TAMPA, Fla. — As of Monday, more than 350,000 people have subscribed to the "Lionel B Show" on YouTube. The success has come after quite a climb for the star, who was living in his car with his teenage son just three years ago.
“There was one day I think we shared a Wawa cookie the entire day, just me and him, it was the hardest thing I ever went through,” Lionel Barnes said.
Barnes began posting videos documenting his daily struggles. What he lacked in money, he made up for in enthusiasm for the music industry. So he started his own show, talking about it.
“Let me do something I’ve never done, what do I mainly watch, I watch celebrity news, breaking news, trending news,” Barnes said.
He never imagined his opinion on a scuffle between rappers Jay-Z and Offsett would lead to thousands of fans. The views and comments started rolling in, which have now surpassed eight million.
“My heart was racing, it was unbelievable," Barnes said. "Every time I would refresh the screen it would go up another 10,000.”
Barnes soon started receiving checks from YouTube as "The Lionel B Show" became a hit.
“I heard of YouTubers making money, but I never dreamed this would happen to me,” Barnes said. “I knew at that point I could take care of my family.”
Barnes now has a roof over his head for himself and his two sons. His total views have grown to over 90 million. He said there is one fan particular fan that he could never thank enough.
“Unfortunately my mom did pass away in July 2020 of COVID-19,” Barnes said. “She was super proud of me because she saw me pick myself up and even gave me the nickname, 'Self-Made,' because I’m a self-made person. I didn’t ask anybody for anything. I just pulled myself up on my boot-straps and put it together.”
You can follow Lionel Barnes on most social media platforms @thelionelbshow.
This story was originally published by Robert Boyd on Scripps station WFTS in Tampa, Florida.