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The YouTuber David Dobrik is driving his white Tesla through the verdant hills of suburban Los Angeles, explaining the challenges of selling thin-crust-style pizza in L. Just a few short hours ago, on the tail end of several controversies surrounding Dobrik and his YouTube collective, the Vlog Squad, squad member Jeff Wittek had released a video alleging that Dobrik permanently maimed him in an elaborate stunt gone wrong. And here he was, blithely chatting about his new pizza franchise and helping an old lady cross the street. After a few seconds, Dobrik jumps back into the car, giggling.

When I ask Dobrik if this scene was staged as a way to distract from or counteract the effects of the Wittek video, he looks at me, confused and maybe a little bit wounded that I would so grossly misinterpret the intention behind a fun prank. His white Tesla has been a fixture on the streets of L. They love us interacting with each other and doing funny stuff. Relationship stuff on the internet always is like good clickbait. It gets good views and whatnot.

In the center of it all is Dobrik with his camera, affable, puppy-eyed, and perpetually amused by everything and everybody. In person, he is just as unfailingly enthusiastic. I love showing people things. At one point, his attention wavers and he starts casually roaming around his kitchen on a penny board. In all, he comes off as someone who is constantly in awe of the cosmic ridiculousness of his own good fortune.

His life has kind of been just straight up and not really many downs. Dobrik moved to this new home in January, but he has not yet sold his old house nearby, allowing friends to use it for shoots. As we walk through the garage, he tells me about a time a few years ago when he found a homeless person asleep on his couch at 2 a. I ask if he posted it to YouTube, and he says yes. Everything should be filmed. Dobrik at home in Sherman Oaks, California, on April 29, At the start ofDobrik was uniquely positioned for crossover success, something he is not shy about admitting he has always craved.

With the launch of his photo app Dispo, which mimics the look and the experience of developing disposable-camera pictures, Dobrik had crossed over into the tech space. He was right there. Big Nik, started to accuse Dobrik of building a culture of bullying, cultural insensitivity, and consent violations. Major brands started to distance themselves from Dobrik, and he reed from the board of Dispo.

His fans, primarily zoomers who had come of age watching his energetic vlogs, also started to turn on him. He lost a total offollowers during March and April, according to SocialBlade data. Then came the revelation, the day of our first meeting in April, that he had grievously injured Wittek in a stunt involving an excavator on a lake in Utah, inspired by an extreme-sports YouTuber named Devin Super Tramp. The footage reignited an outcry from people accusing Dobrik of exploiting Vlog Squad members and endangering them for views.

And even though this is far from a rare phenomenon in the beef-driven, controversy-fueled, caps-lock-titled world of YouTube, the fact that Dobrik had amassed a reputation as something of a wholesome boy next door despite the bulk of his content being fairly profane and fratty made his fall from grace even more precipitous.

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Our meeting had been in the works for a while, before the Insider story broke, and in the days leading up to it, as his sponsors fell away and the social media mobs swarmed, I became more and more sure that he was going to cancel. But it was all because of this environment of wanting to put on this show. Once, she recalls, she brought him toys to play with in the sandbox, and some bigger kids came over and took them.

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But he was just so happy he could share his toys. Kristina had learned some English from watching Full House reruns and loved how friendly people were in America. When the family relocated to Skokie, Illinois, outside of Chicago, David followed them there, flying on a plane from Slovakia all by himself.

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At his home, Dobrik shows me an essay he wrote in high school, in which he recounts his journey from Slovakia and expresses his joy at having left the country. Because of his DACA status, he has not been back to the country of his birth since he was seven years old, but he has little interest. I almost see it, like, in a different filter, like in sepia. Dobrik in one of his early Vine videos circapretending to be disabled. He was also a mediocre student, putting in just enough effort to pass his classes. He was just that charming and funny.

Dobrik took an equally laissez-faire approach to tennis, which he started playing as a young child and continued throughout high school. Though Dobrik had murky aspirations of ing the entertainment business in some capacity, he was always fascinated by the idea of making money. We survive by our means. When Dobrik was 16, Mariduena introduced him to the social media outlet that would change his life forever: the short-form video platform Vine. Even though he only had a few thousand followers early on, Dobrik saw the potential. He issued a vague apology for these offenses last summer.

In speaking about his earlier content, Dobrik blames a combination of the freewheeling climate on Vine and his youth. And it was just the way Vine was. It was so much darker, and no one batted an eye when you did stuff like that. Much of the humor is contingent on knowing the identities of the people in his videos: the skeevy older man Nashthe slutty girl Kopfthe heartthrob Smiththe fat kid Nick Antonyan, a.

