Philip DeFranco: Facts You May Not Know

"'Sup, you beautiful bastards?" 

To the initiated, that catchphrase can only mean one thing: A new episode of the insanely popular web series The Philip DeFranco Show has begun. 

But back when DeFranco posted his very first cringe-inducing YouTube video in 2006, the Bronx-born former waiter had yet to dream up his signature greeting. Working under the longstanding alias sXePHIL, his first vlogs — filmed on a low-quality, $20, black-and-white Logitech cam — consisted of video responses to once-popular YouTubers such as Caitlin Hill (aka TheHill88). Those clips were often shot in inauspicious settings such as Panera Bread. Today, DeFranco is one of YouTube's biggest success stories. In the decade-plus since his career began, the media entrepreneur has cultivated a fervid fan base by covering "newsy type things" and the latest brouhahas of fellow YouTube personalities

DeFranco says he initially found fame unsettling. "I'm a ridiculously shy person," he told The Baltimore Sun in 2007. "It's really been a transformation." On top of millions of fans, accolades haven't exactly eluded DeFranco. He's won heaps of awards. Wired readers voted him one of the world's "Sexiest Geeks of 2008," and in 2013, former Vice President Joe Biden gruffly admitted he wished he had DeFranco's hair

None of his success came easy, though. From surviving an attempt on his life to his harrowing experiences with Polycystic Kidney Disease, here are some, erm, "Fun Facts" you might not know about the candid, ever-sprightly YouTube star (who also answers to Philly D.)

Philip DeFranco is not his real name

Well, Philip DeFranco is his real name now, but let us explain. In 2016, the popular YouTube personality (and self-professed "agnostic theist") made a shocking confession to his followers: He wasn't born Philip DeFranco. In fact, he entered the world on Dec. 1, 1985, as a certain Philip James Franchini Jr. The stage name exists for several reasons. For one thing, people have casually butchered his real surname his whole life. (For the record, it's pronounced "Fran-keeny.")

The pseudonym also allows DeFranco to keep a healthy distance from his fan base. (Well, usually.) In his early YouTube days, it only took mild internet sleuthing to find out where he lived. He learned that the hard way when a woman arrived at his house totally uninvited and "was like, 'Hey, I'm a fan!'" He realized how easy it would be for someone to pay him a visit and physically assault him.

The stage name is "also kinda sorta not a lie anymore," he told his channel. In 2016, DeFranco legally changed his name. That was "a huge f***ing deal in my life," he said, particularly since the decision infuriated his father, who saw the name change as evidence that his son didn't love him.

One of his mom's boyfriends allegedly tried to kill him

That headline is a doozy, right? We can unpack it, thanks to a biographical "Draw my Life" video posted on DeFranco's channel. When he was 10 or 11 years old, DeFranco's parents divorced and he left the Bronx. His mom unceremoniously moved young DeFranco to Asheville, N.C., which he aptly describes as the "land of hippies and old people." Once settled, DeFranco claims his mom embarked on a series of unfortunate relationships with a motley crew of ne'er-do-wells. These boyfriends and stepfathers included John, an "abusive alcoholic truck driver" who taught him how to play chess, and a man he sarcastically describes as a "really a cool guy" who "rode around on a Harley" and occasionally took the boy "out in the Blue Ridge Parkway."

This motorcycle enthusiast and bar owner was, in fact, the antithesis of a "cool guy." According to DeFranco, not only did his mom's beau turn out to be a drug dealer, but he also allegedly tried to kill DeFranco and his mother (while she was recovering from cancer.) One night, when DeFranco was 14, he claims he was shocked awake by a "screeching" carbon monoxide detector at 2 a.m. — a fixture his mom's boyfriend had fortunately overlooked. DeFranco's panicked mother reportedly found her boyfriend huddled in the garage "running the car" and wearing a gas mask. He had supposedly stuffed rags under the bottom of the garage door and was dutifully flooding the house with carbon monoxide. 

Shortly after the incident, DeFranco says he was sent to Florida to live with his biological father for several years. The boyfriend reportedly wound up in jail.

He was mailed a mysterious key and letter...

Philip DeFranco received two ominous packages in the mail in 2008, one of which included a letter urging him to go to a storage unit near his home. The bundle also included a key. Another letter, signed "R," read: "Watch the DVD. It explains everything." Naturally, DeFranco filmed himself driving to the site, musing, "Maybe someone's going to bludgeon me to death with a big stick when we get there."

