Mukbang has been fascinating the Korean masses for a while now. And in an era where anything from court cases to strange addictions are splashed all over TV, we really can’t say watching people stuff their faces is anything out of the ordinary.
What’s also interesting is that there isn’t a cookie-cutter mould for top mukbang BJs (broadcast jockeys). From the made-up and slim to the bare-faced and chubby, these big eaters can be wildly popular in their own way.
One of the rapidly-rising mukbang stars on YouTube is BenDeen, who despite only beginning in March now has some 120,000 subscribers. He clearly is easy on the eyes, but pay attention to what he says and you’ll find that he’s a really cool person. And a really good watch. And, god, that voice.
We talk to the 26-year-old about this compelling voyeurism and why he thinks people enjoy it.
What motivates you to do mukbang?
There are many things that motivate me to do mukbangs. For one, I just love eating, and sometimes I really enjoy eating large amounts of food at a time. I also love YouTube as a platform, and being able to combine two things I love is just great. But one of the biggest motivators is the people who watch and enjoy my videos. If it weren’t for all of the viewers, I don’t think I could continue to do what I do. And if I don’t do a mukbang video for a long time I start feeling bad that I haven’t provided new content for people to watch, so the fans are definitely a huge motivation. I have to mention that it is kinda part of my job as well.
You don’t live stream your videos much, if at all, as the Korean-speaking BJs. Why is that, and are you looking to be more interactive with fans?
I have been a fan of watching YouTube for years and I have always wanted to be a YouTuber, but I was never really into watching livestreams. Koreans have been doing mukbangs through livestreaming platforms for a long time now, but eating videos were never really popular on YouTube, especially in English. Before I started, I came across a YouTuber named Keemi who was doing mukbangs in English, and it was really interesting because I never saw someone who used YouTube as the main platform to do that kind of video before. She was having a lot of success, so I decided to try it as well.
For the past month I have been trying out live streaming through a mobile app, and it is very fun to interact with fans but it can be pretty hectic. These days there are a lot of Korean mukbangers who will stream themselves eating and then upload the recorded stream to YouTube as well. I think it’s a cool idea, but watching a recorded broadcast can be less personal I feel. A lot of the time, the BJ will just seem to be thanking people for sending gifts or answering kind of the same questions over and over. When I record a mukbang video specifically for YouTube, I can tell stories or talk about my life without being distracted by the constant stream of comments, questions, and gifts that are being sent by the viewers. Overall, I just prefer YouTube and want to tailor my content to that.
The general understanding is that people take to watching one eat large amounts of food and talking on camera because they’re lonely, and that there is a certain comfort in ‘eating’ with others. What sort of feedback have you gotten from fans about why they watch you?
I have heard this before, and I think it is true for some people out there. I have had a few people tell me that they like to watch my videos for this reason. But I don’t think it’s the main reason and that there are way more reasons for watching mukbangs than that, at least for my audience. Many people have said that they just like my personality or my voice, and it’s relaxing to them. I have also said that watching my videos is just like hanging out with a friend. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lonely. People have also told me that when they’re craving food but on a diet, it helps to watch my videos because it’s like they are eating vicariously through me. I also think that to some extent, watching people eat delicious food is a natural thing. I used to love watching cooking shows on TV, and would always look forward to when they finally tried the food at the end. But most of the time they just took one bite, said it was delicious, and then ended the show. I always wanted to see more eating!
How do you decide on your potion sizes, and has the frequency of your videos affected your diet or weight?
Compared to a lot of other mukbangers out there, especially some in Korea, I don’t usually eat that much food in my videos. I also don’t do them everyday like many popular Korean BJ’s, maybe twice a week instead. I choose portion sizes usually based on cost and how much I can eat. I always find it a little disappointing to watch or do a mukbang video if all the food isn’t finished. Even though it’s cool to see a huge table full of different foods, if all the food isn’t finished at the end of the video, I would personally find it better to eat smaller portions and finish all the food. I think this is definitely just my opinion though and other people think differently. Also, I’m not making that much money compared to some of the bigger BJs out there, so I try to keep my meals as cheap as possible. If I had an unlimited budget, I would probably eat more though. When it comes to diet and weight, I don’t think much has changed. For years now I have often had really weird eating routines, like just eating one huge meal per day. I probably do eat a bit more now than I did before, so to maintain my weight I will just eat a bit less on the days I don’t film. I don’t really exercise, but I really should start..
What’re some of the positive and negative things that have come out of your broadcasts? Eg: Sponsorships, social network expansion, bad encounters with fans, having to give up on dinner plans with friends.
Well the biggest positive for me is simply providing the opportunity to have the best job in the world, at least in my view. I’m not making that much money or anything, but it’s enough for now, and I love what I do. I feel so lucky to be able to be my own boss, create my own content, and spread positive vibes to people all over the world. It’s also boosted my confidence in some areas where I thought I was lacking it. Before I started making videos I hated the sound of my voice and was very camera shy, but now I don’t really mind. When it comes to negative things, there really aren’t that many. Every person who puts themselves out in a public forum will have haters and trolls, and I definitely have heard seems a decent amount of comments that aren’t very nice. But I don’t let those get to me because I’ve been on the internet long enough to know what kind of people they probably are. That’s pretty much it for negative things though… overall it’s been an extremely positive experience.