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

Animal Crossing and Club Penguin Are Actually Dating Sites

When it comes to dating in quarantine, we’ve all been forced to get a little more creative with our online interactions. Whether we’re talking about Zoom orgies or FaceTime Tinder meet ups, digital hangouts on every possible platform have taken over. This also means social simulation games like Animal Crossing and Club Penguin have become great places for people to go on dates together.

As billions of people around the world are self-isolating at home, it makes sense that Club Penguin — or rather, the “Rewritten” remake of the popular original — has seen a huge increase in student users since the beginning of quarantine, while the launch of Animal Crossing’s New Horizons edition has become the talk of Twitter. After all, both are games that take place in virtual worlds where you can meet up with other players, chat and do activities together, which make them perfect places for digital hangouts.

That said, there is a bit of a difference when it comes to dating via these two games due to the way they’re structured. Club Penguin is an open world where you’re surrounded by other users, while Animal Crossing user Damian* said he thinks the game’s one-on-one experience of going to hang out on another person’s island makes things feel more intimate.

sometimes you gotta turn club penguin into a dating website. pic.twitter.com/93tZVXvz7X

— 🧚🏻‍♀️💕 (@SinfuIFairy) April 14, 2020

“It’s almost like getting someone’s number, because having them visit your island is kind of like inviting them to your house,” he said, explaining that “it’s a pain to get to an island.” According to him, you still have to go to the airport and fly there, which means you have to be a little more determined to go on dates with someone in Animal Crossing.

“They get to see your house and plants, and you have to trust them not to steal,” Damian added, saying that the experience of hanging out with someone on their island has been a “wholesome and cute way to flirt” through chatting, participating in virtual BBQs, or gifting each other useful tools to help their overall progress in the game.

Related | This Is How My First FaceTime Date Went

“It’s a fun way to hang out, because you’re not fucking,” he laughed, “It’s like, ‘You’re on my island, let’s give each other gifts. Here, I know you’re stuck, so I’m going to give you a ladder.'”

Additionally, Damian also said that he sees Animal Crossing as an easy way for singles in particular to connect with their crushes. As he explained, sometimes casual hangouts can turn into more — something that also led him to compare it to a less overt way of “sliding into their DMs” late at night.

“The game updates in real time, so you can see when someone’s on and be like, ‘Can I get your island code,'” he said, showing how one of Animal Crossing’s big appeals is that you can get together with someone without being so direct. “You can talk to your crushes without being so forward. It’s a good way to connect with someone you wanted to talk to, but may have never had an excuse to in a funny, safe way. And you can get close if you’re playing together every day.”

Singles aren’t the only ones using Animal Crossing and Club Penguin to hang out. In fact, many long-distance couples have been using both games to go on virtual date nights together.

After all, as Canadian Club Penguin user Sophie said, while she and her UK-based boyfriend have still been FaceTiming regularly, “During quarantine, we’ve done everything but go on a virtual date like this, so it was a whole new experience. We’re long distance, so we have to find virtual stuff to do together.”

Sophie was a Club Penguin regular at its peak, but she said she had “kind of forgotten about it” until seeing a Twitter post about CP Rewritten. And though her boyfriend had never played, they both decided to create accounts so that they could go on a virtual date to celebrate their six-month anniversary — something Sophie said was an incredibly fun, nostalgia-inducing experience for her.

my gf and i dating on my island #AnimalCrossing #ACNH #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/9mdgDu2vAo

— ★彡 (@bopeepwillow) April 20, 2020

“I loved reliving some of my childhood, and he enjoyed experiencing a part of childhood that he missed,” she said, noting how they spent hours playing games like hide-and-seek and hunting for treasure together. “I think that by going on these dates, they allow for us to relive old memories and make new ones together.”

Even after quarantine ends, they plan to continue going on Club Penguin dates because “games like these let us try to imitate IRL dates, as we are currently unable to,” she said.

Related | People Are Identifying as Digisexual. Here’s What That Means.

Similarly, long-distance couple Jo and Stephen have been using Animal Crossing to meet up virtually, as she lives in Belgium and he’s in the UK.

“Since the lockdown and the borders being closed we couldn’t meet up like we were supposed to, so we decided to both get Animal Crossing after seeing other people going on dates on the game,” they said. “On our first Animal Crossing date we visited each other’s islands and took loads of pictures together in the museum… sat by a campfire and talked a bit. It was very cute.”

Explaining that the game itself is “really addicting,” the couple went on to say that because new stuff is added to the game every month, they’re looking forward to continuing these dates and doing things like “seeing how far the other got with their museum.”

Jo added, “I think the people who go on dates in the game just want to be with their partner during these hard times and the game keeps us connected.” She said hanging out with Stephen on Animal Crossing has been an “adorable and fun” experience that “really makes this quarantine a bit easier.”

Ultimately, using these games has helped her feel better about the situation-at-hand, and would also prove beneficial to anyone else looking to connect with those they care about during these strange times.

“It really felt like we were meeting up even though it was just in a game,” she said. “I would recommend it to all the couples out there who are having a hard time coping with not being able to see each other in real life.”

*Name has been changed.

