The Untold Truth Of The Try Guys' Eugene Lee Yang

Are you the kind of person who likes to unwind by watching funny, informative, and sometimes downright bizarre videos that pop up online? Then there's a good chance that you're a fan of the Buzzfeed-born YouTube team, The Try Guys. Initially made up of Ned Fulmer, Keith Habersberger, Zach Kornfeld, and Eugene Lee Yang, the four entertainers carved out a niche that has made them among the biggest stars on YouTube.

Why is that? Well, along with the fact that they all clearly work well together in front of the camera, they're also seemingly up for anything. While they live up to their name by, yes, trying things, they tend to find themselves doing some pretty ridiculous activities, like seeing how well popular TikTok hacks actually work or drawing nude self-portraits.

On top of all that, they're not afraid to be themselves — especially when Yang decided to come out to the world through a video on the channel — which is also part of their success. The group has also evolved over the years, with Ned Fulmer exiting in 2022 due to scandalous circumstances and Yang's more recent announcement about his own future with The Try Guys. With the fate of The Try Guys looking increasingly uncertain, there's no better time to dive into the untold truth of The Try Guys' Eugene Lee Yang.

BuzzFeed was a 'lateral career step' for Eugene Lee Yang

Eugene Lee Yang was an aspiring filmmaker when he was hired by BuzzFeed back in 2013, at the time when the online site was just venturing into producing videos. "BuzzFeed was a really fascinating lateral career step for me," Yang explained during an interview with Them. At the time, he was focusing his energies on sparking a career as a film director and screenwriter, building upon his cred as a graduate of USC's film school. "I was doing the typical slow, sad upward trek that we all do as young filmmakers, where you're just staring into the mirror every day, saying, like [breaking out into song], 'When will life begin?'"

Being a talented aspiring filmmaker, however, wasn't paying the bills, and Yang was in dire need of a full-time gig when he encountered the opportunity with BuzzFeed's then-embryonic video department. During his time with BuzzFeed Video, Yang allied with co-workers Keith Habersberger, Zach Kornfeld, and Ned Fulmer to create videos together. Their chemistry gelled, and the foursome continued to appear in videos together. 

"There were no casts at BuzzFeed prior to us," Yang explained. "We were the first to say, 'Oh, we should just repeat ourselves as a cast. This is an interesting dynamic.'" And that's how four BuzzFeed staffers wound up becoming the YouTube quartet known The Try Guys, later exiting BuzzFeed and launching their own career as YouTubers.

Yang is a true filmmaker

The Try Guys may make YouTube videos, but Eugene Lee Yang himself is a full-on filmmaker. He put his skills to use in 2019, when he released a beautiful and intensely emotional video to come out as gay. With more than 21 million views, as of this writing, it's clear that what Yang created truly touched people — and that's not only because of what he was saying, but also how he was saying it. Stunningly captivating, perfectly paced, and undoubtedly unforgettable, the video was seen as a masterpiece. And that might be because Yang knows what he's doing.

In an accompanying video that revealed his reasoning for making it in the first piece, it was pointed out that Yang had "graduat[ed] USC film school" and "directed numerous music videos and short films ... before he began his online career." That became clear as Yang gave viewers a look at the behind-the-scenes work that went into making it, as well as his process as a filmmaker. Each step was handled with the kind of care and expertise of someone who has definitely found their calling.

What made it even more incredible is that, along with producing, directing, choreographing, and having a hand in pretty much every aspect of creating the video, Yang was also its star. Yeah, wow! If it's not already obvious that Yang is a talented and creative person, then just wait until you find out about Cheyenne Pepper.

Meet his drag alter ego, Cheyenne Pepper

You may know Eugene Lee Yang as one of The Try Guys, but some fans might know him by another name: Cheyenne Pepper. To be more specific, Cheyenne Pepper is Yang's stage name when he performs in drag. You'd have to be a longtime fan of The Try Guys and also have a great memory to know that Ms. Pepper was introduced to the world back in 2014.

