So you want to be a YouTube star? Of course, you do, and in 2020, it’s not as difficult to achieve if you’re willing to put in the work, buy a camera, and put yourself out there for the world to see. The days of looking to Michael Jordan, Oprah, or Gary Vaynerchukuck as inspiration for success and wealth are no more. YouTube is creating stars and millionaires, and just who’s benefiting from the video platform may surprise you. Mega YouTubers such as Bloveslife, Tabitha Brown, and Ryan’s Toy review are changing the path to fame and fortune one view at a time.
Miko was different. A then 27-year-old bright-eyed Sosua transplant who didn’t buy into the misogynistic, homophobic, anti-black women, undertones of his fellow ex-pat contemporaries
Where there are opportunities and light in the YouTube world, there is also an underbelly of sketchy and sometimes criminal elements masquerading as enthusiastic content creators. No one speaks to this better than Michael Wolfgang Nichol, better known as Miko Worldwide. Miko was an overnight YouTube sensation turned international fugitive who not just slid under the radar; he avoided it altogether.
To begin with this story, I must confess I’m obsessed with YouTube. Especially travel vlogs highlighting people of color. That brings me to my discovery of Miko about a year ago while searching for vlogs by individuals going to the Dominican Republic. I was frustrated, trying to find videos that we’re creative, informative, and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately, I found a lot of that underbelly content I mentioned earlier. I stumbled upon men, particularly from the United States, who didn’t have much to offer other than sitting in folding chairs, smoking cigars, and drinking Presidente beer trying to pass off sex tourism content as traveling advice.
Miko was different. A then 27-year-old bright-eyed Sosua transplant who didn’t buy into (in the beginning) the misogynistic, homophobic, anti-black women, undertones of his fellow ex-pat contemporaries. He traveled the island of Hispaniola occupied by the Dominican Republic offering unique content such as restaurant reviews, points of interest, local neighborhood tours, and even promoting his charities. More on that later.
With all of his positive energy, movie star good looks, Miko took his subscriber count from a meager 1000 or so to 35K in about a year. Not too shabby, right? Like any notable personality along with fame comes a slew of haters, and for Miko, many of them were seemingly his friends at one point. I thought it was weird that these same men who Miko once spoke of fondly of and at times, promoted them on his channel, which already surpassed their own, would eventually turn against him. They thought he was off and, among many things, questioned his sexuality. I chalked it up to their jealousy of the rising star. However, I had to agree with them something wasn’t adding up. To put it bluntly, Miko Worldwide, with all of his popularity, was a bit strange. I would find out later that this wasn’t a suitable” creative” type weird.
Where were you born? What’s your last name? Do you ever go back home to visit? What about your family? How is it that you have the means to travel at such a young age? These were all questions that not only I had, but many of Miko’s loyal fans. He was elusive, mysterious, and unnecessarily vague about answering anything about himself. Traits that are quite odd for a YouTuber who craved the spotlight and often urged his fans to not only grow the channel but his Instagram following as well. Miko was running from something. It was none of my business, so I like so many viewers, gave up on obtaining answers enjoyed the content, and defended Miko against the naysayers.
The months passed, and Miko was a content creating beast! He attracted travelers from all over the world who loved to get camera time with the YouTube sensation. It was rare for Miko to walk the streets in several countries and not be recognized. Sosua, however, was home base and where his stardom rose. He stayed loyal to DR, the country that made him until one day, he vanished!
It’s not unheard of for content creators to take a break, but for Miko, it was a brief one. One day out of the blue, the dimpled faced traveler reappeared on the channel, but this time, at a new destination, Germany. One day you’re on a Dominican beach highlighting beautiful women, and a few days later, without any notice, you pop back on the grid in a country that’s the antithesis of the Dominican Republic? Once again, I went with the flow, but man, this was peculiar.
Miko stayed true to his cinematic style as he interviewed German locals, travelers, even getting visited at a local shopping center by a family friend accompanied by his wife and two small children. It wasn’t the most compelling YouTube storytelling we’ve come to know and love from Miko, but we were down for it. Then the announcement we never received about traveling to Germany came, but now, Miko was off to Columbia.