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Jonahthe bad boy Wittek. A semester into his first year at College of Lake County in Illinois, Dobrik visited Los Angeles to network with other Viners as a trial period for potentially moving out West. On the plane ride back to Chicago, he says, he had the distinct sense that L. His father was a guarantor on the lease because the boys did not have any income. His decision baffled his parents, who had given him an ultimatum: Get a college degree, or move out so as not to set a bad example for his three younger siblings. Dobrik with then-girlfriend Liza Koshy, another social media influencer, in their famous breakup video, which was viewed over 60 million times.

When Vine collapsed inmany creators had to scramble to other platforms, having lost their subscribers and brand deals overnight. But Dobrik had already started his own YouTube channel two years earlier, where his quick-cut editing style and goofy antics featuring the Vlog Squad the name came from a fan swiftly won over hundreds of thousands, then millions, of viewers.

It helped that Dobrik had started collaborating with, and then dating, Koshy, a Viner-turned-YouTuber with manic energy whom he had met at a party during his first days in L. Together, they filmed sketches, pranks, and relationshipgoals content. They were both exploding around the same time. Their relationship and their personalities jibed so well.

When they started vlogging together is when they both kind of catapulted to the moon. When the couple split infans were devastated, yet, ever the consummate content creators, Koshy and Dobrik figured out how to use it to their advantage; their tearful breakup video garnered more than 60 million views. Though some in the media, including Stephen Colbert, expressed bafflement that the pair would broadcast such a private moment, it was on-brand for two people who had chosen to convert their entire lives into content. The group embarked on college tours, where they would be unable to leave their cars when they parked because crazed fans would be climbing on them, Mariduena says.

Though, his friends say, that persona belies an intense work ethic. As kicked off, Dobrik was one of the top highest-earning YouTubers, according to Forbes. He frequently told interviewers of his ambition to host late-night TV. Then came allegations from Seth Francois, who was often the sole black person in Vlog Squad videos, of racism and assault he was tricked into kissing Nash in a prank video. Big Nik, who has dwarfism, also claimed he was bullied. Francois and Keswani declined to comment.

As far as I am concerned, everything that occurred during the night in question was completely consensual. When we discuss the alleged assault, Dobrik is reluctant to speak fully on the record, fearing further ire from the internet. But in parsing the incident, he seems to vacillate between taking responsibility for whatever role he may have played and absolving himself of it. They would have kicked that fucking door down if anybody knew what was going on, allegedly. As Insider reported, Hannah initially provided Dom with consent to post the video, but she later revoked it, prompting Dobrik to take it down.

Dobrik says he confronted Zeglaitis, and when Zeglaitis insisted that nothing nonconsensual had happened, Dobrik believed him. I let this guy live with me, and I was blinded by the fact that he was from my hometown. I was just stupid.

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Nor was it the first time someone had publicly come forward accusing Zeglaitis of assault. In that video, and in an interview with Rolling Stoneshe alleged that Zeglaitis pinned her down, reached into her shirt, and forcibly kissed her, and that he filmed the entire encounter the footage, she says, was never posted. Being an idiot is easy. Owning up to it is tough! Glad you made this!!! Social media posts that show them at the same party in early suggest the timing of their split was later. Photograph by Roger Kisby for Rolling Stone.

Grooming by Jaime Maloney. Dobrik and those in his inner circle have tried to position the controversies as a matter of him simply trusting the wrong people. Do you know how many people would come over there for parties?

The real meaning of friendship in the influencer world gets lost between the lines. Yet the allegations against Dobrik have also raised questions about power imbalances among members of the Vlog Squad. Indeed, Dobrik has built an ecosystem where he is surrounded by friends who are also beneficiaries of his largesse. Often, his philanthropic gestures are fodder for content. At one point, Dobrik describes to me an elaborate prank he is planning to pull on a friend who had recently been laid off.

In the prank, which would be filmed for the vlog, Dobrik would pretend to be a job interviewer reaching out, then show up at the interview to give a PowerPoint presentation as to why the friend should move to L. Paytas claims Dobrik initially refused to take down a video featuring jokes about Paytas and Nash having a threesome with influencer Tana Mongeau.

Dobrik, who eventually took down the video, says he always removes videos once a subject revokes consent. Dobrik acknowledges that, despite his YouTube golden-boy persona, people close to him have long pointed to a manipulative side. Jeff Wittek swings from an excavator driven by Dobrik for a Vlog Squad stunt gone wrong Wittek would slam into the vehicle seconds later.

Nowhere was this dynamic put into sharper relief than with the stunt that injured Jeff Wittek. He was right, and Wittek soon became a fan favorite.

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