As Grace Helbig’s eponymous E! show crept closer to its April 3 premiere, the buzz around her mostly featured either her history as a “YouTuber,” or the significance of her status as the only woman on television with a late-night show. But Helbig’s breakthrough is also noteworthy thanks to her distinctive persona. She once identified herself to Fast Company as “your awkward older sister—who doesn't know what she's doing but is trying to help you figure it out while she does too.”
This categorization comes as no surprise to anyone who’s checked out Helbig’s online material, which began as daily vlogs at the website My Damn Channel before she transitioned to her own YouTube channel in January 2014. Millions of teenage girls watched her “Daily Grace” show every day, subscribing to her frank and funny videos that aimed to entertain as much as advise. Helbig doesn’t patronize her teen audience; she talks to them like they’re her close friends.
Her E! show has a bigger budget than her vlogs, but the feeling is much the same. Helbig forgoes the usual late-night formalities like a topical monologue and an audience, instead opting to entertain guests in her “house” (a set meticulously decorated like the lovechild of Target and Anthropologie’s houseware section). Whether her guest is her friend and fellow YouTube comedian Mamrie Hart, the author John Green, or the Big Bang Theory actor Jim Parsons, they hang out, sing some songs, and laugh at Internet memes. She’s still as open and approachable on E! as she is on YouTube—albeit with a killer blowout—and her warmth and inclusiveness are characteristic of a burgeoning movement of online female stars offering advice and mentorship to teens with compassion and honesty. Call it the rise of the awkward older sister.