I’m not gaslighting anyone. I’m like a news source for younger kids so they can understand what’s going on with their favorite public figures. B: I wouldn’t mind being famous. Sister Spill: I was bored one weekend at home. I definitely tried to make YouTube videos in the past — that are long gone from YouTube — with me in them, but this was the thing that took. So what’s the future going to be like? But then I was like, I also watch tea channels, and at that time, there were only a couple of them. Like, if someone does something that people find really offensive, I would hope that other people don’t go and also do that. And what are some of the challenges the tea community as a whole is facing right now? Especially when you’re talking about brands, when you’re talking about people, it becomes personal. It’s just this innocent thing on Twitter, but then it turned into something very serious. It was a mess, but this is definitely something that happened and things that can happen. I was terrified … You never know where a doxx is going to go, and that’s why it’s dangerous … Like, I don’t really don’t care as I don’t have anything to hide, but I want to protect my information, my family and everything, as much as I can — like anybody would. And I just feel like now, if you’re going to be on the internet, you have to just expect that you’re going to be doxxed at some point. I hope that they would see the video and be like, “Oh my gosh, like, maybe I shouldn’t be doing those things either.”
Sister: There are “good” drama communities that try to avoid judging influencers and don’t allow hate on their platforms. Sesh: Things are really unpredictable: The rules and changes that YouTube makes all the time are really kind of scary. HFTT: We live in a world where stan culture exists, and it’s scary. Right, that makes sense. Little things like this can really lower our credibility, so I think people are right in criticizing tea channels. I started [watching them] and I was thinking, This has a lot of potential, because it was the first kind of videos [popping up in the tea] category … So I started [making my own], and the first video I remember doing was NikkieTutorials annoying Kim Kardashian for three minutes, and it blew up overnight. I want to talk about beauty, but I don’t want to be the focus. You had interaction, you had the love of the fans, but you didn’t get involved in the drama. It’s so weird. And I was getting that type of fame, but through anonymity. Spill Sesh: A lot of the people that I talk about, I’ve just been watching in my free time — except for beauty videos like Jeffree Star. It puts a barrier with my followers and my personal life and what I do. Beef: I was browsing YouTube at one point, and I saw a channel that made [tea] videos. With the threat of demonetization hanging over your head, how do you avoid copyright issues? I woke up and I had, like, thousands of views, and I was like, What is happening? B: I’ve been getting a lot of messages saying, “Oh my God, this is so toxic” … But it’s like, making a story, you know? Sometimes people just hear us say what they did and think we’re trying to hate on them or give them hate. I’m just telling a story to a lot of people, to 500 to 500,000 people. And then I just decided to make a video, right then and there. Yes, I’ve made poor decisions and fucked up and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, I don’t feel like I’m using my platform maliciously. HFTT: You want to show examples, you want to show receipts, you want to show clips. They’re horrible.” I really try not to use those superstrong words, because I do think that at the end of the day, everyone is human. But we all reuse content. And I think in my videos, I try to say, “I wish they did this,” or “I wish they would do this,” and “I wish they would say this,” and not so much be like, “They’re awful. So I don’t know if that’s a bad thing that I was just gossiping. So this was kind of perfect for me. I took a break obviously for personal reasons, and because of the doxxing. Sesh: I do think it’s important to let people change and make space for them to respond, and I think that’s sometimes lost. But you do it because you love it, and I’m not going to live my life in fear and stop doing what I love to do. I’m not making fake videos with fake drama in order to make YouTubers or celebrities beef with each other. I still have so much fun with what I do. I’m not saying lies. Have you ever kind of secretly wished that you could capitalize on the popularity of your channel and become a well-known internet personality yourself? HFTT: That was a big thing, when YouTube started demonetizing like meme channels, because that was mostly reused content. B: I started out of fun. Sesh: I saw Tea Spill doing it, and I was like, Oh my gosh, I don’t even