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What PewDiePie Was Like Before All The Fame

PewDiePie is one of the biggest and most influential YouTubers out there. He's best known for his Let's Play videos, where he screams at every jumpscare and utters every Swedish swear word under the sun. The success of his YouTube channel fueled his rise to fame outside of the platform. Pewds may be the closest thing YouTube has to an overnight success, and he has gone on to appear as a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, further cementing his place in pop culture.

While most people became familiar with PewDiePie after he achieved fame and fortune, few know what he was like before his star rose to such prominent heights. Did he always want to be an entertainer? Does he have a rags to riches story? Here's a glimpse into PewDiePie's past that should answer your nagging questions.

Meet the Kjellbergs

You may be surprised to hear this, but "PewDiePie" is a stage name. His real name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg and, like many of his fans, Felix was born into a loving family. Unlike most of his followers, though, he was born in Gothenburg, Sweden.

PewDiePie is the son of Johanna and Ulf Kjellberg. Both parents are pretty high up on the business ladder. Ulf is a corporate executive, while Johanna is the IT executive for an accounting firm, as well as the former chief information officer for the European clothing company KappAhl.

As with many modern gamers, PewDiePie entered the world of video games at an early age, something you can thank his mother for. She let him play Super Nintendo whenever he had to stay home sick from school. Understandably, Felix tended to stay home "sick" a lot. This mischievous streak stuck with him.

PewDiePie's mom and sister used to call him Felicia

PewDiePie has an interesting sense of humor, the beginnings of which can be traced as far back as his pre-kindergarten days. According to his mother Johanna and older sister Fanny, Pewds started wowing crowds and turning heads during his time in daycare when he showed up dressed as a girl. This simple act made his teachers give Johanna odd looks, and earned him the nickname "Felicia" from his family.

Johanna hoped Felix would turn out to be gay due to his early fashion choices, but that did not end up being the case. Instead, Pewds eventually made a career out of flouting certain gender roles and occasionally dressing in more feminine and unconventional clothing.

An artist at an early age

When PewDiePie was in elementary school, he loved to draw video game characters. He would scribble Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, and his teachers encouraged his artistic talent. However, PewDiePie wasn't just limited to video game art. His childhood journal is full of illustrated stories of Pewds and his family, as well as a slew of childhood pop culture icons. The book features Buzz and Woody from Toy Story, Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Red Power Ranger. Pewds even created his first comic book at a tender age, which starred a worm that wanted to steal an egg.

Once puberty hit, creating art gave way to simply playing video games. PewDiePie spent most of his time in his time gaming in his bedroom or at internet cafes. He eventually rediscovered his passion for art after high school, though. More importantly, he entered a local art competition and won. His work went on display at an art gallery, and he used his winnings to purchase a computer. And, thanks to the video editing skills he learned from online tutorials, Pewds started producing his own YouTube videos that he posted while in college.

Gamer first, student second

PewDiePie's video game obsession continued for quite a while. Even in high school, his gaming habits cut into his academic work. Instead of paying attention in school, Pewds cut class and played World of Warcraft in internet cafes with friends. Still, this period of Pewds' life was technically the start of PewDiePie as an online persona, as that was his username in World of Warcraft — and he tended to yell whenever he pulled off a complicated trick or just did something funny.

As one might expect, PewDiePie's heavy World of Warcraft sessions took a toll on his grades. But, in a surprise twist, he aced a physics test and somehow beat out 200 of his fellow students, winning acceptance into his university of choice. That school was Chalmers University of Technology in his hometown of Gothenburg.

College collision course

Pewds attended Chalmers to pursue a degree in industrial economics and technology management. However, he eventually lost interest in college and dropped out in 2011. While some believe he left because he wanted to become a YouTuber, PewDiePie has gone on record stating that — like many college students — he became bored and just couldn't relate to anyone at school. 

While his fellow students got into Chalmers because of their grades, Pewds got to attend because of an entrance exam, despite his lackluster marks. Everyone at Chalmers was engrossed in their work, while Pewds just wanted to play games, even if he hadn't quite realized that's where his future lied.

As PewDiePie eloquently put it, "To drop out of university to pursue YouTube, that'd just be f***ing stupid ... Industrial management and economics — it was boring as hell. Everyone was boring as hell. I couldn't relate to f***ing anyone."

And then came the money troubles

While many parents support their children after college until they can get on their feet, PewDiePie's folks were not part of that crowd. After PewDiePie dropped out of Chalmers, his parents refused to give him any financial help. This left Pewds in the unenviable predicament of trying to make a living without a college degree or a trade.

To make ends meet, PewDiePie started selling hot dogs, and not the good kind either. Instead of boiling the dogs, PewDiePie's boss had him microwave the wieners and "dip them in the hot dog sauce." But, Pewds had one more trick up his sleeve when it came to making money: his Photoshop work. Thanks to his Photoshop talent, he almost earned an apprenticeship at one of Scandinavia's top advertising agencies. While that didn't pan out, he was able to fall back on some of his pre-existing Photoshop work.

Pewds printed limited editions of his art and sold them until he scrounged enough money for a new gaming computer. With a shiny new computer in hand, PewDiePie started his YouTuber career in earnest.

King of the odd jobs

During his lifetime, PewDiePie has held quite a few jobs. While one of his more infamous jobs was as a hot dog salesman, he also worked at a tennis court and a harbor. These positions weren't particularly noteworthy. However, Pewds shared an intriguing anecdote about his last day working at the harbor.

During his time at the harbor, PewDiePie worked his way up to the position of harbor captain, but unlike a navy captain, a harbor captain is more like an air traffic controller and tells ships where to go. On his last day, a Golden Eye yacht (not to be confused with the James Bond movie and video game of the same name) requested permission to dock at the harbor, and PewDiePie gave it. But, he didn't realize that the dock was far too small for the boat. When he informed his boss about the yacht, she told Pewds to call them right away and alert them not to dock at the harbor. Unfortunately, PewDiePie forgot to record their number.

By the time the Golden Eye yacht arrived, PewDiePie's harbor career was sleeping with the fishes.

PewDiePie's humble beginnings

PewDiePie got started on YouTube while he was still in college. He began small with Let's Play segments featuring Minecraft and grew a solid fanbase. The Let's Play format was basically unheard of back then. Few had upon stumbled on the goldmine that is playing video games and splicing in commentary, so PewDiePie had essentially discovered an untapped vein of riches.

Felix had to start from scratch when he accidentally forgot the password to his first YouTube channel, Pewdie. When he created a new account, he just added the word "pie" at the end, and PewDiePie the YouTube channel was born.

As time went on, followers trickled in, but PewDiePie realized he was onto something when he started playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent. That game and his playthroughs cemented his role as a comedic coward, running around like a chicken with its head cut off and unleashing a stream of Swedish curses at the slightest scare. Audiences lapped up the fear and asked for more. At that moment, PewDiePie found his calling and created a signature style that would make him famous — and one many others would try to copy.

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