On the internet, Latin American phenom Germán Germandia is almost as big as Bieber. Now he's setting his sites on Hollywood. One thing he doesn't want: help from traditional media.

Germán Garmendia can't meet this month. He couldn't meet last month. I won't be able to see him next month, either. This has been the situation, roughly, for three years.

Garmendia is not a pop star or a reclusive poet. He's a YouTuber. OK, a huge one. His main channel, which has 33.8 million subscribers, is ranked one spot below Justin Bieber's.

If you haven't heard of him, that's probably because you're not Latin American. Garmendia is a Chilean who has spent much of his life in Mexico City. His videos are about aggressively normal stuff, everything from applying for jobs and making new friends to things people do at the gym—all goofily delivered in breathless Spanish.

At meet and greets, tens of thousands of fans flock to see him. So many people showed up at a 2014 appearance in Mexico City that some fainted from heat exposure. (His handlers halted the event when a riot broke out.) He once posted a video asking fans to stop knocking on his front door, trying to get into his house, scaling walls to peer inside, and slapping their phones against windows to snap pics.

Late last year, Garmendia moved to Los Angeles with the aim of breaking into Hollywood. He wants to write, act, and direct. I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area, not far away, and have suggested meeting him in person for an interview multiple times. No dice.

Maybe he's too busy with his creative work. Maybe his management team can't keep up.

Or maybe it's this: In addition to his YouTube fame, Garmendia has accumulated 18 million Facebook followers, 11.5 million Twitter followers, and 9.5 million Instagram followers, all without a significant profile in a major publication. Maybe he doesn't need us.

He's probably right.

Technically I did speak to Garmendia once, on the phone, for about 30 minutes. All it took: dozens of emails, two scheduled phone calls where he stood me up, a chat with a former manager, a chat with his current manager, and so many WhatsApp messages I lost count. I've had an easier time cornering dirty politicians, people with secret identities, and actual murderers.

One of the first things Garmendia noted in our conversation was that he's, well, ordinary. "My persona on the internet is an exaggeration of myself," he said. "I'm a pretty normal guy. I have happy days, sad days, high-energy days." (He speaks perfect English.)

Germán Alejandro Garmendia Aranis grew up in a small town in northern Chile. (Germán, for those who no hablan español, is pronounced "AirMAHN.") His father died in a car accident when he was 3, and his mother raised him and his brother. Throughout high school, he was a mediocre student, not particularly interested in going to college, vaguely intrigued by the possibility of a creative career. Then, in 2011, a vlogger friend introduced him to YouTube and persuaded him to make his first video. It was titled "The Obvious Things in Life," a sentiment that came to define all of his videos, which he started posting weekly.

The videos on his main channel, HolaSoyGerman ("Hello, I'm Germán"), include skits on what it's like to have a brother, the curse of having bad friends, and the lies you tell your parents. The videos play out like stand-up routines, interspersed with mini-dramatizations illustrating his points. He has a second channel, JuegaGerman ("Play Germán"), where he uploads videogame play-throughs, reaction videos, and whatever else he feels like.

What distinguishes such quotidian fare is Garmendia's delivery. Put his videos on mute and you'll still get the general idea. (Even if you speak a bit of Spanish, he talks so fast you won't understand him anyway.) He uses only a few cheap props and costumes; his wild gesticulations and contorting face tell most of the story. His eyes open wide. He fakes gargantuan sobs. Not-real sweat pours off him by the bucketful. His gasps are so guttural it's shocking they don't produce coughing fits.

In other words: not subtle. In a sketch about food, he gives his cat's fluffy cheek an exaggerated lick. In another he plays a "sexy student," sucking on a lollipop, batting his eyes, and caressing the lumpy mounds of fabric that he's stuffed under his shirt. He rarely leans on snappy punch lines and largely steers clear of cruel or crass jokes. He's basically the internet's class clown.

And the world does seem to be his classroom. That video about what it's like to have a brother? It has 93 million views. HolaSoyGerman is the fourth biggest channel on YouTube; JuegaGerman is the 17th.

His success, like most internet virality, grew exponentially, inspiring both conspiracy theories about him buying followers (he denies it) and a flood of reaction and parody videos. Though he signed with mega-agency William Morris Endeavors—that's WME to Hollywood insiders—in 2015, he says he entirely controls his brand and continues to write, direct, edit, and post all his own material.

Still confused about why nearly 60 million users around the world subscribe to his videos? His fame makes more sense in the context of the Latin American media landscape. Hint: ¡No lo puedo creer!

To understand the Garmendia phenomenon, it helps to know a little about the dominant form of LatAm entertainment: the telenovela. It got its start in the 1950s, adapted from the radio novela format that had become popular in Cuba. Telenovelas quickly saw huge success. The programs melodramatized everyday life—remind you of anyone?—though they followed mostly upper-class characters and the plots were geared toward adults.

