McClure Twins Family: What It's Like to Raise Social Media Stars
Ami and Justin McClure run a popular family YouTube channel that features their twin daughters, Alexis and Ava, and their infant son, Jersey. WSJ's Julie Jargon visits the McClures at their home in New Jersey to learn about the challenges of parenting while vlogging.
Photo Illustration: Alexander Hotz/The Wall Street Journal.
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- It's not that we want to make the video funny, it's because that's what we are! - [Julie] (laughs) You're just-- - That's what we do. - [Julie] It is, in fact, what these two do. Meet Ava and Alexis, they're five-year-old identical twins. They're also YouTube celebrities, and this is the rest of the McClure Family. Their YouTube channel, McClure Twins Family, boasts more than 1.3 million subscribers and their videos reliably net hundreds of thousands of views, and they're not alone. In recent years, professional family vlogging has become increasingly common and lucrative. Ava and Alexis' parents, Ami and Justin, are doing so well, in fact, that they quit their jobs to make YouTube and Facebook videos of their kids full-time. Hello, I'm Julie. - Hi, Julie, it's nice to meet you. - I'm curious to know what drives people to share their lives on social media and what happens when things don't go as planned. To find out, I've come to meet the McClures at their production studio, also known as their family home. - Take my hand. - I would love to. (group laughing) This is beautiful! - [Ami] Welcome to their room. (winding key crunching) - Wow! (Ami chuckling) Was there a moment when you realized that they'd be good on camera? - I don't think there was any one moment that it happened. It just seemed like it was natural for them. - [Julie] Do they ever surprise you with the answers they give? - All day long. I always say the best stuff is not on camera. - Ava has the same birthday. - [Ami] You do have the same birthday. - [Julie] Ami and Justin first realized the potential of their daughters when this video went viral in 2016. - [Ami] Does she look like your face? - Yes! - [Ami] Yes! (both laughing) - Well, it did put you into a place where you're like we gotta figure out what we're doing, because this is snowballing. - [Julie] Recognizing the twins' potential, the McClures began building their positive lifestyle family brand, which today includes four different YouTube channels. How much do you make between all these different channels? - If you look on YouTube, I think our average there is $12,000 a month. If you look at Facebook, it's probably about the same. If you get brand deals, then those brand deals I think the minimum that we get is $5,000 for an Instagram. - [Julie] The McClures told me they're doing so well that they were both able to quit their jobs, which they said each paid six figures. So what does the day-to-day life of a vlogging family look like? - [Justin] Okay, girls, can we go and get the intro? - What you're watching is they're getting ready to shoot a video of how well the parents know the kids. - What is your favorite part? - It's the one, remember that one? (Ami laughing) - Remember that one? Remember that one? - What is it called again? - [Julie] It's a lot of work, and then they have to keep the girls focused and on-task, because they're little girls and they get distracted and they wanna play. - How well do you think our mom and dad did? Well, I think they did terrible. (Justin laughs) - We can still hear you! - Ah, terrible! - Why do you think your channel is so popular? Why do you think people like watching your videos so much? - Um, because. - Because we're funny. - And they're interesting. - We're just a great family, that's why. (pleasant orchestral music) - Did you have debates between yourselves about whether this was good for them in terms of, you know, they don't have the ability to consent to this. This is something you're having them do, and they don't really understand what it is. - Yeah, I think that was probably the hot topic, the biggest debate that we had back and forth after this virality was what do we do and not even just what do we do, but are we doing something okay. Are the kids going to be okay? Is this right for them? Sometimes people just have something, and we believe the girls have something, and, you know, it's like Tiger Woods. He just had something with golf. His dad, when he was three or four, when did he start? Didn't say, okay, you're good, but just go swing the ball, leave me alone. He nurtured that. (pleasant guitar music) - [Julie] But with fame comes scrutiny. Last summer, tweets Justin made years before about black people, and black women in particular, surfaced online. The scandal led to some bad press for the family and to a moment of reckoning for Justin. In response, they did what any YouTuber would do, make a video about it. - Do you understand that those statements very well could have come from the mouth of someone spewing racist hate? - I know I'm not a racist, but I look at the things that I said, and would a racist person say those things? They would. - [Julie] The exposure of his past tweets could have been the McClure's downfall, but Justin turned it into an opportunity for redemption. - Those tweets came when I was still a drunk or when I had first gotten sober and I was trying to figure out, you know, what my life was all about. I was still doing stand-up. - It got a lot of publicity. - Bad publicity. - I don't know-- - It wasn't good publicity. - [Julie] Yeah. - Listen, I owned up to it. They were bad jokes. They were not anything I would say now. - The McClures underwent more scrutiny when it came out on social media that Justin isn't the twins biological father, something the McClures said they were planning to go public with when the time was right. - Everybody makes mistakes. You grow, hopefully, as a person, and you move forward, but just that, because it's so, now I'm about to cry, it's so special and, like, close and it's a beautiful story. That is really what we wanted to share and that being taken away from us is the thing that, you know, bothers me the most. (Ami chuckling) - Jazzy! - Yes! - After spending the day with the McClures, I understood how seriously they take this family business, but I couldn't help wonder about the precariousness of it all. What if they come to you someday, whether it's a year from now, five years from now, and say, we don't wanna do this anymore, or one of them doesn't wanna do it, the other one does. - Then we don't do it anymore. - Okay. (girls chattering) - [Justin] If they don't wanna do it, then we don't wanna do it. - Lexi, do it for real, don't hurt your sister. You know, they're such sweet little girls, and that comes across in everything they do, but it's our job as parents also to let them know that you can't lose yourself, and I don't want them to now feel like they have no control of their own life, so that's a balance that we're walking every day. (expressive mallet percussion and orchestral music)