Many of Miko’s subscribers appreciated the geographical diversity of the new content, but others were only interested in DR, it’s women, and quite frankly better visuals in general. Miko was losing his Midas touch and struggled to keep his viewers engaged. Columbia would be different, I thought to myself. I couldn’t have been more right!
An interview at a Columbian cafe with a fellow YouTube travel blogger and beautiful woman entrepreneur was a decent effort by Miko. He then set his sights on local neighborhoods, including befriending a group of young men working out at a park, even visiting a recording studio for Colombian hip hop artists. Sound a bit all over the place? Good, it did to me as well. Just when I all but gave up on Miko until he returned to the Caribbean, the proverbial other shoe fell.
The news hit the YouTube community like a ton of bricks. No one could have ever imagined seeing footage of the affable star Miko Worldwide, escorted out of a vehicle in handcuffs, and visibly roughed up. What the hell is going on? What did Miko do? Surely this is a mistake, possibly a drunken bar fight gone wrong? I watched the thirty-something second clip of the arrest and then went straight to the comments for further details. I wasn’t prepared for what I read, although it disturbingly confirmed for me that Miko was indeed running from something, and his time on the run was up.
He was a master at making you comfortable enough to care about him.
Miko Worldwide is a convicted pedophile. The smile and charm were a facade for the secrets of a troubled man with charges for assault against minors as early as 2012. In May of 2018, Michael was a wanted man for aggravated assault and aggravated sodomy. The indefensible acts of Miko were undeniable and not up for debate, but how did supporters of Miko get here? What did we miss? How did his star rise so quickly? Why should we even care? I’ll do my best to answer as someone drawn into Miko’s web of lies blanketed by his passive tactics of seduction.
I wanted to root for Miko due to so many grown men attacking his manhood because he was a pretty boy, fit, biracial, intelligent, and, as one YouTuber described, had a ”touch of lavender. ” I wondered what I always did about ignorant people. If Miko identified as gay or bisexual, how was that a factor in anyone’s decision to not like him or discredit his success? I already know the answer to this, but it’s still no less annoying the level of ignorance that persists in the world and rampant in small YouTube circles with hyper-masculine ideas of manhood rooted in colonialism and oppression.
In hindsight, Miko’s complaining of criticism towards him allowed him to play the victim. I bought the act hook line and sinker. He was a master at making you comfortable enough to care about him. It’s why I overlooked the signs that something was amiss about his ambiguous nature.
Miko included everyone in his videos. Black white, Latinx, straight, and the same-gender-loving. The latter causing a few people to distance themselves from him. When other YouTubers created response videos about Miko’s arrest, it was their assumption of who he was that in their eyes, was the reason for his crimes.
I’ll ask the question again. Why should we care about Miko? Maybe his path to notoriety forces us all to re-examine our digital footprint via social media and, for some, the quest for fame at all costs. Perhaps we saw a bit of ourselves in him wanting to find connection and needing to have our voices heard and experiences seen. Isn’t that why we love social media in the first place? It allows us to be visible outside of family and friends and discover a tribe of likeminded souls.
Miko wanted fame so badly that he created a persona that would secure it. He was a fugitive on the run for heinous crimes against children, yet the desire for clout and subscribers to his massive platform was more important than the pain and suffering of his victims. His success was a product of a character established to make his darkness palpable to unsuspecting individuals. Miko even created a charity for feeding the children of DR; another tool he used to add to an already deity-like presence he sought to hide his true intentions.
Our ability to relate Miko based on our own experience in a world of oversharing and clout chasing may have caused us to miss what was right there in front of our faces. We often want to believe that all that glitters is gold, and convince ourselves that our avatars are our true selves. In the process, however, what are we not revealing? What do we deny others because the reality of what we project isn’t pretty?
I’m not blaming myself or anyone else for Miko’s crimes. Many of us saw what we wanted to see. We come to YouTube for escapism, and the last thing we want to be is a witness to criminal behavior unbeknownst to us. Miko / Michael, with all of his star power, lacked what many of his viewers had, common sense. He gambled on waving the shiny object of sensationalism in content creation in hopes that he could fool the world. He lost big time and went off the radar in a way he never imagined, on camera.
Note: All YouTube videos featured on this piece are not from Miko’s channel.