Minutes after watching their guests for the day park on the curb of a picturesque New Jersey abode, a set of smiling faces come to the door. The cheerful hosts, lively five-year-old twin girls, chat about the clattering change in their rainbow-colored rubber wallets and shower their visitors with salutations. Shortly after admiring their father’s production room and fan-created art of their family of five, the identical twin cuties lead a photoshoot in their living room. In true twin fashion, they own matching pink Instax Mini Polaroid cameras.
According to their parents Justin and Ami McClure, Ava—who’s wearing a multi-colored striped dress and is one minute older than her sister—is the more reserved of the twins, while Alexis, who’s styled in a navy and white dress, is predicted to be the “class clown” in the future. However, the girls smile and share how they can be told apart by their earrings.
All in all, it’s difficult not to smile when around the McClure Twins, and it has also proven even harder to ignore their budding social media empire. Ava and Alexis McClure have garnered a serious online following, racking in over one million YouTube subscribers, 1.5 million Instagram followers and 1.2 million Facebook fans. Their videos, recorded and edited by their father, often involve them answering questions about life, experiencing different lifestyles and people, and obviously being too adorable for words.
The twins’ aww-inspiring videos like the viral “Twins Realize They Look The Same” have given way to several endeavors, such as modeling work and a weekly Facebook show titled Discovery Twins. Thanks to these experiences, the girls were featured on Forbes’ 2017 Top Kid Influencers, making them the youngest children (and the only ones of color) on the list. Their parents say that they started their popular YouTube channel as a way to document special moments for their children as they grow, and that they’re not fully aware of their Internet celebrity just yet.
“We make it a big deal in the way that we want them to be very grateful,” Justin explains, referring to how he and his wife explain “celebrity” to their daughters. “So they’re very encouraged to take pictures with people that are nice to them. When they’re 30 and they wanna know who they were, they can watch these videos and maybe appreciate the effort.”
“Even though they realize that people recognize them, it’s not fully in their head,” Ami adds. “They’re like, ‘What about our brother?’ You know, that’s how they turn it around.” The twins casually sneak their infant brother, Jersey, into the conversation a few times during the playdate. It’s safe to say they’re his biggest fans.
What draws viewers to the McClure Twins’ videos is the girls’ infectious personalities and sugar-coated innocence. Whether they’re spilling their hair care secrets while their mother tames their curly tresses or explaining why they don’t want husbands, there’s never a dull moment for their subscribers.
“We were just like, these girls are funny, and that’s when we would start doing little twin talks. ‘Let’s just sit them down and see what they’re going to say,’” Justin explains.
“I think the funny thing is that people people are like, ‘You’re using your kids for this and that,’” Ami says. “Do people understand how many families are trying to propel their kids in this way? There was no way for us to have predicted any of this at all. It’s fun; it still is fun because they’re funny. Sitting down talking to them is also a way to make sure we spend time with them.”
Mr. and Mrs. McClure initially started talking on a dating app but never met in-person. Then by chance in 2014, they crossed paths and began officially dating. They are raising the children as a blended family. It was recently revealed in a video on the family’s YouTube channel that Justin is not the twins’ biological father; he adopted them when his relationship with Ami—who initially considered raising the babies by herself—became more serious. Ava and Alexis were just one year old when Justin stepped in. Regardless of who helped to create Ava and Alexis, Justin says he will always be their father, and that their family was meant to be.
“[Justin] got to the point where he was clear he wanted to adopt them,” Ami says. “I was like, ‘You realize that means you’re taking responsibility, not just that you’re here. If something happens to us where we’re not together, or if something happens to me, you are still responsible for these kids.’ And he’s like, ‘yeah, I know.’”
“I let the girls know deliberately that I was always meant to be their Dad,” he says later. “I look at the girls close enough, I could see me in them. It just doesn’t matter.”
