Skrillex Interviews 100 gecs About the Future of Music

You’d be hard pressed to find a group in 2019 that made more old guard music critics and industry insiders clutch their pearls than 100 gecs. The collaborative project of producers Dylan Brady and Laura Les, 100 gecs released last year their iconoclastic debut album, 1000 gecs, and people haven’t stopped attempting to explain its popularity ever since.

A dizzying mix of pop-punk, dubstep, ska, nightcore, deconstructed club, hyperpop and more are distilled into a tight, 23-minute barrage of unlikely anthems and aural non-sequiturs. From the rapidfire barrage of meme-able taunts that kickoff “money machine” to the gnarled distorted drops that punctuate the choruses of “xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx.” 100 gecs brings a strange maximalism to a less-is-more mentality. It’s information overload, but also viscerally fun — music that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but should at the same time be taken seriously.

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The world might have initially been caught off guard by 100 gecs’ arrival, but by the end of the year the duo was opening for names like Brockhampton, landing on lineups for mega-festivals like Coachella and Primavera, and selling out their own headlining spots across the country. Their forthcoming remix album, 1000 gecs & The Tree of Clues, stands as a testament to Dylan and Laura’s impact, with reimaginings of their tracks from Charli XCX, Rico Nasty, A. G. Cook, Dorian Electra and Injury Reserve.

Part of the 100 gecs phenomenon does feel symptomatic of a Gen Z mindset. An accelerated reimagining of pop, 100 gecs’ whiplash-inducing ability to cram iconic lyrics and instrumental acrobatics into a few seconds at a TikTok-like pace sets them apart from more established industry acts trying to keep up with a generation predisposed to creating infinite streams of content. There is a cynic tendency to see this as striving towards some sort of pop music singularity, but it’s actually working to blur the arbitrary distinctions between genres in the interests of a more liberated future.

But 100 gecs wasn’t made in a vacuum. They sit at the forefront of a new guard of producers who grew up hearing Crazy Frog and Eiffel 65’s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” on the radio; they came of age as blog house giants like Justice and Mr. Oizo gave way to EDM megastars like Avicii and Diplo; they were inspired by how A. G. Cook and SOPHIE pushed high gloss pop to new experimental extremes. Les herself is only the latest in a long line of trans and nonbinary artists like Arca and the aforementioned SOPHIE to use modulation and vocal effects to play with gender in their work. Now, it’s this generation’s turn to step up and shape the musical landscape.

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It’s telling that many new faces from this rapidly rising scene have already been taken in under Brady’s wing through his own Dog Show Records with artists like Gupi, Fraxiom, Alice Longyu Gao and Folie rounding out the label’s roster. On their breakout cult hit, “Thos Moser,” Gupi and Fraxiom even go so far as to name-check 100 gecs and their infamous NYU performance singing that “the energy I felt there got me fucked now/ ‘Cause now I think I might have some kind of luck now.”

When considering the parallels between the rise of 100 gecs and Skrillex, it’s almost uncanny. Both rocketed to stardom with a polarizing sound that unintentionally became a meme and its own genre, and both are basically unparalleled in their distinctive approaches to sound design. Like Brady, Skrillex founded early in his career the label, OWSLA, to support artists he believed in and foster a community around their music.

Naturally, it was fitting to bring all three together for 100 gecs’ PAPER Pride cover to talk about music, fame and a bunch of other random shit.

Skrillex: The first time we met and I actually walked in on the very tail end of your performance opening for Brockhampton in LA. I was so bummed because your album was one of the most exciting things that happened in the whole decade. I really mean that.

Dylan Brady: Thank you so much, that means a lot.

Laura Les: That means everything.

Skrillex: I appreciate it on so many levels. It’s so 2020, but at the same time, it’s unpredictable. Like hearing the album, hearing all the influences, I think it’s one of the most exciting projects in the decade. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s just my personal opinion.

Dylan: Thank you so much.

Laura: Obviously we think the fucking world of you as well, when you were talking about the influences, like you are a huge part.

Skrillex: I assume we have similar [approaches]. For instance, I came out doing stuff that was taking this and that, not even being a master at any of it, but just being unhinged and going at it. Like taking trance, dubstep, emo, my vocals and not even knowing what I was doing, but feeling so inspired in the moment and just going 110% without looking back. I just want to say that as my personal quick little love for you. Now back to the questions, let’s start with Dylan. Dylan, how are you feeling?

Dylan: A mixed bag, for sure. But feeling pretty good today. There’s been a lot of things happening in the world. Hard to take in.

Skrillex: I watched this little MTV clip you both did. You were just talking about how so much has been going on, I don’t feel like fucking writing a song. I don’t have something to say [right now]. That rang really true to me. I feel the same way. It doesn’t matter, like fuck your Grammys, fuck your status, fuck your followers.

“What we try to do is be honest, give ourselves to the thing that we’re doing and not feel like we have a persona as much as just being ourselves.” — Laura Les

Dylan: Yeah, definitely. A lot of people are coming together right now. It’s really cool to see. It’s not about all this other stuff that seems kind of meaningless right now. Very real life human lives. We’ve moved [the remix album] back multiple times because of all these things, it just doesn’t feel right to do it yet. It’s no rush.

Skrillex: Yeah, for sure. Laura, how about you? What’s your perspective on what it’s like to be an artist. And do you feel like myself, do you feel human as shit right now? Does it feel weird thinking about campaigns and stuff like that? How do you feel?

Laura: Definitely. Like Dylan said, we’ve been trying to be as human as possible with all of it and taking into account, who wants to hear this fucking remix album right now? Who wants anything other than complete attention on the things that matter? I feel like it’s going to be a weird transition going back to whatever, even before this time of intense humanity, there’s this stark difference in life and public perception from before the album to now. When it’s getting promoted on people’s social media feeds and stuff, there’s sort of a loss of humanity to it. Definitely trying to reconnect with what matters.

Skrillex: To me y’all are the definition of humanity. When I see your art, hear your music, it’s just so connectable in so many ways. To me, you are so human.

Laura: Thank you, I take that as a huge, huge compliment. What we try to do is be honest, give ourselves to the thing that we’re doing and not feel like we have a persona as much as just being ourselves.

Skrillex: Right. You use big music and it speaks for itself, right? The art, the vision and the sound, it all creates this image of 100 gecs.

Laura: Hopefully. You saying that makes it feel like it works.

Skrillex: I’ll ask you two this: what was the record that you put on and never were the same after? For me, it was for me it was Siamese Dream, which was a Smashing Pumpkins album, it was the first time I heard the sound of a distorted guitar.

Laura: The crazy thing, probably, if I had to pick one song, it would probably be “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.” It changed everything. This mix of fucking, just extreme energy and maybe even aggression, but not aggression for aggression’s sake, aggression to be real because life is fucking crazy. It’s a hot banger aside from the insane sound design. I think that really that was a huge, maybe the biggest, a-ha moment.

Dylan: That was a huge moment for me too like, fuck.

Laura: I’m so glad I got to go first.

Dylan: Stevie Wonder “Close to You,” The Carpenters cover on YouTube, that was pretty big. Frank [Ocean] ended up sampling that on his album.

Skrillex: Okay, I know The Carpenters and obviously I know Stevie Wonder, but I hadn’t seen that.

Dylan: It is a great, great clip.

Skrillex: What about it?

Dylan: Just things that are vocal-ish, but aren’t really vocals, I love that. Like the early Eiffel 65 shit, all that autotune stuff. Then the Talk Box was a completely different thing that I’d never seen. Just vocal fuckery in general.

Skrillex: Can we talk about how our ears have been conditioned to autotune. Do you remember listening to Cher and hearing, “Do you believe…”

Dylan: Yeah, like the one second.

Skrillex: But now when you listen to it, you can’t even hear the autotune.

Laura: It’s funny because you definitely hear it with the Disney remakes that they’ve been making. It’s really stark, but I think nothing of super hard autotune type-shit. It makes me almost want to go to the softer one just because it’s even more apparent now.

Skrillex: Justice’s Cross was also a crazy moment.

Laura: Justice’s Cross was fucking massive for me, as well.

Dylan: Yeah. So fucking crazy.

Skrillex: Oh my god.

Laura: Or the live album that they did, A Cross the Universe. They had one song on it, I tried to find it later but I couldn’t figure out which song it was in, that has a Devo sample with these drill sounds. I was like, what the fuck? This is crazy. It reminds me of the Daft Punk live album where they do “Face to Face” into “Aerodynamic,” but they have the vocal looping.

Skrillex: Or “Around the World” with “One More Time” at the same time.

Laura: Yeah, I wasn’t going to DJ gigs or whatever. There was like Girl Talk, but I wasn’t really hearing crazy artists mashing their own shit into each other.

Skrillex: I agree. Just seeing Daft Punk and Justice, that’s why I wanted to get into it. I was DJing a little bit here and there, but I didn’t want to go out and be a DJ. When I saw Daft Punk, exactly like you said Laura, [I was inspired by] how they mashed up their vocals together and created this new surprising twist.

Laura: While we’re on this tangent of French shit, Mr. Oizo also. That was massive for me too. I’m trying to remember the specific names, not “Flat Beat” but “Positif.” Several tracks off Lambs Anger, where it sounds coming at you and you’re like, What’s going on?

Skrillex: It’s almost like you’re scrolling through the radio the whole time, just random samples.

Laura: So beautiful. It’s the same vibe I got with the vocal chops on “Scary Monsters,” so fast and flashing and right in your face. It’s definitely a vibe.

Skrillex: Thank you. Dylan, we put a project out on OWSLA with you and Josh Pan and we’ve obviously been friends for a while. I was just thinking the other day, about that time we went to Sunset Sound. I was like, Yo, I want to just get a cool studio, get a bunch of real gear and churn out samples. I’ve never done that. I heard Pretty Lights did that and Mark Ronson’s done a lot of that stuff too. So that’s what we did. We rented Sunset Sound, the Purple Rain room where Prince did “Purple Rain.” Had the best gear, full drum sets, full keyboards, guitar, bass, everything plugged in and ready to go. And we were just jamming.

Laura: We Are Your Friends type-vibe.

Skrillex: Wait, We Are Your Friends, which one is that? Oh, that movie!

Laura: Yeah, he’s like, I wanna make something real—.

Skrillex: That’s funny. That’s the one, the EDM thing they tried to do.

Dylan: That’s the Zac Efron movie, yeah.

Laura: They’re like 124 BPM—.

Skrillex: And he’s like, “This is how you raise the BPM.”

Dylan: The circulatory system.

Skrillex: Now that we had COVID and all this social distance, we should start like — I was talking to Gary Richards actually and I think he’s doing this with HARD. I hope he does. But he wants to take the drive-in concept and do fun things. Like drive-in theaters, you know what I mean?

Laura: We had one of those in St. Louis. I remember going to it when I was super, super young. I would not watch the movie at fucking all. I was in the back of the car with my Gameboy. I was chilling.

Skrillex: Wait, you two are from St. Louis?

Dylan: Yeah. Originally.

Skrillex: And you have known each other for a long time. I don’t even know — this is so lame — I don’t know how you guys linked up and how the band started. Was it just online? Did you guys know each other in person?