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 Twitter

Livestream This: Quarantine Programming for Black Gay Men

Thanks to Ms. Rona, we’re all trapped at home with nothing to do. Even Netflix is getting boring! But never fear. While they’re technically out of work, our favorite entertainers are still out here bravely making virtual content in a scary new world. Going to the club or the theater is out of the question right now (self isolate! Ariana Grande says so) but here’s PAPER’s ongoing guide to the latest livestreams — featuring comedians, actors, musicians and more.

Related | Naomi Campbell Is Hosting Her Very Own Talk Series

Who? Native Son, named after James Baldwin’s seminal 1955 work, is a movement aimed at connecting Black gay men to each other, whether online or IRL. Its intent is to inspire, empower and bridge inter-generational gaps between them. Since its inception, the organization, founded by veteran magazine editor, content curator and LGBTQ activist Emil Wilbekin, has hosted weekly live talks in major cities, featuring special guests across disciplines, from art and activism to literature and entertainment. In light of quarantine, Native Son has gone totally virtual, launching weekly, original online programming, called “Quarantine Moments.” So far this week, the platform has hosted lifestyle expert Raub Welch, who spoke about Black art and collecting, and chef Kenny Minor gave a lunchtime cooking demo. Just last weekend, sessions included a poetry reading by Josh Rivers and a movement and meditation course led by Gabriel Christian.

When? Seven days a week, every week, on Instagram Live @nativesonnow. Times vary in the afternoon, perfect for a midday pick-me-up if you’re a Black gay man working remotely or just needing a bit of inspiration to make it through another long day indoors. Except Friday Quarantine Moments: those wrap up the week in the evening, like a pre-weekend Happy Hour. What remains this week: today (Wednesday) at 3 PM EST, gay matchmaker Prince Amari will chat about Black gay love and relationships, tomorrow at 4 PM EST, Wilbekin will host a Native Son conversation (similar to the IRL live chats he hosts) with comedian Sampson McCormick and on Friday at 7 PM EST, DJ Courtney M. Anderson will provide a “Native Son #Mood Mix” to those tuning in.

Native Son on Instagram: “Love but make it Black, Gay, Fierce and Lasting! Tomorrow is all about #BlackGayLove and our friend @princeamari will join our IG Live for…”

Why watch? While the need for finding common ground is perhaps greater than ever, as a Black gay man, Wilbekin also understands how important it is for people to bond with the communities they most closely identify with. “Curating the Native Son Quarantine Moments seemed purposeful during this time of isolation,” Wilbekin tells PAPER. “I didn’t see any platforms speaking directly to Black gay men at all of our intersections. It really spoke to my own desires and what I needed during this quarantine moment. What to cook for lunch, how to find balance with work and self-care, and how to find love. These are real questions and the IG Live streams are a great distraction to the anxiety of COVID-19, plus I get to engage with other Black gay men in my community.”

Native Son on Instagram: “Brother Check-In. Y’all alright? Practicing #SocialDistancing? Washing your hands? Disinfecting your mail, groceries, keys, cellphones?…”


Photos courtesy of Native Son

Everyone Can Go Viral at This Year’s Met Gala

The Met Gala, fashion’s biggest night, was indefinitely postponed last month for the first time in its 15-year history as coronavirus turned into a global pandemic. 2020’s theme — “About Time: Fashion and Duration” — had already been announced. Feels strangely prescient in retrospect.

Related | The Met Gala Theme for 2020 Has Been Revealed

Occurring whether rain or shine on the first Monday of May, the Met Gala is usually a star-studded red carpet affair. This year, as fashion and entertainment industries look for digital solutions in light social distancing, High Fashion Twitter has come up with a way to preserve the beloved event. In some ways it might even improve on the original: Whereas past galas were exclusive to famous influential types who can afford a $30,000-and-up ticket, Twitter’s rendition of the Met Gala — no affiliation with the IRL event —will be free and open to all.

The community of top fashion insiders created an official “High Fashion Twitter Met Gala” page to announce their plans. “Although this year’s official Met Gala has been indefinitely postponed, the HFTwit Met staff would like to announce that the High Fashion Twitter Met Gala will still be happening on the first Monday in May!” reads a post. “Given the anxiety and stress that the COVID-19 outbreak is causing, we believe that continuing to move ahead with the HFTwit Met Gala is the right choice. Hopefully, this event will serve as a little spot of joy and unity for this amazing community.”

Typically, Twitter comments live on celeb looks as they make their way down the Met Gala red carpet. Since that will no longer be an option this year, instead, the High Fashion Twitter community has created various categories for willing participants, including photoset and brand challenges. Participants can share pictures of what they would have worn, given each category’s outlines.

According to a separate post, the High Fashion Twitter Met Gala group hopes to create “an online space where fantasy reigns supreme and impracticality does not exist.” It is inherently more democratic than past IRL Met Galas as a result, meaning that guidelines around a cohesive theme are perhaps looser than ever. As the group puts it, this year’s digital Met Gala allows for fashion enthusiasts from around the world to “share and express their unique creative visions without real world inhibitions.” No word yet on if the Twitter version of the Met Gala will still use the “Time” theme. But it might be wise to get your tuna salad sandwich costumes ready (sorry), because the hamburger has already been taken.

