Since this YouTube star began creating her videos five years ago, millions of people around the world have tuned in to hear her whisper. Maria, aka the Gentle Whisperer, is able to send tingles up and down the spines of her over half a million subscribers.
The euphoric wave of tingles her viewers feel is called ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, which is usually triggered by sounds that “feel good.” Common triggers include instructional videos, slow speech patterns, clicking sounds, painting and more.
Maria’s videos have logged more than 203.5 million views and she has since quit her nine-to-five administrative job to be a full-time content creator. She told NextShark:
“I have hundreds of messages from people struggling with something and need an outlet to calm down: veterans messaging about PTSD night terrors, so videos calm them down extremely; misunderstood teenagers who don’t know how to deal with life yet and are stressed out because they don’t know how to deal with pressure; people from all walks of life including firefighters, lawyers, teachers, single mothers.”
Maria, who goes by Maria of GentleWhispering for privacy reasons, emigrated from Russia to the United States 10 years ago for a student exchange program. The then 24-year-old aspiring linguistic interpreter settled in Maryland and eventually started her own YouTube account in 2011.
Maria says she unintentionally experienced ASMR throughout her life, such as when a kindergarten friend gently tickled her forearm or a teacher whispered directions to her class. At the time she was unaware that there was a term for it. While struggling with depression during a divorce in 2009, she stumbled upon a video called “whisper” and immediately felt a tingly wave of relaxation upon hearing the narrator’s voice.
According to Maria, the ASMR community has grown exponentially in the past two years, allowing her and other ASMR artists to pursue it full-time. However, when Maria first began watching ASMR videos there was no ASMR community and no term for ASMR. She recalled:
“For about two years different media outlets have been featuring us and other YouTube channels are finally recognizing us and talking about us. It happens from time to time. Ashton Kutcher commented on ASMR. Things like that brings us much closer to people.
“I think now that ASMR community is more popular on the YouTube platform more people are reaching out for collaboration. Before that people usually walk by our community and go, ‘That’s the weird side. We’re not even going to acknowledge it — close our eyes and keep walking.’ Now people are embracing it and seeing the potential.”
Though she likes to think that everyone has ASMR, Maria says that individuals feel it at varying degrees and may experience it with different triggers. According to the monthly analytics that Maria receives about her viewers, 51% of them are males who are 35 and older and 49% are females who are 18 and older.
She surmises that since her videos are typically in English and Russian it makes sense that the countries with the top subscribers were Germany, Russia, Australia and Canada. Surprisingly, Brazil made it on the list for top subscribers as well and Maria is searching for a reason as to why that is.
Maria has a special knack for pinpointing the things that relax her and adapting them for her gentle whispering videos. Creating new video content can take Maria anywhere from two to 48 hours to pull together. She explained:
“Some videos I do in one sitting. I just sit down and do it in a couple of hours. A majority of the videos, especially role play or things I have to get props for or personal attention videos, I usually plan out first for a couple of weeks. I do a little bit of scripts, test props I want to use including sounds, outfits and backgrounds to get the vibe I want to go with. There are a lot of details. Full-time it would be two to 48 hours straight.”
ASMR has branched out from the whisper community, which was created sometime in 2009 and 2010. It began with people creating vlogs of themselves whispering about their days against a black background without showing their faces. Maria explained:
“Some people can’t separate erotic whisper from just whisper. When I started my videos I was doing it with a black background as well not showing my face at all. I thought that was how you were supposed to do it in the whisper community. No one was showing their face yet. I don’t like to brag or anything, but I was one of the people who decided to show in the camera and actually play it out the things that I was doing.
“So the very first role play as it is today, ear to ear and being in the camera — I tried it. A lot of people hated it, but a lot of people also loved it. When the ASMR term was created we branched out of whisper into ASMR community. We took the soft speaking and whisper videos and added things to it.”
In her videos, Maria displays her own special mannerisms, such as hand movements that she believes help soften the viewing experience. There are also a number of details that need to be coordinated to produce the right atmosphere. Maria considers herself a perfectionist when it comes to getting the right lighting and having the appropriate distance for microphone placement. She also revealed that she has misophonia, or a hatred for mouth sounds, which she makes sure not to include in her videos.
Maria is now a full-time YouTuber after quitting her administrative job at a medical company. She declined to disclose her actual income, but said that she makes enough to sustain herself. Though she used to resent perceiving YouTube as a job, she has started to embrace it and says she sets artistic instead of monetary goals:
“There are perks, pros and cons being a YouTuber. A lot of people feel pressure to create as much as they can because you have to do it because it’s your job. I go from a point of view of, ‘Am i relaxed enough?’ If I’m not, I won’t do it.
“I try not to worry about it too much. It is enough for me to sustain my life to cover my basic needs. I’m definitely not spoiling myself too much. I don’t live in a luxurious place. It’s just something that helps me stay afloat.”
She is currently working behind the scenes on different projects from multi-channel network Pixel Whipt and ASMR channel Heather Feather. Maria has also partnered up with other outlets to create a virtual reality ASMR network.