Jesse St. Louis wants you to be infamous
If you’ve browsed YouTube lately, you’ll see that having your own channel can be quite lucrative. YouTubers are getting millions of views and making money as a result of their video creations. You can always find plenty of make-up tutorials and video game reviews. However, if you’re the outdoorsy type, you’ve probably run across climbers, hikers and canyoneers who document their adventures with a video. One such bad ass motherfucker is Infamous Jesse St. Louis. This guy will take you to hidden waterfalls and natural water slides. He’ll show you the best cliff jumping spots and show you all sorts of cool hidden places that will inspire your own sense of curiosity and adventure. Jesse has traveled to Costa Rica, Canada, Nepal, Malaysia, and Thailand to bring you videos of his adventures. He jumps into icy water, gets bruised and bloody and has the time of his life, all the while encouraging you to do the same. Infamous Jesse St. Louis has found his own adventure. Now it’s time for you to find yours. First, a quick conversation with the man himself as an introduction.
You’ve been acting for awhile now so you’re obviously comfortable being in front of the camera. How did that lead you to create your own YouTube channel?
Initially I just used YouTube as a repository for my acting demo reels and travel videos that I only shared with friends and family. I really didn’t understand the whole concept of my own “channel” filled with programming created by me. It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles in 2014, that a producer friend of mine mentioned that I needed my own YT channel in today’s competitive content environment. She explained that most agents, casting directors and producers now are looking for the best talent, not only in ability but also with respect to a built in social media following.
When you first started your channel, what was the plan and how has that changed, if at all?
I really became serious about my channel when discovered the “Digital Nomad” lifestyle. The idea of living in a self employed, location independent way really sounded intriguing. I felt that if my acting career took off, then great, but if it didn’t I might still be able to have my own thing that I could control. The idea of seeking out adventure and inspiring others to do so has grown out of my initial attempt at simply just documenting my experiences.
Where did the “infamous” idea come from? How does that describe what you do in your videos?
Infamous JSL was a nickname given to me back in highschool by my best friend. Wu Tang Clan was popular back then and it seemed like all their members had multiple aliases. So whenever he was referencing me or introducing me to some new people it was always like “here’s my friend Jesse St. Louis aka Infamous JSL aka the Iceman aka Jorge Montenegro aka Papa Lushious.” It was kind of a joke but at the same time serious because I was known as someone who did and said shocking and outrageous things. In my hometown, I was the first person to “lap” the town in reverse. That is to say, drive around main street of Sag Harbor, NY moving with the flow of traffic, but with my car driving in reverse. A lot of the time my reputation preceded me, even with my teachers. They knew me as one of the smartest kids in my class, but also a bit of an obnoxious, discipline problem. I got into a lot of fights and disrupted plenty of classes. Nowadays, I wear the moniker of Infamous as a badge of honor. I’ve taken back ownership of the title similar to women who are proud of calling themselves bitches or how some of the African American community has reclaimed the n word. Taking something that at one time had a negative association and re-branding it. So now when I tell people in my videos to “be infamous” what I’m saying is basically “do you,” embrace who you are, follow your dreams and regardless of whether others speak ill or have negative preconceptions, it’s ok.
Were you surprised at the success of your channel? What do you think you’re offering that resonates with so many people?
I honestly thought that it was going to be a lot easier. I had no idea the amount of work involved in creating engaging videos. I had to learn to shoot, edit and tell better stories. I also had to learn the whole SEO thing in order to optimize my tags, titles and descriptions for search and discovery. It’s like another full-time job on top of a regular 9-5. I had no idea. I actually just thought that you posted videos and went viral. Looking back on it, it is actually pretty funny how naive I was. I’m not exactly sure what resonates with my viewers other than my authenticity. I try to communicate my enthusiasm along with relevant information and hopefully a little humor in all my videos. YouTube is over saturated with a lot of people copying what others are doing. I just try to be myself, do things that interest me and show other people some cool things they might never have seen before.
How has your approach to editing and your video making changed over these years?
Well I started shooting on a cellphone and making edits that weren’t really engaging. Long, shaky cuts that offered very little value. Then I went in the opposite direction where I would over shoot stuff and was sifting through hours of footage to cut down to a 5-10 minutes of video. These days I try to keep my raw footage to less then an hour per video and I try to have at least one or more of the following: cool, lesser known location, adrenaline pumping activity, interesting information or some humor. If I can get all of those in a single video, I’m extremely happy and consider it successful regardless of how many views it gets.
You’re very passionate in all of your videos. Where does that come from?
It actually comes from a place of gratitude. I’ve had a few near death experiences and a few times in my life when I was full of despair. After crawling out of the darkness, I have a new perspective on life. I want to explore and experience as much as I can. I used to have such a narrow view of what my life could be and now I just feel so open to possibility. I really want to share all that I see, so that I can maybe help other people have some more hope or a broader worldview. I love showing people amazing stuff, sometimes even in their own backyard that they didn’t know existed.
How would you say your video content has evolved from when you started until now?
Well like I said previously, originally it was just clips to share with friends and family. There was no editing, background music or any storytelling in my old stuff. And even after I started consciously making videos for an audience (that didn’t even exist yet by the way) I still hadn’t found my creative voice. It wasn’t until I accidentally ended up climbing a Malibu waterfall in the dark that I realized what my message was, “rage against the dying of the light!” I had truly found the meaning of carpe diem. I wanted to suck the marrow out of life. I didn’t want to live a life crossing things off a “bucket list.” Quite the opposite, I realized that I wanted to live a life each day that was so full of adventures, experiences and awareness, where if I died in my sleep, I would already feel that I had lived a full life and would be ok with that.
I’ve noticed that you’ve become canyoneering a lot lately. Is that a shift or just a natural progression from what you’ve been doing?
There are several aspects to that and some that I can’t talk about yet. It’s definitely a natural progression and I always encourage people to learn new skills and try new things. However, I prefer to make videos about things that don’t involve such a costly barrier to entry. Canyoneering is great but some people can’t afford training or gear for that, so I will continue to make hidden waterfall, sea cave and other free adventure videos. I want everyone to know that adventure doesn’t have to cost a lot and that it is more about a mindset of gratitude and exploration.
Where do you plan to travel in the future?
There’s a lot of places that want to go. Internationally I love Costa Rica but I definitely want to explore more of Central and South America. I also want to return to Nepal. The Nepali people are so kind and hospitable and they need tourism to help the continued recovery from the 2015 earthquake. There’s really no place that is off the table for me, except maybe an active war zone.
Any hints about any new content coming up?
Well 2019 is going to be a huge year for me and the channel. I don’t want to let all the info out yet, but lets just say that I recently renewed my passport and opted for the larger passport with extra pages. Some visas still need to be worked out, but all I can say is… buckle up buttercup, cause it’s gonna be a wild ride! And oh yeah… get out there, find YOUR adventure and BE INFAMOUS!
Check out the YouTube channel of Jesse St. Louis here.