have to be in these videos. And if I do, I try to put them on a graphic or make it look different somehow. It has been a really great thing though, because it’s like a part-time job for me and I’ve been able to afford a new laptop to edit on and even buy myself a car. I think consumers have a right to know. But also I love it. HFTT: I always wanted my channel to kind of be that Gossip Girl vibe. Absolutely not. But in a world where hypervisibility and shameless self-promotion are king, who are the people behind the avatar-fronted accounts endeavoring to hold these influencers accountable — and how do they think about their anonymity? But I think I’m just trying to get across what happened, and I also hope that other people don’t follow their footsteps. Sister: I think there are definitely tea channels who deserve this criticism. After all, you kind of always have to use someone else’s content, because anonymous accounts can’t easily do things like record a talking-head segment. And I always wanted my receipts to speak for themselves. HFTT: YouTube could shut down tomorrow, and there goes your whole YouTube channel that you’ve worked on for ten years with millions of subscribers, and there goes your income, and that’s it. And then money started to come, and the interactions between the people and the followers, and all that it was very exciting. They pair these with misleading titles, claiming that people are dating, etc., even though it’s nowhere near true. And also, it’s very fascinating from a viewer’s perspective … to not know who is on the other side that makes the videos. Sesh: I do have moments where I’m like, Oh my gosh, I wish that I could be on camera, and I know that [for] a lot of other people that are on camera, you get more brand deals, and your Instagram could be another source of income. But I think YouTube is really cracking down on that. So I really just stuck to making sure that most of my content is just screenshots and not really showing a lot of other people’s videos. I see a lot of category change, because a lot [of accounts are moving] from drama to memes … But Instagram doesn’t have these issues. I try to make them have cute graphics, and I just put a lot of effort towards them. Like, Nick and Dustin just bought a car together, and people were trying to contact the dealership to find out if they had bought the car or they were just leasing it. Like, I’ve gone against Jeffree Star for years. My understanding is that [copyright claims are] automated, and there are channels that go down [or] are demonetized out of nowhere for no reason. Speaking of keeping your YouTube channels separate from your personal lives, is privacy the main reason you want to remain faceless? Or is there something missing from that narrative? After all, this misinformation spreads and can lead to cyberbullying or rumors, and that can be dangerous. Sesh: Sometimes I debate like, “Oh, I would love to be on camera or whatever.” But then I think about things like that, and I’m like, “Oh my God, I don’t know.” People are so scary sometimes. HFTT: Holding influencers accountable and revealing the truth behind influencer marketing, I don’t think that’s toxic. So aside from trying to manage your audience and report ethically, what’s the most difficult part about running a tea account? The issues were with YouTube, because YouTube would copyright a lot of videos. And I’ve gone against some pretty big [people]. But that’s why it’s dangerous. You know, I wasn’t monetized. I’m just telling the story and people are hearing my words with their words, and then they come up with a new solution [of] what to do. HFTT: For YouTube drama channels, I think the biggest issue is YouTube and their terms of service and their guidelines … Because they say they’re cracking down on what they consider to be bullying or harassment. Like, that just seems like so much effort. People decide on that themselves. But if they consider drama channels to be bullying or harassment, that’s the end of drama channels. I was just so shaken by it ….But I do it because I still love making videos, and I still love talking about the beauty community. Here For The Tea: I originally wanted to do, like, a beauty channel. Let’s [take] a break and take a step back, and then start again. What made you want to start a tea channel in the first place? I had seen all of this drama between these two girls on Instagram, and I thought I’d make a video about it on a completely new channel [separate from my regular account] for fun. But also, I could see a lot of celebrities — either from me and from other channels — get clout and become even more famous. Sister: People assume that I’m trying to ruin the lives of my subjects, or that I’m trying to publicly “cancel” them, or encourage them to receive hate. It’s quite the opposite. But