How a cartoon character from a YouTube music channel became a pop culture icon

This ultra-hip YouTube music station is known for its iconic cartoon mascot as much as its lo-fi beats. 

In 2015, the channel ChilledCow was created by an anonymous user who only goes by the name Dimitri. It features live streams of relaxing lo-fi hip-hop for working and studying. Most of the music comes from ChilledCow’s record label or artists who clear their songs for the channel. ChilledCow’s live streams became recognizable for its images of an animated girl studying. The channel currently has 9.71 million subscribers.

The cartoon character was from the 1995 film Whisper of the Heart and in 2017, ChilledCow was taken down due to copyright violations. A backlash followed because YouTube removed the channel during a live stream that had been going for 13,000 hours (which would become one of the longest YouTube videos ever). 

Eventually, the channel was reinstated, but this time around it had an original animation of a girl studying. The popularity of the new cartoon led to ChilledCow renaming itself Lofi Girl. 

Who is Lofi Girl? 

When Dimitri first created ChilledCow he used footage of the character Shizuku Tsukishima from Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart. It included shots of her studying and writing. But after the channel was taken down, Dimitri crowdsourced submissions for an original character to take Tsukishima’s place. 

Colombian artist Juan Pablo Machado responded to the call for submissions while receiving his Master’s degree at the Émile-Cohl design school in Lyon, France. Machado submitted several sketches of Lofi Girl and was chosen by Dimitri. The new Lofi Girl was illustrated as a girl with a brown ponytail, large headphones, a green sweater and a red scarf.

She used to be known as ChilledCow

Dimitri announced on March 18, the sixth anniversary of the channel, that ChilledCow would now be rebranded as Lofi Girl. He explained that the name “ChilledCow” no longer reflected what the channel was about. 

“Over the years, we built up an amazing community together around the iconic Lofi Girl character, and I’m more than grateful,” he said

The Lofi Girl has merch 

On Nov. 17, the Lofi Girl Shop lanched. It includes merch like plush toys, laptop accessories, apparel and artwork.

Lofi Girl will be featured in YouTube’s Escape2021

Escape2021 is YouTube’s end-of-year 24-hour interactive live event. It will feature music and creators looking back at 2021’s top trends and most memorable content. The first chapter of Escape2021 begins on Dec. 16. Users will have to get Lofi Girl to leave her bedroom for once. 

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