Jodie Rivera, known to millions as "The Venetian Princess," rules a cyberspace kingdom all her own.
The 23-year-old video blogger from Brockton has a huge online following, and her eclectic collection of homemade videos has been viewed more than 6.5 million times on YouTube. With more than 21,000 subscribers, her channel is one of the most subscribed on the wildly popular video-sharing website.
Earlier this month, one of those videos won a national contest sponsored by Samsung Telecommunications America Inc., earning her the title of Samsung's Juke Box Hero - not to mention $10,000 in studio equipment. And she was recently contacted by a representative at NBC, who has seen her videos and wants to meet with her. A meeting is scheduled for April, she said.
"I'm really excited about that," said Rivera in a telephone interview. "You never know who's watching your videos."
The "Venetian Princess" channel on YouTube showcases more than 40 of Rivera's clips, which range from celebrity spoofs such as "Brangelina . . . Adopt Me Too" - a humorous music video with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie - to a black-and-white film noir series called "Cirque de Mystère," an interactive murder mystery series set in the 1940s. She also stars in a popular Web series titled "The Princess Chronicles."
For almost two years, she's been a one-woman production studio, making the videos herself from start to finish.
She writes the scripts, comes up with song lyrics, composes music, designs her own costumes, performs on camera, and creates all the visual effects. She does all this from her home in Brockton, where she's transformed her family's living room into a makeshift studio. She counts directors Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton among her creative influences.
Rivera has always been interested in the performing arts. As a youngster, she took voice lessons and classes in tap, jazz, and ballet and began making home movies at the age of 8. She went on to study at the South Shore Conservatory in Hingham. After graduating from Cardinal Spellman High School in 2002, she studied opera at the New England Conservatory in Boston for two years. She also volunteered as the assistant choral instructor at Edgar B. Davis Elementary School in Brockton and taught at the Horrigan Music School in Whitman.
"Movies are my passion! I hope you enjoy my videos, and if you do - please subscribe and stay tuned for the adventures to come . . ." says the introduction on her YouTube channel.
Rivera's rise to online fame began in September 2006, when she started posting videos to YouTube. Around that time, bloggers and the mainstream press were buzzing about the true identity of "lonelygirl15," a teenage video blogger whose diary entries had garnered millions of fans on YouTube. It turned out "lonelygirl15" was a fictional character played by an actress.
Rivera had been making home movies for years, and decided to make the leap to YouTube's stage. She began posting clips under the user name "The Venetian Princess."
How did she come up with that name? She says she picked it becuase it sounded exotic.
"People are really into reality shows, and the lives of the rich and famous," she said. "I wanted to come up with something really different."
Her first videos on YouTube were part fiction, and loosely based on her life. She eventually shaped the story line into a fictional series dubbed "The Princess Chronicles," a colorful fairy tale that provides a behind-the-scenes look at a princess who lives in a palace and travels around the world.
Since then, she's created a political parody dubbed "I Got a Crush on . . . Giuliani," which aired on the Fox television network, and a music video spoofing Britney Spears. She also makes short clips that are essentially diary entries, updating views about what's going on in her life.
The clip that won Samsung's Juke Box Hero contest was "Somewhere Else." She wrote the lyrics, composed the music, provided the vocals, played the keyboard, and produced the video, which is under 4 minutes long.
The production looks so slick and professional that many viewers have asked how she does it, and hundreds more posted comments on YouTube such as, "You should make videos for professional artists" and "OMG! I thought this was really a video you'd see on MTV or something."
Rivera was awarded the grand prize: $10,000 worth of studio equipment. And now that she's been officially crowned as Samsung's Juke Box Hero, Rivera said she'll probably be doing some promotional appearances for Samsung in the coming months.
"We're looking at ways to further work with the Venetian Princess," confirmed Kim Titus, spokesman for Samsung Telecommunications America Inc.
Rivera's dream gig?
"I'm doing it," she said. "I love having complete control over it; it allows me to be completely creative and create a whole different world and story lines."
To see some of Jodie Rivera's latest videos, visit www.youtube.com/ VenetianPrincess.
Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.