The untold truth of Taylor Nicole Dean

Gone are the beginnings of YouTube where it was simply considered a hobbyist video sharing platform. Created in 2005, nobody would have known of the global phenomenon that the channel-hosting site would become, yet, by 2008, some users were invited to become "partners" with YouTube, and, according to The New York Times, "the most successful users [were] earning six-figure incomes." The rise of these so-called "influencers" happened right alongside YouTube's success, as these fledgling stars quit their jobs in search of online fame and glory, and to become tastemakers for a whole new generation. 

While YouTube has been responsible for kickstarting the careers of some of the most famous A-listers these days (don't forget, Biebs was once a simple cover artist crooning on the platform), it's also been home to some pretty obscene scandals.

Cue Taylor Nicole Dean. The YouTuber is immensely popular, a forerunner in a niche subgenre of the platform known as "PetTube," where she educates her followers on exotic animal care of all kinds. At the time of this writing, Dean boasts just under two million subscribers on her channel. However, what her fans didn't know, is that the online personality was essentially living a double life, slowly crumbling off-camera, all while still entertaining the masses. In a downfall so public that even Vice filmed a documentary about her, Dean had effectively reached rock bottom — only to fight to the top again. Here is the untold truth of Taylor Nicole Dean.

Taylor Nicole Dean's upbringing was extremely sheltered

Although she seems incredibly outgoing and entertaining at first glance in her YouTube videos, Taylor Nicole Dean actually grew up in a completely contrasting setting. In a Vice documentary about her, the YouTube personality revealed, "Alcohol and drinking I wasn't really exposed to that much growing up, and I never went to dances in school or parties in high school or anything. My very first party I ever attended was because of YouTube."

If growing up in a sheltered household wasn't enough, the PetTuber has also admitted she suffers from some mental health issues, too. "I don't worry about much, but I also worry about everything at the same time," Dean revealed in a YouTube video celebrating her 100,000th subscriber. "I do have really bad anxiety though ... I have depression."

It looks like throughout it all, Dean truly formed a lifelong love for animals and has translated that into pet care. "[I] always loved animals. First animal I ever was obsessed with were cats. I loved big cats," she told her fans in 2016. Her father, Matthew Dean, shed a bit more insight into his daughter's hobby during her Vice interview, showing photos of the vlogger-to-be surrounded by critters as a child. "Her mom always took her to places where there were animals." It only seemed natural that Dean would find a way to monetize her passion.

She has a history of medical illnesses

While Taylor Nicole Dean's upbringing may come across as bizarre, it turns out there was an extremely valid reason for it, as the starlet also suffers from a variety of different physical ailments. "From fifth grade on, [I] didn't really attend school," Dean revealed to Vice, adding, "They didn't know what was wrong with me and at first I had a lot of chronic illness that was undiagnosed and they figured out I had Ehlers-Danlos syndrome." Hmm, considering the illness is relatively unheard of, what exactly is it?

The PetTube personality discussed the syndrome further on her channel, explaining, "My life is a constant struggle with medical problems," adding that Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is "a connective tissue disorder which basically means I can dislocate my body very easily, I can hurt my body, I can get myself hurt."

Naturally, the vlogger became incredibly lonely spending most of her time at home. "No one really wanted to talk to me because I was the weird kid, and that's how I ended up on the internet," she dished. "This is where I make all my friends. This is why the internet is so important to me is because I didn't get to experience all the things that normal teenagers get to experience."

Nala the viral hedgehog

Taylor Nicole Dean's YouTube success is a bit of a happy accident. In fact, she has her hedgehog, Nala, whose photo went viral in 2014, to thank for those initial days. "[Nala] had really connected with people, and I want to continue to do that," the PetTuber told the San Antonio Express-News in 2016.

Years later, in 2020, Dean told Vice all about the process that led her to YouTube stardom. "It really started to take off when I had my hedgehog, Nala. I decided to try and make a video to link to people that told me they were getting a hedgehog because of me. After that original video with Nala, it just kept going, and now I'm here."

However, Dean also set out to warn the masses about the dangers that come with adopting exotic pets. Speaking to New York Magazine, she dished, "About six months into doing YouTube, Finding Dory was coming out ... it made me very nervous because I knew a bunch of kids were going to go want to buy a blue tang which is what Dory was ... they're extremely hard [to take care of]." Suddenly, after making her instructional video, it "blew up," and Dean got 200,000 views. "Then I started making more than I was making at my job ... so then I was like, 'Okay, I'm young enough to where I can quit my job at a pet store and I won't be ruined.'"

