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From Behind Bars To Behind A Camera, Ex-Cons Are Trending YouTube Influencers

Published: February 4, 2020 Updated: February 13, 2020

If you ask any person on the street what type of YouTuber is trending today, the general answer would most likely be a DIY fashionista, gamer, or anything that has to do with kids. These types of YouTubers have certainly carved out a nice niche for themselves, but there is a new type of YouTube influencer trending. Ex-cons!

Ex-cons are going from behind bars to behind a camera, and they are growing their subscribers quickly. And don’t be fooled, these guys are pumping out some serious content, from fitness to real life prison stories.

As YouTube influencers, ex-cons are also making some serious money posting about what they know, have experienced, all while building their personal brands far beyond what many people thought was possible. 

Quick warning — there content is not PG by any means. These ex-con YouTube influencers discuss physical, verbal, and sexualt assualt in many of their YouTube videos.

However, the rough tales are not the only reasons why millions are hitting the subscribe button. On the other side of the coin, ex-con YouTube influencers give some great motivational advice, nutrition recommendations, as well as fitness routines anyone can do at home.

The YouTube video above gives viewers a fresh look at how to make Ramen . . . prison style. It is one of the most viewed videos for this ex-con influencer with over 2.7 million views. 

Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular ex-con YouTube influencers, how they got where they are, and more.

Big Herc: California Federal Prison To Nearly 500,000 Subscribers

Convicted of armed robbery five years before YouTube was even launched, Marcus Timmons, better known as Big Herc, went to a California federal prison for eight years. His prison experience and his drive to do something different after he was released has led him on a profitable influencer journey, racking up nearly 500,000 YouTube subscribers.

Big Herc, in collaboration with Big Ant, whom he met at a gym shortly after getting out of prison, created the YouTube channel “Fresh Out” and started posting.

And the YouTube influencer business is good. Big Herc told media outlets that he makes thousands per month in video ad payouts. One of Big Herc’s most famous, and most viewed videos was an interview with Kali Muscle, an ex-con YouTube influencer with nearly two million subscribers!

This video racked up over 2.3 million views since it’s release in 2014, setting the tone for Herc’s influencer success. Big Herc and Kali Muscle could be considered the OGs of ex-con YouTube influencers, paving the way for many more ex-cons who found a profitable career path posting videos about their lives and experiences in and out of prison.

For instance, Joe Guerrero, the ex-con YouTube influencer from the above Ramen video. Three years ago, Guerrero created the “AfterPrisonShow” after serving eight years for cocaine and firearm possession.

YouTube changed his life after prison. “Until now, my life had been a constant failure,” Guerrero told the Washington Post. “I told myself that if I’m going to make it this time or if I’m going to fail, I want to show people what it’s like. A lot of people have no idea what it’s like to serve time and then try and restart their life.”

Kali Muscle: San Quentin State Prison, Bodybuilder, Actor, YouTube Influencer

Sentenced to 11 years at the infamous San Quentin state prison in California, Chuck Kirkendall, better known as Kali Muscle, would take prison experiences and turn them into YouTube influencer gold. In fact, Kali Muscle’s net worth is estimated at $5 million.

Kali Muscle’s journey is a bit different than many YouTube influencers. Instead of going straight from behind bars to behind a camera on YouTube, he followed his passion for bodybuilding. He even won the bodybuilding title of Mr California a few years after being released from prison in 2010.

His YouTube videos are a combination of fitness motivation, nutrition, alternative exercise routines, and discussions on prison life.

Kali Muscle is one of the most well-known ex-con YouTube influencers. In fact, many don’t know that he achieved bodybuilder success and was an actor. With nearly two million YouTube subscribers, Mr. Muscle has some major influence with an iconic following.

Here’s some Kali Muscle motivation, “Gang-leader does 11 years of hard time in prison and decides that he will show the world that he will defy all odds and become a great successful human being even though society had labelled him an x-con. Now the ex-gang leader is a successful actor, bodybuilder, philanthropist, motivational speaker, author, and husband. Now, what is your excuse for not achieving the things you want out of life?”

Wes Watson: Prison Gang Leader Turned Roughly Honest YouTube Influencer

For any YouTube user that wants to learn about REAL prison life, Wes Watson is the YouTube influencer that can teach you. From what to expect on the first day of entering prison to how to act on a Level-4 prison yard, Wes Watson’s YouTube channel, “GP- Penitentiary Life Wes Watson” has it all for the inquisitive.

Watson served 10 years in the California state prison system for a number of crimes, such as robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, battery, and the list goes on. Most of the videos on “GP- Penitentiary Life Wes Watson” are all about prison, but Watson touches on overcoming fear and putting in hard work to achieve results.

This ex-con YouTube influencer has more than 230,000 subscribers with most videos getting around 100,000 views. One of his most viewed video showcases what it’s like on a Level-4 prison yard.

Watson is new to the ex-con YouTube influencer game. After his release in 2017, he began making motivational videos. Then he found Big Herc’s YouTube channel, connected, and was interviewed on Big Herc’s “Prison Talk.”

The rest is history. 

Wes Watson’s subscriber count continues to grow and he earns about $10,000 per month from ads. He will definitely become a top influencer on YouTube and other channels in no time at all.

Why Are Ex-Cons Having Success As YouTube Influencers?

The short and sweet answer — Authenticity. Being truly authentic is something many influencers struggle with. This goes for YouTube and any other social media network. Authenticity is what people want from influencers, because they want to follow, trust, and be a part of their lives.

Sure, ex-cons telling in-depth prison stories satisfy the human need to understand extreme human experience. However, there is a pretty big difference when a teenage fitness influencer speaks about motivation to change your life, versus Wes Watson, Big Herc, Kali Muscle, and Guerrero speak about it.

Why? They lived it, survived it, and know the value of real motivation. The ex-con YouTube influencer message carries more weight. And for young males especially, that weight can go a long way when it comes to changing someone’s life. 

You can call these ex-con YouTube influencers life coaches, or maybe even motivational speakers. But I don’t believe any of them think of themselves as such. They are simply an extraordinary group of people that turned negative into positive at the most extreme level imaginable. 

This type of authenticity can’t be faked. It is simply earned. Bringing a whole new meaning to the word “influencer.”


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