the whole copyright situation is just really tough, because honestly, anyone could just copyright your video, and it’s really messy. So having this anonymity, it’s only showing my work to the world. HFTT: [When it happened to me], it was horrible. Even at the start, copyright and striking were two main reasons that most of the channels decided to take a step back or even stop doing videos. I honestly never really heard of them before I started getting into drama and stuff. And YouTube will sometimes take your videos down, and they don’t tell you why, they just take it down. You go up against people’s faves, and they protect these people who do not give a fuck about them. It’s way easier. But at the same time, it’s no secret that YouTube commentators like Philip DeFranco are huge, and all of you have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of subscribers. I’m just telling a story and “gossiping.” But instead of doing it in a five-person friend group, I’m doing it [with] 100,000 people. It’s not like it’s always a possibility, and maybe it doesn’t happen to somebody as bad as what happened to me, but I have a lot of friends that do run tea accounts and stuff like that, and most of them have been doxxed. I think I just keep trying to make my content new — like adding a new intro, a new song, new graphics every now and again — to make it seem fresh. I won’t name any specifically, but there are some who deliberately create dramatic thumbnails with entirely false or Photoshopped information in them. Do you feel like that’s a fair assessment? B: Unfortunately, I had to delete [most of my videos] … I privated all my videos, because I decided I wanted to do a fresh start … I was trying to think, Do I still want to do that? Because that’s so effed up.”
I think it’s wild that people would doxx a purposely anonymous channel. Sesh: At the end of the day, I really do enjoy making the videos. I need to just do voice-over. I genuinely have always loved making videos and being creative in this way. More From This Series
Tiffany Ferguson Reacts to Her Video That Won Over the Elusive YouTube Algorithm
Does It Actually Matter Who’s Behind an Anonymous Commentary Channel? I initially used a really tacky voice filter in my first few videos in order to mask how I sounded, but I eventually stopped, because I knew there would be little to no chance that anyone would uncover me solely through my voice. So I had to take the video down, because of them. The community can be toxic, and yeah, I’ve definitely had my share of my moments, but there’s no rule book that comes with this job, so you do have to navigate things on your own. Sesh: I think about it all the time, because I’m just like, Okay, well, this is like my job now. Inside YouTube’s Drama Economy
Here For The Tea, Spill Sesh, Sister Spill, and Beef (formerly BeefTube) on the many challenges and peculiarities facing channels who remain faceless. Where it was just somebody telling the story, but you didn’t know who it was. Even if I was this cookie-cutter YouTuber that had nothing wrong with them, and I had all these followers, someone would still find something to say about my face, about my voice, about everything. So I try to give advice in a way, while still really being honest about what’s going on, what people are saying, what they’ve done, and how upset some people are. And have there been any close calls when it comes to protecting your identity? I would just be paranoid all the time that someone was going to come and get me. I reuse content, but I guess it just depends where it falls in terms of like fair use, or on a scale of whether it’s transformative. And I mean, it’s my job now, so that’s really a big reason why I’m still doing it. So I decided, You know what, I’m going to try and make my own video … and it took off from there. And also a big reason was I was getting [a lot of copyright claims] … So I was thinking, Let’s not lose my channel. B: I would say copyright. I try to be one of those channels, but I can’t say the same for a lot of others. Because I could be anyone I wanted without people judging or anything. Sister: I never made a video with my only intention being to make money. In general, though, making videos is my passion and I’d love to get into the film industry when I’m older, so this is like a dream job for me. Sesh: I’m friends with a lot of drama channels — I talk to Tea Spill, Angelika Oles, Dustin Dailey, Nick Snider — and the ones that are on camera, I must applaud them … Just the things that people try to find out about them [is crazy]. I definitely think that there is a morally acceptable way to report on influencers without encouraging things like hate or doxxing. YouTube can decide literally tomorrow to demonetize your channel, and are half of these people going to continue their channels without being monetized? I think I post things for a purpose: to show people who they’re supporting, and the influencers that they’re supporting, and the brands that they support. I would try to use as little of a clip as possible, [because] I’m not out here trying to re-upload people’s content for the sake of it. B: I never wanted to hurt anyone, or make someone be canceled. Because I was on the verge of losing it, and it was kind of scary. Illustration: by Carolyn Figel
