When Yousef Erakat started his YouYube channel in 2011, he couldn’t wait to share his first video to his mentor.
“I showed it to the dean of the theater department, and she said, ‘This was the worst decision you could have made. No one in Hollywood is going to take a guy seriously who dances to Rebecca Black’s “Friday” in an Apple store,’ ” the San Jose State University graduate says in the current issue of PEOPLE.
But five years and 8.5 million subscribers later, Hollywood is listening.
The Northern California native behind the YouTube channel fouseyTUBE (a play on his first name) is about to embark on a world tour with fellow YouTuber Roman Atwood and this fall he’ll appear in his first feature film, Boo! A Madea Halloween, in a role written for him by Tyler Perry.
• To see Erakat featured in the pages of PEOPLE, pick up the latest issue of the magazine, on newsstands Friday
The youngest of four born to Palestinian immigrants, Erakat, 26, says he initially set out to be solely a “source of entertainment” for his audience.
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He made them laugh with prank videos and impersonations of his “traditional” Middle Eastern parents.
But in 2015 Erakat decided to open up on his vlog channel DOSEofFOUSEY about his private troubles.
“I have bipolar and depression, and I was in rehab for an addiction,” he shared onstage at the 2015 Streamy Awards.
“I wanted to show my audience that even though I go through depression and everything else, look at me now,” he says. “I still struggle, but I’m proof that nothing can stop you. You can go through things and still accomplish anything you want.”