The dark side of fame suddenly snowballed into something more severe

Taylor Nicole Dean's troubles started when she attended her very first party — thanks to YouTube. As the online personality told Vice, "Someone offered me a tiny, tiny bump of cocaine ... so I was like, 'Alright, okay, whatever, I'll try it,' and the next day, I was just obsessing about it." 

While the PetTuber definitely doesn't deny dipping her toes into the realm of drug use on her own, she credits her now-ex boyfriend, Jonny Craig, as the man who allegedly really led her down a destructive path. Speaking about meeting Craig, Dean told the outlet, "He is ten years older than me and someone who deals with addiction." Explaining that Craig's "issue was opiates," Dean detailed how he would reportedly bring them with him and get the YouTuber to try. "After that, I just never went back to coke I just started dabbling with opiates."

As Dean recounted to Vice, one particular day was especially poignant in the starlet's downfall. "He came home ... and told me he was going to take a bath. I noticed that he brought ice cream into the bath, and he was just being really weird." What Dean eventually found in the bathroom was a spoon with its back burnt — causing her to break down immediately. Allegedly, Craig then begged her to try heroin with him for the first time before he got sober. Of course, this was only the beginning.

'Can we leave Jonny Craig in 2019?'

Taylor Nicole Dean eventually left Jonny Craig after realizing the severity of her situation and after failing to produce YouTube content for six months. As she told Vice, "I was losing all contacts to everyone, and all I had was this dude that just kept shooting me up." In her YouTube video where she revealed she was a heroin addict, Dean explained her time leading towards the breakup a bit better. "My addiction was full-blown, and I was sick. I was still trying to put videos on, and I was still trying to entertain people." Unfortunately for Dean, the days of Nala the viral hedgehog were long gone.

Eventually, it was Dean's assistant that pleaded her boss to stop, and in the end, took photos of the starlet's needle-ridden bathroom and sent them to her mother. "My mom knew that my boyfriend was the one that was shooting me up, so she told my boyfriend 'You need to leave and go somewhere while Taylor gets clean,'" Dean dished in her now-viral Youtube video. Craig left, and after a final relapse, Dean's mom drove her to rehab.

By December of 2019, and after being sober for over half a year, Dean finally released a video titled, "My Experience Dating Jonny Craig." Claiming to want to "leave Jonny Craig in 2019," the starlet shared all the alleged grim aspects of her previous relationship before finally declaring in the comments that she wouldn't utter his name anymore.

Taylor Nicole Dean has admitted she impulse-bought animals

Of course, there are always trolls that come with being a popular online personality. While Taylor Nicole Dean may be one of the most subscribed-to PetTubers out there, she also regularly runs into naysayers who claim she's an animal hoarder.

The starlet finally decided to set the record straight on Twitter in light of all the publicity from her Vice documentary. Admitting that some of the critics were accurate, she declared, "I know I impulse bought animals when I was being abused ... animals became the only thing that made me feel like I was important and served a purpose which is NOT right and NOT okay and is one of the reasons I rehomed 12 of them when I got to rehab." Considering her love of animals goes back to the days when she was a young girl, it makes sense she would cling on to her one hobby she loves the most.

In fact, throughout the years, Dean has also admitted in her YouTube videos that she struggles with codependency. In one upload, she explained, "I always think that if I don't have this something or someone that I am not worth anything. It's something that I've always struggled with." She continuted, "I have a really really hard time being alone. I have a really hard time just sitting with myself and still feeling happy."

Did Taylor Nicole Dean neglect her pets?

If accusations of hoarding animals weren't enough, Taylor Nicole Dean has also been put through the wringer with critics who claim she neglects her pets. In fact, it's during her now-revealed drug addiction that Dean addressed the accusations in a video titled, "My Mistakes (Involving My Pet Care)." "I don't like being unliked," she began, before adding, "but it's something I gotta get used to if I'm in the public, you know?"

Although the accusations seemingly died down, it's in the wake of the Vice piece that the rumors rose up again. This caused Dean to take to her Twitter and write, "[I] heard after the Vice documentary that there were some comments about how I kill all my animals ... I'll just say once again, I haven't had any reptiles die except the one time I had a horrible heat malfunction. And that was absolutely disgusting, and a horrible mistake of mine that made me consider rehoming all my animals ... I haven't had a single animal pass, not even from old age ... I'll continue to always be honest when an animal dies, but I truly know they have never died from neglect and if I did, I'd rehome them because that's the last thing I'd ever be able to live with is watching an animal suffer."

