Tempe Youtuber pranks students at ASU, seeks to make positive change

Local YouTube star hopes to use his platform to influence others to break barriers and give back

Widely known for his prank videos and altruism, a YouTuber in Tempe often uses the ASU campus as his base of operations for its size and diverse student population.

Dawson Gurley, 23, known as BigDawsTv on YouTube, is known for videos such as “Netflix and Chill,” or "Klay Thompson Plays Basketball with Strangers," which are filmed at ASU.

Ranging from random pranks and paying-it-forward videos to personal vlogs and character rap productions, Gurley's channel has produced a wide range of content reaching over 2 million subscribers.

Inspired by the financial results of another successful YouTube channel, Gurley decided he wanted to try it out for himself.

Because he had enjoyed making stunt videos since the age of 10, Gurley wanted to pursue that career in hopes of being able to reach that same level of success. From the start, Gurley always believed it would happen.

“I knew from the beginning that I could do it,” he said. “I never doubted it.”

Considering the size of ASU, Gurley said, the Tempe campus seemed like the perfect place to prank large groups of people and get a variety of reactions.

“I think ASU is a big reason why I was able to get off the ground, because it’s a really big school so it gave me opportunities to pull pranks on a lot of different people,” Gurley said. “Everyone here is really cool, they always give great reactions.”

Aside from the pranks in his videos, Gurley said he aims to always make a positive impact with his videos.

“I just want to make the world a happier place and bring out the best in people,” he said in his YouTube biography.

Gurley said that his favorite thing about his presence in the YouTube community is being able to express himself and having a platform that provides him the opportunity to make a difference.

“Even before I started YouTube, my biggest goal in life was to make a difference and positively impact people’s lives,” he said. “I’ve always been that way, because that’s how my mom raised me, and having a YouTube and a big platform has only given me the opportunity to expand that.”

Civil engineering freshman Brian Roman has been a fan since his junior year of high school. On his first day of classes, Roman had the opportunity to meet Gurley.

“It’s inspiring to see his growth and it just motivates you to do something like that as well,” Roman said. “It’s nice to see the hard work of people pay off. It encourages me when I watch his videos.”

Gurley recognizes the impact he has and said he uses it to help others.

“I’d like to think that I’ve broken down some barriers or borders,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of people that have come up to me, particularly guys that are more on the shy side, and they said that my videos have helped them make friends, or try to talk to girls, or kind of get over their fears a little bit.”

Some of Gurley’s fans on campus want him to take a more active role in the ASU community.

Marketing junior Eric Johnson is a member of Entertainment Business Association and The Underground Foundation.

He said it would be “really cool” to see the YouTuber get more involved at ASU events as a host or performer.

“He’s definitely pretty inspirational,” Johnson said. “When I watch his videos, it influences me to go out and live life and just have fun. But at the same time, I like how he has good will and good intentions. He does a lot of stuff to give back to the community.”

Gurley said that about 20 to 30 students have told him they made the choice to attend ASU based on his presence on campus. He said he hopes these students have been affected for the better by watching his videos.

“I’ve made a lot of videos, they show how to have confidence, how to meet new people and break out of your shell,” he said. “I think that I’ve helped some people on that aspect.”

Reach the reporter at tespana@asu.edu and follow @thaliaespana on Twitter.

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