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.

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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