Ryan Kaji, the star of the YouTube channel Ryan’s world, is one of the highest-paid YouTubers in the world. According to Forbes, Ryan was the highest-paid YouTuber in 2018 and 2019, raking in $22 million and $26 million, respectively. Mind you, Ryan is only 9 years old.
The brand earned over $200 million in retail sales in 2019, per an October 2020 Business Insider report. Ryan’s appeal to children all around the world has earned his YouTube channel close to 29 million subscribers. His following is much higher than that when you factor in subsidiary channels such as Kaji Family (6.84 million) and Combo Panda (1.7 million).
This piece will look at Ryan Kaji’s place of residence and his parents. Ryan Kaji lives in Cypress, Texas.
Ryan’s parents Shion and Kien initially refused to disclose their identities in the wake of Ryan’s rising popularity
Ryan Kaji (real name Guan) was born in October 2011 to Kien and Shion Guan. Kien was born in April 1984 to Vietnamese immigrants in Houston, Texas. Shion moved from Japan to Texas in the late 2000s to study civil engineering.
Kaji’s debut on YouTube came after he asked his mom why other kids were on social media and he wasn’t. “One day, he asked me, ‘How come I’m not on YouTube when all other kids are?’” Kien told TubeFilter. “So we just decided – yeah, we can do that. Then, we took him to the store to get his first toy – I think it was a Lego train set – and it all started from there.”
Ryan’s first videos rarely got any views or reviews, but four months in, a video of Ryan reviewing 100 toys at once went viral. The views on the channel started doubling every month. Within a year, the channel had more than ten million subscribers. The review video that gave Ryan viral fame has attracted more than 1 billion views.
Kaji’s rise on YouTube made sense as his parents established the channel during the ‘unboxing’ craze on YouTube. Furthermore, Ryan was this smiling, effervescent kid, doing kids’ stuff without uttering bad words or banter. He appealed to children and their parents alike. However, Shion told Business Insider that it didn’t make sense to him that so many people watched Ryan’s homemade videos:
“More than just in the US, we see that growth globally. At first, I was very confused and surprised to see our homemade-quality videos being watched by so many kids around the world.”
Shion and Kien celebrated the channel’s success, but at first, they wanted to stay away from the limelight. They came up with the name ‘Kaji’ so people couldn’t find out their real last name. They participated in interviews, but they always declined to have their names published. Ryan’s parents also kept their home a secret until September 2019, when The Daily Mail reported their home to be in a gated community in Cypress, Texas.
However, as Ryan’s brand continued to grow, Shion and Kien revealed their identities. In reality, they had no choice because, as a child, Ryan needs adults to handle the business side of things while he smiles at the camera and attracts more subscribers.
Ryan’s parents have turned Ryan’s twin sisters Emma and Kate into YouTube stars
Ryan has pretty much lived in front of a camera since he was three years old. His parents told TubeFilter that despite the importance of YouTube, they endeavored to offer Ryan a normal life. Kien said:
“We post a new video every day, and we typically film two to three videos at a time two to three times per week. We try not to interfere with Ryan’s pre-pre-school schedule, so a majority of the filming takes place during the weekend, and then we’ll edit while he is in school.”
As time went by and Ryan became more and more popular, his parents decided to create a production company to deal with content creation. Ryan is still the star of the show, but 30 other people help with churning out content. Shion told Business Insider that the reasoning behind employing 30 people is to ease the load on Ryan:
“What we thought is best for him, would be starting out a production company to help streamline the workflow on the channel and also minimize Ryan’s participation in the videos. The main thing is Ryan’s privacy and his childhood. And we also wanted to prioritize Ryan’s education over anything else.”
Ryan isn’t the only child YouTube star in the family. His twin sisters, Emma and Kate, started their YouTube journey way earlier compared to when Ryan first appeared on camera. Child labor laws around performance remain unregulated in most states in the United States, and it raises the question: How long should a child YouTube star work?
Traditional film and TV productions have rules governing how many hours a child actor should work. However, YouTube child stars are at the mercy of their parents or guardians. Shion and Kien insist, however, that Ryan is in control and that production will stop when he declares that he is no longer having fun. Kien told TubeFilter:
“Right now, he loves making videos. Every time I tell him we’re going to film, he gets so excited. As long as he’s loving it and it doesn’t disrupt his daily routine, we plan on continuing. But the moment he’s not having fun anymore, that’s when it will be time to stop.”
Shion and Kien met after Kien spent 30 days in prison for parole violation
In June 2002, the then 18-year-old Kien was court shoplifting at a JC Penney department store in Houston. Security nabbed Kien as she attempted to steal items worth $93. The Harris County Criminal division showed leniency by ordering Kien to pay a fine and placing her on probation rather than sending her to jail for 60 days.
Kien’s sentence also included 40 hours of community service and participation in an anti-shoplifting program. Kien violated her probation order by failing to report to a community supervisor and neglecting community service. She was arrested for her violation and sentenced to 60 days in county jail. Kien spent 30 days in Houston’s Harris County Jail.
Kien later enrolled at Texas Tech University to study arts and science to become a teacher. She met Shion Guan, a civil engineering student from Japan, in September 2009 via mutual friends. Kien was four years older than Shion, but it didn’t prevent them from getting into a relationship. By November 2009, Shion and Kien were virtually inseparable.
Kien graduated in 2010, earned a Texas educator certificate in April 2012, and became a high school chemistry teacher. After getting his degree at Texas Tech, Shion enrolled at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, to pursue a Master’s degree. He returned to Texas in 2013 and married Kien on 10th August 2013.