Kevin Samuels, a YouTube and Instagram personality whose blunt lifestyle advice for black men and women has attracted a legion of admiring followers and a chorus of detractors who have condemned his views as outdated and cruel, is died Thursday in Atlanta. He was 57 years old.
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 spokesperson for the family in an Instagram post.
Atlanta police said he was found unconscious on the floor of his apartment. No cause was invoked.
A self-described image consultant, Mr Samuels had transformed in recent years from a personal stylist into a social media celebrity who built his following on a clear-voiced hypermasculine authority image, usually wearing a suit finely cut. This approach earned him more than a million subscribers on YouTube and Instagram, and many of his followers saw 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 valued women largely for their appearance and youth, men for their confidence and money. He criticized women he considered too career-oriented and asked questions suggesting that women’s interest in men was primarily based on their income: “How much do you charge for submission?”
The posts were repugnant to many, especially women, who said his views were misogynistic and promoted a brand of masculinity that hurt men who listened to him. More than 30,000 people have signed an online petition calling on YouTube and Instagram to remove Mr Samuels, saying he has ‘galvanized a community of men of all races and nationalities into open hatred of women’.
When news of his death first surfaced on Thursday, Mr Samuels became a top topic on Twitter, with many of the most amplified voices speaking out against him.
“Kevin Samuels basically made a profit and made his profile constantly perpetuate harmful stereotypes about black men and women,” Ernest Owensa reporter said on Friday, adding that “much of his rhetoric and commentary was rooted in misogyny.”
Comments on Mr Samuels’ YouTube and Instagram videos revealed a community, mostly but not entirely made up of men, who looked up to him. A commenter responded to a recent video calling Mr Samuels an “inspiration” to black men around the world, and thousands more indicated their 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 took 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 ironed.” He credits his mother with sparking this 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 turning to his own image consulting firm. One of the first companies was called Made Men Image Consulting.
In the early years, there was little sharp-tongued content that would later propel him to stardom, as he initially focused 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 everyday man and woman need, find useful, and can immediately act on,” Mr. Samuels told Uncovering Oklahoma in 2016.
But he later discovered a formula that would help his next surge, based on harsh assessments of modern women and the dynamics of dating and relationships. Many of his videos, seeking to explain why people weren’t 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 rating a woman as “average at best” received millions of views. He called women over 35 “leftovers,” echoing a line he said was used by the Chinese Communist Party.
“If you have reached the age of 35 and you are not married, you are a remnant wife,” he said. “You are what remains. Men know there’s probably something wrong with you. Whether you want to hear it or not, I’ll go with you. I’m telling you the truth you don’t want to hear.
On social media, Mr Samuels presented a view of relationships that puts men in a dominant position and said women should accept men’s infidelity but not be unfaithful themselves.
“Successful men cheat,” he recently wrote on Instagram. “Either you’re going to deal with it or not.”
The approach seemed lucrative. In addition to the revenue he generated from his Instagram and YouTube subscribers, by Friday afternoon more than 1,700 people had paid between $5 and $20 a month for his newsletter.
Johnny Diaz and Alex Traub contributed reporting.