At the time, the group still worked at BuzzFeed and all four men were "transformed into drag queens for the first time." Keith Habersberger became Ginger Vitis by finding "his inner Katy Perry," Ned Fulmer turned into Champagne Canne by "channel[ing] Kesha and booze," and Zach Kornfeld "opted for more class and less a**," which resulted in Kornucopia. As for Yang, he "also aimed to be classy, but ... when he transformed into the scintillating Cheyenne Pepper, he went with pure eleganza."

These days, you can still see Cheyenne Pepper pop up on Yang's Instagram account, doing things like making a stunning debut at VidCon or celebrating Galentine's with a "Crazy Rich Asian Club Night" vibe. Granted, that's not Yang's only passion.

He's really into Pokémon

Pokémon may have been around for years, but it still seems to be as popular as ever. Going far beyond the original cards that first sparked a game-loving craze in the '90s, the world of Pokémon eventually expanded into a video game, a show, a movie, and so much more, including an international championship. This is clearly one phenomenon that has plenty of devoted fans, and one of them is The Try Guys' Eugene Lee Yang.

In fact, while YouTube subscribers might not be in the know, it turns out that Yang is so into Pokémon, that social media users might have seen him dressed up as Ash, or noticed when he attended a "pikaparty." He even celebrated the holidays with a little Pikachu pal in 2018, and manages to find them out in the wild, either during the day or at night. Then, there was the time in 2019 that Yang posed with plenty of Pokémon plushies, while adding the caption: "These are my children. Which one are you?"

While there's no doubt that Yang is willing to enjoy the whimsical side of life, that doesn't mean that he ignores the serious issues around him. Frankly, he's more than willing to step up and stand up when he believes that it's the right thing to do.

This popular YouTuber is an activist

The Try Guys star Eugene Lee Yang isn't afraid to use his platform to speak out about important issues, including those facing the LGBTQ+ community. For Yang's work, he has received a number of honors, including the 2019 Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award and the Phenom Award at the 2020 Shorty Awards for his LGBTQ+ activism.

In March 2021, amid a wave of hate crimes against Asian Americans after the COVID-19 pandemic, Yang tweeted a powerful message, writing, "Asians. Your hurt and rage and perspective are worth expressing. Every single word. SAY it. SEND it. SCREAM it. F**K the scapegoating. F**K misogyny and white supremacy. F**K the endangerment of our most vulnerable. And f**k you if you think we're going to take it." He went on to share tweets that were full of anger and support for the community, while also creating a documentary on the Try Guys channel discussing "the rise of anti-Asian hate and attacks."

Yang's activism allows him to show what he truly cares about. Although, when it comes to his personal life, there's also something — or rather, someone — else that he cares about.

He's in a relationship with Matthew McLean

For someone who has a career that sees him appear in hundreds of online videos that, in turn, reach countless viewers around the world, Eugene Lee Yang is a relatively private person. That's why you might have been unaware of the fact that he's in a relationship.

After coming out publicly in June 2019, Yang began to post about someone who was obviously special to the star. It turns out that Yang's boyfriend is Matthew Joseph McLean, an EY Manager who works out of Los Angeles. Although there's a lot we don't know about this cute couple — besides the fact that they met through working out at the same gym — we do know a few things thanks to Instagram. For instance, these two are super stylish, pretty adventurous, and definitely like to have fun. They also enjoy traveling together, whether that means heading to sunny Waiheke Island or Kangaroo-filled Australia.

He guest-starred on Brooklyn Nine-Nine

While Eugene Lee Yang's original aspirations were behind the camera, as a writer and director, his role with The Try Guys brought him front and center on screen. As he explained in an interview with Character Media, that wasn't much of a stretch for him, as he also long envisioned himself in serious acting roles. However, he initially set those aspirations aside, assuming there would be few opportunities for gay, Asian-American actors. "No one in traditional Hollywood was asking me to be on camera," he divulged during an interview with NBC News. It wasn't until he began working for BuzzFeed, in fact, that he was approached to appear in videos, not just create them.

