NU alumna talks YouTube stardom, future plans

Jessica Allen

Not long ago, online celebrity “Pumashock” spent her days studying cognitive science and linguistics at Northwestern. While at NU, Natalie White (WCAS ‘03) toured with a band called Funkintelligence, traveled to Los Angeles to star in a reality show and fell in love with Korean culture through the screen of her Hello Kitty TV. She then racked up almost two million hits on her cover of the Korean pop song “Gee” on YouTube, quickly transforming her into an Internet sensation.

Daily: How did your studies at NU go along with your love of music?

White: A lot of people were shocked that I didn’t choose to go to a conservatory for classical piano. I wanted to do something different. Music was something that was always going to be there. I’ve always been obsessed with the brain and the mind

Daily: What are some of your best memories from NU?

White: I remember sophomore year I lived in the music sorority dorm. I wasn’t a part of the sorority. I used to come in, and they’d be having secret meetings and singing Destiny’s Child songs in the basement. I didn’t do many extracurricular things. I was kind of a loner. It was always my favorite activity to go to the lake and crawl down in the rocks and take a nap on a flat rock.

Daily: How did your time at NU influence your career?

White: I think it definitely shaped me musically. Coming from central Indiana, I was hit by all sorts of cultures in Chicago. … I think it stuck with me. That’s where (my interest) with Korean culture started. I had a Hello Kitty TV, and the only working channel was a local Korean channel.

Daily: What did you do after graduation?

White: My senior year I had to leave Spring Quarter to be on a TV show in L.A. It was called “All American Girl”-a spin-off of “American Idol.” I made it all the way to the finale and was runner-up. … I was able to walk with my class at graduation and finish classes in the summer. I’ve just kind of been working it ever since. I’ve been trying to build a solid résumé for myself. The last couple years, I’ve moved to San Francisco. That seems to be the center for all things video game and techy.

Daily: How did your YouTube endeavors begin?

White: This YouTube thing honestly is kind of just a fluke. I was just bored. I like Korean pop songs, and I was learning the language. I’d heard other people had done it. (I thought,) “Why not, I’ll give it a shot.” I think the difference is I’m a musician. I remixed the songs, and I think that’s what people gravitated toward. SBS TV network flew me over (to Korea) to appear on a variety show, “Star King.” It was pretty much the same as “American Idol,” except it was all females, and they made us do a bit of everything.

Daily: What are your future plans?

White: I’m actively pursuing a musical career. YouTube has nothing to do with it. I’ll probably continue to do the Korean covers because people seem to enjoy those. I haven’t really come out with my own stuff, but I think this is definitely the year.

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