There aren’t too many high school students who can say they have a YouTube channel that’s received more than 550,000 views.
But 16-year-old Montclair High School junior Grace Barnett, who began uploading videos to YouTube with a friend about three years ago, can say that. Focused mainly on horseback riding – Grace is an avid equestrian – the channel has more than 20,000 subscribers and collectively the videos have received over half a million views.
“I really can’t say how the channel grew so much,” Grace tells Baristanet. “Neither of us ever really promoted it. We just uploaded consistently and the rest just fell into place.”
The videos detail horse-related themes such as prepping the night before a show, barn tours and grooming bags. Grace began riding horses when she was six, doing so on and off until a few years ago when she began doing it full time.
“For a while I really wanted to compete actively, but I’m really content to just go out to the barn and hang out with the horses,” she says. “I’m a part of my barn’s Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA), so I compete with that throughout the winter. It’s a really fun, low-key way to exercise the more competitive side of me and is also awesome for riders that don’t have the budget to show with their own horse.”
Recently, others began to take notice. Over the summer, Grace was approached by Alp N Rock, the luxury sport apparel company, and asked to be a teen brand ambassador.
What’s more, she applied and was accepted for the Miss New Jersey Teen USA competition, which took place last weekend. Competing against 82 other hopefuls, Grace was one of three contestants to win a humanitarian award, for collecting over 400 coats to donate to Big Brothers Big Sister of America, and was selected to receive the Miss Amity Award (the pagent’s equivalent of the Miss Congeniality award), which is chosen by delegates and recognizes those competitors who are the friendliest and make the pageant experience the most enjoyable.
Grace is presented with the Amity award from the 2015 winner.
Grace called her application to Miss New Jersey Teen “a spur-of-the-moment thing.”
“We just managed to slip in my application and I was contacted by pageant headquarters a few days later,” she said. “There was a phone interview and a few nerve-racking days of constantly refreshing our emails until we got the message that I was in.”
While Grace doesn’t know whether she wants to keep competing – in pageants or on horses – she is sure of one thing: she wants to go to college and study marine biology.
“That comes as a surprise to most people,” she says. “But it’s something I’m really passionate about.”