Do you ever wonder how YouTube stars become famous, or why influencers are loved by their fans? We click through random images on Instagram that have no relevant meaning to our daily lives and wonder how influencers get their name, let alone get paid.
Then you read a story like Kathryn Morgan’s.
After reading this month’s Influencer Spotlight, you will no longer wonder what it means to be an influencer, how one cultivates such a loyal audience, or why fans adore them so. I barely know Katie, and I already love her and will be following her social channels. Stories like Kathryn’s remind us that for every twisted story we read about in the social media world, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of humbling, encouraging, galvanizing stories to make our days, and our world, a bit shinier.
Thank you for sharing your story, Kathryn; what a beautiful way for us all to dance into Spring.
ZJ: When did you begin to vlog, and how and why did you choose this medium to share your life with an audience via social?
KM: I started vlogging when I was dealing with an autoimmune illness. I had left New York City Ballet to get well and to pass the time; I watched YouTube videos. It occurred to me that there were no dancers on YouTube, so I thought I would give it a try. It was a way for me to tell my story as well as help other dancers. It was also a way to heal.
ZJ: About how long did it take for you to gain followers, and can you share what that experience was like for you?
KM: I gained followers rather quickly. I think most of that was due to the fact that I was already an established dancer. I had made a name for myself at New York City Ballet, so people already knew who I was. However, now more people know me from YouTube than from NYCB! I get so many compliments from people, and they tell me what an inspiration I am. I love that YouTube allows my followers to really get to know me. I am not a far away dancer just twirling up on a stage anymore.
ZJ: How do you choose the topics for your vlogs and do you ever run out?
KM: For my videos, I mostly think about topics that I would have wanted to learn about as a young dancer. I basically cater to my 13-year-old self! But I have recently started to expand my content to include things for adult dancers as well as people who don’t dance at all. I try to have something for everyone. I don’t think I will ever run out of topics because there is always something to work on and improve in ballet!
ZJ: Can you walk us through what your typical process is like for publishing a vlog, start to finish?
KM: After deciding on a topic, I set up my filming area, either a wide setting for workouts and ballet related content or close up for a “talkie” video as I call it. These videos are ones where I sit down and just chat to my followers about a topic. Then I film the video and edit using Final Cut Pro on my Mac. Then I upload! I have a very simple process – I rarely do complicated editing. I like my content to speak for itself. Otherwise, it becomes about the editing, not the topic. For daily vlogs on my second channel, I just film myself during the day, piece the clips together, and upload. Those are definitely the easiest!
ZJ: OMG it’s so fortuitous that this interview is coming together this month. I am getting married, and watching your vlogs about wedding planning has been such a trip and wonderful experience! How would you say that vlogging about your entire wedding preparation process has made the experience feel overall? It seems like you all are having a blast, whereas many brides stress out!
KM: I am SO glad I have been documenting my wedding process. It’s not just for my followers to enjoy – I can look back on these videos forever. We can even show them to our children. That is one reason I have started vlogging more on my 2nd channel. It’s amazing to be able to go back and relive the memories. I am not a stressed out bride because we got everything done EARLY. I had my dress a week after we were in engaged! I think this is because I have a clear picture in my head of what I wanted my wedding to be. So I haven’t had any trouble making decisions or second-guessing myself.
KM: I used to have thick luscious hair before my autoimmune illness. It was gorgeous and always looked great. Once I got sick, I lost about half of it. While I am now healthy, my hair is never going to grow back the way it was. Having it long post-illness – it always looked ratty or very thin to me. I didn’t want that in any of my wedding or bridal-related pictures. So I went to the salon and had the stylist chop off everything that was dead or thinning. I now have this short little bob and absolutely LOVE it. I have received so many compliments on it as well. So I am going to keep it! I feel fabulous. And when you have your wedding coming up – that is a good thing!
ZJ: Thanks for sharing, this is truly awesome after all because you love yourself as you are. On a completely different note, please tell us about your ballet career, we want to know! From the looks of it, you still dance, which is so incredible. What has been your journey as a professional ballet dancer and where are you now professionally?