Photo via Getty/ Rebecca Smeyne


This Is How My First FaceTime Date Went

As we’ve entered the second week of quarantine with little more to do than agonize over the ineptitude of others and the systemic failures of our current infrastructure, things have been getting wild online. From people lusting after New York State governor Andrew Cuomo to a proliferation of dubious thirst tweets to the virality of NYC’s Coronavirus Sex Guide, it’s obvious that we’re all lonely, a little stir-crazy, and desperately horny — something that’s led me to think a lot about dating in the time of quarantine.

Obviously, dating is a fraught practice, even without all the extra anxiety and existentialism that comes with being sequestered in your apartment during a global pandemic. Because in-between all the swiping, agonizing over who should make the first move, and coordinating chaotic schedules, it’s always been hard enough to nail down a date — let alone a good one — and that was even back when we weren’t practicing social distancing. So then, in today’s brave new world, what does dating in isolation look like?

In the past few weeks, a large number of people (myself included) have turned toward dating apps as a way to cope with crippling loneliness — especially when our feeds are clogged with the new Instagram aspiration: cute photos of couples hunkering down and isolating together. And though the media tends to deride the advent of Tinder as a harbinger of the millennial “dating apocalypse,” as this strange and sudden situation proves, perhaps being an online dater isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. As a spokesperson for the app tells me, “as a certain area becomes more affected by physically-isolating measures, Tinder is seeing new conversations happening there and those conversations last longer.” Not only that, but apparently conversations have also begun adopting a more serious tone across the board, with more users prioritizing check-ins with each other and using that as a jumping-off point for further conversation. In short, there have been less horny messages and more collective concern and care.

Related | Cyber Sex Will See Us Through the Apocalypse

To that end, I’ve recently been arranging FaceTime dates with matches who, based on our pre-existing conversations, I feel like I could have a fun video chat with. And so far, I’ve gotten surprisingly positive results. Although I can’t really discount self-isolation’s influence on the attention economy, I do think there is something to be said about having someone’s willing, undivided attention for an extended period of time. Additionally, this collective need for socialization also appears to have affected the way people take initiative when it comes to actually following through and staying present on these dates — something that can normally be challenging for even the most well-intentioned of us.

After all, in between other IRL distractions, last-minute things that pop up, and the desire to just kick back after an exhausting day, flaking on both ends tends to happen more than we’d like to admit. And though I may have just gotten lucky with these particular FaceTime dates, I will say that my craving for some facsimile of intimacy has spurred me (and, I believe, my dates) to put some more effort into trying to cultivate a meaningful interpersonal connection. Rather than just viewing it through the lens of a potential, one-off hook-up for the time being, I feel like I’m being encouraged to really get to know these people on a deeper, more meaningful level in the weeks before we can actually meet for real — and that’s been an uncharacteristic, yet heartening, premise. My desire for social interaction combined with the level of normalcy I feel by doing my makeup and getting dressed for these things has created a unilaterally lovely experience.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed a blatant shift in our habits and dating dynamics on these virtual dates. One friend, Blair*, also touched on this idea while recapping her own FaceTime session with a guy she met on Hinge, explaining that it was somewhat jarring to no longer have the crutch of touch present. “Where you would normally fill an awkward pause with some physical intimacy, now there’s no buffer,” she explains. She’s also a big believer in the IRL pheromones phenomenon and says she’s inherently more skeptical about virtual dates. But, ultimately, Blair says she’s definitely still interested in meeting her virtual Hinge date in person, given that her “curiosity is piqued because the banter was so good and he’s very sweet and smart and objectively attractive.”

Like in Blair’s experience, a lot of people seem to be more open and receptive when it comes to social interactions as a whole, even in the midst of any doubts about virtual dating. Within my own (admittedly) small sample size, I feel as if I’ve been connecting with more people who I may not have necessarily followed up with if our in-app conversation had fizzled out in a normal context. Not only that, but I’ve also noticed that I’ve been getting a lot more matches from people who I typically wouldn’t expect to swipe right on me either, which got me wondering if our collective need for human connection has officially begun to supersede hesitations about whether there may be a physical end-game or if it’s worth driving 30 minutes out of the way for what could be a disappointing date.

This idea of a more open-minded approach to dating is dovetails with another interesting experiment in self-isolation romance: The personality-first dating premise of viral Netflix series, Love Is Blind. There’s now even an Instagram send-up, Love Is Quarantine, that’s gone viral in its own right. Run by roommates Thi Q. Lam and Rance Nix, Love Is Quarantine, like the Netflix original, encourages daters to get to know each other through a phone call from their homes, aka their “pods.” Sign up is done through a Google Doc from which Thi and Rance pair up daters and then set them up via text along with a couple “light and fun” conversation starters — though there’s no video chat or online stalking allowed. But the best part of the series? The self-filmed, confessional-style videos in which contestants dish on their date.

Related | People Are Identifying as Digisexual. Here’s What That Means.

And while the show’s only been live for less than a week, thanks to its combination of two extremely relevant cultural touchstones — Love Is Blind and self-isolation — it’s already racked up a substantial online following.

“People want real connection, especially in a time like now when you’re sitting at home lonely and have nothing to do,” Rance says, before adding that he believes the appeal of Love Is Quarantine versus dating apps is that the former distills the whole dating process — swiping, back-and-forth conversations, and all — into a single step with extremely wholesome results.

