‘Bullied' Youtuber’s rocky path to fame
Most celebrities will tell you they never set out to be famous. Fame is a slightly inconvenient by-product of their creative pursuits.
Christian Hull is not one of those celebrities. He has wanted to be famous since he was a child - and there's a 1990s home video of him declaring "famous" as his career goal to prove it - but other than an inherent need to entertain and a vague dream to be the next Kyle Sandilands he had no idea what he wanted to do.
Hull, who relocated to Brisbane from Melbourne early last year, is best known for his unapologetic expletive-riddled honesty and his run-down blonde alter-ego Trish.
More recently he's become famous internationally for posting spoof videos of himself overreacting to paint colours being mixed together in a bizarre viral trend that caught the attention of actor Elizabeth Banks among others.
Even now with 1.1 million Facebook followers, three sellout national comedy tours, a fleeting appearance in movie Ride Like A Girl and a new memoir, Leave Me Alone, he still isn't quite sure.
"At the moment everyone knows me from guessing paint videos on TikTok (a series of videos that attracted a viral US audience during lockdown) and before that it was because I'm obsessed with Caramilk," Hull, 34, says from his inner-Brisbane home.
"I'm still waiting to work out what (I'm famous) for.
"I've never really planned anything. The book just came about, the movie came about, touring just sort of happened. I'll just see where it goes."
But there were times when his need to perform was almost squashed - firstly in high school when he pretended not to be gay in the face of the boys who bullied him and later by a radio industry intent on making him fit the mould.
Hull grew up in Denistone, in Sydney's northwest, with a close-knit family including his parents, John and Karen, and triplet younger brothers, Nicholas, Timothy and Adrian, 29.
But after a childhood as a class clown and school captain in primary school, Hull had the wind knocked out of him when he started at a private high school in Sydney, where early on a group of boys threatened to beat him up so badly that his mum wouldn't recognise him.
"I just hid away. I often wonder if that's where my 'leave me alone' personality has come into it," Hull says.
"I don't like collaborating, I don't like dealing with other people, I don't want a relationship, and it's probably because I'm scared of being let down.
"Because in my formative years I spent them - and this sounds so sad - alone in a library. Being home alone is the greatest joy for me and it probably did come from that high school experience."
In his late teen years, Hull started volunteering at community radio and in the studio he found a place he fitted.
"That's when I started to realise, 'Oh, life does get better'. It was a slow process for me to step out and be the dramatic, pushy human being that I am today," Hull says.
But even in radio, he struggled to find his voice.
His first broadcasting job was in Young, a small town four hours outside Sydney, which he left a few months later after locals made comments such as "you sound like a woman" and asked what being "a gay" meant.
"It was like I'd landed in a space ship," Hull says.
"Even with all that preparation at school I still wasn't prepared to be so
While studying at the prestigious Australian Film Television and Radio School, Hull received training to lower his voice. Then working on air in Newcastle he was given the sidekick character "The Fairy" and told that entertainment and red carpet reporting was the space in which he would succeed.
"The gay guy does that," Hull says.
"It was really deflating to hear it almost so bluntly, 'you're better on the red carpet'. Internally I was like, 'I wanted to get on air'.
"When I was told to do those (voice) exercises I thought, 'Great, let's do it, let's turn me into this person that will fit radio'. I was quite young and naive."
Through it all, there was one thing that Hull had firmly on his side: his family. He and his brothers have never had a serious fight and his parents have been his biggest supporters. He never came out to them; he never needed to.
In high school after his parents watched a documentary about the struggles of a gay teenager, his mother simply came into his bedroom and asked if there was anything he wanted to talk about - which, as a teenage boy, was a resounding "no", but the intention was enough.
His father simply waved him off to Mardi Gras once with a "wear a condom" and that was that.
So it was fitting that Trish, a character inspired by his parents doing their best to run around after four boys and occasionally letting their frustrated inner monologue out, provided the catalyst for his video fame, which has since allowed him to be entirely himself online.
He had climbed the radio ladder from Newcastle to Adelaide and then onto Melbourne, where he worked as a digital video producer for Southern Cross Austereo on The Dan & Maz drive show - his first task was to film Ed Sheeran in a limo - and later the Carrie & Tommy show.
A secondment working for YouTube Hits in 2015 inspired him to launch his own social media accounts, share videos and introduce his alter ego Trish, which catapulted him to comedy stardom.
Hull quit radio in early 2019 when his manager - he was still pinching himself that he had management - said, "Christian, all your tour dates have sold out."
"It's just fun to do. I've always wanted to perform," Hull says, adding that, as a child, entertaining was what he understood famous people did and so he wanted to be famous.
"These videos came about as just a way to perform, and then they were really well received and that sort of fills the ego and it's grown from there."
He started writing his book four years ago "as a form of therapy" with no intention to publish it until he was approached by Allen & Unwin.
He dedicated the book to his parents and the final chapter is his personal letters to them, in a sarcastically larger font for their ageing eyes, of course.
"I'm a little bit nervous about how it's going to be received because I've never been this exposed before," Hull says.
"You put your life down and you hope that people find it entertaining and funny and a bit sad and light hearted."
As for his fame, which now really is just about being himself, Hull feels he's found the "sweet spot".
A steady stream of selfie requests around inner Brisbane New Farm boosts his ego, the blatant nudes sent to his inbox perplexes him and a fan who knows how much he loves being alone even sent him a sex toy for Valentine's Day.
"So on brand," Hull laughs. "Did I use it? Question mark."
Thinking back on his winding road to fame, the lesson for Hull is a simple one, "Be yourself and push through and find your voice; it'll all work out."
Leave Me Alone by Christian Hull, Allen & Unwin, $30
Originally published as 'Bullied, told to lower my voice': Youtuber's rocky path to fame