KM: I started dancing when I was 3. I was always dancing around the house listening to classical music, so my mom put me in ballet. At 15, I moved to NYC to attend the School of American Ballet, one of the country’s best ballet schools. Then at 17, I was hired by New York City Ballet. I was thrown into the spotlight dancing Juliet only three weeks into my contract. I got amazing roles, was promoted quickly, and seemed to be on the fast track to the top. Then I started feeling ill. I was dancing 10 hours a day rehearsing and performing, yet I started gaining weight. I was working on one of the most coveted roles in all of ballet at the time, Princess Aurora in the Sleeping Beauty, and I could barely make it through a rehearsal. My hair was also starting falling out in buckets. I was terrified. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s (an autoimmune illness). I fought it for two years while still at NYC Ballet, but I wasn’t getting any better. I finally decided to leave the company to focus on my health. Five years and seven doctors later, I was finally on the mend. During my illness, I started my YouTube channel. I thought it would be a hobby at the time. Little did I know that it would be my future. It has led to so many amazing projects. I was also able to finally dance again, and last year I had 2 of my own performances at the Kennedy Center, the country’s largest performing arts center. I headlined my own show! I also travel around the country teaching master classes, speaking, and meeting so many people. I also have my own app and podcast. I love the career I have now. I am my own boss and can make my own schedule. If you had told me that an illness could change my life for the better, I never would have believed you.
ZJ: Your story in itself is so very inspiring. Still, I have to ask – have you ever made a positive impact on a person’s life through your Instagram or YouTube channels and if so, what was the result?
KM: Yes- I have had so many students tell me that I am such an inspiration to them. That means the world to me. I didn’t often understand that until my Kennedy Center performance. After the first evening’s show, I had a woman come up to me. She had stage 4 cancer and was scheduled for chemo the next day, yet she took the time to see me perform. She said to me, “You have given me such hope. You have motivated me to get through my illness. You got through yours, so I know I can get through mine.” That literally knocked me over. My illness was NOTHING compared to hers. Yet I was still an inspiration to her. That’s when I knew I was doing what I was meant to be doing. It’s not about the dancing – it’s about inspiring them and giving them hope.
ZJ: Do you consider yourself a Content Marketer and if so, what does that mean to you and how do you own that job title? If not, what title would you give yourself and why?
KM: I see myself as a “Content Inspirer.” One of my favorite kinds of videos I do on my YouTube channel is commentated on my past performances. I not only give people insights and tips but bring them inside a dancer’s head. They love that! They also love my ballet technique videos where I try to help my viewers improve their own dancing. However, they do always love hearing about my favorite products, especially when it comes to diet and fitness. But I am careful about what I promote. For me, my channel is not just about what products and things I like but also about inspiring people and pushing them to be their best. My philosophy is that my channel is about them – not me.
KM: I love working with dancewear brands. That is always fun for me as well as my viewers. But I also loved HiMirror. I am still obsessed with the product and use it almost every day!
ZJ: Is there one mantra or intention you live by in life, or in this moment?
KM: My dad said this to me once. “Katie, I love that you are quietly excellent. You let your talent, grace, and poise speak for themselves. You never have to be pushy or flashy – you just are yourself, and people notice.” So I have always tried to stay that way.
ZJ: What is one of your all-time favorite quotes?
KM: Never, never, never give up. – Winston Churchill
ZJ: Who are the top three people you admire most in the world?
KM: My father, my soon-to-be husband, and Kate Middleton – a lovely role model of grace and poise.
ZJ: What is your 3-5 year vision?
KM: I would love to keep my YouTube and online presence growing. It is so rare to have a career in the ballet world if you are not in a ballet company. I started in New York City Ballet, but I am now forging my own path and making an entirely new career for myself. I am creating my own brand in a way. I want to keep traveling and teaching, work on as many different projects as I can, perform, and keep making ballet more accessible to people. I would also like to have my own line of merchandise.
ZJ: Your biggest dream in life?
KM: As much as I love what I do, my biggest dream is to have a happy, healthy life with my family. And I would like to grow that family. Having all the success in the world is nothing if you don’t have people in your life you love and care about.
ZJ: Are there any announcements we can share on your behalf?
KM: As of now, just that I am getting married on May 27! And please check out both of my YouTube channels.