Dylan: We met in high school and were just friends from high school.

Skrillex: So cool. So lame that I didn’t even know that.

Laura: It’s so lame you don’t know our life story.

Skrillex: You guys just did everything online. Nothing you’ve put out you’ve done in the same room, right?

Dylan: Very little. We made some of the beats, but none of the vocals or anything.

Laura: Yeah. When we shot the “Money Machine” video, Dylan was here. So we did some shit. I still hate that all the time that you were [in Chicago], I couldn’t get off work. I was so tired when we shot the “Money Machine” video. I had to work at five in the morning.

Skrillex: What job were you working in the middle of all that?

Laura: It is a cross between a coffee shop and an empanada restaurant.

Skrillex: Sick.

Laura: It was fine.

Skrillex: So you’re not working there anymore?

Laura: No, I’m not working there anymore. I was so excited when I figured out that I could probably quit my job. I was like, “Fuck yes!” I hate fucking serving rich people empanadas all the time.

Skrillex: Did you have any show that made you want to be a performer?

Laura: Yeah, for sure. Well, it’s funny because the two super memorable shows from St. Louis that I saw, my first concert was seeing Van Halen when they went back on tour with David Lee Roth and I was really into classic rock and Dylan was at that show. We didn’t know each other. Then the other super good one that was crazy live vibes was seeing Death Grips in a really tiny room. Dylan was also at that.

Skrillex: Laura, you were mentioning how there’s this whole like personification and there’s like two different — I want you to keep expanding on that.

Laura: I was saying that it’s a really odd sensation to notice the shift from a year ago to now where there’s been such a saturation and a popularity with our music. We’re not fucking Bieber, but people are so much more comfortable to talk about, and to us, as these crystalline identities rather than just as people.

Skrillex: I hadn’t heard that term before, “crystalline identities.” Can you explain what that means?

Laura: I don’t want to make it seem like, Boohoo, we’re so famous that it’s so hard. But it’s definitely something that develops over time that people feel like they know you much more than they actually do. I had a conversation with someone that was really helpful with those feelings because he put it into terms like that. I was like, Damn, that’s fucking true.

Skrillex: [It happens] all of a sudden and you don’t even notice it. That was a lot for me to adjust to even in my first band, when you read stuff, they really just don’t know you. It’s a weird sort of bump, but you get over it. They’re going to say things, they’re going to talk about it. It’s crazy to think that outside of music people are interested in my life and think they know about it.

Laura: A jarring, weird thing is people record our Instagram lives now. Because I always think of that as more of an intimate moment. I was changing guitar strings or something and seeing that on somebody’s YouTube channel, that’s so fucking weird.

Skrillex: Right? Like the fandoms.

Laura: At the same time you don’t really want to complain because it’s flattery and good, this idea that what you’ve done at least warrants that attention. But also damn, I didn’t realize the album was that fucking good?

“Eventually want to be selling out Madison Square Garden. I don’t know what’s going to be in between that.” — Dylan Brady

Skrillex: It’s never the thing you’re just trying to premeditate that is going to be the biggest thing. That goes back to being human. What connects to people naturally is your most natural, real essence. That could be stretched out in 15 years, it could be Avatar and you’re fucking James Cameron taking that long to make it. But it’s still his pure vision. I think more than ever in critical moments, what are people going to care about? It’s bigger than music, you know?

Laura: Don’t want to be bigger than music. Definitely just want to be music.

Skrillex: I started to tell a story and then I veered off. Ultimately, when I saw Daft Punk play live, I walked into that room and I saw the most diverse crowd of my whole life. That was the moment I realized, This is where I want to be, because I’d rather it be not about me and be in about the best room ever, where everyone’s having a good time. Everyone’s smiling.

Laura: It’s real for sure. We’ve talked to a lot of people after shows and people say stuff like they don’t usually come to shows, they don’t feel comfortable going to shows a lot, but they’ll come to our show, get together and everybody fucking dances to “Hamster Dance” before the set starts. That shit’s amazing.

Skrillex: That’s what I love about you, there is that fun. I don’t wanna say there’s a silliness to it, but it is silly kind of — and I love silly, I have a silliness to my music. — But “arms like little fucking cigarettes,” I love that. It pulls you out for a second. That’s that human stuff. Would you ever let me come out as a guest guitar player on one of your songs live?

Laura: We would encourage that. Yes, of course.

Skrillex: I’m going to be that dude, 10 years from now, that everyone’s like, Ugh, him again, screw him. Just coming out on people’s sets with guitars.

Laura: I’ve told Dylan many times that I think my late career is just a bassist in some kind of fucking rock band, like a bassist-singer-songwriter.

Skrillex: You can hang by the drummer, don’t have to warm your voice.

Laura: I’m like, Yo, what song do you guys want to hear? They’re like, Play “Money Machine.” I’m like, Damn, I haven’t heard anyone say that in fucking years.

Skrillex: So in terms of performing, concerts and how we get ourselves out there in the new [post-COVID-19] world of live music, have you thought about that? Where do you see the future as a dreamer? 100 gecs? A thousand gecs? A bajillion gecs? A whole bucket of gecs? What do y’all think about the future in those terms?

Dylan: It would be crazy if people can’t go back to doing normal festivals. It’ll definitely be crazy fucking URL shit though. The Travis Scott shit.

Laura: In general it seems like we’re all not necessarily going to go straight online, but this mix of trying to bring more technology into the real world. Not logging on, but you’re always logged in, type of thing. Maybe something like that.

Skrillex: We know that right now in paradigm shifts, empires crumble, institutions change, right. The power goes back to the innovator, the artist and all this shit. I think if we don’t have these bigger festivals, I’m thinking you can really take advantage of small clubs right now. Small clubs and streaming at the same time, I think what’s special about this moment is how much you can still work. We’re more connected than ever. We’re always on. So mixing live with the streaming in ways where it’s about how it feels and back to the energy. Maybe it’s not all about LED walls and shit. That stuff doesn’t translate on TV anyway and plus I’m bored of seeing these fucking LED walls all day.

Laura: I would love to go out and see one of those right now.

Skrillex: An LED wall? Trust me. If the virus was gone and EDC was happening tomorrow and we could all go, I’d be there too. This is exciting because the internet came through and just completely took us all on this left turn. I’m eager and excited for the left turns of this next decade.

Laura: I think more than anything, all these online events being more in the spotlight will sort of push the idea that it’s not so shocking and such a new idea. People have been throwing Second Life raves and IMVU raves for so long, maybe now it’ll be looked at differently now it’s been thrust into everyone’s foreground.

Skrillex: So true. It’s more of a necessity. Do you have any goals of where and how you see your music? Are you thinking about your career as 100 gecs 10 years from now? Or are you just only living in the moment?

Dylan: Thinking about the next album. Eventually want to be selling out Madison Square Garden. I don’t know what’s going to be in between that.

Laura: It’s like the next album, question mark, question mark, question mark, selling out Madison Square Garden.

Skrillex: I’m going to do so much more shit than I’ve already done. I mean like different shit. I want to do animation. I want to do movies. I want to do more touring. Especially now that there’s like way less DJing, actually.

Laura: Where do you go after the “Cinema” remix? Where do you go after everything that you’ve done? That must be a crazy point in your career where you’ve pushed things so far in so many directions.

Dylan: Time and time again.

Laura: You did fucking “Face My Fears.” It’s such a fucking massive record.

Dylan: Jack Ü.

Laura: Yeah, Jack Ü. Holy shit. I don’t know if you’ve heard this, we’ve said it in a couple of interviews, but before we made our first EP in 2015 we listened to the whole Jack Ü record front to back in the car on the way to Chicago from St. Louis. That shit’s fucking so sick.

Skrillex: That makes me so happy.

Laura: What do you do with yourself after [all that]?

Skrillex: You become more human, it’s the best. You don’t need to care about anything. You’re gonna do all this, trust me. 100 gecs is going to go past all your dreams. You’re going to have dreams you thought you never had and you’re going to hit those. I hit so many of my dreams and more. All I wanted to do was play Coachella as Skrillex. If I could just play Coachella, I’m good. I did more than I ever thought I would and now I’m just appreciating. If I could go back and tell myself about the last 10 years, it was hard to appreciate a lot of moments as I was in it really going full steam.

Dylan: 300 shows that one year, for real.

Laura: For real? I didn’t hear that, that’s nuts.

Skrillex: More, it was like 300 and something.

Laura: That’s so crazy. Definitely feeling what you said a minute ago. You hit all the goals. I had very, very simple goals. I decided a couple years ago we wanted to do Coachella and it ended up not happening, but even just the fact that we were asked. It’s almost existential crisis mode where it’s like, What else is there? Dylan is very good at thinking about huge picture shit. Like playing Madison Square Garden. I’m like, Shit I can afford to go out. I used to have to borrow money because I couldn’t go buy cigarettes. I’ve had to borrow money for rent and shit. Not having to do that. Being able to go out every day and if I’m hungry, I can go fucking buy whatever food and RedBull and shit. That’s pretty much the dream.

Dylan: I have one question for you, Sonny.

Skrillex: Go ahead. Ask me.

Dylan: It’s about the Jack Ü snare. That is a cultural reset of a snare right there.

Laura: Yeah. Wait, when we were talking about things that influenced us, maybe I have to edit my answer and change it to just the Jack Ü snare. Like how?

Dylan: What was going through your head?

Skrillex: Just eagle talons going [sound], these fucking giant golden eagle talons. Honestly, you know what it was, I was like, I’m not going to put a snare drum in the song. I’m going to find the most cool percussion and just fuck it up. I found this little sound, pitched it and compressed it. I wish I had the chain so I could show you, it was like a compressed transient master, compressed OTT, transient master again, reverb, take the reverb back. Just so destroyed until it was this brick.

Dylan: Absolutely beautiful and amazing.

Laura: Truly, if one sound could change the entire landscape of music, it is the Jack Ü snare.

Skrillex: Yeah. I’m ready for the new, new. What’s gonna be the next ear tickle we all get?

Laura: You have to. You’re feeding the whole people, everyone with beautiful candy for ears.

Skrillex: You too.

Dylan: Thank you so much, this means so much that you did this and it’s so cool to talk to you about so many things.

Laura: Seriously.

Skrillex: I was really excited to do this too. I don’t really ever talk either about myself. I have a real admiration for you two. I love it just as a music fan. It’s beautiful, keep bringing love and beauty to people forever. All the young people under us, you’re going to be in a position where people will come up to you and be like, Oh my god, 100 gecs blah, blah, blah. It’s going to happen. A Hundred Million gecs percent, Billion gecs.

Laura: Thank you so much.

Skrillex: All the gecs and the little geckos everywhere and let’s keep spreading that, let’s keep the love.

For our 2020 Pride cover series, PAPER tapped photographer Bryan Huynh — and his team of digital art pros led by Rodolfo Hernandez and Willem Stapel — to reimagine our subjects, sculpt their bodies and transport them into otherworldly environments.

