A Food Fetish That Pays

A Food Fetish That Pays

Mukbangers are Making Money Eating on Camera

By Sabrina Martinez

Image for postPark Seo-Yeon Films a Mukbang While Eating Wings.

Millions of people every day get on YouTube to watch all sorts of videos, including videos of people eating. The craze is called mukbang, (pronounced MOOK-bong), where people record themselves eating an impressive amount of food while talking to their viewers. Mukbangers and foodie bloggers are making upwards of thousands of dollars a month, and while the job doesn?t come with insurance or benefits, it does come with millions of subscribers and internet fame.

Originating in South Korea, the mukbang, or ?eating broadcast,? became popular in 2010. Now retired Park Seo-Yeon, also known as ?The Diva,? is the most well-known mukbanger in South Korea making around $9,000 a month. She earned her wages by consuming extra large meals live in front of a camera, answering questions from some of her 145,000-something subscribers while earning ?gifts? in the form of virtual coins which is converted to real money.

The trend reached the United States in 2015 and YouTubers like Trisha Paytas and Nicholas Perry keep their estimated combined 6,152,868 subscribers entertained by ordering a lot of food and talking about personal drama or anything on their mind. Paytas and Perry reel in about $4.9K ? $78.2K and $2.6K ? $42.3K respectively, according to Social Blade, through advertisements that play during their video.

Image for postTrisha Paytas Orders the Pizza Hut Triple Treat Box for a Mukbang.

I watch mukbangs when I?m alone eating in my room so I feel like I have company with me,? says mukbang fan, Thalia Carrillo. ?One time Trisha Paytas did a KFC mukbang and I paused the video to order a bucket of chicken.?

In 2018, ?Mukbang? content on YouTube generated about 341 million views, according to a study by Tubular. Viewers are watching people consume whole pizzas, mixing bowls full of pasta, or ramen to combat their loneliness, at least that?s the idea that turned mukbangs into a huge hit.

Mukbangs aren?t the only way eating food is paying the bills. Austin foodie, Jane Ko makes her living by eating food and writing about it. She runs and produces content for her blog, A Taste of KoKo.

She started her blog in 2010 during her last year at The University of Texas. She reviews restaurants, food trucks and even tells her readers the best spots for happy hour.

?I was finishing up my degree in nutrition when I realized I didn?t want to become a dietitian so I started the blog as a creative outlet. This was before the term ?influencer? was born. I blogged along the way as I worked in the social media industry and quit my job in 2015 to blog full-time,? said Ko.

The job is tasty but doesn?t come cheap. Ko says her bank statement looks like a food diary and she typically spends $3,000 a month on food. She says the best part of her job is getting to eat all of the food, and the other is helping people with recommendations for lunch or office parties or even suggestions on where to propose.

Ko doesn?t watch or film mukbangs since she already does so much eating for her blog articles. She has dabbled in a similar form of mukbangs via Instagram stories.

While the foodie lifestyle looks glamorous, it isn?t easy.

?The worst part would probably be gaining weight from eating all the food. I?ve also noticed recently that influencers have been easily bullied online ? I?ve seen local food bloggers get scrutinized for doing sponsored campaigns with national restaurant chains but I hope people understand that there?s a lot of out of pocket costs from running a blog. One of my brand pillars is to not take sponsorship money from national restaurant chains like McDonald?s, Wendy?s, etc,? Ko says.

America?s food fascination is also raising questions about obesity and eating disorders. In Korea, obesity rates are among the lowest but have been increasing steadily in recent years, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. About 4% of the adult population in Korea is obese, and about 30% are overweight. It is suspected that the rates will continue to increase.

Americans have also adopted food fetishes and even made internet challenges out of eating copious amounts of calories. Videos like ?10,000 Calorie Eating Challenge? are about one thing, people literally scarfing down 10,000 calories of food in one sitting.

Image for post

YouTuber Rob Lipsett eats 10,000 calories in an hour.

Mukbangs and foodie blogs produce mouth-watering content but also cause people to become addicted to food. The OECD reported that the United States is ?the fattest country? and predicts three out of four people will be overweight within the next 10 years. Whether you produce foodie content or simply just watch for entertainment, remember to eat with caution.

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