NEW YORK – When Michelle Poler filmed her facial reactions during her first-ever Brazilian bikini wax, she thought about 15 people would view her clip—100 at most. But that video, which was initially put together as part of a school project, has earned more than 500,000 views and her similar videos have garnered her more than 15,000 YouTube subscribers.
Poler, an art director who is getting a master’s degree in branding at the School of Visual Arts, decided her fears were holding her back in life, so she set out to live 100 days without fear. Each day she conquers a fear and posts a video on YouTube. Some fears are big, like when Poler quit her job on day 59, others are small, like when she set out to dance like nobody is watching in the middle of New York City.
“When I started the project, it was something just for me. I [thought] that I was not going to get a lot of followers. I got my bikini waxed and 15 people saw that and then my class, so maybe around 100 people saw that… and then I got so many views. That’s crazy, having so many people watch me wax. Is that normal?” the 26-year-old said with a laugh. “I don’t think so, but it’s definitely funny, and I am enjoying it. I am making fun of myself, and I think when you make fun of yourself no one else can really make fun of you.”
Each day, Poler records a video and then she posts it online. She’s tried holding a tarantula, eating crickets, riding in a helicopter and traveling by herself.
“Before I do all of these challenges I feel like they will be horrible, and the worst thing in the world will happen to me, and I am really, really afraid before doing them. And after, I am like ‘Really? That was it?’” she explained. “So many people are afraid of spiders--- [so much so] they were saying they couldn’t even look at my video because they were afraid. And then, I was perfectly fine holding the tarantula.”
She acknowledged that some of her fears may seem small at first glance. She let FOX411 tag along as she conquered her 63rd fear, holding a “free hugs” sign outside on the street.
“When you are up to your 63rd fear, you need to start thinking outside of the box a little bit, and with free hugs, what scares me is the unknown part of it. You don’t know what you are going to get. You are in New York. [There are] all sorts of people here, so you are exposing yourself to the unknown basically.”
Plus, facing seemingly small fears is what she thinks boosted her project’s popularity.
Poler said she’s received a lot of emails from people who say they’ve been inspired to conquer their fears thanks to her project.
“I think that [fear as a subject] resonates a lot with people. Everybody is afraid of something, and there are many, many people that don’t even admit they have these small everyday fears, like they… wouldn’t say I am afraid of human connection or confrontation or something as small as that. When they see someone like me facing small fears and not caring what the rest of the world has to say about it, then they immediately identify with me.”
Poler, who is originally from Venezuela, said doing this project has made her glad she lives in New York City.
“Coming from Venezuela… everybody [focuses on] the rules like ‘you shouldn’t do this’ and ‘you shouldn’t do that,’ and you come here and it’s pure freedom. So I am completely liberated, living here in New York and this is the time and the place to do this.”