In 2019, Yang revealed via social media that he would be taking his acting talents from YouTube to network television. "Thrilled to announce my first-ever guest spot will be on one of the best shows on television," Yang tweeted, revealing his television debut would be on the cop comedy "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."

Yang appeared in one scene, in which Brooklyn PD detectives Jake Peralta ("SNL" alum Andy Samberg) and precinct administrator Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti) impersonate obnoxious one-percenters in an attempt to gain entrance to a members-only club. The only thing standing in their way is the snooty guy evaluating who to let in, played by Yang.

He voiced a character in an animated Netflix movie

Eugene Lee Yang's next acting role was far more ambitious than his brief "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" cameo, even though he wasn't technically seen on screen. That was the case with "Nimona," an animated fantasy film based on a graphic novel that premiered on Netflix in 2023. Yang provided the voice of Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, a knight who's tasked with tracking down his boyfriend, Sir Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed), when the latter is accused of plotting to murder the queen. 

Yang's journey to "Nimona" began when he approached his agents and told them he was interested in venturing into the realm of voice acting. Coincidentally, he told Them in his interview, when the filmmakers began to translate the "Nimona" characters from page to screen, Goldenloin's ethnicity was changed to be Asian. Unbeknownst to Yang, he was among the visual references the animators used when reimagining the character. "So they brought me in for the audition, I auditioned like everyone else, and I landed the part," he said.

Interviewed by Collider, Yang was unabashed when describing "Nimona" as a true dream project for him. "Knowing that this was an incredible story already on page, in graphic novel form, that was also inherently queer and created by a queer person, I mean, you already had me sold," Yang declared. "And then, let alone being approached to voice act in it? I was over the moon."

He co-authored a Try Guys book before their international tour

The Try Guys branched out from YouTube into the world of literature with the publication of their 2019 book, "The Hidden Power of F***ing Up." As one of its four co-authors, Eugene Lee Yang was adamant that the book to be an extension of what they had already established on YouTube, which was characterized by their openness and authenticity.

"Content isn't just a brand or message that you develop yourself and then throw out into the echo chamber," Yang explained in an interview with Entrepreneur. "I think as you become a more open person and let others in, just in your regular life, you'll be surprised by how much you find and how you can then incorporate that into the work you put online," he said.

After the book's release, Yang and the other Try Guys hit the road for their first-ever live tour, which they'd titled the Legends of the Internet Tour. For Yang, the experience of performing in front of a live audience was worlds away from making videos in a vacuum and then releasing them online. As he told MTV News, it's one thing to see subscriber numbers on a screen, but quite another to see living, breathing people who've paid money to watch them in person. "We've always talked about traditional versus digital, but now we're on the same island, baby!" he said.

His response to Ned Fulmer's cheating scandal went viral

The Try Guys became engulfed in scandal in September 2022, after Ned Fulmer was caught cheating on his wife with Alex Herring, a producer who worked for their company. The other three members of the group reacted decisively when they jointly tweeted, "Ned Fulmer is no longer working with The Try Guys. As a result of a thorough internal review, we do not see a path forward together."

The trio subsequently issued a video in which they addressed Fulmer's transgressions point blank. "We refused to sweep things under the rug," Yang solemnly declared. "That is not who we are, and is not what we stand for." Yang's stern expression during the course of the video went viral online, and there were some very good reasons for his dismay.

One reason was obviously the betrayal that he and the other Try Guys experienced from Fulmer's behavior, but the other was likely financial. According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Try Guys' various revenue streams had been bringing in an impressive $6 million per year — income that was now jeopardized because of Fulmer. As Eyal Baumel, president of content-creation firm Yoola, explained to THR, the damage that Fulmer did to the brand left the other three Try Guys with no choice but to distance themselves from him. "It's hard to keep working together, and the backlash from the fans and sponsors could really hurt the brand, so they didn't have a lot of other options," he said.

