Cambridge YouTube vlogger takes on the world

In 2007, a local teenager from Cambridge, Ontario signed up for a YouTube account. Little did she know, in three short years, it would change the course of her life and she would become a fixture in the homes of hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. Shawna Howson, better known as “Nanalew” on the web, is one of YouTube’s top “vloggers” and is currently ranked 22nd in Canada for the most subscribed users.

A vlogger is a video blogger, or someone who talks on camera about a variety of topics. Howson’s vlogs range widely from skits or sketches to homemade music videos, not to mention her hilarious and entertaining podcasts. On YouTube, she has over 128,000 subscribers to her channel and nearly one million total views.

All around the world, there are millions of people who either have an account set up on YouTube or who watch the occasional video. Howson used to be one of those people.

“I had never seen that done before,” Howson said, after watching a vlog for the first time on YouTube. “It was so cool and so fresh; I didn’t know that media was done that way. It was just about letting the real art come out.”

After her first encounter with this style of blogging, Howson was hooked and created her professional name and profile, Nanalew.

“This has been a major part of my life for three years and it has been an even bigger part of my life in the past year,” Howson says.

Since the beginning of her vlogging career, Howson has evolved from an everyday YouTube user to a famous online icon that has travelled the world, shooting, editing and broadcasting her messages.

This past summer, Howson and two other vloggers from different parts of the world were sent to Zambia, Africa to create their videos, which were funded by World Vision.

“[World Vision] wanted us to go down to Zambia and be there as their mouthpiece, and our job was to convey the stories of what World Vision is doing, for the younger generations,” Howson says. “They [wanted] us to do something more ‘out there’ and radical that would really affect people.”

Howson thinks the trip was one of the best experiences of her life so far. Just three years ago, she never would have known that her videos would take her across the globe to aid an international organization in order to help the people living there.

“I didn’t realize it would get this big at the time.”

She also didn’t expect her vlogging to be so globally recognized that it allows her to help others on a more massive scale.

“When we got there we went out in the field, grabbed our footage, made our videos and we were able to tell the story that we wanted to tell.”

And that story is one of great importance.

“The project helped give dignity back to the culture, and our videos and our stories helped show that the sponsorship program is actually making a difference, and now people understand how they could make a difference,” she says.

But Howson’s talent is not just limited to vlogging and video production – she is also an author. In 2009, Howson published a poetic anthology entitled “Insomniatic Dreams,” which included nearly 100 poems.

All these experiences have helped her become who she is now and what she is doing at this very moment. “I have gotten so many opportunities from this,” she says. “It has really turned into a full time job, because basically the experience I am getting from it, I am actually getting the credentials and experience I need to succeed in other fields.”

Her vlogging has opened up many different doors of opportunity for her. Howson now works for Crossroads Television System (C.T.S) in Burlington as a scriptwriter and is helping develop a new upcoming sitcom.

To learn more about Shawna “Nanalew” Howson, visit her YouTube channel and check out her book “Insomniatic Dreams,” which is available on

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