INTERVIEW: Shadia Daho, mum to Amazing Arabella and JD the kid, on keeping your children safe online and dealing with negativity

Shadia Daho Amazing Arabella JD the kid

Shadia Daho knows a thing or two about growing successful communities online. Mum and manager to Amazing Arabella and JD the Kid, Shadia grew their accounts alongside launching her incredible sister’s account, Laila Loves. Here she tells InChief about what it means to be a parent of hugely successful online creators.

How did your journey across social media begin then? Was there something that provoked or inspired it?
Back when my sister Laila was about 17 or 18, she had a friend who was a YouTuber – it was practically unheard of at that point, ‘being a YouTuber’. Laila was about 18 stone back then, and went to a meeting with her YouTuber friend who was meeting up with a makeup artist. When they came back to the house they were talking about the meeting, and Laila said that the makeup artist asked her if she’d be up for doing some makeup videos. So I was like, “Why not? You should do it if you want to, you’ve got a really pretty face and if you want to then go for it,” but her YouTuber friend turned around and said “I think you’re just too big for it.”

What fresh hell?
Exactly. The horns came out then. I took Laila aside and said “Listen, you can do this, but don’t listen to what anybody like that says. If you want to do this, you do you and we’ll help you. Your brother will film it, I’ll script it for you we’ll start something.” But she was still worried about her weight, so I said if losing weight would make her happy then I’d go to the gym with her and encourage her, and so we did! Around three months after that conversation she started to do videos, and within four months she just popped – she’s gorgeous and people love her and her weight-loss journey. Slowly but surely, the fans and her following wanted to know more about her her background and her family, so I got my brother and my sister involved. Then about two years after that, my kids (Arabella and JD) were like “we wanna do it!” so I was like, “Okay, great, let’s all do it!” 

I’m largely the business end for everybody and have helped them grow, but in the past two years I’ve started doing my own little thing on Instagram too. 

Are you a momager like Kris Jenner?
Ha! Something like that…

You and your family are all so positive online – you in particular – and I just love it. You’re very motivational.
It’s all about spreading love. There’s so much hate going on in the world right now.  I did a video the other day where I said that you shouldn’t worry about losing people, you should worry about losing yourself which you will if you worry about what other people think. So many people were sharing it, I was blown away. People were in my comments and DMs like, “Oh my god, you don’t know how much I needed to hear this today,” and if I can put out a message that reaches one person and helps them feel better, then that’s what we’re all here for.

I think that’s what the social platforms should be more about. It’s difficult to execute, of course, but it should all be about spreading love really.

You come across so confident and empowered and wise. You’re obviously very savvy in a lot of ways – how much monitoring versus freedom do you give Arabella and JD with their accounts?
Arabella’s 16 now and JD is 15. Arabella started social media when she was 11, so from really early on I was very aware and conscious of keeping things very clean. For me it was about making sure that all the content that she put out was nice and clean and positive. I was very aware of the digital world, so in terms of screening followers and what have you, I did that until they got to about 14 or 15. Every morning I would check all the platforms and make sure everything was okay, and then again before I went to sleep at night. I had all their accounts on my phone so I was monitoring everything, but just before the first lockdown I had a little change of heart. 

I said to myself “You know what Shadia, you are a 41 year old woman now, do you really know what content 15 year olds want?” Ha! Commercially I know what people want to see, but I think it was time for the kids to do more of themselves on the platforms without my input, and take care of it and be a bit more responsible for their own image. And so that’s what they’ve done. I mean, they’ve become teenagers and they’re not kids anymore, so it would be wrong of me to sort of… keep as much of a hold. So yeah, they’re sort of giving a bit more of themselves, and we’ve been getting really great feedback from peers and parents.

That’s amazing, especially as I read about you all having to move house a few years ago because of negative attention as a result of YouTube videos?
When the kids started their YouTube channels they got really popular really quickly – JD had about 17 million views on just three videos. Anyway, about six months into the YouTubing the kids started getting really – and I mean really – mean comments on their videos. They just came out of nowhere, and because of the severity of the words that were being said, I reported them to the police. It took them a month or two to trace, and they asked me if I knew this person. I was like, “Yes… it’s my neighbour.”

I know. There was already some tension with her because she’s a member of the BNP, so she didn’t like us because of our skin colour and because we’re Muslim, but that was the last straw. There was already another incident where a girl text everyone in school and told them where JD lives, and there were like, fifty kids trying to take photos through his bedroom window. It was time to move, and I’m so glad we did just for the sake of everyone’s mental health.

