If you have ever looked into ASMR, even for just a few seconds on Google, Youtube, or via word of mouth, you WILL have heard of this ASMRtist; Gentle Whispering ASMR; aka Maria. With over 1.2 million subscribers at the time of this post, I believe she is (and has been for a while now) the biggest ASMRtist.
Her current account was created on Youtube in 2011 and has just soared. I have been trying to work out what it is about Maria and her videos that make her so popular, more so by a long stretch than others. Her longevity in the community is to be noted. Despite her excellent English she has this wonderful, ever so slight Russian accent which she accentuates for certain videos which for me definitely induces strong tingles. In addition to her voice, her hand movements are captivating and also beautifully manicured. In all of her videos she looks clean, polished and professional, whilst also making the viewer feel like the video is only for them.
If you scroll through her videos on youtube from the beginning you can see and hear the progression of her channel through the years. From being filmed on just a mobile phone without showing her face, to showing her face and gradually introducing more high-tech equipment, different microphones and even a 360° viewing experinece, her channel has evolved from the blurry ‘Old School’, low-fi ASMR, to a semi-professional viewing experience. She does occasionally film ‘Old School ASMR’ videos, but she still uses relatively sophisticated equipment for them.
She has described herself as a perfectionist and this is evident in her videos as she pays close attention to every tiny detail. Firstly, her deliberate, seemingly choreographed, hand movements are mesmerising. The movements are slow purposeful and they feature in most, if not all, of her videos as a key component.
Being triggered by hand movements (and other visual cues such as marbling of coloured liquid for example), is called visual ASMR. As a part of this, Maria ensures her videos look the most inviting they can: she uses different backgrounds: plays with lighting, usually slightly dimmed or softened at the edges: and her face always looks fresh with natural, uplifting makeup. The atmosphere she creates through her lighting and appearance is important in creating the caring, relaxed atmosphere which puts the viewer at ease, perfect for triggering ASMR.
However, more important (in my opinion) than the visual is the sound and Maria is always striving for a more perfect audio. She has experimented with several different microphones and uses different set-ups depending on what and where she is filming. Her and her husband sound-proofed a room themselves in her previous place to prevent background noise from the neighbour’s air conditioning (she shows this in a video) and in her new place you still don’t hear any background noise. I know there is a movement in the ASMR community to return to the ‘old-school’, low-fi ASMR, but Maria’s perfection is certainly the fan favourite as she leads the way with the most subscribers in the ASMR community.
Her need for perfection remains consistent throughout her channel. But this means she has only been able to portray one side of her. In order to maintain her calm self the more light-hearted, bubbly side is suppressed. A few years ago I think she recognised this as a barrier because some more quirky, chatty-style videos were made where she had her naturally curly hair, quicker tempo in her speaking and some giddy, excited movements. This side of her is nicknamed Masha and from this side of her she created a vlog-style channel to show her more free side. In this second channel she also shows her “behind the scenes” to her filming which I personally find interesting and still relaxing, just because I think her voice naturally is so.
I mentioned before how some people are moving back to the old-style of ASMR recorded on a mobile phone and perhaps an external microphone because they prefer the fuzzy visual and slight audio crackle as it makes the experience feels more authentic and therefore produces more tingles. Some people I have spoken to say they prefer her old videos for those reasons, but then others prefer her newer ones (again, perhaps the amount of subscribers speak for itself?) With a channel that has existed as long as hers viewers have the luxury of choosing what they are in the mood for or what they prefer. Furthermore, she has a range of types of videos including ASMR trigger tests, folding tutorials (see image), ASMR collaborations with artists such as WhispersRed ASMR, ASMRrequests and Heather Feather ASMR, cooking sessions where she rents a beautiful venue for filming and role plays with props (a personal favourite of mine being the Event Planning roleplay).
Going beyond her channel, she advocates the ASMR community in articles and televised interviews such as cosmopolitan and even the BBC has a featured article looking at several ASMR artists including Maria. If you read her cosmopolitan you will find out that due to her success her Youtube channel has become her full time job. There is an ethical debate here and within the ASMR community both ASMRtists and viewers are divided on whether ASMRtists SHOULD earn an income, often through advertisement revenue, Paypal as donated by viewers, and/or Patreon. I will discuss this ethical debate in a future post because at the end of the day, it is up to the ASMRtist and who am I to say whether someone who works into the early hours of the morning creating a free service for people should or shouldn’t try to earn a living from it? Like I said, a future post.
With such a choice of what to watch I struggle choosing a favourite video of Maria’s. It really depends on my mood. And that is the advantage with a channel that has been updated regularly for years by someone truly invested in experimenting with the power of ASMR in the hope of relaxing, comforting and offering a nocturnal refuge for their viewers.
People from all walks of life watch her videos. In this age of daily chaos and people needing an escape, I think we can expect Maria’s subscribers to grow along with the rest of the community. I believe that Maria’s success is not only due to her creativity and persistence, but her complete embodiment of ASMR. When you watch her on the screen and listen to her, she really does quiet your spirit while her voice wraps you in a fluffy blanket, soothing you to sleep.
If you are looking for a goodnight’s sleep in check out Maria’s channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/GentleWhispering