The experimental production began with a Zoom — connecting with each talent over video and talking them through the process of a face/ head scan iPhone app. Once the rough scans were exported, Huynh went back in to fine-tune facial details, humanizing the rudimentary imagery. Alongside subjects’ features, Huynh’s team sculpted digital bodies posing talent into positions that would match their unique environments, which were also digitally made by hand.

When it came to the fashion, stylist Matthew Josephs worked closely with our cover stars, as if they were on set, to ensure their individual aesthetics translated in pictures. Josephs sent the final looks to Huynh’s team, who then built the clothing into their 3-D spaces.

Three months of dedicated hard work later under COVID-19 restrictions, PAPER is proud to present this year’s Pride portfolio.

Photography: Bryan Huynh
Fashion editing: Matthew Josephs
3D art lead: Willem Stapel
Art direction: Jonathan Conrad

Makeup: Raisa Flowers
3D clothing design: David Willems
3D face art: Patrick Blankenzee

Tana Mongeau Responds to Racial Slur Accusations

Tana Mongeau has responded to musician and fellow YouTuber Kahlen Barry about racist comments she’d made in the past.

Earlier this month, Barry — who used to run a channel with Mongeau several years ago — took to his Twitter to post a note in which he said that she “invalidated” his feeling regarding her past use of the N-word, before asking her to use her platform to “make a sincere contribution to the Black Lives Matter movement.” On June 15, Barry also shared a video called “finally revealing the truth about Tana Mongeau” and said both she and her manager routinely gaslit and subjected him to a slew of microaggressions.

Not only that but following Barry’s upload, fans dug up several old tweets from Mongeau where she directed slurs and racist insults toward her friend Imari Stuart, as well as videos of her using the N-word — something she apologized for in the past by claiming she thought the it meant “friend” or “homie.” And though Barry said he publicly stood by her, he went on to say that Mongeau dismissed him as an “angry Black person” when he tried to talk to her in private.

“I don’t want to live in a world where anyone has to feel as scared as I did for so many years,” he told Centennial Beauty, adding that it “hurt” to see her promote her OnlyFans while “being a performative activist by not addressing the video I made.”

“It’s not even just about me,” Barry continued. “As much as an apology would be nice, so many Black people watch her channel and she owes them at least to grow and do better.”

.@tanamongeau u wanna genuinely learn and grow? this ur chance to listen. a chance to really hear what i’m hurt by. to address your micro-aggressions and educate people in the process.

— Kahlen Barry ✊🏾 (@KahlenBarry) June 22, 2020

Now, Mongeau has finally responded to Barry’s video and post with a Twitter thread in which she apologized to him for “anything I ever did to make him feel that I was being micro-aggressive or racist.”

“I refuse to be as ignorant as I’ve been in the past for life,” she also wrote, later adding that she “will take that & make it all the more reason to fight to educate others now.”

Mongeau also apologized for taking a while to respond before saying that, “I know who I am inside & I know where my morals lie. I am forever sorry for things I’ve said in the past — but know I am not that person now. I will do everything in my power to show you that.”

Additionally, she went on to thank her fans for holding her accountable, writing that “to think I’ve ever had a sense of humor that relied on shock value like that fucking disgusts me.”

“Anything i can do to be better, grow, and be a help to society with my platform and nothing but that — please let me know,” Mongeau concluded. “I am not that Tana — and I refuse to do anything but evolve and educate myself. I am so sorry it took me this long to even say this.”

See her entire apology, below.

handle this properly. i am so sorry that came with any silence.

but i am taking responsibility for all of my actions in the past, i know i am an adult. there are no excuses for my behavior, and i know that. i have done my BEST to educate myself, and grow as a person from who i

— BLACK LIVES MATTER (@tanamongeau) June 22, 2020

, i will continue to be addressing and apologizing for everything with full transparency. i want to apologize directly to @KahlenBarry for anything i ever did to make him feel that i was being micro-aggressive or racist. that is so far from who i am and will spend a lifetime

— BLACK LIVES MATTER (@tanamongeau) June 22, 2020

i am so sorry to anyone who was angered by my silence- i should’ve instantly said this. it breaks my heart to see people say i’m only being a performative activist- i truly stand by my morals now and will continue using my platform and doing everything i can to fight for what is

— BLACK LIVES MATTER (@tanamongeau) June 22, 2020

anything i can do to be better, grow, and be a help to society with my platform and nothing but that- please let me know. i am not that Tana- and i refuse to do anything but evolve and educate myself. i am so sorry it took me this long to even say this.

— BLACK LIVES MATTER (@tanamongeau) June 22, 2020

Photos via Getty / Youtube

Nicki Minaj Reacts to Going Number One in 2020 — Again

Barbz, you’ve done it again. Nicki Minaj has secured her second number one single of the year — and of all-time — on the Billboard Hot 100 charts with her track “TROLLZ,” a collab with the rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine.

Related | The Barbz Are Mobilizing on TikTok Against Trump Supporters

Fans of Nicki no doubt woke up today ready to refresh Chart Data continuously until the top spots of the Billboard charts were revealed later this afternoon, just as they did earlier this spring when there was speculation her assist on Doja Cat’s “Say So” would compete with Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé’s “Savage” for number one. Surprising absolutely no one: “TROLLZ” did indeed take home the coveted top spot, marking Nicki’s second appearance on a number one single in 2020. — Mrs. Petty (@Mrs. Petty)1592848226.0

A number of records were broken with the debut of “TROLLZ” atop the Hot 100 chart, including the record for biggest US sales week of the year so far with 116,000 copies sold. Nicki joins an elite crew, including Roddy Ricch and Ariana Grande as the only artists to win the top spot multiple times in 2020. She becomes one of only two female rappers, including the legendary Lauryn Hill, to debut at number one on the chart.

Related | Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj Go No. 1 With ‘Say So’

Reacting to the news, Nicki first recorded herself squealing in laughter on Twitter’s new voice tweet feature, presumably out of pure delight at once again conquering the charts over a decade into her career. Later, she elaborated on her happiness by congratulating Barbz directly in a video message: “Y’all did this with no playlisting and no radio. It’s just not happening in 2020, all the records on the top of the chart right now are doing that with heavy playlisting and heavy radio. For us to do that, debuting, that’s insane.”

♥️🌈‼️🦄🎊🎉💛😘🥰 — Mrs. Petty (@Mrs. Petty)1592852376.0

Still, the victory even has some of Nicki’s most fervent Barbz divided over whether or not they want to support her connection to 6ix9ine, who plead guilty to a use of a child in a sexual performance charge in 2015 and was released from prison this year on racketeering and firearm charges. One fan alluded to the situation indirectly on Twitter, writing, “Who’s gonna tell 6ix9ine we was ONLY buying for nicki minaj and ONLY her.”

Photo via Getty for Marc Jacobs/ Dimitrios Kambouris

The First Trailer for ‘Hamilton’ Is Finally Here

Although it’s been a little over half a decade since the premiere of Hamilton live on stage in New York City, the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical is finally getting its film debut exclusively on Disney’s new streaming platform, Disney+. Hamilfans, time to scream.

Related | 10 Movies Centering Black Experiences to Stream Right Now

Filmed back in June 2016 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the production of the live musical will feature the original principal cast members, including Lin-Manuel Miranda in the role of Alexander Hamilton. The trailer, which premiered today announcing the movie’s wide release for Disney+ on July 3, 2020, showcases several highlights of the show, from the combat-like choreography and staging to its stars’ most theatric solos.

The 2020 recording of the beloved Broadway show — which originally took home 11 Tony Awards in 2016 — has become one of the most coveted pieces of theater history by fans of the show over the years, consistently being teased by the cast and creatives involved. While fans are no doubt excited about the prospect of finally seeing an intricately-filmed version of the musical, Disney securing the rights to the show has some fans concerned as to whether or not the company will censor the song lyrics to fit its PG-13 rating on the Disney+ platform.

Despite the calls from many fans to preserve the intent of the material Miranda staged back in 2015, Disney has yet to comment on the actual contents of the recording. Instead, along with the drop of the trailer, the official Disney+ Twitter account wrote, “We are proud to share #Hamilton; a work that has sparked passion, conversation and the need to confront the past to shape the future.”

Photo courtesy of Disney Plus

TikTok Users Might’ve Tanked Trump’s Rally

Ahead of his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, President Donald Trump tweeted that almost a million people signed up to attend the gathering. But on Saturday, the event wasn’t able to fill the 19,000-person capacity venue. TikTok users and some K-Pop stans are saying that they are partially responsible for this.

A number of them claim that they’ve registered hundreds of thousands of ticket requests for Trump’s rally after the campaign’s official account tweeted a callout for supporters to register for free. Per The New York Times, K-Pop fan accounts began sharing the info, encouraging followers to sign up, but not to actually attend.

Almost One Million people request tickets for the Saturday Night Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma! — Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1592227683.0

This also became a trend on TikTok. It seems to have begun with 51-year-old Mary Jo Laupp, who told her followers, “All of those of us that want to see this 19,000 seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty go reserve tickets now and leave him standing alone there on the stage.”

Related | TikTok Users Are Peeing Their Pants For This Challenge

More people joined in and spread the word on the platform, as well as on Instagram and Twitter “It spread mostly through Alt TikTok — we kept it on the quiet side where people do pranks and a lot of activism,” YouTuber Elijah Daniel told The Times. “K-pop Twitter and Alt TikTok have a good alliance where they spread information amongst each other very quickly. They all know the algorithms and how they can boost videos to get where they want.”.

Still, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said that none of this affected the rally. “Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don’t know what they’re talking about or how our rallies work,” he told CNN. “Registering for a rally means you’ve RSVPed with a cell phone number and we constantly weed out bogus numbers, as we did with tens of thousands at the Tulsa rally, in calculating our possible attendee pool. These phony ticket requests never factor into our thinking.”

But among those celebrating the power of the youth on the Internet is AOC, who tweeted at Parscale, saying, “You just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID. Shout out to Zoomers. Y’all make me so proud.”

Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricke… — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1592699220.0

This isn’t the first time that online communities have been able to band together to back a cause. The BTS Army was also able to match their idols’ $1 million donation to the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this month.

Photo via Getty

Here’s What Happened When We Asked Twitter for Black Art

Every day we see pain, protest, progress and more pain. Now that the revolution is here, everyone needs to help the movement — in whatever way possible — and as a social media editor, part of my responsibility is keeping my foot on y’all’s timelines. That way, I can say with confidence that whoever follows PAPER has no excuse for staying unaware. So, while I continue to use this platform to bring important stories to light, I thought why not open my purse and share some of this clout with deserving Black voices?

✨✨Calling all BLACK ARTISTS: Drop your art below. I’m gonna share as many as I can so PLEASE include your IG handles ✨✨ — Paper Magazine (@Paper Magazine)1592257012.0

The result: a Twitter thread calling on Black artists to share their work with as many PAPER followers as possible. Below, discover some of our favorite people that hit reply. Scroll through, enjoy this talent and follow these artists. Black lives, and Black art, matter.

Robert Chavis (@robsnapped)

Do you feel pressure to have a message about the Black experience in your art?

No, because I am the “Black Experience.” If you are viewing my art, you are seeing it in the exact way I do, whether it be my BLM Mural drone video, portraits of Black children in their environment, self portraits or street photography. You get to feel what I feel, and see what I see through a lens/ video camera.

