Ramona Rosales
September 17, 2015 02:25 PM

Just because she has more than 4 million subscribers today doesn’t mean getting started on YouTube was easy for Eva Gutowski.

The Southern California native was a freshman in college at California State University at Fullerton when she first started posting videos.

“I was just putting them up for friends to see,” the 21-year-old says in the current issue of PEOPLE.

But once she noticed that it was more than just her friends watching her videos, Gutowski decided to consciously attempt to grow the following for her YouTube channel MyLifeAsEva.

“I was inspired by comedy channels. I loved that they got to do sketches and could be funny and crude and make people laugh. But most of those channels, if not all of them, were done by guys,” say the broadcast journalism major. “Then I looked at the girls on YouTube and they were all these cookie-cutter, perfect-looking beauty people who were doing the perfect makeup tutorials.”

Feeling shoved into “a box,” Gutowski began posting beauty videos of her own.

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“I figured, that’s what I should be doing,” she says. “But I didn t wear any makeup growing up, so I found myself doing makeup tutorials with this tiny, cracked eye shadow pallet.

“It took me a long time to break out of that and get comfortable showing my goofy side, but that’s when my channel started to grow,” continues Gutowski, whose most popular clip to date is a music video for "Literally My Life", a comedy she wrote herself.

Now about to embark on a 20-city tour and starring in the lightly scripted YouTube series How to Survive High School, Gutowski is hoping she can inspire other girls to break the mold as well.

“A lot of girls on YouTube want to show their personality, but they are afraid because they think people only want them to do beauty videos. That’s just not true. Girls can be funny and play sports and show how to do the perfect soccer kick if they want,” she says. “I’m having a lot of fun playing myself out there on YouTube and showing who I am and getting to do projects that make me happy versus satisfy what people think a girl should be doing.”

For more from Gutowski – including how she overcame a childhood of financial uncertainty – pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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