Known for funny videos featuring slice-of-life stuff in L.A., plus sit-down interviews, covering topics ranging from sex to family, and scorching comedy skits, Timothy DeLaGhetto is a YouTube superstar with a persona that's as rollicking as it is real. But the guy who inspired him was not — real, that is.
"I feel like many of us were greatly influenced by the Fresh Prince. I might even say the Fresh Prince helped raise me," says the web personality, who is also a cast member on Nick Cannon's Wild 'n Out on MTV. "He was always so confident, and when you watch, you wanna be like Will (Smith). That show helped me learn how to dance, dress, even talk to girls. ... I just wanted to be the Asian Fresh Prince. ... So when I saw the episode where he made up the poet 'Raphael DeLaGhetto,' I thought it was the perfect stage name for my YouTube channel."
DeLaGhetto (real last name Chantarangsu) started his YouTube channel in 2005. "My friends and I had been making short comedy films since high school, so I thought it might be a good way to spread our movies around. I gradually began to build an audience," he says. "When I first started, many people online weren't used to seeing an Asian guy rapping or talking about [things] the way I was, so I think that's helped me stick out.
"Back in the day, I used to do a lot of advice videos about sex and relationships. I think the young Asians, the ones that were in high school that felt shy and insecure, they didn't have people they could talk to about sex and taboo topics, so they would write to me," DeLaGhetto recalls. "A lot of my fans will approach me now and say, 'Dude, you were like the older brother that I could turn to, you helped me get through high school.'"
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While his fan base is diverse, DeLaGhetto's Thai background and L.A. upbringing (he was born in Billings, Montana, but grew up in Long Beach) influence his output in many ways. "When people see how bluntly I speak about sex, they always ask, 'How do your parents feel about the stuff you say in your videos?' and I tell them, 'Where do you think I got it from?' Thai people are some of the most laid-back and hilarious people when it comes to sexual humor."
Aside from the dirty jokes, DeLaGhetto's Thai pride is prominent. "I try to make sure and speak Thai in my videos on occasion, because I want young Asian kids to embrace their culture and their language," says the 32-year-old.
Next up for the YouTuber/comic actor: working on music (hip-hop) for the first time in five years, getting married in August, and making movies and TV shows that bust apart stereotypes. "The main reason I even started pursuing entertainment and making YouTube videos is because I was frustrated at how Asian dudes were always portrayed, if ever portrayed at all. Even on my favorite show, The Fresh Prince, I remember an episode with a nerdy Asian guy in a stupid-looking tuxedo at prom, and I remember thinking, 'Wow, this is how the rest of the world sees us,'" he says.
"I wanted to show the world that there were Asian dudes who weren't awkward, who could dress, who were funny and outgoing ... like me! Things have definitely improved over the years, but we got a long way to go."