“I am the Black Experience.”
—Robert Chavis

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by seeing other Black artists thrive in their own avenues. It’s like adding fuel to the fire I set inside me. There’s a joy that comes from seeing the final product of artistic expression.

If you could work with anyone who would it be?

It’s a crazy long list but my “Big Three” are PAPER, GQ and Shea Moisture.

Dee Williams (@hideexdee)

Do you feel pressure to have a message about the Black experience in your art?

I don’t feel pressure to have a message because as a Black photographer who focuses solely on the African diaspora, any image I create is a message. The photo/ art world for decades — and to this day — heavily focuses and celebrates imagery created by white men, so any work I produce disrupts that status quo.

What inspires you?

My family and friends inspire me, along with my fellow peer group of photographers. We are all a talented bunch of creatives navigating life in our own way. It is my mission to document our joy and share it with the world.

“It is my mission to document our joy and share it with the world.”
—Dee Williams

If you could work with anyone who would it be?

RIHANNA! I want to be her personal photographer so bad. I’m manifesting that into my life. I know it is going to happen.

Dante Nicholas (@allthingsdante)

Do you feel pressure to have a message about the Black experience in your art?

I wouldn’t say pressure, but I know that in being a Black creator, I have a responsibility to tell our stories. Black people are far too often misunderstood. So with my art, I really do try to show us in a light that may have never been shined otherwise.

What inspires you?

People inspire me. Everybody has a unique story and unique life experiences. And learning about that uniqueness is something that I’m inspired by on a daily basis. Also, my peers (millennials and Gen Z) inspire me with our drive to create the change we want to see for our society.

“With my art, I really do try to show us in a light that may have never been shined otherwise.”
—Dante Nicholas

If you could work with anyone who would it be?

I would 1000% love to work with Rihanna — that would be legendary!

Josef Hicks (@josef.hicks)

Do you feel pressure to have a message about the Black experience in your art?

I put a lot of myself into my art so I don’t feel too pressured about putting the Black experience into my art. The challenge for me is trying to balance my paid work and my art. There will be times when I do not have time to focus on my art. I do a lot of work for brands and other people who are looking for something specific. I’m working towards trying to shoot for people and brands who align with my art.

What inspires you?

The youth and the next generation is what inspires me. When it is all said and done I want to be the image of “follow your dreams.” I want the youth to know that it doesn’t matter what your hair looks like, the color of your skin, or what the generation before you wants you to do. I want them to be able to look at me and see that I followed my dream and I never gave up. I want them to see that it is possible to do what your heart desires regardless of what society tells them.

“When it is all said and done I want to be the image of ‘follow your dreams.'”
—Josef Hicks

If you could work with anyone who would it be?

One of the artists at the top of my list to work with would probably be 6lack. I love how raw he is as an artist and I feel like if I was ever able to connect with him we could create some timeless art. Fingers crossed!

Benry Fauna (@benryfauna)

Do you feel pressure to have a message about the Black experience in your art?

The only pressure I feel is trying to reconcile with my experiences in a pragmatic way. I feel emboldened to have a message, but it’s one I’m still trying to articulate.

What inspires you?

I love creating visual adlibs, where I seek to provide an atmosphere where comfort inspires confidence. Each photograph is an isolated collaboration.

“I feel emboldened to have a message, but it’s one I’m still trying to articulate.”
—Benry Fauna

If you could work with anyone who would it be?

That’s a loaded question! I Pride myself on being a quintessential people person, and I implore anyone to work with me.

Kimberly Kyne (@kimkyne)

Do you feel pressure to have a message about the Black experience in your art?

I would describe it as an urgency. Growing up, seeing visions of myself in the media were few and far between. I make it a priority to celebrate the beauty in Blackness. I recently created a piece for the LA Times that illustrates the inequality that exists in the US, along with the fact that many refuse to acknowledge it. Using my art as a vehicle for activism gives me purpose.

“I make it a priority to celebrate the beauty in Blackness.”
—Kimberly Kyne

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by artistic visionaries like James Turrell, Kerry James Marshall and Kara Walker.

If you could work with anyone who would it be?

Thundercat, Solange, Steve Lacy, Tierra Whack, Tobi Lou, KAYTRANADA, BROCKHAMPTON, Kali Uchis, Jorja Smith, SZA and Rihanna. A collab with Pyer Moss or Brother Vellies would be dreamy.

Wavebeast (

Do you feel pressure to have a message about the Black experience in your art?

It’s not that I feel pressure, as that insinuates a sense of unwillingness on my part but it’s the exact opposite: it’s my first instinct. Art is a reflection of your experiences and emotions and being that I am Black, I wouldn’t want to convey anything else.

“Art is a reflection of your experiences and emotions and being that I am Black, I wouldn’t want to convey anything else.”

What inspires you?

It’s the Black youth that inspires me the most. The idea of showing them that they have more options than being just an athlete, rapper or a “gangster,” not that there is anything wrong with the first two. Growing up Black, these are the primary professions pushed on us via media. So to be able to show them that you should embrace your creativity, or whatever endeavors they choose, is what drives me to do the work that I do. As far as artistic inspiration goes, artists Kanye West, Tyler Mitchell, Quentin Tarantino, Namsa Leuba, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Spike Lee, Jordan Peele, Mescondi and Todd Hido inspire me. I also get a lot of inspiration from movies.

If you could work with anyone who would it be?

If I could work with anyone, I would say Kanye West, Mowalola, Teflar, Essence magazine, and Raf Simons!

Tribute Brand Is Making ‘Contactless’ Clothes for the Cyber Age

The idea that we’d all actually be shopping for digital clothes would’ve seemed outlandish just a few years ago—why buy garments you can’t actually hold, touch or wear? As the world finally woke up to the industry’s impact on the environment, however, the concept doesn’t seem so farfetched now.

Despite innovations in eco-friendly technology and ethically sourced fibers (upcycling seems to be the trend du jour), no “sustainable” collection is inherently, well, sustainable. Between physical deliveries, shipping and just plain more stuff, you’re still producing thing people don’t necessarily need.

Which is why the timing of a label like Tribute Brand is all the more intriguing. Specializing in “contactless cyber fashion,” the clothes are available for literally any gender, sex or size. It’s perhaps the most radical example of sustainable fashion yet. “We strongly believe that digital clothing is the future we should embrace,” the brand states.


While still in its early stages, Tribute Brand is been slowly gaining more recognition on Instagram as creatives like Nicola Formichetti and Prince Dru showed off their new digital wares. But these aren’t your everyday wardrobe pieces: the avant-garde-meets-futuristic-street-style-outer-space aesthetic is definitely a crowd-pleaser for the risk-taking, fashion fiends among us. You can also easily order a custom piece to your liking.

The functionality is quite simple as well. Once you add the digital items to your cart, all you have to do is upload an image of yourself via Dropbox, Google Drive or a similar service and share the link with the images in the box located in the shopping cart, which the brand will use to digitally fit the item on your frame.

The founders, who all come from backgrounds in fashion, CGI 3D modeling, UX design and coding, understand how novel this approach is. But with everyone stuck in their homes the past few months amid all that’s been going on in the world, it couldn’t have come at a better moment.

“With the recent events and the crisis occurring throughout the world, the needed process of changing the system became inevitable and we are excited to join the pioneers of this new phase,” they said.


PAPER caught up with the anonymous group behind the brand to learn more about their process and why it could shape up to be how more of us dress in the future. See also a contactless fashion shoot in collaboration with models from New Pandemics, a New York-based modeling agency “dedicated to increasing LGBTQ+ visibility.”

How did the idea for Tribute Brand come about and who are the creators behind the platform?

Before launching Tribute Brand, we were running a successful and awarded fashion label that was mostly oriented towards fashion criticism and irony. So even from the beginnings, we were always going for changing the fashion system which, as we all know, has gone the wrong way and needed someone to push the reset button. And then [COVID-19] happened.

At the same time, the city where our HQ’s are located, was struck by a large earthquake that caused significant damage and we had to move back to our hometown. That was the moment we realized it’s the right time for a shift, an idea we’ve been working on since 2017. People are in isolation and can’t go everywhere, let’s give them a chance to be in fashion, but contactless and cyber, and to make them understand its main values: no waste, no shipping, no gender and size restrictions, and available in the virtual space only.


Our team is formed out of people with a background in fashion, CGI 3D modeling, UX design and coding, and most of us have known each other for a while. After our first brand, we admire the idea of anonymity behind the brand, and that whole cyber moment is giving it another dimension.

Can you describe in detail the process and software behind fitting a digital outfit on someone?

It’s quite a simple process. The customers get to choose cyber garments, just as it would choose them through a regular online store, and then, they have to upload an image of themselves on which they want the cyber garment to be fitted. Everything you see there was designed and developed from our real-life patterns.

Afterwards, we pull everything through the 3D software and then the customers receive CGI images of themselves wearing the desired cyber garment. Of course, we can combine pieces, and make the whole outfits. For now, most of the garments are limited to 100 uploads, which means, they will be sold-out after that number is reached and there won’t be restock.

The other thing we offer are custom orders. If anyone has an idea for a digital garment, or wants something physical transferred into digital world, TB Taylor Made Cyber Services are available.

“We want to create a platform that will change [users’] behavior to act sustainably, leading to decrease in demand, consequently production and usage of physical clothes.”

What sort of observations have you made about customers’ orders and other feedback in these early stages?

We’ve been overwhelmed by the feedback we are getting! We started low-key a month ago and didn’t do any announcements through our public profiles. Another amazing part is, that we don’t just receive orders from users wanting to try the clothes on themselves, but we get the orders for projects people want to incorporate cyber clothes into.

So just imagine where all of this could go. For example, virtual fashion shootings, and that already happened in a way. Based on the reactions we see our customers are getting on their fits, it is true that cyber clothing is a perfect way to create great content.

What’s it going to take for more people to embrace digital fashion?

It is all about acknowledging its zero-waste and contactless character. And you know, fashion got unoriginal and repetitive for the last couple of years, maybe a decade. This is a new thing at the moment, but we believe, with technology development, it could become mainstream very soon. This is the only fully sustainable approach to fashion, and not to even talk about the possibilities digital clothing could have compared to regular clothing. The impossible is becoming possible and the virtual space is our main resource of getting and creating new content and knowledge. We think this an evolutional process, and it’s just a matter of time.


Where do you hope to take the brand as it continues to grow?

We’ve already got our second drop ready, and it is our plan to update the platform with the new products on a regular base. But in general, by influencing the users to transfer their identity to virtual area we want to create a platform that will change their behavior to act sustainably, leading to decrease in demand, consequently production and usage of physical clothes.

We aim to make the fashion system more accessible and fairer, and aspire to change behaviors. Let’s just work and see what the future of fashion and technology will bring us. And we are more than happy to collaborate with people and brands involved and interested in transferring outdated fashion principles into a new phase.

Contactless fashion: Tribute Brand

Models: Alexis De La Rosa, Mycky Brown, Sy Lu and Sarah Wasko (at New Pandemics)

Introducing ‘SNATCHURAL’ With Beauty Expert XOXOETHAN

Hi Uglies…

I am beyond excited to share with you the first episode of SNATCHURAL, PAPER’s first-ever beauty series on YouTube!