If you’re deeply invested in influencer drama, there’s a good chance you’re just as, if not more, invested in the YouTube tea channels that cover their every scandal, feud, or social-media snafu. And then this person was DMing my information to brands, and from there, one brand sent me a cease and desist. I wasn’t getting anything. Sister: I think once I started blowing up, I knew that staying anonymous wasn’t much of a choice, because I didn’t want to risk anyone at my school finding out it was me. But honestly, I really think it’s the safety thing at the end of the day that makes me think that I couldn’t handle that. It was right in the beginning — I didn’t even have like 100,000 subscribers or anything — but someone managed to find my information and sent it around to all these other drama channels being like, “This is who she is.” But I was friends with all of the people that they had sent them to, so they ended up telling me and were like, “Oh, we just deleted it. These interviews were conducted separately and have been edited for length and clarity. I haven’t made a video in a year, but I’m coming back. Initially, I thought, Oh, I wanted to be like a beauty channel, but then I was like, I don’t really want to be a beauty channel. Plus, I think I’ve always preferred the format that drama channels use — with just text, media, and voice-overs to relay information — rather than someone explaining it to a camera. Confessions of a 32-Year-Old Drama Queen
Tags: That’s not transformative in my opinion. It’s just that. Because at first, she was just doing text videos, so I was doing text, but then I was like, I make a bunch of typos. Sesh: Someone tried to send my information around. HFTT: I mean, I’ve taken a break from videos. So you’re really at the mercy of YouTube all the time. Like, why do you care? So then what went into your initial decision to be anonymous? But I was just watching a video one day, and I saw Tea Spill’s channel, and was like, Wait, I feel like I could do this. I was getting that because I had the followers, I had interaction, it was just not my face being everywhere, which was kind of helping at the same time, because I’m not getting involved in the drama. B: Everyone likes to judge everything and everyone. Not everyone, but a lot of people do. On that note, the biggest argument against tea channels is that they foster a toxic environment online and feed into things like doxxing and cyberbullying. Everyone wants that. B: Me dragging myself into the drama and making videos and doing all of that, I had to be anonymous for legal reasons. Obviously, people make videos because of the money too, so I don’t know. I find meme channels do that a lot, or they’ll put words on the screen or whatever and use five minutes of somebody’s video, but put little captions on the screen. Vulture spoke with four such tea accounts — Here For The Tea, Spill Sesh, Sister Spill, and Beef (formerly BeefTube) — about the many challenges and peculiarities facing channels who remain faceless. Sister: Being a 16-year-old girl, I had dealt with people finding my YouTube channels before, and I figured I’d rather be safe than sorry. I feel like at this point, I’ve been doxxed and everything so I don’t know how it could get worse. But I think it’s important to show that these things do happen on the internet. Plus being anonymous, and no one knowing your real identity was also exciting. Sesh: Last year when all of this stuff was going on with Shane [Dawson], I was watching an interview with Taylor Lorenz, and she was saying it’s accountability culture … That’s what I would like to describe [my channel] as: It’s like seeing influencers do things and wanting them to take accountability and really address things. Which I guess leads me to ask, between these videos being a ton of work, all of the copyright claims, and the potential of being doxxed, why do you keep at it? In the end, it does fall on the shoulders of the tea channel to encourage good behavior, but it’s up to their followers to decide if they want to follow that example. Among this increasingly populated society of one-person outlets that have risen to rival TMZ is a cohort of accounts helmed by completely anonymous creators who reveal only their voices (often distorted) to narrate videos filled with receipts on all the big creators.