The bullied Cardiff school girl who went on to become a YouTube star with 1.4m followers

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A former bullied schoolgirl from Cardiff has gone on to become a YouTube sensation with 1.4m followers from all around the world.

Taz Alam, who went to the troubled Willows High School in Tremorfa, found fame by baring her soul online about how she feels, writing spoken word poetry about such sensitive subjects as mental health in a bid to help others who might be going through similar hard times.

In the past few years her uploaded videos have been viewed more than 20 million times, while hundreds of thousands regularly read her raw and honest poems such as Dear Bully and It’s Okay not to be Okay.

It’s a long way from the days when, a self-confessed “uncool, nerdy kid”, she says she was made to feel like “the lowest of the low.”

And that journey is to be marked in a new YouTube film which sees her revisit her old school in the Welsh capital and perform some of her work for the pupils who are there now.

“I was 11 when I started at Willows and that’s the time when you’re trying to figure yourself out and going through a lot of emotions,” says Taz.

“So it’s a stressful period for a lot of people and I felt a lot of pressure to do well, most of which was my own fault.



Taz has built up a huge following by expressing her feelings online

“I  pushed myself hard in order to get good grades, so to be in classes where the other kids were quite disruptive was very distracting and frustrating.

“My parents naturally wanted the best for me too, so it always felt like I was letting them down.”

During the time Taz was there, Willows High School was at the bottom of the league table for the whole of the country, a reputation it continued to be tarred with for a long time aftwerwards.

A damning inspection report by Wales’ education watchdog, Estyn, in 2012 deemed its performance ‘unsatisfactory’ and stated that its pupils were not making enough progress.

More recently, however, its been praised by the same body for making improvements in both its teaching and standards.

“I was a bit of an uncool, nerdy kid back then,” Taz says, now 27.

“A teacher’s pet, I suppose you could call it, and being like that tends to lend itself to a lot of teasing.

“Children can be mean sometimes and it was probably one of the toughest times of my life.”

Admitting to having no real hobbies or interests other than watching videos on YouTube, Taz decided to start making her own short films at home.



Taking time out to write some new poetry

“That’s the beauty of YouTube, you can set up your own channel in your bedroom – all you need is a computer, a camera and some editing software.

“Anyone can do it, but once you do you’ve no control over how it might be received.”

Having taught herself how to write poetry – “I just get sad and put it out there” – Taz slowly found viewers gravitating towards her musings on life, love and loneliness.  

“People just seemed to take to it, I don’t know why,” she says.

“It was a gradual thing, but, after I’d graduated from university, it really took off.”

A series of short videos a couple of years ago, in which she tried things like living for a week on just one pound a day, saw things explode and the number of her followers experience a massive spike.

“Suddenly I’d found this big online community who were very supportive of me and encouraged me to try new things, and you could see me get more and more confident as time went on.

“It still can’t believe this is what I do for a living now. I’ve had jobs in the past where I’d have to clock in and out, and this definitely doesn’t feel like one of those.

“For the most part I don’t have much time to stop and think about it – its only when I do interviews like this that I go, ‘Oh yeah, it is a bit weird, I suppose’.”

But does she feel a sense of responsibility toward those who follow her online?

“I know a lot of the people watching are a lot younger than me and very impressionable,” says Taz.

“I just want to make them smile and to help them if I can, because I know what I was like at their age.

“And, with a pandemic added on top of all that, it must be really hard.

“If I had one message it would be, ‘Above all else, just be yourself’ – I just the wish the 14-year-old me had known that at the time.”

YouTube Originals Creator Spotlights are available to watch here.

It airs from 5pm on Monday, November 30.



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