Streamy Awards: Diversity, Politics Are Hot Topics as YouTube Stars Walk the Red Carpet

Jon Cozart Streamy Awards - Getty - H 2017
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Host Jon Cozart says his job is to "reveal the hypocrisy of the new media industry" as YouTube stars come together for the annual celebration of all things digital.

"Online video has its own set of politics — it's called drama," jokes Streamy Awards creator Drew Baldwin on the red carpet for the award show on Tuesday night. 

And the night, a celebration of all things online video, didn't lack for drama when host Jon Cozart later took the stage to roast many of his fellow YouTube stars. "My job as the host is to dig into the Streamys and reveal the hypocrisy of the new media industry," Cozart says with a glimmer in his eye before dashing backstage to prepare for the two-hour show. "I'm exposing us for what we are, which is a room full of narcissists with good intentions." 

The seventh annual Streamy Awards, held Tuesday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, brought together some of the biggest names in online video, from Gigi Gorgeous to Lilly Singh to Grace Helbig. Top of mind for many talent was just how much the industry has evolved since the first Streamys took place in 2009. In the years since, many YouTubers and Viners have found their way from mobile phone screens onto television sets and even movie screens. There has also been an influx in web series with higher production values and more serialized storytelling. “We've seen online video grow in leaps and bounds since the very beginning — more than we've ever imagined. It’s interesting to see, now that we’re nearing our decade mark, the growing cycle of creativity in online video," says Baldwin. 

To respond to the changes, the Streamys this year handed out awards in two new categories for comedy and drama series. 

The Streamy Awards' red carpet showcased a diverse array of talent across the entertainment spectrum. From directors to comedians to abstract artists, the show has now evolved beyond a traditional awards structure, and for this year, its overarching theme is diversity, says host Jon Cozart.

In addition to the creation of award categories specific to the digital realm, there is an even greater shift in focus toward content creators. Sam Bailey, director of the web series Brown Girls, which was nominated for awards in two categories and is being adapted into a series for HBO, says she was excited to be nominated in the indie category, adding, "It really shows there is work done at home by individual people without a network behind them." 

With Brown Girls crossing borders from the web to a media network, online personalities — among them Andrew Bachelor, Singh and Liza Koshy — are working with the likes of Netflix, HBO and MTV on projects distinct from their digital platforms. Bachelor, who hosted the Streamys last year and jokes that "there's a lot less pressure" for him at this year's show, says that his film school training has given him a sense of familiarity on set for his film and TV projects. 

Diversity was an important theme to the evening, with the Streamys highlighting the wide range of performers who have made it big on the internet throughout the show. Another topic that was hard to avoid was politics, especially less than two weeks after Emmys host Stephen Colbert invited former White House communications director Sean Spicer up on stage. Cozart certainly wasn't afraid to get political during his time as host. Asked about how political he would get ahead of the show, he tells THR, "We will dig into Donald Trump because we feel like he’s a product of the Internet. We're leaning a little left tonight — after all, it's L.A."