Snatchural is how I describe my signature glam: snatched and natural.

On this show, I review the hottest products, try various cosmetic treatments, have a couple of celebrity guests appear and share some of my favorite beauty tips/ tricks. Over the past five years, my taste for glam has expanded and I love trying new hair, makeup and nails — but this signature Snatchural look has always been my go-to.

My love for beauty runs deep. Ever since I was young, I can remember being obsessed with makeup and hair. When I was eight years old, I would sneak into my mom’s vanity and put on blue eyeshadow. From then on, every department store I went into with my family, I would always be lingering near the makeup counters. The makeup artists would always be puzzled to find a little brown kid, fingers deep in their lipstick containers. I was born in Dubai and raised in Dallas, so glam has always been a part of my life, but it wasn’t until I moved to New York to attend NYU that I really started playing with makeup.

Now here I am, 23 years old and beating my face on camera for you all! The goal of SNATCHURAL is to educate and entertain — unlocking some of the best-kept secrets within the beauty industry.

We have so many incredible videos coming so sit down, grab your blending brushes and let’s slay.

Stay glam,


Born This Way Foundation

Dior Face and Body Glow

Purchase Products Used, Below:

Fenty Beauty Diamond Bomb All-Over Diamond Veil

HUDA BEAUTY Nude Obsessions Eyeshadow Palette

FARSÁLI Skintune Blur Perfecting Primer Serum

Creative Direction and photography: Vincent Riportella

Nails: Faith Frazier

Hair and makeup: Ethan D’spain

Nicki Minaj Accepts Lil Nas X After He Comes Out as a Barb

It looks like Nicki Minaj has added to her army of sons today after she publicly acknowledged Lil Nas X’s coming out as a Barb on Twitter. Although it’s long been speculated by stans that Lil Nas X is a fan of Nicki’s and used to run a popular social media account dedicated to the rapper, he’s denied the rumors. Now, however, it seems he’s finally ready to come forward with the truth about stanning the “Yikes” rapper after requesting a collab in a Twittter thread.

Related | Lil Nas X on a Unicorn Floatie

It all started yesterday when Lil Nas X replied to a video of Nicki with a meme and proposition to collaborate on a new song of his. A Barb replied to the tweet asking him why he never “claimed” Nicki when he and his team were directly confronted about it in the past. He replied, writing that he “didn’t want people to know [he] was gay,” confirming speculation after he tweeted last month that “life is too short to pretend you’re not a barb.” Lil Nas X still has not confirmed whether or not he ran @nasmaraj, although investigative reports seem convinced.

When fellow Barbz started discussing his response from yesterday, telling him that being a Barb doesn’t necessarily you gay, Lil Nas X confessed that people still make assumptions and that the “rap/music industry ain’t exactly built or accepting of gay men yet.” Nicki has addressed these assumptions about male Barbz in the past, acknowledging that some men might not want to be labeled a “Barb” out of fear of judgment — even though they know she’s the queen of rap.

[twitter_embed expand=1]

Despite the back-and-forth over the years as to whether or not Lil Nas X claimed to be a part of the viral fandom, Nicki nevertheless decided to claim him as one of her own today. “It was a bit of a sting when you denied being a barb, but I understand,” she wrote to him in a tweet. “Congratulations on building up your confidence to speak your truth.”

Related | Decade of the Barb: 10 Years of Nicki Minaj

Lil Nas X replied only about 15 minutes later, apologizing for hopping on the “bandwagon hate” that Nicki was experiencing during the aftermath of the rollout for her latest album, Queen. With both parties assured that there’s no beef between the two, fans can now start to fantasize about whether or not a collab in the future is imminent — or maybe another “Old Town Road” remix? We can only hope.

Photography: Ethan Gulley for PAPER

Japanese Sensation Kemio Is Taking America

Though American readers may not be familiar with Kemio just yet, the 24-year-old YouTuber is a bonafide superstar in his native Japan.

Known for his energetic, rapid-fire vlogs, use of quirky catchphrases and retellings of his daily experiences with American culture, Kemio is pretty much the king of cultural cache in Japan. But don’t just take our word for it. Last year, one of his made-up words — “Agemizawa,” which means “when you’re so excited and so hyped on it, you scream it” — apparently became “the number one slang word in Japan.” And if that isn’t impact, then we don’t know what is.

Kemio’s story starts back in 2013 with the creation of his Vine account. Inspired by American content creators, Kemio finally decided to pursue his childhood dream of becoming an idol and entertainer — to viral success in Japan. And though the app’s closure in early 2017 spurred him to explore other corners of the internet, he now boasts close to two million subscribers on his YouTube, where posts videos doing everything from making curry to giving himself makeovers.

Related | Dua Saleh Is Your Angel and Your Devil

Since moving to the US in 2016, Kemio has continued to vlog about his life in America, even amid the pandemic. However, his content and feelings of culture shock weren’t the only things that changed from living abroad. In fact, he said that being in a place where the LGBTQIA+ community is more visible and accepted has altered his own perception of self, which also made him feel like he could finally live his life honestly and authentically.

After all, as Kemio explained, despite Japan being “progressive in some aspects,” it is “also still very traditional in the sense that being gay in Japan isn’t as accepted” — something which caused Kemio to feel like he had to hide being gay for a long time. And though he came out in his book right before he moved to America, he said he still struggled a bit from the many years spent grappling with his identity in private.

“When I was in Japan, I felt like I definitely suppressed being gay for a long time. I was not comfortable with who I am for a long time as well,” he said. “So I don’t think I grew up in Japan as a gay man. But now I am definitely more comfortable speaking about who I am and my identity, publicly.”

That said, in the wake of all the support he’s gotten, Kemio said he now hopes that telling his story will help others feel supported, as well. And while he has yet to begin vlogging in English, he’s excited to give it a shot once his “English improves.” In the meantime, he’s been busy focusing on his fashion and modeling career — something he said is an attempt to get a little “more serious.” Though, thankfully, he doesn’t plan on quitting vlogging anytime soon.

So until we start getting our own Kemio catchphrases in English, get to know the star a little better, below.

What did your parents think about you pursuing a career in entertainment?

When I started, they didn’t really like it. They were like kind of concerned about me doing such a stupid thing on the internet. Also, they didn’t know what social media is. But once I started going on the TV or even on the newspaper, they saw exactly what I’m doing and they started to understand what I wanted to do for my job.

Since moving to the US, has anything surprised you about the culture and the nature of internet celebrity here versus Japan?

Everything is so different. Like, I was so surprised when I moved to LA. First things first, l was surprised that people wear their shoes at home, because in Japan no one ever [does that], and if I do that in Japan my grandma would literally kick my ass. So that’s I think the most surprising thing — the culture.

For the internet celebrities and everything, I think they’re so cool. They say whatever the fuck they want to say. They do whatever fuck they want to do, like I see freedom of speaking all the time. And also, I was so surprised at how internet celebrities — especially of my generation — speak up about politics, or their opinions about what is going on in the world, and then they will actually influence people to vote for the election or something. In Japan, a lot of celebrities don’t really share their opinions about politics.

How does creating content here differ from your experience creating content in Japan?

Since moving to the US, I started my YouTube channel. Just because a lot of Japanese people are really curious about the lifestyle in the US. Like, they love American culture — music, fashion, food, everything. So my content is focused on lifestyle in the US. Every little thing, like going to the grocery store. They’re so curious about that. Those things definitely help me to grow my audience.

Since this is for Pride, can you talk a little bit about your experience growing up gay in Japan?

When I was in Japan, I felt like I definitely suppressed being gay for a long time. I was not comfortable with who I am for a long time as well, and I actually didn’t come out until right before I moved to the US. And then after I moved to the US, I came out to only my close friend and my family… So I don’t think I [technically felt like I] grew up in Japan as a gay man. But now I am definitely more comfortable speaking about who I am and my identity, publicly.

I released my book a year ago, and I came out in the book, actually. I was super nervous, but a lot of people were so supportive about it. I was getting so many DMs from people who also struggle with their identity. So I was so grateful for those sweet and supportive messages. And then it also makes me think that I want to encourage more people, and I want to help this community more.

On that note, why is it important to you to talk about your identity as an openly gay Japanese man? What is the importance of this visibility to you?

I definitely think talking about my identity helps open a lot of conversations that don’t happen today in Japan. In Japan it’s not as open as here. Like, Japan’s society is very progressive in some aspects, but also still very traditional in the sense that being gay in Japan isn’t as accepted as it is in the US. But I think, for me, being open about who I am definitely helps other people who also struggle with their identity.

I want to say it’s getting better [for the LGBTQIA+ community in Japan], but there still definitely needs to be more. Since I never truly came out when I was in Japan, I actually have never been able to see the LGBTQ+ community there.

They also don’t really educate us. Like, in the media, they don’t really pick up topics about the transgender or LGBTQ+ community, so people actually don’t know what is going on in the community. So yeah, it’s getting better, but I feel like people still need to learn, including me. But for the younger generation, I think they’re more accepting and open about it, which gives me hope.

In your opinion, what can Japan’s LGBTQIA+ community people and their allies do to push for change and keep it going?

In my opinion, we need to use our voice more. People in Japan don’t really speak their mind in the public sometimes. I was like that too when I was living in Japan. I was almost always scared to talk about my opinion about politics or my identity. So I feel like for the younger generation, we need to do more to stand up and then try to change our future.

I feel like that’s such an Asian culture thing — you don’t rock the boat, you don’t speak up, you let things be — which is why I think it’s so cool you’re talking about this. Was it scary starting out though? Because there is this social expectation that you have to say the right thing or not say too much.

When I started this, I was so young, so I think I just didn’t think about a conclusion. Like I didn’t think about how people see me. Now, sometimes, when I make a video, I care about how I say things. Or, I think about how, back in the day, I didn’t [speak up].

Who’s your celebrity or influencer inspiration in the LGBTQ community?

There are so many people that have a big influence on me. I would just say Lady Gaga. And I love Kim Petras, I think she’s so cool. She’s the next level. I’m so obsessed with her music, her style and everything.

Hard agree. So, if you could also tell a younger you something, what would it be?

I would just say, “Don’t make a Grindr.” Or, if I could say something to me before I created Grindr, I would say, “Don’t Grindr too much.”

What’s Grindr like in Japan?

The one time I’ve gone on Grindr [there], I did it without putting my picture on the profile. I think there were other Japanese gay dating apps in Japan, so I don’t think Grindr is as poppin’ as here. I want to try one [going on a Grindr date in Japan], but I don’t know.

It’d be a good video, honestly.

Yeah, like in the US, the YouTubers who make videos going on Tinder dates. Maybe!

Kemio was photographed by New York-based Oscar Ouk using Zoom.

Kameron Lester Criticizes Jeffree Star’s Tokenization of Him

Beauty influencer Kameron Lester is opening up about he felt tokenized and silenced while working with Jeffree Star.