“It takes away the physical aspect of it,” he explains of the premise’s appeal. “There’s no judgement and right away you get to the nitty-gritty, the good stuff, the connections, and that’s what people ultimately want.”

Not only that, but Thi adds that in these depressing times, Love Is Quarantine is helping to provide people with a healthy dose of escapism via a “fantasy world.” Because, even if you’re not directly involved as a contestant, getting invested in something that isn’t the news — whether it’s “shipping new couples, villainizing people, or making new hashtags” — is an uplifting change-of-pace. And I’d argue a part of its appeal also relies upon a vicarious hope for our own promising, new connections during this time. As Rance puts it, our collective desire for “love will never go away at the end of the day.”

Ultimately, even though dating will always be somewhat of a toss-up, continuing to meet prospective new partners (even on FaceTime) — or keeping up any sort of fun, unexpected social interaction that lends a bit of normalcy to these crazy times — has been a welcome change of pace from never-ending doom and gloom. Though we can’t yet predict what dating in isolation’s long-term impact will be on the dating landscape itself, let’s hope some of this new openness, attention and follow-through will stay with all of us when we finally re-emerge out of our homes and into the world.

*Names have been changed.

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

Make the Internet: Five Viral Black Creators on Owning Their Voice

The internet is Black — I’ve decided it. Al Gore might have invented it, but Black people the world over make it what it is today. Consider every Tiffany Pollard meme, every Nene Leakes reaction gif. Recall each viral Jaboukie tweet and every trending Quen Blackwell video. Stan language, while used by most with a Twitter account, would be nothing without ballroom or AAVE. The voice of the internet is Black and that is not up for debate.

Related | Doja Cat and Tyra Banks Show Out for TikTok’s Black Creators Summit

We’ve all seen misguided attempts to speak the language — from Katy Perry playing with the word “wig,” to Democrats attempting to “boy bye” Trump out the White House. Still, while vernacular created largely by the Black community has entered pop culture, the faces behind the keyboards are most often overlooked. So in honor of Black History Month, we DM’d five of the most viral Black creators who are quite literally “Making the Internet” to talk memes, fame and owning their own content.

Mike Thornwell

Michael Thornwell on Instagram: “Reposting bc everyone seems to be looking for the original lmao”

Michael Thornwell on Instagram: “High school girls with CEO fathers”

Michael Thornwell on Instagram: “Apple getting ready to press the button which fucks up every iPhone 7 and below next week.”

Michael Thornwell on Instagram: “Y’all asked so I’m bringing this back. (Also desperately trying to drive engagement up so have a field day!)”

@Fakeroberts: How often are you noticed IRL?

@Mikethornwell: Surprisingly enough I actually get noticed somewhat frequently! Even when I lived in Japan there were a few people who recognized my face. I obviously am not yet at the point of being recognized as ‘Mike Thornwell’ but many people can at least recognize that they know my face from some vague memory of a video of a boy in a wig on their timeline.

@Fakeroberts: Lol I love ‘boy in wig.’ What’s one thing you want your followers to know about you?

@Mikethornwell: I want my followers to know that I portray myself as accurately as possible on my socials but at the end of the day social media is a 2D, one-way experience. You can only see so much. Keep in mind that all of us behind these screens are human and we all go through the same shit. No number of followers or perceived success can change the human experience. So please be kind.

@Fakeroberts: Love that. Agree. I simply must ask: that “cotton picking” incident… pls tell me that didn’t actually happen lol.

@Mikethornwell: Chile I wish I could tell you that, but are we really that gagged that a white old woman would have the gall to fix her mouth to say something that outlandish? That’s honestly not even the worst customer service story. Just one of many unfortunately.

@Fakeroberts: Good point. It’s in their nature lol. What’s the greatest meme of all time?

@Mikethornwell: Whew that’s a tough one I honestly feel as though any reaction video or GIF of Nene Leakes or Tiffany Pollard are automatically golden. They are in my mind the goddesses of meme culture.

@Fakeroberts: Last question: with the whole “Renegade” situation are you ever worried about not getting the credit for your work? Like, how protective are you of your own work and image?

@Mikethornwell: The thing about being a Black creator is that you come into this space with an understanding that you will likely not get all the credit that you’re due. You will often have to be more diligent than your white counterparts. You will have to work harder to be seen and accepted. You will probably not receive half the praise white creators do, even with twice the amount of creativity and impact. This is a tale as old as time. There are systems in place that clearly need to be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch in a way that is beneficial to creators across the board. So while I am protective of my image and work, there is no stopping the inevitable. Which is why I’m more focused on getting to the root of these issues and trying to learn how to fix them as I expand my knowledge and influence. For now that mostly means supporting other creators and advocating for companies who genuinely give a fuck about us.

Khadi Don

Khadi Don on Instagram: “How did I do? 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 y’all follow me on Tik Tok: KhadiDon. That dance took me forever 😓🥴”

Khadi Don on Instagram: “McDonald’s be like…. #ImGoingtoChicFila”

Khadi Don on Instagram: “RACIST WHITE PEOPLE BE LIKE….#LieutenantLindsey”

@Fakeroberts: How often are you recognized IRL?

@Khadi: Depending on what area I’m in. Pretty much every day, especially if I’m in cities like Atlanta, Chicago or Detroit.

@Fakeroberts: What’s one thing you want your followers to know about you:

@Khadi: That I have many more talents outside of comedy that I can’t wait to showcase to them.

