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What Would Happen to You When Featured on YouTube Video with 30 Million Views

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

Being internet famous wasn't something I planned.

How could I?

For one, the category did not exist when I was growing up. I wanted to be a professional baseball player when I was seven. When I was eighteen, I came to the US to study art so I could become a movie director.

But instead, I became a graphic designer and made some movie posters.

I did not plan to be a sushi chef, either. Neither a writer, nor an author of four books.

Certainly, I never imagined being featured in a commercial video on YouTube.

How did I get featured on a YouTube video with 30 Million views? (spoiler alert: it was a paid advertisement).

Here is my story.

It was just another team building sushi class for me - a small class for five guests.

Even though the guest count was under our event minimum, the name of the company caught my attention.

I knew this company. I was using their online software.

It was quite useful, especially for a non-native English speaker like me. I used it to write my books. I used it to send emails.

The Japanese language has no articles like "The." There is no distinguishing between singular and plural; "the cake" is always "cake," never cakes. I still have difficulty.

The app helped me fix all these difficult issues.

It was called Grammarly.

After the class, one of the Grammarly employees approached me.

"Hi, Kaz. Thank you for the class - it was great. I was wondering if you would be interested in working with us?"

"Work with you...?"

"Yes. Grammarly will be making some YouTube commercials and I would like you to be in it."

"Me? Why?"

"Well, I read some of your stories, and I think it's wonderful. Of course, we will interview you and I will present a proposal in the meeting for the company approval. But I think they will accept it."

I was stunned and speechless.

But only for three seconds.

"Yes, I'd love to!" I shouted.


The bigger than I expected twenty video production crew flew from New York City - a director, producer, cameraman, lighting crew, and makeup artist.

"Let's shoot the interview segment first," the director told everyone.

I sat on a barstool, nervous.

What would I say?

I asked myself.

"OK, let's start, shall we?"

The director started asking questions.

Tell me about Breakthrough Sushi

Why did you start teaching a Sushi class?

One by one, I answered, as honestly as I could.

How did you start your business?

"I started because, well, I had no other choice. I was in debt and had no work. My wife, who was my business partner at that time, suggested I start teaching sushi class," I answered.

I continued to talk about the success of my company; how grateful I was for everyone, the clients, staff, people and my wife.

Then, I started crying.

There was a burst of emotions coming out from my chest and tears kept falling.

I tried to say something, but nothing came out from my mouth. I must have cried for two minutes when I thought to myself, "Oh no, I just ruined this interview segment."

I didn't think they could use the part of interview where I was crying. To my surprise, the director used some of it in the final cut.

Grammarly released the commercial on November 8, 2018. They also had two other commercials with different writers, which were released earlier.

The other commercials had more views than the one I was featured.

I had no idea, but I was disappointed. I shouldn't have cared; it shouldn't have mattered how many views the video got.

After all, the video was not mine. It belonged to Grammarly. I was just in it. I didn't make it. I didn't produce it.

When I caught myself for being emotional for something I didn't have to worry about, I decided never to come back on the YouTube page to check the view counter again.

Several months went by. I knew the ad was still running because it popped up on my screen once in a while.

When I visited my neighborhood café to grab a morning coffee, the owner shouted at me, "Hey, you are in the YouTube video!"

"Ahh, yes."

Our dry cleaner said to me, "I saw you on YouTube."

The security guard at our condo, past clients, my old friends from Los Angeles all told me they too had seen me on YouTube.

During a sushi party, we catered, one guest came up to me with his phone and said, "Is this you?"

Suddenly, I was surrounded by people who recognize me, but I didn't recognize them. It was a strange feeling.

Another month went by.

After our monthly public sushi class, two teenage girls came up to me and asked if they could take a picture with me.

"Of course," I replied.

"You're famous," one girl said.

"Famous? How?" I asked.

"Well, your YouTube video has 30 million views!"

"What? 30 million? Oh, my gosh, I had no idea!"

No wonder many people told me they saw me on YouTube.

Now the commercial run has stopped, no one recognizes me and mentions about the video.

Frankly, it was nice to be recognized because I thought people saw me as a successful sushi chef instructor. For that, internet famous was nice. Some people emailed me and said they felt my story was great and inspirational. For that, I am ever grateful to Grammarly for featuring me.

After the internet fame was gone, people's attention was gone, I found myself missing the attention. But then, it was not something I wanted.

I never planned to be internet famous, to be recognized by my neighborhood café owner. It was not my plan. But it happened.

Then, when the attention faded away, I felt as if something was missing from me. It wasn't big, but there was a hole inside of me. Now because there was a hole, I wanted to fill it.

For a split second, I thought one way to fill the hole was to bring back what I had lost, the fame.

I searched my feelings for an answer and realized there was no hole inside of me. I was not missing anything.

It was not something I wanted. It was not something I planned. It just happened. It was not mine. Noting ever was.

I never got there, but I could see when a person becomes famous and receives attention, it could be dangerous. Once the fame and recognition faded away, I can see it's easy to want more. It's easy to fall into a trap because faded fame can feel like you've lost something.

I never fall into that trap because my internet fame was such a small scale- maybe twenty or so people told me they saw me in the video.

Funny thing is the video, and fame did not change who I am, but it changed the way others look at me. It was almost like there was another person, a brand, Chef Kaz, who was different from Kaz Matsune.

When I met my childhood hero, Graham Kerr, the host of 70's TV cooking show Galloping Gourmet fame at his home in Seattle, he shared this story.

"The producer asked to hope over the couch with wine in my hand." The scene became one of the signatures move of the show. "But that was not my idea."

The success of the show changed his life and the way he performed on his show. The audience thought it was Graham Kerr who was watching, but to Graham, it was someone else.

"You need to be careful," Graham told me.

I am ever grateful for Grammarly to feature me in the video because it made many of our clients happy. They were happy because in their eyes, I was a famous chef.

For that, it was worth it.

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