Last week, Lester took to his Instagram Live to detail why he would no longer support Star or his makeup brand. Beginning by telling the story about their relationship, Lester explained that while he once modeled for Jeffree Star Cosmetics, he felt tokenized and like Star’s promises to support his career never came to fruition.

Related | Shane Dawson Debuts Jeffree Star Series Trailer

“I just felt like it was never a friendship, it was never a friendship in the beginning to start with, it was always just something like I was the kind of like the token black kid,” he said, before talking about how Star once put him on the spot by asking about his feelings toward James Charles.

“I was uncomfortable, there’s people around me, and he was so blunt – just out of nowhere asked me ‘do you like James?'” Lester recalled, also mentioning that this occurred a few months before Charles’s highly publicized feud with Tati Westbrook. “James helped me with my career when I first got into the beauty space and tell my HIV story – like, he’s been very supportive of me.”

However, after Lester said he didn’t have a problem with Charles, Star allegedly responded by saying, “‘Well, you don’t fucking owe him forever.'” Lester then felt even more uncomfortable the next day after he witnessed Shane Dawson — who was working on Star’s online documentary series — “cursing” about Charles via a FaceTime call with Star.

“I remember Shane Dawson called and he was going off about James Charles and… Just like cursing James out. And I was just kind of taken back, because I’ve never seen Shane Dawson like that and he was just going in on James,” he said. “From there, I knew Shane Dawson wasn’t really the person he was perceived [to be] online.”

Not only that, but after the incident, Lester said that it felt as if Star and Dawson no longer wanted to work with him — something that was made all the more evident by Star casting his ex-best friend instead of him.

“I felt like he was trying to send the message in some way that I was replaceable as a Black boy,” Lester said. “I felt like this was a game. Even with Shane Dawson posting me on his platform, I was grateful. But I felt like it was kind of to silence me to be like, ‘We’re gonna keep giving you breadcrumbs and hanging you by a string and manipulating you so you can stay quiet.’ I felt always silenced.”

That said, according to Lester, he was afraid to talk about what happened for so long, saying he “fears for [his] life” and that he “was so paranoid and so scared” of Star.

That said, he said that “moving forward, I will no longer just be the token Black person.”

“I will no longer just be the Black boy that is there to make you look good or speak up for you,” he said, “Because it’s not reciprocated.”

Watch Lester’s video for yourself, below.

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Speaking my personal truth.

A post shared by Kam 🤍 (@kameronlester) on Jun 10, 2020 at 11:03am PDT

Photos via Getty

BTS’ ‘Bang Bang Con: The Live’ Broke a Major Record

ARMYs, we did it again. According to Big Hit, BTS’ “Bang Bang Con: The Live” broke the record for viewership of an online concert on Sunday — and did it stunningly, might I add.

Related | BTS Donates $1 Million to Black Lives Matter

With ARMYs around the world quarantined and missing the thrills of a live BTS arena show, “Bang Bang Con: The Live” was about as close as to the real thing as fans could get. The setlist, which included songs from Map of the Soul: 7, was nuanced and highlighted some of the boys’ biggest hits. Fans also praised the quality of the concert, comprised of multiple rooms and stages. Although the event was filmed in Seoul, South Korea, the virtual concert raked in a major peak of 756,000 concurrent viewers across 107 countries and territories.

Dedicated stans on the pop music forum PopHeads on Reddit speculate that this equates to around $19.7 million in ticket sales. While that number is not immediately verifiable, Variety reported that the attendance of the virtual fest was that of “15 shows at a 50,000 seat stadium,” so grossing numbers in the multi-millions of USD might not be that far off.

ARMYs took to Twitter today to share their favorite moments from the 100-minute concert, with many praising the “Boy With Luv” remix performed with LED umbrellas and the boys’ ever-slick choreography. If we’re going to survive the rest of this quarantine, I think fans need a second “Bang Bang Con: The Live” right away. I mean, how else are ARMYs supposed to collect all of the mini BTS tickets?

Photo via Getty/ Dia Dipasupil

Halsey Announces Black Creators Funding Initiative

Halsey announced via Twitter yesterday that she’s started a new fund for rising and aspiring Black artists on the internet, taking submissions from around the world via the hashtag #BLACKCREATORSFUND. “If you’re an artist, poet, graphic designer, writer, film maker, music producer, journalist, make up artist, or creator of any kind, we want to see your work and want to help achieve your goals,” a flyer for the Black Creators Funding Initiative states.

Related | How Police Abolition Went Mainstream in Two Weeks

The singer has always led young activists by using her platform for good, and most recently was reporting from the frontlines of Black Lives Matter protests in Los Angeles in the wake of the death of George Floyd. While the new fund is still in its early stages, there’s already buzz around the world from creators on Twitter hoping to receive assistance from Halsey to better amplify their work on the internet and IRL.

Halsey’s manager, Anthony Li, clarified specifics of the gifting process via his personal Twitter account yesterday evening. “Starting off, we’ll be gifting funds to black creators, as well as social media posts to help launch their platforms & amplify their art,” he wrote. “Behind the scenes, we’ll be connecting the dots for other black creators, anything from introductions/points of contact or informational help.”

In addition to launching a website for the Black Creators Funding Initiative on June 18, 2020, Halsey also plans to announce the first round of recipients on the same day. She also clarified that she’s funding the entire initiative herself, and will be choosing winners as she lurks through the hashtag for the fund throughout the week.

Photo via Getty

Ok, But What Is the ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’?

In the wake of George Floyd‘s death at the hands of Officer Derek Chauvin, Black Lives Matter protestors across the US are calling for the defunding and abolition of police. But while some are still having trouble imagining what a nation without police could look like, Seattle residents have already decided to give it a go.

On Monday, June 8, Seattle police gathered their belongings, boarded up the east precinct and abandoned their post. The former precinct, which now reads “Seattle People Department,” is the backdrop for the newly formed “CHAZ,” or, “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” CHAZ, which is aptly situated in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, is occupied by protestors, activists and artists alike aiming to demonstrate a peaceful, police-free society.

When Police Chief Carmen Best opened up Pine Street for protesters to march through, she wasn’t expecting them to stay put. Seattle residents, however, chose to set up camp across six blocks in the surrounding area, providing food and shelter for supporters looking to charge up after their respective demonstrations have ended. The Black Lives Matter chant “We ain’t goin’ ’til we get it” ringing true.

Pine Street has since been painted to display “Black Lives Matter” days after police tear-gassed protesters, despite declaring a 30-day ban of its usage.

Since Monday, the “police-free” zone has been bustling with activity. Late-night screenings of documentaries and films centering black experiences, like Ava DuVernay’s 13th and the 1990 classic Paris Is Burning, are being projected on the streets; makeshift markets called “No Cop Co-ops” are offering free food, coffee and books; smoking and non-smoking sections are being erected.

Images and videos on Twitter also show writers and poets reading their heart-felt works for the crowds, musicians playing sets and artists painting alleyway murals commemorating lives lost to police brutality.

A protester named Rooks told Seattle news station KOMO 4 TV that the group running CHAZ wants to pursue an entirely peaceful gathering area, one that promotes justice for Black lives.

“It’s nothing aggressive or violent or nothing like that,” Rooks said. “We didn’t come out here for any of that. All we wanted was what is equal and what is right.”

Related | Reopen Past Cases of Police Brutality and Negligence

Unsurprisingly, President Trump expressed his qualms with the zone in a tweet on Wednesday night, writing that “radical left” Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Jenny Durkan, mayor of Seattle, are “being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before.”

“Take back your city NOW,” he continued in the threatening message. “If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!”

[twitter_embed expand=1]

Gov. Inslee responded to the initial tweet, pointing out Trump’s spelling error, among other things. “A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business,” Inslee wrote. “‘Stoop’ tweeting.”

Durkan responded as well, showing her support for CHAZ and turning the focus onto Trump’s leadership (or lack thereof): “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker.”

After Trump spoke out on the matter, many locals are engaging in heated debates about whether police should re-enter the space or not, with some fearing crimes, like break-ins, not being monitored by police and others worrying for the safety of the peaceful protesters.

Related | Merriam-Webster Broadens Definition of Racism

According to KOMO 4 TV, Seattle police said that they are “reaching out” to leaders of CHAZ so they can eventually “move back into the east precinct without inciting more civil unrest.”

Photo via Getty/ David Ryder

Meet the Rebel Behind Fashion’s Favorite Instagram Memes

In September of last year, a meme of Jennifer Lopez standing in front of a climate change demonstration dressed in her green jungle print Versace gown unexpectedly blew up on Instagram. The photo was reposted by Naomi Campbell, Amber Valletta, Carine Roitfeld and leading fashion sound director Michel Gaubert.

“This image had a significant impact on my Instagram account,” says Thomas Lélu, who originally uploaded the image. “The celebrities who reposted the image recognized there was a message when it came to fashion responsibility in the face of the climate crisis.”

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Prior to that viral post, the French artist had been steadily amassing a strong online following thanks to a series of fashion memes and artworks that show off his ironic sense of humor. Among the most memorable is a closeup shot of Justin Bieber‘s face with his skin breaking out behind an “Acne Studios” logo, a fake Diesel campaign starring Vin Diesel and a young Celine Dion posing for “Celine Dior.”

Lélu, who’s currently a director at La Cité art gallery and was previously the creative director of French Playboy, has been experimenting with what we now know as meme culture well before the age of Instagram. In 2003, he published a book called Récréations that features collages with games around brands and celebrities. Sarah Andelman held a launch party at her now-closed Paris boutique Collette for the book of collages, which Lélu says are “ancestors of meme pictures.”

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A post shared by Thomas Lélu (@thomaslelu) on Jul 13, 2019 at 9:17am PDT

“Every day, I’m looking on the internet for inspiring images or subjects to be treated,” he says of how he develops his material. “Whether political or related to fashion, my inspiration comes from the news and what interests me is to create images that echo this news. They are like humor notes or caricatures in the journalistic tradition.”

Another aspect of his work that gets widely circulated is his “Philoselfies:” images of celebrities taking selfies where their phones are swapped out with a book on philosophy. Some of the standouts include Bella Hadid with a “copy” of On the Heights of Despair and Kylie Jenner holding Beyond Good and Evil.

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A post shared by Thomas Lélu (@thomaslelu) on Sep 15, 2019 at 12:45am PDT

Indeed, Lélu’s work has become so recognizable within fashion circles and beyond that he’s now doing art projects for them on the side. So far he’s create a filter for Gucci based on his “Philoselfie” concept and he’s also preparing a collection of phone cases for Casetify with the same idea.

Lélu’s latest project sees him designing more fashion memes for the luxury retailer Browns. To coincide with its new season of offerings, they asked Lélu to put a twist on some of the brands they carry including Jacquemus, Maison Margiela and Marine Serre. See, below, for a selection of this work and see more at

Photos courtesy of Thomas Lélu

Not This Celebrity Racial Justice PSA

The celebrity-industrial complex is burning. After the pandemic illuminated how unfathomably ignorant celebrities are about their fans’ lives, people are simply no longer interested in the rich and famous’ thoughts, prayers or high notes. Now in the midst of an uprising for racial justice, it’s clear that celebrities’ only acceptable role is to shut their mouths, open their wallets and not clog up our timelines with performative nonsense.

