It's never been easier to show off your chops: Thanks to video sharing, any wannabe with an iPhone can aspire to a brief moment in the spotlight. But a few self-made stars manage to stick around. Here are four Outside-approved YouTubers who've turned their 15 minutes into everything from Red Bull sponsorships to record deals.
STAR: Danny MacAskill
STUNT: MacAskill, a 24-year-old Scottish bike mechanic, danced through the streets of Edinburgh on his mountain bike. The video, which featured MacAskill backflipping off trees and flying from roof to roof, went viral in April 2009, getting 350,000 hits in its first 40 hours. TRAFFIC (AT PRESS TIME): 18 million PAYOFF: MacAskill is perhaps the biggest YouTube success story: Red Bull signed him, he starred in a music video by the Doves, and this summer he’s doing stunts for actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the 2011 action fest Premium Rush, about a bike messenger under duress.
STUNT: In 2003, French skydiver Jean-Albert rocketed over skiers in Verbier at more than 100 miles per hour in a homemade wingsuit. The stunt, which hit YouTube in 2006, made Jean-Albert famous outside his country, earning him the nickname the Flying Dude. TRAFFIC: 1.7 million PAYOFF: Jean-Albert, 32, is sponsored by Red Bull and was recently named Paramag magazine’s Skydiver of the Decade. He’s also paid a heavy price for his hobby, breaking his back in 2007 while speed-flying—a combination of skiing and paragliding. Now he designs and sells $750 wingsuits for FlyYourBody.com.
STUNT: In 2007, University of Utah undergrad Wallisch, now 23, performed skateboard-style tricks on twin-tip skis in downtown Salt Lake City and Park City to the music of Notorious B.I.G. Highlight: Wallisch landed a 360 on a public handrail, then slid down backwards. TRAFFIC: 350,000 PAYOFF: Wallisch signed sponsorships with Monster and Verizon and has appeared on Fuel TV and MTV2, all while still studying toward a degree in business.
STUNT: In December 2007, Avi, a fashion student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, posted a black-and-white video of herself strumming a nylon-string guitar and singing a tune for a friend. White Stripes manager Ian Montone immediately flew her to Los Angeles to record a demo. TRAFFIC: 894,000 PAYOFF: Avi, 25, signed a joint deal with Montone’s label and Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records, and released her self-titled debut in May 2009. This fall, she opens for Johnson on a tour of California.