@Fakeroberts: What’s the best meme of all time?

@Khadi:

Anything Spongebob related lol.

@Fakeroberts: LMAO I love demonic Patrick. How does it feel to see yourself as a meme or reaction pic?

@Khadi: It’s hilarious I love it. I remember this went viral for a while:

They used that picture for everything lol.

@Fakeroberts: Lmao I remember that. Why did you start making videos?

@Khadi: I used to get put on punishment and was in my room with only a camera. I got bored and started to experiment lol, which led to me loving it. Once I realized the impact I had and how it could open doors I took it seriously.

@Fakeroberts: Last question: with the whole “Renegade” situation are you ever worried about not getting the credit for your work? Like, how protective are you of your own work and image?

@Khadi: When I was coming up and was super small I would constantly get my work stolen without receiving credit. From as small as Vine to bigger bits on television. I used to worry but today I don’t as much. I take it as a compliment and consider myself the blueprint. I’m super protective but I know at the end of the day nobody can do what I do better than I can.

Denzel Dion

DENZEL DION on Instagram: “me when the government knocks on my door to draft me for world war 3”

DENZEL DION on Instagram: “It’s upsetting me and my homegirl @dolcetelmah”

@Fakeroberts: How often are you noticed IRL?

@Denzeldion: I get recognized a lot IRL. It’s weird because I’ve been on social media for six years now and it still feels like a breath of fresh air.

@Fakeroberts: I can imagine. What’s one thing you want your followers to know about you?

@Denzeldion: What you see online is what you get in person. I’m 100% myself in all my videos and what I post online.

@Fakeroberts: What’s the best meme of all time?

@Denzeldion: In my opinion the best meme of all time, is “and I OOP” just because it’s so universal and I literally used it for every situation that was happening at the time.

@Fakerobers: Agree, she really was the moment. Can you tell us anything about your new show with Rickey?

@Denzeldion: The only thing I can tell you it’s that Rickey and I’s show is going to be FUNNY, ICONIC and just everything that we all need.

@Fakeroberts: PRAISE BE! I can’t wait. What made you start creating videos and content?

@Denzeldion: I honestly just started creating videos based on the curiosity of whether or not I could be as funny as my classmates/ peers portrayed me as.

@Fakeroberts: Amazing. Okay. Last question: Looking at the whole “Renegade” situation how protective are you of your own content and image? Like are you ever worried about not getting credit for your work?

@Denzeldion: I’m very protective of my own content and image — I don’t really worry about not getting credit for my work, but it does happen when creators are often ripped off with no credit and it’s blatantly disrespectful.

Related | Rihanna Says Society’s Problems Are Everybody’s Problems

Lynn Spirit

#GirlYouSeeThatGlitter on Instagram: “Took it to church tonight”

#GirlYouSeeThatGlitter on Instagram: “Raw and uncut video This is how I really be Doing my hair it’s a process 👩🏾‍🦲♒️📱
Beauty begins the moment you decided to be yourself.””

@Fakeroberts: How often are you noticed IRL?

@Lynnspirit: Noticed like every day. Not a day goes by that I’m not getting attention somewhere. It gets ridiculous sometimes 😁.

@Fakeroberts: Lol I bet. What’s one thing you want your followers and fans to know about you?

@Lynnspirit: I’m very confident in everything that I do and am facing my fears because there’s something beautiful on the other side of fear. Make no excuses in life; take chances and risks.

@Fakeroberts: That’s beautiful. In your opinion what’s the beat meme of all time?

@Lynnspirit: The best memes of all time are the memes that have me in them! I’m always so shocked to see to myself in memes!

@Fakeroberts: How does it feel to see yourself used as a meme or reaction pic?

@Lynnspirit: It feels so unreal to see myself as a meme! I’m like dang, that’s really me! I always think about how far I have come and how far I’m going! Very blessed.

@Fakeroberts: What made you start making content and videos?

@Lynnspirit: I was making videos as therapy for myself. It helped me get through some tough times in my life!

@Fakeroberts: Do you feel like you completely “own” your image? Are you ever worried about not getting credit for your work?

@Lynnspirit: Yes I completely own my image, I’m not surrounded by people who try to change my image or make me be someone I’m not! I’m very thankful for my team for making sure I’m staying true to myself and genuine! No I don’t worry about gettin credit for my work. We live in a society where people steal people stuff all the time without giving credit!

Kayla “Nicole TV” Jones

Nicole Tv on Instagram: “New upload. Suck my ass. #nicoletv”

Nicole Tv on Instagram: “New upload on my channel. #nicoletv”

Nicole Tv on Instagram: “This what y’all came looking for 🥺”

@Fakeroberts: How often are you recognized IRL?

@Kaylanicolejones: Very often. People know my face, my body build & even my voice more than my multiple confusing names.

@Fakeroberts: What do you want your followers to know about you?

@Kaylanicolejones: Nothing I’m not already telling them. I just want them to live with me… live within me. What I put out is like them being me or them being with me. They’re apart of whatever process I began and they’re included in every story.

@Fakeroberts: Why did you start making what you make?

@Kaylanicolejones: Multiple reasons for each creation with the same aspirations.

@Fakeroberts: What’s the greatest meme of all time?

