Mukbang Millionaire: Inside the slurp-tacular success of a shellfish-sucking superstar

Bethany Gaskin became a millionaire by slurping seafood on camera for YouTube viewers.

Bethany Gaskin really loves seafood.

Mukbang Millionaire: Inside the slurp-tacular success of a shellfish-sucking superstar

She loves seafood so much, in fact, that she films herself sloppily devouring crab legs, lobster tails, and mussels — and, every week, millions of YouTube viewers watch her do it. 

Her most popular “mukbang” video — 36 minutes and 34 seconds of crab-cracking, lip-smacking, napkin-lacking wonder — has 11.7m views. 

Now, Gaskin’s viral videos have earned her more than $1m, 1.8m subscribers, and the chance to quit her job, The New York Times reports.

The miraculous medicine of mukbang

Mukbang, a combination of the Korean words for “eating” and “broadcasting,” first became popular among niche Korean video-streamers a decade ago. But to uninitiated American viewers, modern mukbang feels fishy: Am I missing the joke? Is this all some sick shellfish charade?!? 

But make no mistake, mukbang mania is no joke — it’s ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response).

ASMR videos — mindless, soothing sights and sounds that trigger tingles in the brain — are the televisual tonic of the social media age; sweet, obliviating stimulants that calm frayed nerves and withered attention spans.

And, apparently, seafood is just what Doctor Algorithm ordered.

Making mukbang into a booming business

“I think of mukbanging as a ministry,” Gaskin told the NYT. “I knew this was it, and I quit [my job] by faith.”

Indeed, it only took a few muks to start bringing in the bucks: Gaskin’s wildly engaged audience (which today includes Cardi B) quickly enabled her to quit her job.

That was only the start of her seafood success. Soon, Gaskin’s husband, Nate — who was initially skeptical of his wife’s “hobby” — left his job at General Electric to become his wife’s full-time manager.

Today, the feasts are a family affair: Gaskin’s sons often appear in videos — and, since they also suck the shell out of seafood, they’re perfectly poised to take over the family business.

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