Other than being a blended family, the McClures are also a biracial one. Ami is a striking Nigerian-born woman with high cheekbones and magnificent melanin, and Justin is a white man with piercing blue eyes and salt-and-pepper facial hair, who hails from the Southern United States. The couple is working to make sure that their three children are aware that they are black, but are accepting of their multiculturalism as a whole.
“It’s important for them to understand that regardless if they’re biracial, their outer look when somebody first looks at them if they don’t know us is black,” Ami explains. “I make sure that they understand, ‘you are a little black girl or a little black boy and you will be perceived as this, but you also can be whoever you want to be as in personality. Don’t feel like it’s a box you have to fit into because of that. Know that’s a part of who you are. I would love for you to embrace it and know about it and have the knowledge of it, but also don’t feel like you have to walk around wearing Ankara [print].’”
“I do want them to embrace specifically Mommy’s side, because I think there’s more rich culture there,” Justin admits. “I love the South, I love where I come from, I really do. I love everything about it, but I’m not big on like, ’you gotta know these things.’”
Not only is being in a family a special as the McClures rewarding for the girls, but also for their parents. Mr. McClure has been open with his past struggles with sobriety, and recently found himself in hot water after old tweets resurfaced. A candid video conversation between him and his wife tackled the comments head-on. “Those statements could have very well come from the mouth of someone who was spewing racist hate,” Ami says to her husband in the over 13-minute-long video.
“Why I said those things was ego and white privilege,” Justin explains before apologizing to his wife. “Even though I’ve had a lot of growth, my words then hurt a lot of people.”
“I had lived a life of partying and alcohol and comedy, and I just knew that I was kind of reaching for something more in life,” he says. According to him, he experienced significant emotional and mental growth when he met Ami and her daughters. “My empathy [towards Ami’s situation] made my heart open up big time, and obviously the girls had a big effect, but I think it was just me allowing myself to just open up to her and then understanding more of her story. This is the one time that my heart was kind of hooked into a situation.”
During the hour-long discussion, Justin is also prompted about the importance of the healing power of a black woman in his life, and how he’s learning to grow as a person by being with Ami. “She’s always there to help,” he says, glancing at his wife. “[By the time we met], I was sober. So she and I? Right place right time for both people. I always found, physically, that woman of color are beautiful, then it was like, ‘oh there’s something there, they’re different than me.’ I just felt like I should know another culture and I should really learn who somebody is and I should understand the story.”
What are some of the benefits of sharing their family with the world? Mr. and Mrs. McClure believe that spreading positivity and teaching their daughters and viewers a thing or two are some of the most rewarding aspects of their Internet platform. The girls continue to learn about others and their differences through the Discovery Twins Facebook series. On the show, they’ve met and spent time with Chazzy, a young boy with cerebral palsy, and met a service dog named Savannah while learning the importance of the animal’s occupation.
“I understand we affect people’s lives sometimes, but it’s so general that you don’t always feel the complete impact,” Ami says of the Discovery Twins series. “When you take the time to look back at something that you did, it’s like, ‘I see it, I really feel and see this.’”
Naturally, negativity is always something the family is privy to when it comes to putting their family online. However, they try to stay away from it and they shield their daughters from trolls. “When we see [negativity], we don’t respond to it, but it’s just like, why would you watch a video like that and that’s your comment?” Justin asks.
Not only do they hope Ava, Alexis and Jersey spread positivity in their present lives, they also hope that they keep it up in the future with whatever endeavors they take part in.
“You see so many kids that are just doing pranks and challenges and all these things that are just made for getting attention. We want [Ava and Alexis] to be beautiful and funny, but use their influence to make their world, hopefully, a little bit better,” Justin says. “That would make us successful as parents.”
“I hope that their generation can do better than [mine] did as far as unifying people, and just making sure people feel like it doesn’t matter that you’re black or that you’re white,” Ami chimes in. “…I think as the girls get older, they can probably break that barrier to just have support because of who they are. That would, to me, be the greatest accomplishment for us as parents, to say, okay these girls make people stop thinking about what they look like, and make them just think about how they’re great.”