When Meir Kalmanson returned to New York from a backpacking trip through Asia in the summer of 2014, he had some extra time on his hands. He hit the streets with some friends and shot “High Five N.Y.,” a short clip of him high-fiving New Yorkers as they hailed cabs.
The video, which today has been viewed close to 2.5 million times, captured a characteristic New York moment and set Kalmanson, 27, on the path to social media fame.
Today, Brooklyn-based Kalmanson has turned a hobby, a relentlessly-gregarious nature, a onesie obsession (he has 11!), and some impressive dance skills into a online positivity machine. He’s a YouTuber, social media influencer, storyteller and prankster extraordinaire. His videos have received more than 350 million views and have been translated into several foreign languages. His fan base of over 1 million followers spans the globe, from Libya to the Philippines and Australia.
“My brand is all about spreading positivity and openness,” said Kalmanson. “I think it’s something that’s missing from social media … I’m definitely trying to fill that void and quench that thirst.”
As an Orthodox Jew, he works to create dialogue by collaborating with artists and YouTubers of all faiths. His videos revolve around themes of acceptance, diversity, inclusion and self-expression. In one, he invites a group of people who are homeless to a Super Bowl party. In another, kids are given a dollar to choose between buying ice cream or giving it to a someone who is homeless.
“When you finish watching my videos you walk away with a lesson,” Kalmanson said. “Something you can grow with in your own life or pass on to someone else.”
His favorite video: getting strangers to dance together on the subway. “I believe music is the international language of connection,” he said.
When he’s not dancing around N.Y.C., vlogging (video blogging) or shooting videos commercially, Kalmanson spreads that same positive message through public speaking engagements. He also works as a “bar mitzvah motivator,” getting kids on the dance floor at bar mitzvahs across the tri-state area.
“I love being the face of positive messages and bringing them to life,” he said.
Adventurist vlogger: Kalmanson has backpacked around the world and vlogged from some of the most obscure places including a Bolivian mine and while rafting down the Amazon.