We’re reaching out to some popular creators to get their best tips and tricks for success and better understand the ups and downs of life as a trailblazer on the internet.
This week, we spoke to Barbara Dunkelman (@bdunkelman), an influencer with over 588,000 followers across Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook. Dunkelman wears many hats, and is known as a content creator, voice actress, model, comedian, podcaster, and long-time contributor to Rooster Teeth.
As previously reported by Passionfruit, Rooster Teeth is a digital media company known for its gaming, podcasting, and animation series. Some of Rooster Teeth’s most notorious series include its gaming division Achievement Hunter, the long-running fictional Halo “machinima” universe Red vs. Blue, and the anime-style fantastical story series RWBY, for which Dunkelman voices main character Yang.
Rooster Teeth’s podcasting network, The Roost, hosts shows from well-known creators—like Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, Anthony Padilla, and Phillip DeFranco—and builds out original shows featuring its own roster of creator talent, including Ify Nwadiwe, Kelsey Impicciche, Fiona Nova, and Dunkelman herself, who hosts a podcast called Always Open where she chats with friends about “life, love, sex, and everything in between.”
Dunkelman, a long-time fan of Rooster Teeth, joined the company officially in 2011 and has since taken on multiple behind-the-scenes roles—including events coordinator, community manager, marketing director, and now creative director. She was eventually looped in as front-of-the-camera talent for multiple podcasts, animated series, live streams, her own personal line of merch, and other projects. Most recently, Dunkelman helped build out Squad Team Force, a division of Rooster Teeth that creates original podcasts, live streams, short-form video skits, and other content.
In an interview with Passionfruit, Dunkelman described balancing her multiple roles at Rooster Teeth, the difference between joining a network and remaining independent, experimenting with vertical video and other new formats, and more.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you describe why you first joined Rooster Teeth?
I joined Rooster Teeth because it was the ultimate dream job for me. I grew up watching Red vs. Blue, and was a diehard fan of all the content, and loved everything about the company and the community. It was a no-brainer when I was approached about being the company’s first-ever community manager, since it merged the two things I loved the most—Rooster Teeth and its community.
These days, how much of your work for Rooster Teeth is public-facing as an influencer, as opposed to working behind the scenes for the company?
I would say it’s 50/50. While I appear in a ton of our productions and podcasts and absolutely love getting to perform, I also love getting into the backend of things and studying analytics. A lot of what I do is behind the scenes, and includes writing, directing, managing social media channels, creative brainstorming, business strategy, and more—it’s been great having that balance and getting to wear so many hats.
For creators, what do you think is the benefit of joining a network like Rooster Teeth, as opposed to the pros and cons of creating independently?
Rooster Teeth houses a plethora of creators and industry experts who have a ton of experience in the entertainment industry—everyone loves what they do and wants to help others succeed, and we also have connections for every aspect of business. Rooster Teeth has always been incredibly collaborative, and for new creators, it’s a huge advantage to get to learn and grow with a great team to support you.
Could you describe for other creators what aspects of your career as a content creator are tied to your work with Rooster Teeth?
I’ve learned a ton as a creator and while wearing all the different hats I’ve worn at Rooster Teeth. I’ve been a social media manager, events coordinator, writer, director, actor, podcast host, and more—and by getting the opportunity to learn in every position, I’ve developed a lot of very valuable skills for my own benefit. There’s no doubt that having the support of the Rooster Teeth audience has helped me grow my own channels and has provided me with built-in support for whenever I try something new, and I’m forever grateful for that.
What led you to voice Yang on RWBY?
Years ago when our friend and colleague Monty Oum began developing RWBY, he had approached me about voicing a “badass Goldilocks character” to which I immediately responded “YES!” Monty was still in the process of developing the characters and the world, and he felt that he wanted to loosely base her off of me—a massive honor. I had never done any voice over work before, but also had no idea what I was actually agreeing to: being one of the main characters of an anime. A literal dream-come-true for me. After our initial talk, I officially auditioned for the role of Yang in front of Monty, Miles Luna, and Kerry Shawcross—and luckily, they agreed that I was fit for the character.
What types of content do you get most excited to create with Squad Team Force?
Squad Team Force is our newest venture, and it’s the first time I’ve gotten to build a brand from the ground up with the help of my colleagues and fellow creators. That alone was exciting for me, but it’s been a blast to dive into the world of vertical video—it’s a completely new nut to crack that we hadn’t tried before, and to get to experiment with new formats and types of content (for example, our Dungeons & Dragons skits) has been very exciting.
What are some of your favorite ways you engage with fans of your various shows?
I love to engage with fans through all the standard social media platforms—getting feedback on Twitter, responding to comments or story replies on Instagram, as well as getting involved in our various subreddits and community Discord. It used to be different before the rise of all the various platforms, and our engagement used to be primarily through the RoosterTeeth.com community site, but now it’s important we stay connected wherever our audience is—and these days, that seems to be everywhere.
When did you decide to get into modeling, lifestyle and fashion content, and merch? What is it like to manage such a wide variety of content niches?
I have had an interest in modeling and fashion since I was a teenager—I actually pursued modeling as a career around age 15 or 16, but decided against it when I was told I didn’t fit the standard body type and didn’t feel like taking on an unhealthy lifestyle to achieve a thinner frame was what I wanted to be doing.
I was lucky to meet some very talented creators, photographers, hair and makeup artists during my career in entertainment that I was able to pursue modeling and fashion on my own, in my own way. As with merchandise, I collaborated with the incredibly talented design team at Rooster Teeth to launch my own line in our store, and they really made my visions come to life.
I find it very fun to manage different content niches—it was never my style to do one type of content over and over forever, so dabbling in various niches keeps me on my toes and gives my audience variety as well. I’m definitely of the belief that if I find it fun and interesting, there will be people like me who do as well.
What social media platform do you like best, and why?
This changes almost daily—it all depends on what I’m in the mood for. Instagram usually takes the top spot, because you have great control over privacy and security, but also there are so many ways to engage—stories, reels, posts, polls, Q&As, live streams, et cetera—and I love being able to feel connected to my friends. Twitter, especially in recent years, has become more toxic and negative, but you also are more aware of what’s going on in the world through news articles, retweets, et cetera (which can sometimes be bad for my mental health).
I’ve also really fallen in love with TikTok—I am blown away by all the hilarious and talented creators that exist in the world, and TikTok has really opened my eyes to so many new ways to consume and create meaningful content.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you had when you were first starting out on social media?
The biggest piece of advice would have been to reassure myself that it’s always important to stay true to yourself and do what you are passionate about. Everyone will always have their own opinion of who you are and what you do, but the only one that matters is that of your own. Additionally, I would tell myself to be proud of myself more often—there have been many times where I accomplished something difficult or big, and didn’t take the time to properly recognize that.
Thank you, Barbara, for speaking with us!
Are you a creator with an interesting story to share? Email [email protected] for a chance to get featured in an upcoming newsletter.