“Is you okay? Is you good?” Millions of fans of her viral videos can recite her signature line. As for herself, this UF alumna and YouTube pioneer is more than okay.
“Okay, so I forgot what kind of cherry this is. Isn’t it cute?” asks GloZell Green as she dangles a small orange-yellow fruit in front of the camera.
You don’t need the video’s title, “Hot Pepper Challenge,” to guess what happens next. The comedian takes a few bites, realizes her “mistake” and begins gagging and spewing habanero like a human Mount Vesuvius. Off-screen, her husband unhelpfully offers water, not milk, prolonging her torment and zany ad-libs.
“OMG, she is hilarious!” commented one fan.
“Her cough sounded like a motor dying.”
“3:03 ‘The Exorcist’ deleted scene.”
“I fell off the couch because of this.”
My dream is to perform at Gator Growl. That would be it for me.
— GloZell Green —
“Hot Pepper Challenge” has scored 35 million views since its YouTube debut in July 2012. It’s just one of 2,000+ viral videos — including “The Cinnamon Challenge,” “Kylie Jenner Challenge” and spoofs of Top 40 lyrics — that have garnered GloZell more than 4.7 million channel subscribers and 1 billion views, earning her the title, “The Queen of YouTube.”
Forbes, People, Entertainment Tonight and the New York Times have profiled her comedic talents and massive social-media reach, and in 2015, she was invited to interview President Barack Obama at the White House. (It was mainly a serious event, but this being GloZell, there were a couple side-splitting mishaps she swears were unintentional.)
Fans often assume that GloZell is just a naturally funny person who loves clowning for the camera. Few know she’s a classically trained musician and actress, with a degree in theatre performance (BFA ’97) from the University of Florida.
Yes, the YouTube superstar is a Gator — and she bleeds orange and blue.
“I just want to say … it’s great …to be … a Florida Gator!” she sang over the phone in her rich, throaty alto. “Go Gators!”
Gator Growl Inspiration
GloZell Green was born in 1972 in Orlando, “GloZell” being a portmanteau of her parents’ first names, Gloria and Ozell. Music was essential to the Green family (her sister, DeOnzell Green, is a trained opera singer), and GloZell grew up playing the piano and singing at church, activities that helped her get over being “terribly shy” as a child, she said.
After attending Valencia Community College, GloZell transferred to UF, where she dove into classes in acting, singing, makeup and stagecraft. Her performance credits at UF include roles in “Carousel” and “A Flea in Her Ear.” At Gator Growl, she watched comics like Sinbad and Paul Rodriguez reduce the audience to tears. That gave her an idea: Maybe comedy could become her métier, too.
She had an “amazing time” at UF, but the future Queen of YouTube wasn’t prone to crazy antics back then. In fact, she imposed a curfew on herself for three years, a choice that still amazes her. “It was my first time living away from home,” she explained, “so I did what I’d always done: stayed home every night in my jammies.
“Finally, my senior year, it clicked: ‘I’m at college, I can go out at night!’”
4.7 Million Followers
In 2003, the aspiring actress/comedian moved to Hollywood, where she joined The Groundings, the famed improv comedy troupe that launched Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Lovitz and other greats.
Her main inspiration was comedian Jay Leno, whose “Tonight Show” she attended for 600 consecutive tapings. Early on, she began interviewing Leno audience members and posting the videos online, until people convinced her she was funny enough to star on her own. Her first viral hit was 2008’s “My Push-up Bra Will Help Me Get My Man,” followed by her translations of Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” and Kesha’s “Tik Tok” hits in 2010.
By then, GloZell was no dewy-eyed ingénue but a savvy stand-up comedy veteran determined to stand out on social media. Bright green lipstick, lime-green shirts and plentiful chestnut-colored curls ensured high visual impact; each self-produced video opened with a rapid-fire “Hi, this is GloZell. Is you okay? Is you good? Cause I want to know.”
It became her signature phrase.
