On June 6, 2020, Youtuber Courtney Adanna (@Courtreezy) posted a reaction video titled “RATING TIK TOKERS N WORD APOLOGY VIDEOS because im black.” Courtreezy started off the video by reacting to a mea culpa from Chase Hudson, whose pseudo-apology video featured continuous angle changes and incomprehensible whispers.
“Why you keep changing angles?” she asks in the video. “You trying to remember your lines?” A 3 out of 10, she concluded.
Posted in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, the video became her first uber-viral video with 12.4 million views. It’s her most popular video to date, expanding her audience tenfold from 30,000 subscribers to 300,000. By the time she finished her four-part series of rating N-word apology videos, she had reached half a million subscribers.
That’s when Adanna doubled down on reaction videos, which have been a central part of her account ever since, earning her more than 3.5 million subscribers. From watching TikTok couples with age gaps to jaw-dropping mukbangs, Adanna has developed an audience by reacting to some of the most divisive content on TikTok.
How the Reaction Strategy Started
Adanna has posted lifestyle videos and vlogs on and off since 2012, but it wasn’t until she fully embraced reaction videos that her following grew to what it is today. In 2016, long before she reached her current level of notoriety, she posted her first reaction video, a since-deleted reaction to Justin Bieber. Though her style has changed, and she’s since deleted the Bieber video, that’s when she first saw the potential in the genre.
“People really enjoyed that video,” Adanna told Passionfruit. “You can tell how I feel about something just by looking at my face. […] [Viewers] feel like they’re watching a video with a friend.”
It was a turning point. The video resonated with people, and it showed Adanna the potential for virality and self-expression that exists in reaction videos.
“I started focusing on reaction content because I noticed that’s something that people really enjoy seeing me do,” Adanna said.
Until she graduated college in 2019, posting on YouTube was a hobby for her, something she’d do sporadically. But in 2020, she dropped out of nursing school and decided to make it a full-time endeavor.
“During 2020, I was really focused on putting my all into YouTube, because it was my first time having all the time in the world to just focus on content, edit, and post videos,” she said. “The biggest difference was just being able to have the time to create.”
Adanna’s initial strategy involved reacting to what was popular at the time, such as the siblings or dating trend or viral TikTok foods. As TikTok was beginning to reach new heights in popularity during the start of the pandemic in 2020, Courtreezy was one of the accounts pioneering the reaction phenomenon on YouTube. Her shift in focus was notable.
“I focused on things that were actually trendy,” she said. “I was always under the belief that my videos weren’t good enough to be seen. But they weren’t being seen because I wasn’t focusing on trendy topics.”
Coutreezy is far from the only prominent reactor on YouTube. The genre often sets its sights on pop culture, but several prominent creators, like Deb Smikle (@debsmikle) and Miia Kinnunen (@miiakinnunen), have claimed a similar space with their mix of lifestyle and reactions, with over a million followers each. Adanna herself has found a niche in often reacting to the most controversial parts of TikTok, from Karen videos to racist spray tans.
Adanna is thinking beyond YouTube now. She’s worked to diversify her online presence, curating a different side of herself on each platform. Her Instagram page, for example, features lifestyle content such as day-in-the-life videos and photoshoots, as opposed to the reactions on her YouTube.
Despite branching out, she said consistency was crucial to her growth, so she still posts regular reaction videos of some of the most divisive topics on the internet, from WaterTok to Reddit Confessions.
With her savvy eye for the controversial, Courtreezy has managed to build a platform for her vivid, and often opinionated, reactions. As the path to internet fame became seemingly open to anyone, the sheer number of aspiring-influencers makes standing out merely inaccessible.
She succeeded in riding the waves of what was already sensational, and her candid and personable manner has set her apart as one of the leading creators in this corner of the reactor space.