By the 1980s, broadcasters like RCTV in Venezuela began exporting telenovelas around the world, where they became hits in Europe, Asia, and, more recently, the US. English-language remakes, such as Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin, and Queen of the South, have done well stateside, as have Spanish-language telenovelas aired on Telemundo or dished out on Netflix.

Between a global market hungry for those select hits and government incentives to keep productions local, there wasn't much motivation for Latin American entertainment to branch out. Cable penetration was low until the mid-2000s, and most LatAm TV networks were divided by country and either privately controlled by a few big players or government-owned, says Jorge Granier, cofounder of Pongalo and current managing partner of Aquarius Television. "One or two major broadcasters controlled every country," he says. "I'm talking about 80 to 90 percent of the advertising market." The only options for viewers were whatever those big players wanted to serve up.

"We talk about Latin America as a single market, but it's an amalgamation of dozens of markets," says Avinash Gandhi, a former WME agent who represented YouTubers, including Garmendia, and who currently consults for gaming, digital media, and tech companies. "Nationalism is strong, especially among an older generation who grew up with national pride around fútbol—soccer—and around local programming."

What about the younger generation? Hola, YouTube.

As better connectivity spread throughout Latin America, millions came online, particularly young people. YouTube is key to this demographic. It's the second-most-downloaded app in the region (WhatsApp is first, Facebook third), and the majority of those users say they log on to YouTube every day. An estimated 80 percent of YouTube's views come from outside the US.

Garmendia, it seems, filled a particular need at the nexus of cultural heritage and new media. His videos flirted not only with the exaggerated telenovela style but also with classic LatAm comedies, like the frenetic variety show Sabado Gigante and the 1970s Mexican sitcom El Chavo del Ocho, a slapstick series about a group of kids in housing projects. Except those kids were played, inexplicably, by a cast of adults.

Garmendia was a guy steeped in LatAm style but also genuinely youthful. In his hypercaffeinated normcore ways, fans found an extreme version of themselves. No matter your cultural background, you have grandparents or have traveled somewhere or have felt lazy or have listened to music. Garmendia has videos about all of those things.

There's an intimacy to Garmendia's DIY videos that's unmatched by regular television, or even reality TV. Every week, his viewers hear his relatively unfiltered opinions. The low-production values became a feature—it seemed more real, more immediate, as if you were there in Garmendia's bedroom. His comedy is unrestrained and transcends language barriers. (When a group of non-Spanish-speaking kids from the UK watched his material for a reaction video, their initial confusion melted away as they just sat back and enjoyed the show.)

While that may seem like a relatively easy feat—make videos about random stuff, post them at no cost, prosper—it really isn't. Behind the scenes, Garmendia, like so many of his fellow YouTubers, hustles at a brain-breaking speed to write, direct, act in, film, edit, post, and promote his own material. No matter the video quality, that's a lot of work. Oh, and you have to make the content feel genuine week after week, you have to remain likable, you have to stay out of controversy, and you have to stay versed in the ways that YouTube is constantly changing.

Garmendia worked extremely hard to make it look easy, and he thrived. Now millions of his devotees think of themselves as more than fans. They see themselves as his friends. And, in the spirit of the internet, he wasn't tied to one location; he was a star for all of the Spanish-speaking world.

Now he wants more.

Few performers make the transition from YouTube fame to real-world fame, and most who do are in music: Karmin, Alessia Cara, Bo Burnham, the Weekend, Biebs. Far more typical is the spectacularly botched crossover, which often takes the form of something like Smosh: The Movie. "There are 50,000 YouTube channels, and we can count on our hands the number of YouTubers who can successfully do a movie and have a fan base that would actually come to see it," Ken Treusch, a partner in Bleecker Street Entertainment, told The New York Times in 2015.

Despite their rabidity, web fans can be fickle. There's no guarantee that followers interested in your free five-minute skits will pay to watch you in a feature-length film or, let's be honest, really anywhere else. Some will even resent you for "selling out."

The other option, of course, is staying put, selling in. In the case of Spanish-speaking YouTube, there's a vast market. If you look at the top 25 channels in the world, scattered among superstars like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran are Spanish-language channels dedicated to videogames, comedy, and makeup tutorials. Mexican beauty vlogger Yuya (real name: Mariand Castrejón Castañeda) created her YouTube channel in 2009. Today, she has expanded out to all sorts of lifestyle videos and has the 23rd most subscribed-to channel. Her top video has 46 million views. The Spanish game vloggers Rubén Doblas Gundersen (ElRubiusOMG) and Samuel de Luque (Vegetta777) have nearly 41 million subscribers between them. The subscriber count for Luis Fernando Flores, a Salvadoran who runs a gaming channel called Fernanfloo, is more than four times bigger than the population of El Salvador itself.

As to the question of how, or how well, these so-called influencers get paid—well, that is the question. Rates vary from YouTuber to YouTuber. One Peruvian, José Romero (Whatdafaqshow), told me that when he transitioned to vlogging full-time in 2010, it took two years before he saw a cent of ad money.