@Kaylanicolejones: Me. The catfish skit that went viral with Deshae and I.

@Fakeroberts: With the whole “Renegade” situation, how protective are you over your content? Is it even possible to really own your image/work online?

@Kaylanicolejones: Very. I had a guy remake my song and take the name and dance like TF? Totally trademarked “Move Like a Snake” right after and a lot of bigger companies and commercials try to run off with it, so I handle them too. Nothing on paper gets passed me.

Photos via Instagram

PAPER: Make the Internet

The internet is Black — I’ve decided it. Al Gore might have invented it, but Black people the world over make it what it is today. Consider every Tiffany Pollard meme, every Nene Leakes reaction gif. Recall each viral Jaboukie tweet and every trending Quen Blackwell video. The voice of the internet is Black and that is not up for debate.

Related | Doja Cat and Tyra Banks Show Out for TikTok’s Black Creators Summit

Stan language, while used by most with a Twitter account, is primarily Black and LGBTQ+. Where would the internet be without AAVE? Without ballroom? We’ve all seen the wider misguided attempts to speak the language — from Katy Perry playing with the word “wig,” to Democrats attempting to “boy bye” Trump out the White House. Still, while vernacular created largely by the Black community has entered pop culture, the faces of the internet’s innovators are most often overlooked. So in honor of Black History month we DM’d five of the brightest Black creators who are quite literally “Making the Internet” to talk memes, fame and owning their own content.

Mike Thornwell

Michael Thornwell on Instagram: “Reposting bc everyone seems to be looking for the original lmao”

Michael Thornwell on Instagram: “High school girls with CEO fathers”

Michael Thornwell on Instagram: “Apple getting ready to press the button which fucks up every iPhone 7 and below next week.”

Michael Thornwell on Instagram: “Y’all asked so I’m bringing this back. (Also desperately trying to drive engagement up so have a field day!)”

@Fakeroberts: How often are you noticed IRL?

@Mikethornwell: Surprisingly enough I actually get noticed somewhat frequently! Even when I lived in Japan there were a few people who recognized my face. I obviously am not yet at the point of being recognized as “Mike Thornwell” but many people can at least recognize that they know my face from some vague memory of a video of a boy in a wig on their timeline.

@Fakerboerts: Lol I love “boy in wig.” What’s one thing you want your followers to know about you?

@Mikethornwell: I want my followers to know that I portray myself as accurately as possible on my socials but at the end of the day social media is a 2D, one-way experience. You can only see so much. Keep in mind that all of us behind these screens are human and we all go through the same shit. No number of followers or perceived success can change the human experience. So please be kind.

@Fakeroberts: Love that. Agree. I simply must ask: that “cotton picking” incident… pls tell me that didn’t actually happen lol.

@Mikethornwell: Chile I wish I could tell you that, but are we really that gagged that a white old woman would have the gall to fix her mouth to say something that outlandish? That’s honestly not even the worst customer service story. Just one of many unfortunately.

@Fakeroberts: Good point. It’s in their nature lol. What’s the greatest meme of all time?

@Mikethornwell: Whew that’s a tough one I honestly feel as though any reaction video or GIF of Nene Leakes or Tiffany Pollard are automatically golden. They are in my mind the goddesses of meme culture.

@Fakeroberts: Last question: with the whole “Renegade” situation are you ever worried about not getting the credit for your work? Like, how protective are you of your own work and image?

@Mikethornwell: The thing about being a Black creator is that you come into this space with an understanding that you will likely not get all the credit that you’re due. You will often have to be more diligent than your white counterparts. You will have to work harder to be seen and accepted. You will probably not receive half the praise white creators do, even with twice the amount of creativity and impact. This is a tale as old as time. There are systems in place that clearly need to be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch in a way that is beneficial to creators across the board. So while I am protective of my image and work, there is no stopping the inevitable. Which is why I’m more focused on getting to the root of these issues and trying to learn how to fix them as I expand my knowledge and influence. For now that mostly means supporting other creators and advocating for companies who genuinely give a fuck about us.

Khadi Don

Khadi Don on Instagram: “How did I do? 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 y’all follow me on Tik Tok: KhadiDon. That dance took me forever 😓🥴”

Khadi Don on Instagram: “McDonald’s be like…. #ImGoingtoChicFila”

Khadi Don on Instagram: “RACIST WHITE PEOPLE BE LIKE….#LieutenantLindsey”

@Fakeroberts: How often are you recognized IRL?

@Khadi: Depending on what area I’m in. Pretty much every day, especially if I’m in cities like Atlanta, Chicago or Detroit.

@Fakeroberts: What’s one thing you want your followers to know about you:

@Khadi: That I have many more talents outside of comedy that I can’t wait to showcase to them.

@Fakeroberts: What’s the best meme of all time?

@Khadi:

Anything Spongebob related lol.

@Fakeroberts: LMAO I love demonic Patrick. How does it feel to see yourself as a meme or reaction pic?

@Khadi: It’s hilarious I love it. I remember this went viral for a while:

They used that picture for everything lol.

@Fakeroberts: Lmao I remember that. Why did you start making videos?

@Khadi: I used to get put on punishment and was in my room with only a camera. I got bored and started to experiment lol, which led to me loving it. Once I realized the impact I had and how it could open doors I took it seriously.