The DVD featured a murky silhouetted figure, speaking through a nightmarish pitch-shifted voice. The spectral figure rambles on about "Armacam," "genetic experiments," and a "recruitment program." Additional information was apparently locked in a "case" located at 600 Virginia Avenue NE in Atlanta, Ga.

"I'm a little scared that there's gonna be a body in there," DeFranco says in his video clip as he approaches the destination. He was also concerned the storage unit might contain his mom "and she's like, 'Why don't you ever call me?'" 

Finally, the moment of truth: DeFranco finds a locked briefcase in the storage unit — and it turns out to be a promotion for the video game F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin.

DeFranco wasn't the only YouTuber to receive the weird mail. Video game website Kotaku, among others, also received the same mysterious packages. Talking to Suicide Girls about the experience, DeFranco said he was "happy just to be a part of it — because they only sent it out to eight people." He added, "But obviously, they are using me, and I'm not getting anything except the experience." 

He owes his success to being catfished

Around the time he started experimenting with YouTube, the former pre-med student traveled from North Carolina to New York City to meet a girl he'd fallen for on Myspace. According to his "Draw My Life" video, they chatted for about six months online and then decided to be romantic roomies in NYC. She was supposedly a dancer attending Juilliard in the city. 

DeFranco threw his belongings into a 1996 Geo Prizm and drove to the city. Once there, the address she'd given looked like "an abandoned house," he told The H3 Podcast. He was then messaged by a concerned "friend," who claimed Mystery MySpace Girl's ex-boyfriend had kidnapped her and raped her in a park. She was supposedly in the hospital. 

DeFranco spent about 36 hours driving from borough to borough and sleeping in his car. When he tried calling MySpace Girl from a payphone, she was "acting like she was hurt." DeFranco told the podcast he maxed out his credit cards and returned to North Carolina, but his friends supposedly didn't believe his wild tale until about three months later, when the mystery girl pulled the same stunt on somebody else.

DeFranco said he was duped by a so-called 16-year-old drama queen in Kansas, but there's an upside: "If she had not done that, I wouldn't be where I am today," he said. Career-wise, he'd initially planned on going "a more mainstream route." Instead, the emotionally destroyed DeFranco returned to Florida and used his pain as "fuel," becoming "hyper-focused on YouTube." 

One fan gave his father a kidney

During a 2017 Reddit AMA, DeFranco was asked to describe his best-ever fan experience, and his answer is a doozy: A "beautiful bastard named James" gave his father a kidney. 

DeFranco and his father both have Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a condition that "slowly kills our kidneys," the YouTube star explained in a video, noting that patients are eventually put on dialysis, and their names are then placed on a waiting list for a donor. You could potentially waiting years for your name to be selected. 

His father's donor, James, said in 2013: "I never really thought of myself as super selfless ... I really wanted to do something that would matter to someone." In fact, James was among hundreds who applied to try to help DeFranco's father. 

"I was emotionally blown away," DeFranco says, "and am still thankful and shocked to this day that people cared enough to help." 

On Oct. 3, 2013, DeFranco posted on Facebook from a hospital waiting room with "Papa DeFranco." James had just finished prep and was heading into surgery.  "A big awesome exciting day," DeFranco wrote. "Never quite felt how amazing and selfless people could be until today."

​He proposed to his wife in front of hundreds of fans

Think you're totally over viral marriage proposal videos? This might make your heart sing again. 

In 2011, Philip DeFranco took his show on the road for "DeFranco Does Dublin," an event that drew roughly 1,500 attendees and has been viewed 466,564 times and counting. In 2013, he followed up that success with "DeFranco Does Arizona" (alternately known as "Defranco Loves Dat AZ.") Recorded in Tempe, the Q&A marked his first-ever live event in the States. DeFranco took the stage to uproarious applause, telling the pumped-up crowd: "This is one of the most awesome and scariest things that's been within 50 feet of me."

The highlight of the night isn't hard to pinpoint: DeFranco covertly planted a shill in the audience, who takes the mic and asks when DeFranco is going to tie the knot with longtime girlfriend Lindsay Doty (who is also on the stage.) As Doty stammers through a response ("I don't know...?") DeFranco springs into action, getting down on one knee and presenting her with a ring. The crowd goes bananas, and for a moment, the savage hinterland known as the internet knows true happiness.

​The best moment of his life was...

