Jessica Cox and Tisha Wexstten are two YouTubers who have a unique connection. They recently started a channel together called Life with Feet (formerly Toe Talks) where they share their stories about navigating the world without arms.
Life With Feet
Video Views: 993,027
User created: August 15th, 2017
Both women have developed many creative ways to accomplish the seemingly everyday tasks that other people might take for granted. Through Life with Feet, they’re sharing their experiences and showing their growing audience that with the right attitude, nothing can hold you back.
Jessica and Tisha were both using YouTube for years before Life with Feet. Jessica is a motivational speaker and her personal channel features videos of her flying a plane and surfing. Tisha is currently a college student studying graphic design. She has her own channel called Tisha Unarmed where she’s produced several popular videos including a tutorial on making a sandwich without arms.
Jessica first heard about Tisha because of her channel’s popularity.
“Initially, I just wanted to make the contact with another friend who shared the experience of living without arms. But then I thought, well, what if we did something together?” she says.
Tisha says that from the beginning, they’ve had to deal with the challenges that come with long-distance collaboration. Tisha lives in St. Louis and Jessica lives in Tucson. Making travel plans, coordinating their schedules and coming up with video ideas becomes even more difficult for two creators living 1,500 miles apart.
But just like so many other hurdles in their lives, the distance hasn’t stopped them. “It’s been really fun and interesting working with someone else,” says Tisha.
For Season 1 of the show, they filmed in Tucson. Then for Season 2 they switched to St. Louis.
When they were in Tucson, Jessica took Tisha to a Taekwondo class. And in St. Louis, Tisha introduced Jessica to art.
“We kind of alternate locations and make it work so that we each have the comfort zone of our own city that we live in and ideas of what we would be doing in our own hometown,” Jessica says.
The Life with Feet Production Process
The pre-production process is usually long-distance, over the phone. Tisha says they try to talk once a week about video ideas and things that are going on in their lives. They plan out each episode and finalize shooting locations and permissions before they even meet up.
“When we started Life with Feet, I realized it was this whole new level of dabbling in production work and becoming this unofficial producer, and for me, it was a logistical juggle,” says Jessica.
With Life with Feet, Jessica and Tisha started working with cinematographers and editors. Compared to their personal channels, they both agree that this is a much different workflow. It can sometimes be a communication challenge working with a partner to choose video ideas and a production crew.
The crew usually includes about four people — a camera operator and an assistant, a production assistant (who also helps with makeup, wardrobe and social media) and an editor.
Compared to their personal channels, they both agree that this is a much different workflow.
For upcoming seasons, they’re thinking of moving away from this model and trying to film their own videos, using more of a vlogging style. The logistical challenges of working with a crew have been an adjustment for the ladies of Life with Feet, but it’s nothing they can’t handle.
“It’s challenging our communication skills; it’s challenging our organizational skills,” Jessica reflects.
For Jessica, one of her favorite parts about working on Life with Feet has been experiencing growth both as a person and a producer.
“I’m learning how to be a team player. It’s easy to be a boss, but when you’re trying to be on a team, you can’t call all the shots; it doesn’t work like that,” she says.
Tisha’s favorite part about the channel is hearing from subscribers and seeing how the Life with Feet videos are changing their lives. She says they’ll hear from other people who don’t have arms who learned something from Life with Feet and maybe gained a little bit more independence in their everyday lives.
“I get to meet the people who are on the other side of the screen and it gives me so much joy to see how much we’ve helped them,” says Tisha.
Jessica sees the videos as a way to pass on the knowledge she’s learned and maybe help a younger person who is struggling with similar physical challenges.
“When I think of these videos I think of talking to the younger Jessica, to the younger self, and what I would have wanted to hear as a teenager dealing with self-acceptance, dealing with body image and being insecure,” she says.
The Life with Feet videos certainly resonate with viewers who have physical disabilities, but the appeal of their content also reaches a much broader audience.
Seeing their channel resonating in both big and small ways is what makes this project important.
They’ve heard from viewers who are struggling with depression and people just having a bad day, who say they’ve been inspired by the Life with Feet stories. Seeing their channel resonating with viewers in both big and small ways is what makes this project so important for Tisha and Jessica.
YouTube’s comment sections can sometimes be a source of negative comments, and the Life with Feet crew has dealt with their fair share of trolls and negative feedback. But Jessica says that these kinds of responses to their videos will never outweigh the positive feedback they get from viewers.
“You can make fun of me all you want, it’s not going to change who I am,” says Tisha.
Jessica and Tisha keep Life with Feet a family friendly channel and they do monitor their comments for inappropriate content. They don’t erase all negative comments, only something that’d be inappropriate for a younger viewer.
“If it was all good comments it wouldn’t make it entertaining, would it?” says Jessica.
For Jessica, who comes from more of an amateur YouTube background, the success of Life with Feet has been a bit of a pleasant surprise. She says she wasn’t necessarily expecting their content to resonate with such a broad audience, beyond the viewers with physical disabilities.
Tisha’s personal channel went viral soon after she launched several years ago. So for her, the success of Life with Feet wasn’t unexpected.
“I feel like our content and our videos and what we’re trying to say is so inspirational to not only my audience, but Jessica’s audience, and combining the two could really resonate with a lot of people out there,” Tisha says.
Jessica says YouTube is a great educational tool, and through the platform’s broad reach, she’s eager to connect with more creators and viewers.
Recently, the Life with Feet duo hosted the disability networking group at VidCon. Jessica and Tisha were able to meet with other YouTubers with disabilities, and Jessica says this experience was eye-opening.
“If there’s anyone out there with a disability who wants to YouTube, I say go for it,” she says.
Jessica believes YouTube can reach more people than almost any other platform, and as long as someone has a computer and internet access, YouTube’s content is free. In her career as a motivational speaker, she’s met people with disabilities all over the world. In other countries, people with disabilities are sometimes confined to their homes, without access to wheelchairs or other resources. She hopes that Life with Feet videos will reach and inspire these kinds of viewers worldwide.
“You’re able to touch people in a way through YouTube, that no other source can,” she says.
Tisha says some people might think they need a fancy camera or lighting setup in order to be successful on YouTube.
“I started out with a small little camcorder, using a window for lighting,” she explains. “At the end of the day it’s all about the content and what you want to provide to your audience.”
Growing the Channel
Life with Feet uses Patreon to bring in financial support from their viewers. They also monetize their channel through advertising, but so far, most of the money they’ve earned has gone back into the production process. Tisha’s advice for other creators is to start monetizing as soon as possible.
Moving forward, Life with Feet has hired a manager who will advise them on how to grow the channel and become better YouTubers.
The team plans to switch to more of a vlogging style with their videos, which will allow them to film in two different locations and save on travel costs. Tisha says through vlogging they will be able to give people more of a down to Earth look into their everyday lives.
In general, the team hopes to grow their viewers and subscribers to reach more people with their inspirational message.
“I’m driven to wake up every morning and be excited about Life with Feet,” Jessica says. “It’s hard to find something you’re passionate about and when you have that drive and that desire and passion, it really makes a difference. I don’t even see it as work.”