While Dean indeed had an extremely hard few years, her love for her animals really does appear incredibly genuine.

Taylor Nicole Dean's drug confession video inspired others

After months of speculation, Taylor Nicole Dean came clean about her addiction in the aptly-titled August 2019 video, "I'm a Heroin Addict. (The Truth About Everything)." Early in the video, Dean said she wanted to set the record straight with her fans who had been observing "noticeable changes in [her] personality" over the past two years. 

At the time of this writing, the video has over 2.6 million views and is continuing to grow. The biggest shocker? The outpour of positivity from her fans. In fact, in a pinned comment on the video itself, the PetTuber wrote, "I never could've predicted such an amazing outpour of support in which I am receiving  ... I truly cannot thank you all for being so open-minded and kind enough, I love you guys so much, thank you for being a part of my healing."

In her Vice documentary, Dean shed a bit more insight. "I honestly expected to lose like, 100,000 subscribers ... I ended up gaining a lot more ... I was just really amazed that there was that many people so supportive about it. One of the comments that really stood out to me was some girl said that she watched the whole video and it reminded her of her situation with her fiancé. She said that she packed her bags and left him that night so, that was cool," the YouTuber explained through tears. 

Taylor Nicole Dean ended up in rehab

As she detailed in her confession video, it was actually Taylor Nicole Dean's mom that initially drove her to rehab, but the YouTuber had planned only to stay and complete the "detox" period. "I decided I was going to stay ten days and leave," she revealed. Luckily for Dean, she found herself repeatedly extending her stay at the facility.

Since leaving rehab, the PetTuber has tried to remain strong and isn't afraid to admit that she sometimes needs help when she gets close to relapsing. "I just reach out to my sponsor, I reach out to friends, I go to a meeting, and I keep myself accountable. I absolutely need help."

Now, instead of just focusing on pet care, Dean also opened up another YouTube channel called Taylor Dean Vlogs, where she tries to help others understand misnomers associated with addiction, as well as assist others with their drug recovery process, using insight she gained from her own experience. In one particular video, the vlogger dispelled her own misconceptions about rehab. "I was freaking terrified of rehab before I actually went, because I had a whole different vision of what it was going to be ... I thought it was going to be basically like a psych ward, and it wasn't."

She's living with her parents again

A tremendous step in Taylor Nicole Dean's recovery from her tragic few years was moving back into her parents' home. Taking to Twitter at the end of July 2019, Dean wrote, "Officially off the lease August 1st. Sadly this place became a pit of misery. I was no longer safe returning after the things that went down there. This is motivation for me to get back on my feet, because if I could accomplish that at my worst, imagine what I can do at my best."

At the time of this writing, Dean is still at home with her parents but is eventually planning on moving again. "Right now, I'm living with my parents," the PetTuber explained in her August 2019 addiction confession video. "I got out of the lease for the home that I had. I no longer live there sadly, but I could not go back there." Considering she posted the horrifying photos of her house at its worst in the video as well, it's hard to blame her for wanting to close that chapter behind.

By October, Dean decided to make a vlog detailing her life as a recovering addict in hopes of educating her viewers. "Recovery is a slow process and whatever you gotta focus on in your personal recovery you gotta focus on," she said, adding, "For me, it's just rewarding myself for doing simple things like showering and making sure me and my animals are fed."

It's still an uphill battle for Taylor Nicole Dean

On January 7th, 2020, Taylor Nicole Dean gave her fans an exciting update on Instagram, declaring she has been 7 months sober. Unfortunately for the starlet, by the start of February, she took to the platform again to admit to her followers that she had relapsed, and is planning on going to "a 10-day inpatient program" in March.

In the same Instagram post, Dean maintains that her animals are her "one of [her] biggest passions in life," meaning fans of the starlet can still hope she'll come back to regularly posting on her YouTube channel someday. "The fun stuff I do online and stuff, I love it, I love connecting with people and entertaining people," Dean explained in her Vice documentary. "When I have these emotional connections with people, it's just crazy."

As for what Dean thinks of her YouTube channel after everything she's been through? "I don't know what my channel is now. I know it's definitely still going to be my animals and all of that, but I have this whole new part of it ... deep down, I kind of always thought they're there for the cute animals and that's it, so it's just kind of weird now to have this whole part that's really just about my own experience and my own life and actually, me." We at Nicki Swift wish Taylor Nicole Dean all the best in her recovery journey to sobriety.