He helped lead the Try Guys' Food Network cooking show

Shortly before the Ned Fulmer scandal erupted, Eugene Lee Yang and his fellow Try Guys took their popular YouTube brand to the Food Network for "No Recipe Road Trip With The Try Guys." The five-episode series featured the quartet journeying to a different American city in each episode. While there, they visited two local eateries, where they attempt to replicate the restaurants' signature menu items without a recipe. As fans of the group's YouTube videos would know, their channel features a "Without a Recipe" series, the without-a-recipe gimmick is one they'd done frequently in the past, with the Food Network series simply adding a new twist to what was already a fan-favorite format.

The Try Guys' Zach Kornfeld offered his take on the group's interpretation of a cooking show in an interview with Distractify. "I think this show is both a spoof and a love letter to traditional cooking shows," he said. He also pointed out that while the others brought some sort of culinary specialization to the table (Fulmer had become interested in baking, while Keith Habersberger was keen on grilling meat), Yang was surprisingly effective while demonstrating no cooking ability whatsoever. "Eugene is not interested, yet somehow intuits his way into being incredible when he least expects it," Kornfeld marveled.

Yang's show-stopping dress at the Oscars exemplifies his daring style

"Nimona" was not only a hit with viewers, but also earned an Oscar nomination for best animated feature. As a member of the cast, Eugene Lee Yang attended the Academy Awards ceremony for the very first time in 2024, and to say that he made a splash is an understatement. When he hit the Oscars red carpet, Yang was decked out in a vibrant red gown that incorporated tuxedo elements.

Yang took to social media to offer more detail about the gown, which, he revealed, technically wasn't a gown at all. "Custom design by Walter Mendez," Yang tweeted. "It's actually not a dress, but a fitted tux jacket paired with a wide pant that blends into a skirt and train. We envisioned the illusion of a gown, depending on the angle you viewed it, while incorporating masculine and feminine elements."

Yang was roundly praised for his bold red-carpet look. "Major style points to Eugene Lee Yang for bringing that bold vibe to the Oscars Red Carpet. Totally slayed it!" read an Instagram post from Filmfare Middle East.

Yang decided to leave the Try Guys

With The Try Guys whittled down from four to three after Ned Fulmer's cheating scandal, in May 2024, Eugene Lee Yang made an announcement that would bring the group's numbers down to just two. In a video he shared on the Try Guys channel, Yang revealed that he was departing the group. "After 10 profoundly impactful years, my time here on YouTube has come to an end," he stated.

As the video progressed, he was joined by Keith Habersberger and Zach Kornfeld. After singing their praises, Yang admitted that it was no secret among all of them that he would eventually be exiting. "The three of us have always held a mutual, empathetic understanding about when the right time was for me to take a bow." That time, Yang explained, had come, with Zach pointing to how busy Yang had become in recent years with his own projects, such as "Nimora." Before concluding the video, Yang insisted that while he would no longer be creating content for YouTube, fans were likely going to be seeing more of him in the future, not less.

"Well, that's it," Yang said, tears welling up in his eyes. "This is my official sign-off from the internet, for the last time, as a Try Guy. And as a guy who still has much to try, I know we'll meet again."

He has plans to make a movie and write some books

Eugene Lee Yang revealed he had a number of big projects in the works after his exit from The Try Guys, reminding fans that writing and directing have always remained his main focus. The biggest project he pointed to was his very first feature film. "I've been writing and developing what will be my directorial debut for some time now," he said. "I can't say more yet, but believe me when I say that it is the unbridled expression of my soul, and I have never been more determined and inspired."

In addition to that movie, Yang also revealed he had something else underway. "As some of you know, I've been hard at work writing my novel, which is the first in an epic queer fantasy duology," he said, explaining the release date had to be pushed, and that the book will be arriving sometime in 2025. In addition, he also revealed he's been working on a graphic novel, which he described as "a twisted horror fantasy musical titled 'Buckaroo.'" 

Beyond all of that, could Yang also be eyeing a future leap into a whole other arena? He hasn't alluded to such, but Yoola president Eyal Baumel told The Hollywood Reporter what he foresaw for Yang. "If you look at Eugene's social media, my prediction is he's going to go into politics," Baumel said, referencing his 2022 support of Texas politician Beto O'Rourke through the Yang-produced documentary, "We Need To Talk About Texas."