Ask yourself: What's the single best moment of your entire life? For DeFranco, that answer is easy. 

In a vintage vlog from 2007, he reveals that when he was 15, his father flew him to Florida with the promise of having "the best present ever, ever for you this Christmas." Upon arriving, DeFranco saw his stepmom was holding something: the most beautiful little girl he'd ever seen. Her name was Sabrina, and he was told that she was his new stepsister. 

"Everything stopped," DeFranco recalls. At that moment, he realized "there was another me ... there's another little sXe out there," and he promised he was "going to be there for her no matter what." 

Granted, this was the best moment of his life well over a decade ago. We suspect this formative experience might have been somewhat eclipsed by the birth of his son, Philip James "Trey" DeFranco III, born on April 22, 2014, and the birth of his second son, Carter William DeFranco, on Sept. 8, 2017. Just a hunch. 

​He hates covering anything involving victimized children

Particularly since becoming a father, DeFranco has found it difficult to remain impartial when covering stories that involve children getting hurt. He told a Reddit AMA that such stories turn him into "an emotional rage monster," despite his best efforts to remain unbiased in his work. Taking that thought one step further, he says he'd happily "sign up to personally curb stomp child abusers."

For proof of this, look no further than his coverage of YouTuber DaddyOFive (aka Mike Martin). As The Washington Post reported in April 2017, Martin's channel featured increasingly sadistic pranks played upon his hapless, terrified, and sobbing children

DeFranco addressed Martin's channel in a YouTube vlog of his own, saying he was "disgusted" by the videos and believed all the pushing, screaming, and hitting constituted abuse. DeFranco released a steady stream of videos about DaddyOFive, which proved instrumental in bringing the grim situation to light. Martin and his wife, Heather, lost custody of their kids in May 2017, and in September 2017, they were found guilty of child neglect. Both were sentenced to five years of supervised probation.

In a video apology posted in April 2017, Martin essentially blames the whole controversy on DeFranco dishing the dirt: "It would have never got this out of hand if it wasn't for that DeFranco guy," he says. 

DeFranco's response? "I'm as responsible as a security camera in a gas station filming a robbery."

He refuses to romanticize the past

Because he's an old hand at the YouTube game, interviewers and fans often ask DeFranco to wax poetic about the good ol' days — back when we still tenderly referred to the internet as the "Information Superhighway." But a sentimentalist he is not. In April 2018, DeFranco was asked on First We Feast Presents "Hot Ones" what he missed least about the earliest incarnation of YouTube. Prior to gorging on piles of increasingly spicy wings, DeFranco said, "I like getting paid now. That's a big plus. I did it for several years just as a hobby." 

More often than not, he'll sidestep questions that indirectly ask him to trot down memory lane. In a 2017 Reddit AMA, a fan asked DeFranco to mull over those early days of YouTube. He acknowledges that there's more YouTube "drama" in modern times, but also says, "it's important that whether it be about YouTube or anything in life, that you don't ... romanticize the past." 

"Things change," he says prophetically, adding that all anyone can do to make their mark is "put in more of what you want to see in the future."

​He's totally over YouTube

Philip DeFranco's relationship with YouTube is an increasingly troubled one. On April 16, 2018, he announced via a YouTube video that "with the current state of YouTube, The Philip DeFranco Show cannot thrive." The problem reportedly stems from the site's increased crackdown on his channel and others like it: Since his coverage spans everything from the YouTube shooting in April 2018 to the Austin bomber in March 2018, DeFranco says his segments are being deemed advertiser-unfriendly. Hence, his work is being promoted less and less on YouTube's homepage and the "Recommended" and "Trending" tabs. He's frankly "tired of trying to work with the alcoholic, negligent stepfather that is YouTube." Interesting analogy.

To combat the monetization problem, DeFranco secured a sponsorship with Brave, the developers behind the Brave privacy web browser and Basic Attention Token (BAT) in April 2018. In turn, he'll serve as a Brave adviser. In an April 2018 post, DeFranco says he's excited because "we often see in times of massive change ... that's when we get these fantastic opportunities and solutions."

We're not worried. DeFranco has demonstrated his staying power for well over a decade, and he's masterful at evolving with the times. As he said in a 2018 tweet: "I've had ups and downs. Thought my career was over several times. It will happen again in the future." He has always moved forward, he says, because he's doing what he loves: "Find your Why, and then figure out the How."