Strewth. How do you go about trying to protect your children from that kind of stuff? Obviously you can’t control strangers online, so what do you do about it?
When we started to work online, I sat down with everyone to talk about this. A lot of parents feel like it’s a bit of a taboo to talk about things like predators, but to protect your children you need to educate your children and they need to know about these people. I pointed out red flags to look for and just gave a few different scenario examples and advised what to do, but I was always monitoring the kids’ accounts when they started out. They didn’t have full use of their accounts until just recently as I said, but they still need to be aware of what can happen.

But yes, and you can’t move house every time something bad happens on the internet
You know, it’s actually not as bad as that anymore, nowhere near. Because it’s so saturated now and everyone’s trying to do it, creators are seen more as peers and less as mini celebrities. Now because so many people are trying to create channels and get followers, there’s a bit more respect. Well actually, saying that, people will either lift you up and support you, or try and compete with you and be aggressive.

Well that’s ridiculous isn’t it. Every creator’s USP is their personality and who they are, so you can’t compete with someone else’s personality
Everyone’s unique, and everyone has their own gift. And, you know, it’s about working on that. I think that was the one bit of advice I would give someone who’s starting up their own channel is just be you, whatever you want to do. To try and be someone else is just a wasted effort.

It’s so easy to fall down a hole of comparison online, though. I even do it myself and I’m old enough to know better – even looking at your account, I feel like a potato.
There needs to be a big education about the different between the content that’s put out on these platforms, and what reality is. When I was growing up, we didn’t know that the girls in the magazines were all airbrushed because we weren’t educated in Photoshop or whatever they do. But as you get older, you start to understand actually, they’re ALL edited. So Instagram now is just a repetition of history. There’s an education around this that needs to happen in schools so people stop comparing themselves, and know that it’s all edited. That’s what needs to be put out there. It’s so paramount and so important.

Do you think the parents need to be educated as well?
Absolutely. So many parents message me and ask for advice, and I just can’t reply to everyone but often the questions are similar, so I’ll just put the advice on my Stories. I think a lot of parents are getting a bit lost in the money-making side of this thing of this, and not actually seeing how it impacts their children. In the mainstream media there are always stories about “the child YouTuber who made £13million in a year!” which can make parents think, right, we need to set up a YouTube channel – but then what pressures Is that putting on the child? Do they want to do that? Is this just because maybe you’re looking at financial gain? What about the mental health of your child, and it’s not just the child – there’s a huge strain on the parents, you have to know what you’re doing. 

Of course, as you’re protecting your child you’re soaking up all the nasty bits you don’t want to impact them
Especially if you’re trying to learn about social media yourself, then it’s a double whammy of overwhelming. I always tell parents to start by asking their child what it is they want to do and what they’re happy with. You can’t be a success overnight, it’s a process. I don’t manage anyone outside the family, but I’ve met a lot of kids along the way who have “it”, but the parents don’t have a clue.

So what would the dream support system look like?
You know, what, it’s just all about knowledge. If you know what you’re doing as a parent, then you’re there. If they have friends that want to do it as well then that could make it more enjoyable – if they don’t enjoy it then it’s not worth it. When your child is sitting down and just making a little fun video with their mates, they’re talking to eachother and hanging out as friends. But then when it starts becoming regimented, and you put a product in front of the kid, and start comparing them to other unboxers or something, that’s when the strain comes in. And that’s when the child’s thinking, I don’t know what to do, and it’s easy for a parent to say “watch this video, do it exactly how they’re doing it,” and before you know it, tensions are high, people are getting irate, things are not getting done, it’s not going to plan. And then everyone’s sort of exasperated, exhausted – especially the child. So it’s a big, vicious circle, if you don’t know what you’re doing.

What kind of support do you give to Arabella and JD at times like that?
They probably can control their emotions more than I can! They just take on the chin. I mean, you’ve got to remember, they’ve grown up with this for the past five years. They’ve seen it all and they’ve heard about scenarios between my brothers and sisters. I mean, look at how we started! Laila’s YouTuber friend told her that she was too big. So they’ll either turn things into positives or just block, delete, whatever, and not even take it on board. We can’t control what people are thinking, but it’s a dangerous playground. You wouldn’t send your kid into a physical dangerous playground, so why would you send them in to the internet without giving them some knowledge of how to deal with it? 

Shadia can you adopt me please? Hello?

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