@Fakeroberts: Last question: with the whole “Renegade” situation are you ever worried about not getting the credit for your work? Like, how protective are you of your own work and image?

@Khadi: When I was coming up and was super small I would constantly get my work stolen without receiving credit. From as small as Vine to bigger bits on television. I used to worry but today I don’t as much. I take it as a compliment and consider myself the blueprint. I’m super protective but I know at the end of the day nobody can do what I do better than I can.

Denzel Dion

DENZEL DION on Instagram: “me when the government knocks on my door to draft me for world war 3”

DENZEL DION on Instagram: “It’s upsetting me and my homegirl @dolcetelmah”

@Fakeroberts: How often are you noticed IRL?

@Denzeldion: I get recognized a lot IRL. It’s weird because I’ve been on social media for six years now and it still feels like a breath of fresh air.

@Fakeroberts: I can imagine. What’s one thing you want your followers to know about you?

@Denzeldion: What you see online is what you get in person. I’m 100% myself in all my videos and what I post online.

@Fakeroberts: What’s the best meme of all time?

@Denzeldion: In my opinion the best meme of all time, is “and I OOP” just because it’s so universal and I literally used it for every situation that was happening at the time.

@Fakerobers: Agree, she really was the moment. Can you tell us anything about your new show with Rickey?

@Denzeldion: The only thing I can tell you it’s that Rickey and I’s show is going to be FUNNY, ICONIC and just everything that we all need.

@Fakeroberts: PRAISE BE! I can’t wait. What made you start creating videos and content?

@Denzeldion: I honestly just started creating videos based on the curiosity of whether or not I could be as funny as my classmates/ peers portrayed me as.

@Fakeroberts: Amazing. Okay. Last question: Looking at the whole “Renegade” situation how protective are you of your own content and image? Like are you ever worried about not getting credit for your work?

@Denzeldion: I’m very protective of my own content and image — I don’t really worry about not getting credit for my work, but it does happen when creators are often ripped off with no credit and it’s blatantly disrespectful.

Related | Rihanna Says Society’s Problems Are Everybody’s Problems

Lynn Spirit

#GirlYouSeeThatGlitter on Instagram: “Took it to church tonight”

#GirlYouSeeThatGlitter on Instagram: “Raw and uncut video This is how I really be Doing my hair it’s a process 👩🏾‍🦲♒️📱
Beauty begins the moment you decided to be yourself.””

@Fakeroberts: How often are you noticed IRL?

@Lynnspirit: Noticed like every day. Not a day goes by that I’m not getting attention somewhere. It gets ridiculous sometimes 😁.

@Fakeroberts: Lol I bet. What’s one thing you want your followers and fans to know about you?

@Lynnspirit: I’m very confident in everything that I do and am facing my fears because there’s something beautiful on the other side of fear. Make no excuses in life; take chances and risks.

@Fakeroberts: That’s beautiful. In your opinion what’s the beat meme of all time?

@Lynnspirit: The best memes of all time are the memes that have me in them! I’m always so shocked to see to myself in memes!

@Fakeroberts: How does it feel to see yourself used as a meme or reaction pic?

@Lynnspirit: It feels so unreal to see myself as a meme! I’m like dang, that’s really me! I always think about how far I have come and how far I’m going! Very blessed.

@Fakeroberts: What made you start making content and videos?

@Lynnspirit: I was making videos as therapy for myself. It helped me get through some tough times in my life!

@Fakeroberts: Do you feel like you completely “own” your image? Are you ever worried about not getting credit for your work?

@Lynnspirit: Yes I completely own my image, I’m not surrounded by people who try to change my image or make me be someone I’m not! I’m very thankful for my team for making sure I’m staying true to myself and genuine! No I don’t worry about gettin credit for my work. We live in a society where people steal people stuff all the time without giving credit!

Kayla “Nicole TV” Jones

Nicole Tv on Instagram: “New upload. Suck my ass. #nicoletv”

Nicole Tv on Instagram: “New upload on my channel. #nicoletv”

Nicole Tv on Instagram: “This what y’all came looking for 🥺”

@Fakeroberts: How often are you recognized IRL?

@Kaylanicolejones: Very often. People know my face, my body build & even my voice more than my multiple confusing names.

@Fakeroberts: What do you want your followers to know about you?

@Kaylanicolejones: Nothing I’m not already telling them. I just want them to live with me… live within me. What I put out is like them being me or them being with me. They’re apart of whatever process I began and they’re included in every story.

@Fakeroberts: Why did you start making what you make?

@Kaylanicolejones: Multiple reasons for each creation with the same aspirations.

@Fakeroberts: What’s the greatest meme of all time?

@Kaylanicolejones: Me. The catfish skit that went viral with Deshae and I.

@Fakeroberts: With the whole “Renegade” situation, how protective are you over your content? Is it even possible to really own your image/work online?

@Kaylanicolejones: Very. I had a guy remake my song and take the name and dance like TF? Totally trademarked “Move Like a Snake” right after and a lot of bigger companies and commercials try to run off with it, so I handle them too. Nothing on paper gets passed me.

Photos via Instagram

Rise and Fall of the Reblog: 10 Years of Tumblr

The 2010s were the decade in which we gradually forgot how to log off. As 2019 draws to a close, the internet is far from being something we come home to do in our spare time; it’s our entire way of being. Clichéd as it’s become, we are dependent on our phones to shop, work, communicate, and navigate.