It's better these days, but different markets have different pay scales. Because Latin American YouTube viewers are seen as having less buying power than American and European audiences, makers get far fewer ad dollars per view. Clicks from Latin American countries, particularly Mexico, routinely end up on the bottom of CPM lists—that's cost per thousand views (the M is the Roman numeral for 1,000). In 2015, Spanish YouTuber Juan Miguel Flores Martín (JPelirrojo) told El País Semanal that he'd heard of some US YouTubers making rates as high as $7 per thousand views. Flores Martín, who, like other Spanish-language channels, has lots of viewers in Latin America, said he made about 40 cents per thousand views—and that's before Google's cut, which is typically about 45 percent.

A guy like Garmendia, who has millions of dedicated fans? He may very well make a higher rate. (Even if he doesn't, all those views add up.) Plus, Google has a more expensive "Preferred" program for advertisers who want their products to show up only alongside high-performing, prescreened YouTube content. Garmendia's videos, which are uncontroversial and kid-friendly, likely appeal to such advertisers.

But Garmendia's internet-born fan base rewards him beyond merely liking and subscribing. He has parlayed his YouTube fame into other paying gigs. He had a best-selling book in 2016 called #ChupaElPerro ("suck the dog," a Chilean expression that basically means "go to hell"). He did voice work in the Spanish-language version of Ice Age: Collision Course. He and his brother made a foray into music with their pop-rock band, Ancud (named for a city in Southern Chile). He recently got a sponsorship deal with Reebok, and LG backed one of his videos. Garmendia, who won Icon of the Year at MTV Latin America's 2014 Millennial Awards, even managed to nudge his way onto Forbes' list of top-earning YouTubers in 2016, with an estimated $5.5 million total that year. Not too shabby—but probably still well below what he'd make if his audience were American. (His management wouldn't comment on income.)

So his move to Hollywood could be motivated by finances. Beyond the money, though, Garmendia is nearing 30. He's been on YouTube for seven years, practically forever in internet time. He's good at playing the goofball, but he's growing up, and his audience is too.

There are those who would be entirely satisfied with regional stardom. But the fact is Garmendia is doing what so many do. He wants to seize his moment, come to the US, do the Hollywood thing. As Garmendia's manager put it, global artists are English-first artists.

But that doesn't mean that he needs the American media.

After our one phone call, Garmendia actually said he was game to meet. I spent eight more months and all those WhatsApp messages urging his manager to schedule an in-person interview. I got, as they say, nada, nunca, nadie.

Someone close to Garmendia's management said that his small team is stretched so thin that planning anything becomes nearly impossible. His current manager, Leo Crovi, represents not only Garmendia but nearly all of WME's Spanish-language YouTubers. In exasperation, I asked Crovi if they just weren't interested. He insisted they were. He even seemed to appreciate my enthusiasm, because there was a time when "the media didn't believe" in Garmendia. I believe!

The conceit of the celebrity profile is that celebrities are, by nature, special and removed. For all the hoop-jumping and negotiating it takes on the part of the reporter to wrangle a Hollywood star for an interview over an uneaten salad at the Chateau Marmont, readers are rewarded with a peek behind the curtain, at what they're "really like." What's particularly delicious is when they appear to act just like us. She ordered fries!

But when it comes to web celebrities, there isn't a curtain. Or there is, but it's been flung open. We've already seen inside their homes, met their pets and siblings, watched them laugh and cry and everything in between. There's very little else. And besides, fans aren't waiting around for an inside look; they're showing up at these people's doors, thinking they're already BFFs.

Any profile of a web celebrity, then—of the life-on-display breed, anyway—is doomed to failure. By being so graspable, these younger digital natives are always destined to elude the grasp of tradition-bound media. That, demonstrably, is how Garmendia likes it. For most of his career, he made a point of not talking to journalists at all. He told me he likes meeting his fans and being an entertainer, but he doesn't like the other aspects of fame.

For now, Garmendia has stopped posting on HolaSoyGerman, although he insists that it's not dead. "If I want to upload, I will," he says. He continues to post at a rapid pace on JuegaGerman, sometimes putting up five videos in a week. Earlier this year, he started posting skits in English on his Facebook page; they're similar to everything else he's done, if a bit more polished. According to his management, he wants to begin acting soon and has been working on a screenplay. He signed on with a publisher to release a novel in Spanish later this year.

So: Does he think he'll make it? Be one of the rare YouTubers to successfully cross over? Do it on his own terms?

"Maybe the whole thing is changing," he says. "Maybe celebrities don't have to be the perfect person who looks perfect in every picture. Maybe it can be the normal guy who works really hard."

Ordinary answer. Perfectly on-brand. And hey, it's not not working. You've just read 2,800 words about an almost-famous almost-celebrity who doesn't even pretend he wants to talk to journalists. Before long, that might be the most normal thing of all.