Kevin Samuels, a Polarizing YouTube Personality, Dies at 57
Kevin Samuels, a YouTube and Instagram personality whose blunt lifestyle advice aimed at Black men and women drew a legion of admiring followers and a chorus of detractors who condemned his views as outdated and cruel, died on Thursday in Atlanta. He was 57.
His death was announced by two friends and fellow YouTube personalities, Dennis Spurling and Melanie King. Mr. Spurling, who is also a lawyer, identified himself as a family spokesman in an Instagram post.
The Atlanta police said he was found unresponsive on the floor of his apartment. No cause was cited.
Describing himself as an image consultant, Mr. Samuels had transformed in recent years from a personal stylist into a social media celebrity who built his following on an image of plain-spoken, hypermasculine authority, usually wearing a finely tailored suit. The approach brought him more than a million followers on both YouTube and Instagram, and many of his supporters viewed him as taking courageous stands for what they called traditional values.
In his videos and posts, Mr. Samuels urged his followers to adhere to rigid gender roles; he largely evaluated women for their appearance and youth, men for their assertiveness and money. He criticized women whom he saw as too career-focused, and asked questions suggesting women’s interest in men was based mostly on their income: “How much do you charge for submission?”
The messages were repugnant to many, especially women, who said his views were misogynistic and promoted a brand of masculinity that harmed the men who listened to him. More than 30,000 people signed an online petition asking YouTube and Instagram to remove Mr. Samuels, saying he had “galvanized a community of men of all races and nationalities in the outspoken hatred of women.”
On Thursday, when word of his death first surfaced, Mr. Samuels became one of the leading topics on Twitter, with many of the most amplified voices speaking out against him.
“Kevin Samuels has basically made a profit and has made his profile consistently perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Black men and women,” Ernest Owens, a journalist, said on Friday, adding that “a lot of his rhetoric and commentary was rooted in misogyny.”
The comments on Mr. Samuels’s YouTube and Instagram videos revealed a community, mostly but not entirely composed of men, who looked up to him. One commenter responded to a recent video by calling Mr. Samuels an “inspiration” to Black men around the world, and thousands of others indicated support for the comment.
Kevin Samuels was born on March 13, 1965, according to Mr. Spurling, who said he was survived by his mother and a daughter.
Mr. Samuels had an early interest in fashion, telling The Oklahoma Gazette in 2016 that as a child he “laid out my pajamas and made sure they were pressed.” He credited his mother with piquing that interest.
He attended the University of Oklahoma, where he studied chemical engineering, according to his LinkedIn page. He had a career in marketing before leaving the industry in 2013 and pivoting to his own image consulting firm. An early business went by the name Made Men Image Consulting.
In the early years there was little of the sharp-tongued content that would later launch him to stardom, as he focused initially on personal fashion and self-improvement for professionals.
“People can expect to receive high-level fashion and style ideas distilled down to the practical level that the average, everyday man and woman needs, finds useful and can immediately act upon,” Mr. Samuels told Uncovering Oklahoma in 2016.
But he later discovered a formula that would help his following skyrocket, based on harsh assessments of modern women and the dynamics of dating and relationships. Many of his videos, seeking to explain why people were not in relationships, centered on the inherent value of men and women, based on a set of traditional criteria.
In 2020, in one of his first viral hits, a video that assessed a woman as “average at best” received millions of views. He referred to women over 35 as “leftovers,” echoing a line he claimed was used by the Chinese Communist Party.
“If you have made it to 35 and you are unmarried, you are a leftover woman,” he said. “You are what is left. Men know that there is something likely wrong with you. Whether you want to hear it or not, I’m going to go there with you. I’m telling you the truth that you don’t want to hear.”
On social media, Mr. Samuels outlined a view of relationships that put men in a dominant position and said women should accept infidelity by men but not be unfaithful themselves.
“Successful men cheat,” he recently wrote on Instagram. “Either you will deal with it or not.”
The approach appeared to be lucrative. In addition to whatever revenue he accrued from his followings on Instagram and YouTube, as of Friday afternoon more than 1,700 people had paid between $5 and $20 per month for his newsletter.
Johnny Diaz and Alex Traub contributed reporting.