None

This can be perceived as either convenient or dystopian, but as the decade ends it’s easy to argue the latter. Our data and personal information is stored online, our every move predicted by algorithms. We only have to think about a product to see it appear on Instagram. Those of us who grew up before this era mourn the death of spaces where we could be our online selves in secret — before our internet personas were intrinsically tied to our IRL and even our professional lives. While in the 00s we had spaces where we could experiment, find like-minded people, and indulge our niche interests, in the 2010s there was only one website carrying the torch for internet subculture. This decade saw the dramatic rise and fall of Tumblr, the fan-driven “microblogging” site which became a haven for young users then eventually succumbed to the same forces which have corporatized the rest of the internet.

None

Related | PAPER’s Top 10 Songs of the ’10s

None

Launched by 20-year-old David Karp in 2007, Tumblr didn’t truly take off until the beginning of this decade, when it received a ton of funding. Its rise can perhaps logically even be traced directly to the decline of Myspace; where one ultra-personalised platform changed drastically and destroyed the features people loved, another slipped into its place.

None

Users initially used Tumblr as a sort of mood board of their interests and personality. Where LiveJournal, Blogger and Myspace blogs were mostly occupied by personal spiels or stories of thousands of words, Tumblr was different. Users were free to post shorter updates and mix them with lyrics, quotes, screenshots and other images they just liked. They would post multiple times per day and were able to “reblog” others’ content; it quickly became seen as a more honest representation of who its users were. Often anonymous, pages were still dutifully curated, a playground for honest experimentation.

None

That experimentation spawned a culture that existed, initially, only on Tumblr. Everything that happened on the platform was an elaborate in-joke that served to infuriate outsiders and make those involved feel a part of something; it spawned its own absurdist, often seemingly nonsensical humour. It kick-started many teenagers’ interest in social justice, an interest that pushed many into more meaningful political battles on more mainstream platforms. Inevitably, it also prompted a backlash both on and off-site against the perceived archetype of the “Tumblr SJW”. Sites like social-justice-bullshit call out people engaging in “identity politics” or “snowflake behaviour” both on and off the platform. Today’s so-called Twitter “cancel culture” is rooted in Tumblr fandom.

None

Generally, though, Tumblr gave people space to figure themselves out. Where other spaces on the internet are often cold and unforgiving, Tumblr, for the most part, tried to let people experiment with their identity. That was often to its userbase’s reputation’s detriment, of course – their propensity for self-diagnosis proved divisive, as did the platform’s alleged invention or popularisation of identities like “transracial” or “sapiosexual”. While users’ thought exercises were more often controversial than not, the platform still provided an imperfect space for people to discuss their sexuality, seek out those like them, and learn to understand themselves. Body positive, LGBTQ+, and chronically ill communities quickly grew on Tumblr this decade, uniting people across the world who wanted to talk about their identities and lives. Tumblr can be credited, too, with shaping modern fandom as we know it.

None

But perhaps what Tumblr was best known for this decade was its unintentional association with sex and porn. The ways in which Tumblr and sex interacted were diverse: Hentai and furry porn flourished, but so did screencaps of regular porn, erotic photos, and extended slash fan fiction. Sex workers, too, used the site to raise awareness around their work and to sell content. Sex became central to Tumblr, but after surviving several eras online, the website’s downfall came when it was sold to Verizon. In December 2018, Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio announced a ban on all adult content, preventing users from posting explicit images, including “photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals.” The move, a response to Apple’s threat to remove Tumblr from its app store, was immediately controversial, censoring fans, artists and sex workers – a fair chunk of Tumblr’s users.

None

Related | PAPER’s Top 10 Albums of the ’10s

None

Tumblr isn’t entirely gone; it still exists as a ghost, a porn-free puppet of its former self, much like how Myspace is technically still online. Many users cling on, although still more have left, with sex workers and artists migrating to Twitter and Pornhub. It’s a miracle that something so experimental (and frankly unprofitable) lasted as long as it did, its individuality resisting against shifts in online culture. Tumblr fought back against Karp breaking his promise to keep the platform ad-free; it overcame the launch of Instagram; its dedicated users kept it afloat in a hostile world. But what it seems incapable to survive is the porn ban – it forced its primary users onto more sex-positive platforms, censoring sex workers and artists while failing to ban Nazis or abusers.

None

Tumblr’s lack of loyalty to its core user base is a damning indictment of the internet’s future.Tumblr was one last bastion of user experience over profit, while other platforms (Silicon Valley giants like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube) become shinier, more self-conscious and monetized.Existing on the fringes of the internet, users on Tumblr rarely even needed to share their full name. But with the porn ban and ever-declining numbers, users are less and less committed to the platform.

None

When every corner of the internet that we used to go to for solace is obsolete, censored or monetized, online expression as it formerly existed has all but disappeared. Without Tumblr, there’s nowhere to go that feels free, doesn’t feel policed. Without an online mood board, do we take to cutting up magazines again? Do we create our own platforms? Or do we just accept defeat and give into the algorithm, scrolling through the same clinically curated posts and ads forever, gradually learning to forget that there was ever such a thing as internet subculture?