Related | How the Police Abolition Movement Went Mainstream

And yet, here we stand, watching some of the most beloved whites in Hollywood, like Sarah Paulson, Stanley Tucci, Aaron Paul, Kesha, Jessica Chastain, Mark Duplass, Kristen Bell, Julianne Moore and Ilana Glazer pledge to “take responsibility” for racism in a black and white video set to a heartstring-plucking movie score.

The group of white stars came together to “stand up for our black friends and family” and “rally the white community” with a hastily crafted website called On the website, you can find choice Toni Morrison, Rihanna and Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, as well as a form to “take the pledge.” In an @itakeresponsibility Instagram post, they explain their mission: “Essentially, what @badgalriri said a few months ago: “when we’re marching and protesting and posting…tell your (white) friends to pull up!” Well this is US pulling up. We’re asking all our white friends and family to pull up too!”

Bless their hearts, but the time for website pledge campaigns and platitudes has simply passed. The current movement for Black liberation, which has taken the streets of nearly 600 cities, is rejecting co-optation, virtue-signaling, or performativity without material contribution, point blank. Instead, the movement is demanding professed allies use their resources and influence in the spaces they hold it.

The internet is divided on whether the video is simply embarrassing, or flat out offensive.

They’re also offering suggestions of how these celebs can actually take responsibility.

Look, we get it. It feels like a double bind. Stay silent and you’ll be called complicit. Participate in a glossy PSA video and you’ll be called performative. Yet, there’s a whole world of meaningful, non-self-serving ways celebrities can support the current movement. Some are handing over their Instagrams to organizers so they can radicalize their fanbases. Some are putting their support behind the concrete demands of the movement. Some are showing up to the protests and forgoing the photoshoot. Others are simply opening their wallets and logging off.

Photo via YouTube

Lizzo’s Ideal Body Type Is ‘None of Your F**king Business’

Lizzo took to TikTok this week to remind trolls and body-shamers that her body is none of their business. The clip includes a montage of Lizzo working out, beginning with her riding a stationary bike as a voiceover explains: “I’ve been working out consistently for the last five years. And it may come as a surprise to some of y’all, but I’m not working out to have your ideal body type. I’m working out to have my ideal body type. And you know what type that is? None of your fucking business.”

Related | When White Kids Grow Up on the Black Internet

We also get some footage of her lifting weights and jumping rope, as she continues making her point: “I am beautiful. I am strong. I do my job, and I stay on my job. So next time you want to come to somebody and judge them, whether they drink kale smoothies or eat McDonald’s or work out or not work out, how about you look at your own fucking self and worry about your own god damn body, because health is not just determined on what you look like on the outside. Health is also what happens on the inside.”


if you’re not a fat shamer… keep scrolling… ok now that all the fat shamers are here 🧚🏾‍♀️✨

♬ Buttercup – Jack Stauber

Speaking to PAPER’s Mickey Boardman in 2018, Lizzo previously addressed body image and how she never saw herself in the media growing up. “I didn’t see myself in fashion,” she said. “I didn’t like how I looked because of what I saw on television. It didn’t reflect me.”

Related | Fat and All That: Talking With Body Positivity Queen Lizzo

Lizzo continued, detailing her journey to becoming more body positive. “I had to really learn,” she told PAPER. “I had to hit rock bottom with loving myself and really learn how to fuck with me. I’m still learning; I’m still not there. I be having my moments, but it’s through that process I think I’m able to help other people.”

Stream Lizzo’s 2019 album, Cuz I Love You, below.

Photo via Instagram

J.K. Rowling Pens Personal Essay on TERFs, Twitter Reacts

After facing massive backlash on Twitter this weekend for her comments minimizing the traumatic experiences of transgender people, J.K. Rowling has written a full-length essay for her website that many former fans are labeling outright transphobic. Accompanied with the caption “TERF wars” — a label she’s incurred that stands for “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist” — the essay echoes many harmful conservative viewpoints about “trans activism” and trans peoples’ rights to use gendered bathrooms.

“When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside,” Rowling writes in a particularly insensitive paragraph of the essay. “That is the simple truth.”

It’s not the simple truth, although it seems Rowling does not care much for dissent in this case, seeing as she’s disabled replies to her tweet announcing the article’s publishing to her self-titled website. The essay itself calls out trans activists for supporting a movement that Rowling believes is “doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it,” while attempting to also reiterate her support for “brave women and men, gay, straight and trans, who’re standing up for freedom of speech and thought.”

Rowling also comes out as a survivor of domestic abuse in the essay, writing that the experience “shapes my fears, my interests and my opinions.”

Fans of the Harry Potter franchise began speaking out on Twitter this afternoon, denouncing the essay and many of the values Rowling wrote in support of. Popular YouTuber Eugene Lee Yang tweeted his disappointment, writing, “What’s disheartening about JK Rowling’s stance is that, at the heart of fantasy fiction, there’s a delicate discovery of selfhood through magic.” Many shared a similar sentiment to Yang’s, finding Rowling’s statements to not only be insensitive, but also antithetical to the messages in her books.

Photo via Getty

The Twitter Making Sense of Reddit’s Relationships Subthread

Relationships are hard, and it’s a big reason why advice columns have such storied tradition. But with the advent of the internet, new online forums have become the de facto way to seek relationship help, including the ever-popular r/relationship_advice community on Reddit. That said, with our collective penchant for cross-platform posting, it’s no surprise that the @Redditships Twitter account — which documents some of the subreddit’s strangest posts — has taken off and spawned its very own community.

Boasting over 365,000 followers, @Redditships is the brainchild of two UK-based friends, who go by the pseudonyms Shao and Kastilya. Inspired by similar accounts that screenshotted things like funny Yahoo! Answers, the duo decided to start their own archive of the best Reddit relationship posts that they were sending to each other. And now, three years down the line, the account has taken on a life of its own thanks to viral screenshots of things like the boyfriend bird murderer or a man who won’t propose until his girlfriend sells her porn store/strip club.

My (25m) bf had angered crows and magpies and now they’re defecating on my car

— relationships.txt (@redditships) August 10, 2019

According to Shao, the account actually started right around the time they stopped using Reddit. As a queer person of color, they explained that the platform’s problems with racism and transphobia — stemming from the fact that it has “a much less diverse population that’s mostly middle-class white dudes or mostly straight people with a certain perspective” — caused them to leave. That said, both Shao and Kastilya believe the @Redditships Twitter is a “nice way to see the content and not have to deal with the rest of Reddit.

“It’s the Reddit r/relationship_advice experience without the bigotry and the sadness. There’s something really nice in that, because Reddit is so huge, and it’s been a breeding ground for some really terrible movements and mindsets that radicalize certain groups of people, by which I mean straight, white guys,” Kastilya explained. “But the fact that we can take something this big and present it through a filter that’s not bigoted — that is accepting and affirming of identities of color, queer identities, feminism and non-toxic constructions of gender — I think is something really big.”

Not only that, but Shao also said that since r/relationship_advice is less moderated than other subreddits, there “is a lot of stuff that could be triggering to some people.” And so, they see the @Redditships Twitter as a good way to still engage and talk about the content without seeing other posts that “could be traumatic for some to read.” After all, as Kastilya added, they hope that sharing these posts “helps someone.”

“There’s also the question of, ‘Is this new?’ If it is, people are more likely to pay attention and maybe there’s something they can learn from it, rather than something that’s been seen before,” she said. “Maybe someone is like, ‘Oh my god, I thought I was the only one who dated someone like this. But no, it’s not like, ‘I’m the problem.’ There’s just people like this out there,”

As for their curation process, Shao and Kastilya said it hinges upon three key questions: Does this make me sad? Is it interesting? Or is it just funny? And while Shao explained that it’s a case-by-case basis and the line between sad and interesting can be tenuous, they generally try to avoid the overtly sad posts, especially as of late seeing as how “the world has enough reasons to be sad,” right now.

They also noted that the subreddit as a whole has become “much sadder” in light of the global pandemic — something that has forced them to rethink the kind of content they share. After all, as more and more relationship problems are exacerbated by anxiety, being around their partners 24/7, and logistical issues that make leaving abusive partners difficult, they’ve found themselves opting for more lighthearted content. Such as the infamous post about the man who kept getting into fights with a Waffle House cook.

“Things like the Waffle House story, there’s a world where this is plausible. At the same time, there’s a 10% chance it’s real, but it was just fun,” Shao said. “But since the global pandemic, I’m much less inclined to be like, ‘I’m not going to post this because it’s fake.'”

However, they also frequently think about the ethics related to giving this content a potentially larger audience than it would typically be exposed to. While the advice seekers are posting on a public forum, Kastilya said that they do refrain from reposting things like clear-cut abusive situations, people “clearly experiencing some sort of mental break” or questions from minors. That is, unless it’s something “completely unsexual,” like a teen asking for cute memes to send to his girlfriend.

Generally though, their guideline to posting involves whether or not they are “exposing this to a larger audience than Reddit is,” even if “most of the time, the answer is no.” Granted, @Redditships’s large platform is also something they’ve had to reckon with as of late. According to Shao, after including a link to a post about a woman whose partner had put up a wall of their nudes, the original post was flooded by Twitter users — a practice known as “brigading” — and was eventually deleted for that reason.

“So now, I’m rethinking whether we should put the link in or not,” they said, before explaining that they don’t usually include the link until a post hits Reddit’s “All” front page. Both Shao and Kastilya said that they also try to be conscious of whether or not the original poster previously shared any identifying information in past comments, and do not post if they have.

But at the end of the day, they hope that @Redditships is helping others. Citing a recent post that “was from the perspective of the abuser,” Shao explained that “the conversation it spawned was really interesting and felt useful for some people.”

“[It raised issues of] how abusers behave and how to identify abuse,” they said, later adding that they were heartened to see people sharing advice and quotes that helped them through similar situations.

“The post was nuts, and it wasn’t a good story to read, but it was almost affirming because his partner — hopefully now ex-partner — was taking all routes to get away from him… And all the updates were like, ‘She’s not responding,'” they explained. “It had value in its own way.”

Welcome to “Sex with Sandra,” a column by Sandra Song about the ever-changing face of sexuality. Whether it be spotlight features on sex work activists, deep dives into hyper-niche fetishes, or overviews on current legislation and policy, “Sex with Sandra” is dedicated to examining some of the biggest sex-related discussions happening on the Internet right now.

Photo via Getty/ Omar Marques

Twitch Is Cracking Down on DJs

Twitch streamers are noticing an unexpected uptick in the number of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaints against their accounts for playing or using copyrighted music in their streams, and nobody’s happy about it. With many noting that the concept of Twitch DJ set incorporating copyrighted music is effectively dead, it seems as if the creator-driven video sharing platform has finally cracked down on its Community Guidelines for music.

Related | Copyright Claims Are Ruining Livestreams for Everyone

Over the past several days, Twitch streamers — both partners and affiliates — have been tweeting about the fact that they have noticed more than a few out-of-the-blue DMCA takedown complaints on clips that go years back. While it’s a well known fact that people host DJ sets, especially for fundraisers or virtual parties under COVID-19, on Twitch, it’s actually not really allowed. A takedown notice can jeopardize your channel, and several notices — no matter the length of the protected material — can ruin years of one’s audience-building efforts.

