, I found myself becoming a leader, however, it was important to me never to care about popularity. I frowned, and still frown on, people who try to be “cool.” I simply wanted to lead kids to have fun and stay sober.

During my junior year of high school, everyone was talking about college and our future. I didn’t picture myself at a university seated at a desk for another four years of my life to then end up sitting at a desk job. I didn’t want to be like everyone else. I knew I was different, and I knew I wanted to do something special. For as long as I can remember, I felt this way, and I didn’t want that to end. I saw these YouTubers who were literally making a living off waking up every morning and having fun. I also quickly realized that they had this loyal fan base that could be accessed to influence kids. I was amazed. Seeing these YouTubers take pictures with fans, or being in front of a crowd where all these people were focused on them, made me feel so good. I wanted that so badly. All my life I have loved putting together videos, being a leader by influencing people, and not being the normal average person, so it felt as if YouTube was literally calling to me. I knew I could do anything I put my mind to, I am very serious about that, so I ended up buying a camera off eBay and borrowing a friend’s computer for editing. A lot has happened in between then and now, as there were many times I was told I would not be able to make a living off of YouTube. I never listened to anyone, I stayed consistent and never gave up. Here I am today, I just got back from LA with over 100k subscribers, and collabed with the guys I grew up watching… it’s my childhood dream coming true.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No, it was not a smooth road at all. The channel started off as a group channel consisting of my high school friends and me. They viewed it as more of a hobby rather than doing it for a living, so it was hard. We started off good by making a video a week, but as school got harder and girlfriends came into play, we were only doing like one a month. Then, summer came, that’s when I told my friends we needed to grind as hard as we could; however, shortly into the summer, I got called into my school’s office. They had my channel up on a big screen when I walked into the room. I was told that I would end up being expelled by the disciplinary action committee or that I could immediately withdraw from the school before that happened. There was a lot wrong with what they said, they even knew about it months before and told me it was okay as long as I kept it separate from the school (which I did)… there’s a video all about it on my channel. Anyway, I don’t want to focus on that though, because in the end I’m thankful, and you’ll soon understand why.

My parents and I walked out of school and my mom was crying. She told me to delete the channel; however, I knew it all happened for a reason… it was destiny. Life got hard, as every parent I knew frowned on me. I have to thank my mom because even though she did not agree with it she ended up not making me delete the channel. She did this even when other parents began to drift from her because of it. My friends were banned from being in videos, which meant I had no one to film with or even do the actual filming. My friend took back his editing computer, and I had to delete all videos that included my friends, which ended up being most of the videos. In the Fall, I started my senior year at a random school without my best friends, my girlfriend, and everything else I knew and loved. I remember walking around not talking to anyone. It was incredibly hard, but I would not let it stop me from going after my dream. I came home after that first day and told my parents I wanted to do online school so I could completely focus on YouTube. They said no, but I would not let it go as I knew in my heart that youtube is what I had to do in life. I told them that I couldn’t go back and that online school was what I had to do. My parents ended up telling me if I wanted to be an online student then I’d have to figure it out and enroll myself. I remember feeling like they did not believe in me, but now I realize they just did not clearly understand the YouTube world nor what I was trying to achieve. I put in my headphones and looped a motivation speech.

I’ll never forget this moment for as long as I live. I was crying my eyes out yet feeling with all my heart how badly I wanted the life of being famous. I knew I could do it, I just could not give up. I went into school the next day and got all the papers to become an online student. It was hard finding new people to film me, but I made it work. Here I am now, so happy. I have to thank my school because while I would have blown up eventually, being out of my high school showed me how badly I needed to work if I was going to succeed… they basically gave me a jump start. Now, I don’t have to deal with wasting time and money on a college degree that won’t really help me with what I want to do in life. I can be an 18-year-old kid who is running his own business. While my dream is nowhere near being complete, I can’t express how good it feels to be making all this progress.

BENITEZ – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
For a while, the meaning of BENITEZ was unknown, but I recently revealed it a couple of weeks ago on my 100k subscriber’s video. It was named after a kid I used to camp counsel. He was the most positive, loyal, genuine, kind-hearted, and the funniest kid I ever met. However, he also liked to have fun and mess around. Every time I saw him, he was getting in trouble by another counselor or being talked about as the “bad kid.” Immediately, I understood him as he reminded me so much of myself. I quickly grew a big heart for him. During all my years of schooling, I was labeled the same way when really it was about others not understanding me as a person. Of course, I am mischievous and like to goof off… but I am not a bad kid. When I was trying to think of a name for the brand, I knew a lot of people would just think I was being dumb and stupid in the videos, when in reality, I was trying to be a positive influence on kids by just being fun and be happy. I thought of the kid at camp, I knew all his morals and knew his goal was to stay positive and have fun just like me, yet to every authoritative figure or adult he was a bad kid. He’s also very real… he doesn’t care what others think and he does not try to be cool. That is also what my brand represents. That is what makes us different. While everyone is faking stuff or “flexing,” I will stay the same no matter how famous or how much money I have. I’ll be a millionaire wearing the same Walmart clothes I wore when this all first started. I want to teach kids that it’s cool to not be cool. I am known for being sober. I find it very important to show kids that you don’t need that stuff to have fun. I want them to be leaders, not followers. That’s what Benitez is all about, being leaders.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment of my career was the night I hit 10k followers on Instagram. Hitting 100k on Instagram and YouTube was amazing too, but the night I hit 10k, I literally cried. The emotions of leaving school, working so hard to make good videos, and the desire in my heart to make it one day had all surfaced at the same time. I kept refreshing my phone that night to see hundreds of people follow me every minute… it made me feel so amazing. I knew it would happen one day, and seeing random kids dm me for the first time telling me how awesome my videos were just made me so happy. It was the beginnings of the dream I’ve always wanted. All my friends texted me freaking out because it was actually happening. I woke up the next morning and almost thought it was a dream until I checked my phone and saw how many people were following me. I ran into my parent’s room and was screaming “I DID IT!!!!” It was the best feeling in the world.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Fans, Mr. Khan, Noah Canada, Shrek, Sebastian Benitez

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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