“[The TV sitcom] ‘Friends’ was really popular then, and Joey would always say, ‘How you doing?’” she explained. “So I’d say, ‘Hi, this is GloZell. Are you okay?’”
One day, she blurted out, “Is you okay?” With no time to reshoot, she posted the video and watched as commenters went wild over the blooper.
Initially, she was mortified: “Here I am with a college degree. What will my teachers say?” But, as comments poured in and shares soared, she realized, “Oh, that’s what I need to keep.”
“You have to find a way for people to remember you,” she said. “Cuz they’re gonna forget.”
Song parodies, her wacky takes on Internet fads, her random musings on politics, Spanx, screaming kids on planes — viewers lapped it up. A plug by actor Elijah Woods during a 2011 interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” brought her national fame.
Even negative attention is good, she learned: “The people who can’t stand your videos? They’re the ones who share them the most.”
Her influence with Millennials and Generation Z was so pervasive, the White House invited her to interview Obama in 2015. They discussed cybersecurity, racial profiling and officer-related shootings.
To conclude, she handed the president some tubes of green lipstick as gifts for the first lady and their two daughters, but she misspoke, saying “One for your first wife…”
Obama turned to the cameras: “Do you know something I don’t?” he deadpanned.
A Bumpy Baby Journey
GloZell’s rise to Internet stardom led to offers to appear on television and comedy stages. But her personal life hit a snag. At 39, she was told by doctors she couldn’t have a baby due to health complications.
GloZell quickly posted a few candid videos on YouTube about her problems getting pregnant, not anticipating the struggle would go on for years — or that so many viewers would be able to relate to her frustration and pain.
“I’ve heard from people who say, ‘I understand, I’m going through the same thing,’ or ‘I’ve given up,’ or ‘Keep going,’” she said.
Her story has a happy ending: On August 4, 2016, GloZell and her husband, Kevin Simon (KS), welcomed a baby girl, named O’Zell, via a surrogate.
The entire arc of GloZell’s struggle from undergoing fertility treatments to finding a surrogate to becoming a mother was chronicled in the docuseries “Glo All In,” which debuted in 2015 on Awestruck, a digital network for millennial moms.
“My fertility journey brought me a new audience,” she said. “Before, it was kids. Now it’s moms, dads, grandparents: everybody.”
Grandma Rosiepuff and Little Debbie
Today on GloZell’s YouTube channel, you’ll find her riffing on the kids’ TV show theme song “Baby Shark” and letting daughter O’Zell steal the limelight. That’s understandable: Momma has bigger fish to fry.
Her acting and singing careers are taking off, with roles in the film “The Wedding Ringer” (2015), the Nickelodeon sitcom “Game Shakers” and the parody videos “Cell Black Django,” “Beauty and the Beat” and “Snow White and the Seven Thugs,” by singer/actor Todrick Hall.
She’s also in demand as a voiceover artist, playing Grandma Rosiepuff in “Trolls” (2016) and Little Debbie in “Ralph Breaks the Internet” (2018). Sometimes she can record her lines at home, a bonus when caring for an active preschooler.
“It’s great when O’Zell hears my voice in a movie and says, ‘Oooh, that’s Mommy!’” she said.
In 2016, HarperOne released GloZell’s autobiography, “Is You Okay?,” which traces her journey from anonymity in Florida to massive popularity on the Internet. The first-time author shares “all the big lessons in creativity, identity and adversity” she was “fortunately, not too stubborn to learn.”
GloZell’s next career move is wide open: She can keep mining the slapstick comedy that catapulted her into the limelight, focus on children’s entertainment, take on dramatic roles or even host a lifestyle show.
Whatever path she chooses, GloZell has an ultimate goal in sight: “My dream is to perform at Gator Growl,” the comedian said. “That would be it for me.”
She might even be persuaded to ditch her signature green lipstick for the event.
“I have an orange lipstick and a blue lipstick,” she said. “I’ve never worn them together before, but for Gator Growl? Heck, I’d do one color on each lip.”