In Twitch’s Community Guidelines, there are express instructions for users not to facilitate or stream a “DJ Set,” in addition to a “Radio-Style Music Listening Show,” among other streaming styles that involve protected works. As a content provider on the internet, Twitch is held to the same standards and exemptions for speech outlined in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that was buzzed about during President Trump’s Twitter tirade against protestors last week. A key exemption from speech that Section 230 protects, however, is speech that violates intellectual property (IP) laws — meaning, in most cases, DJ sets. This means that if Twitch receives a complaint from labels that their IP is being used in a stream, it has to investigate and pursue a takedown, or otherwise lose its Safe Harbor protection.

This explains why Twitch is so aggressively pursuing takedowns, since some content hosted on the platform is sure to violate copyright laws, but the process is no different from YouTube or SoundCloud’s in terms of DMCA takedowns. The sudden uptick in complaints has left creators scratching their heads, rushing to save content, and overall scrambling to figure out how to eliminate any infringements from past clips or VODs.

Black Actors Speak out About Working With Lea Michele

Many celebrities are speaking out this week against police brutality and systemic racism in light of George Floyd‘s killing at the hands of police. Whether they’re urging followers to donate to bail funds, encouraging us to call politicians or posting a questionable black square and signing off, famous people are flooding our feeds rather than amplifying Black voices first and foremost. Now, several Glee stars are taking to Twitter to enlighten us that not every supportive message from a celebrity can be taken at face value. Case in point: Lea Michele.

Related | Virgil Abloh Roasted for Only Donating $50 to Protesters

Michele tweeted this weekend that Floyd’s murder was undeserved, was “not an isolated incident” and police brutality “must end.”

This didn’t sit well with some of Michele’s fellow ex-Glee cast members, who didn’t recall her having as much empathy for Black colleagues on set. It all started with Glee actor Samantha Ware, who played Jane Hayward on the show. On Monday, she replied to Michele’s Tweet, claiming that the actress made her first television gig “a living hell.” She recalled one time when Michele told “everyone” that if she had the chance, she’d shit in Ware’s wig, but qualified that this was just one among many of Michele’s “TRAUMATIC MICROAGGRESSIONS THAT MADE ME QUESTION A CAREER IN HOLLYWOOD.”

Glee castmembers and other Black actors were quick to back up Ware. Alex Newell, who played Unique Adams, affirmed her, saying “we ain’t got not a damn thing to lie about six years later,” and “when my friends goes through something I also go through it.”

Amber Riley, who played Mercedes Jones on Glee for six years, dropped a subtle tea-sipping gif, evidently in reference to Ware’s tweet. Us Weekly also caught that Melissa Benoist, who played Marley Grace on season four of Glee, liked Newell and Riley’s tweets. Stars like Darren Criss, Chris Colfer, Dianna Agron and Kevin McHale have yet to comment.

Dabier Snell, who appeared in a 2014 episode of Glee also responded to Michele’s initial tweet, and shared his own story.

Community star Yvette Nicole Brown, who didn’t appear on Glee but co-starred with Michele on 2017 sitcom The Mayor, also indicated she’d had bad experiences with her on set.

In addition to famous actors, a slew of behind-the-scenes industry members shared their own alleged experiences working on crews or sets with Michele.

In response to the allegations, meal-kit company HelloFresh was quick to announce that they were cutting ties with Michele and were taking her co-stars’ claims “seriously.”

The whole ordeal is emblematic of a new movement of online discourse, in which brands and celebrities are held accountable to the politics they preach online in their professional and personal lives. Will we soon live in a world where white people can’t score political clout without real praxis?

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Stop Tagging Blackout Tuesday Posts With Black Lives Matter

Started by figures in the music industry as a way to show solidarity with black victims of police brutality, many people are going dark on social media today as part of Blackout Tuesday. But only a few hours into the day and many people are already calling out the protest as being counterproductive, as #BlackLivesMatter and #BLM tags are flooded with people posting black squares, potentially obscuring vital information about protests, organizations and documenting police violence.

Related | How to Support Protesters in Every City

Video of the flooded hashtag began to circulate this morning with artists like Kehlani and Mykki Blanco urging those taking part in Blackout Tuesday to remove the #BlackLivesMatter from their posts. They underscored just how important of a tool social media has become for organizers in mobilizing protesters and getting the word out about resources like bail funds, lawyers providing pro-bono services and more.

Initially conceived by senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, Jamila Thomas, and former Atlantic executive who is now senior artist campaign manager at Platoon, Brianna Agyemang, Blackout Tuesday called on members of the music industry to pause work and “take a beat for an honest reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the black community.” The hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused started trending yesterday as a result with many major labels like Sony, Universal, Warner and many major industry figures pledging to take part.

Many have come forward to criticize the Blackout Tuesday as merely being another instance of performative allyship from multi-billion dollar corporations and artists with huge platforms. Some have questioned the decision to hold the social media protest on a Tuesday as opposed to Friday, when most music is released; some smaller labels are promising not to release new music this week at all as a result. Others have pointed out the backhanded nature of the industry’s decision to go silent rather than use this as opportunity to spotlight and celebrate black artists instead.

For more information on how you can help protesters in your city and demand justice for George Floyd head here.

Look out for #BlackBirdersWeek on Your Timeline

America’s parks are a point of national pride, but we seem to have a tough time imagining anyone other than white Patagonia bros enjoying them. Black hikers, ecologists and bird watchers are excluded from the REI narrative, and can feel alienated while participating in leisure activities that their white counterparts take for granted.

Related | How to Support BLM Protesters in Every City

Enter #BlackBirdersWeek, a direct response to the viral video from earlier this month in which a white woman, Amy Cooper, issued racist threats against Black bird watcher Christian Cooper in Central Park. Conceptualized by Black AF in STEM, a GroupMe of young Black scientists and science communicators, the weeklong Twitter and Instagram series aims to educate and celebrate. “Birding is overwhelmingly white,” group founder Jason Ward, who hosts the YouTube series Birds of North America, tells PAPER. “And because of that, Black birders often feel left out, and unsafe. Black Birders Week is a way to get the message out that birding is for everyone.”

Daily #BlackBirdersWeek challenges encourage Black nature lovers to share photos of themselves enjoying the outdoors and spotting rare wildlife. As we grieve for the losses of Black lives at the hands of police officers and demand justice across the country, these images are wholesome and soothing additions to the timeline. Today’s #PostABird tag has created a stream of fun bird pics and facts, and tomorrow and Wednesday you can look out for a birding Q&A on Twitter as well as a livestream discussion about #BirdingWhileBlack. Friday June 5 will celebrate #BlackWomenWhoBird.

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To be a minority member of a community that already has little public recognition can be lonely, but for Ward and many others birding is worth the effort. “Find other members of your flock, other Black nature enthusiasts, to help you through the obstacles you’ll undoubtedly encounter as you chase your passions,” he advises prospective birders of color. “All anyone needs as a beginner birder are eyes, ears and curiosity. Once you have those, you’re well on your way, birds are everywhere, all it takes is a couple of steps outside to hear and see them.”

His favorite bird? The peregrine falcon. “It’s the fastest animal on earth, capable of reaching 240mph in a dive, and can be found on six of the seven continents.” His white whale is the golden eagle — he’s yet to spot one, despite “coming close several times.”

For those of us who are able to enjoy outdoor spaces without fearing anything other than bear attacks, there’s further work to be done. “On an organizational level, it’s not enough to say ‘Our doors are always open,'” says Ward. “You have to be intentional and consistent in your attempts to achieve diversity and inclusion. One of the best ways to do this is by hiring people from communities of color.” And whether you’re inside or outside, speak up against racist acts. “As my friend and colleague Corina Newsome says, it isn’t enough to just say you’re not racist,” Ward adds. “You need to be anti-racist.”

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K-Pop Stans Took Down a Dallas Police Snitch App

K-pop stans are powerful. They virtually control artists’ position on the charts, ruthlessly cancel their enemies, and most recently, sabotaged an effort by the Dallas Police Department to incriminate protesters demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and other Black victims of police brutality.

Related | Virgil Abloh Roasted for Only Donating $50 to Protesters

Although much of the violence at recent protests has been incited by the police’s use of force, Dallas PD created an app called iWatchDallas for people to submit video footage of “illegal activity” of protestors. Anti-racist K-pop fans wouldn’t stand for it.

Twitter users posted calls for people to spam the app by submitting fancam videos of their favorite artists.

Dallas PD surely didn’t know what hit them as their app was quickly flooded with clips of BTS and BLACKPINK choreo. In perhaps the first direct action-related use of fancams, within hours, the app crashed. The department announced on Twitter today “due to technical difficulties,” the app is “down temporarily.”

The K-pop community, in general, has been vocal about their solidarity with the Black community. According to Dazed, a number of stan accounts for BTS, BLACKPINK and NCT 127 have stopped tweeting about the artists they’re dedicated to, and even censored the band’s names, in order to make space for news and discussions about police violence. Dazed reports that fans resisted trending hashtags about BLACKPINK and Lady Gaga’s “Sour Candy,” as well as NCT 127’s recent victory on K-pop show M Countdown, when under normal circumstances, they have put #Blackpink and #NCT127 at the top of our feeds.

Barbz, Swifties, Little Monsters? Your move.

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Facebook Employees Stage Virtual Walkout Against Trump Posts

After Mark Zuckerberg’s comments last week about Facebook’s strategy of taking a less hands-on approach to regulating President Donald Trump’s postings on the platform compared to Twitter, employees are publicly criticizing the company — and staging a walkout in opposition.

Related | Twitter Flags Trump and the White House Threats for Violence

When Trump sent out his first several inflammatory tweets concerning the protests in honor of George Floyd last week, Twitter took swift action to label his speech as violent. While the posts were ultimately kept available for viewing, they were only accessible under a content warning — a limit that set Trump off. The platform’s unwavering stance against Trump’s threats was celebrated by many, but caused conservatives to mumble about sanctions on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies from immense liabilities and promotes free speech online.

Instead of taking similar action, or at the very least promising it in the future, against Trump’s incendiary speech on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg instead chose to opt for a stance that allowed the posts to stay up. Although it is true that Facebook should not act as an editorial board for its members posts, should it want to safeguard its Section 230 immunity, many Facebook employees are vehemently against Zuckerberg’s inaction.

The New York Times first reported that several employees were preparing for a virtual walkout today to show that they were ready to resign from their positions over the issue. Petitions were allegedly circulated since the incident calling for the resignations of executives, including Facebook’s vice president of global policy and “close friend” of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Joel Kaplan.

Now, amid radio silence in the form of action in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, employees have signed off for the day and activated automated email replies that explained their out-of-office status as an act of protest.

Zuckerberg allegedly plans to meet with employees tomorrow for his usual weekly meeting instead of on Thursday. Reports say that he will hold space for employees to question him then on his viewpoint of limiting Trump’s speech as curatorial and ultimate decision to keep Trump’s posts on the platform.

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