Emma Chamberlain, vlogger-turned-model-turned-craft-coffee-maven-turned-podcaster-turned all-of-the-above, is having a huge week. Not only did she make her late-night debut, appearing on The Tonight Show on Wednesday, but she also released her first new YouTube video in six months.
This is big news for Chambermaids (I assume that’s what the fans call themselves): After all, it’s Emma’s videos that propelled her to become the Met Gala-attending starlet she is today. While her style has evolved over time, from chaotic prank videos with other YouTubers to funny glimpses into her daily life, the Emma Chamberlain Cinematic Universe has preserved the 21-year-old’s irreverent, fast-talking sense of humor.
That’s not not present in “what’s good in new york,” her grand return to YouTube (which, as of early Thursday afternoon, is the No. 1 trending video on the site with over 2.2 million views and counting). But the video also appears to mark a new era for Emma—fitting, since she is a completely different level of celebrity now than she was even six months ago. Yet for this New Yorker, who eagerly clicked on the video as soon as she saw it, this era ain’t it.
Instead of filming herself, Emma now has her dad behind the camera. Which is fine! She brought her dad to New York with her, and that’s nice. But instead of engaging with Papa Chamberlain at all, Emma speaks to the camera as if she is talking right to us—or, really, herself. When she quips about not knowing how to drink a margarita, she isn’t asking her dad for insight. We don’t even get confirmation that her dad’s with her until she shows us a photo of them together taken atop the Empire State Building. All of this creates a strange echo chamber, being that her dad is literally right behind the camera she’s speaking to, sitting in silence so as to not break the illusion.
That’s odd in and of itself. But what really grates is the content of the video. Look: I don’t begrudge a non-New Yorker wanting to do touristy things. If Emma made a list of generic Big Apple activities she wanted to do, live it up, girly; you are rich, white, blonde, and privileged, and that means you get to do whatever you want all the time.
The premise of “what’s good in new york” is what it says on the tin, however. Emma, a native Californian, goes around Washington Square Park (yawn!) asking “locals” for their supposedly off-the-beaten-path recs. Her interviewee radar needs a tune-up, because these (predominantly young, white, female) folks suggesting places to eat and shop are sorely misguided. Emma is sent to Tacombi, a subpar Mexican restaurant chain in Manhattan and Brooklyn; Blank Street Coffee, a minimalist coffee shop that abruptly sprang up on every block in the city over the pandemic; Chip City, a collection of stores selling (admittedly good) oversized cookies; and Dauphinette, a boutique whose cheapest item still costs more than my rent.
She also hits up Times Square and, yes, the Empire State Building—both of which are honestly more exciting than Tacombi, where I had the most flavorless burrito of my life a few months ago. She raved about her Blank Street Coffee purchase, which tracks, because the bag of Chamberlain Coffee I bought at Emma’s favorite L.A. grocery store Erewhon in December tasted similarly generic. And I do love a Chip City chocolate chip cookie too, but that joint is no City Cakes. Compared to her food picks, the Empire State Building seems worth the exorbitant fee to climb up.
I’m being catty because Emma considers herself a big foodie, and also because I’m catty by nature. The real gripe is that Emma Chamberlain, she of many hats, seems to have outgrown the one she used to wear best. Her podcast is a chill, pleasant listen; her hosting gig at the Met Gala was charming and funny. My years of watching America’s Next Top Model make me feel qualified to call her a satisfactory model. But as a vlogger? This ain’t it, chief—go back to just being you, whatever that is these days.