Karen Pittman on the Wonders and Responsibilities of Joining ‘And Just Like That’

Karen Pittman beams through a Zoom screen, cheers-ing me with a coffee mug that says, “It’s official, you’re awesome,” on it below a painted faux lipstick smudge. Over the course of our conversation, Pittman, who plays Dr. Nya Wallace on the Sex and the City reboot series, And Just Like That, reads more playful and bubbly than her character, a college professor and community organizer struggling to conceive a child. The two of us are immediately giggling about the lotus-like chandelier in her background, which seems to be growing out of her head, before she remarks on some of my “yummy” recent Instagram posts.

Pittman is a celebrated stage and screen actress, and has worked on and off Broadway for years, as well as in a steady string of supporting television roles, including on FX’s The Americans, Netflix’s Luke Cage and, perhaps most notably until now, as Mia Jordan on Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon’s Apple TV drama The Morning Show. As Jordan, Pittman plays a harried television producer, one of only a few people of color in the largely white, extremely chaotic world of a fictional morning news program. The Morning Show’s first season nabbed eight Emmy nominations and one win, and if the Screen Actors’ Guild nominations are any indication, season two could be poised to make an equally strong showing.

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If The Morning Show is what first brought Pittman to our attention, it’s And Just Like That that cemented her status as television royalty. In her first scene, the one and only Miranda Hobbes (portrayed to Emmy glory by Cynthia Nixon) has just arrived for her first day of class to pursue a Master’s in Human Rights. Seeing Pittman’s character headed to sit in the professor’s chair, Hobbes blurts out something like, “Don’t sit there, that’s for the professor.” When Wallace calmly explains she is the professor, Hobbes defends herself, saying she was confused by Wallace’s hair, having seen a photo with a different haircut online. What ensues is one the cringiest monologues ever committed to film and, as Pittman was quick to assert, awkward comedy gold.

From there, the relationship between Wallace and Hobbes first nosedives as Nixon’s character continues to humiliate herself, but then slowly blossoms into a genuine friendship between the two women. Pittman plays Wallace as poised, no-nonsense and shrewd, but, as the series progresses, reveals a softer, more sensual side and becomes part of one of only a handful of sex scenes we’ve seen so far in the series, notable because of its prequel’s title.

I was captivated my Pittman’s radiant kindness and thoughtfulness. She graciously began by asking for my pronouns, and when I explained I was open to any at the moment, and apologized for the potential confusion that might cause, she responded, “We are living in the age where: I get to decide who I am and you need to respect that. Trust me, I appreciate that.” As someone who worked as a background actor in one scene of the series (keep your eyes peeled for a pink beret in episode eight), I was eager to talk shop about the filming process and the experience of joining such an iconic franchise.

Our chat ranged from her relationship to the original Sex and the City and its overwhelming whiteness, how she navigated the responsibility of representing so many types of women historically erased by the show, filming that earth-shattering opening scene with Miranda and much more.

PAPER: I wanted to start by going back chronologically to how you joined And Just Like That. Were you a fan of the original series?

Karen Pittman: Oh, I was! For sure, I was. I think like everybody, I became enthralled with New York City life, and sisterhood, and womanhood, through these four incredible characters. And also, with the city of New York. It just made me want to be a New Yorker. With the Manolo Blahniks on cobblestones. It was very romantic and whimsical, but also very groundbreaking. They were doing something, and telling stories about how people really lived here. All of my friends and I would get together, and it was common ground for us, to sit down and watch a fun story that was enchanting, right? I’d actually met the executive producers on the show, John Melfi and Michael Patrick King, years ago when we did a pilot for Hulu, with… do you know Bridget Everett?

The comedian, yeah! She’s great.

Fantastic. So we did this really irreverent pilot. Really awesome comedy, where she was at the center of it, because she’s a superstar. And that pilot didn’t move forward, but I remember having such a great time with Michael and John, and John… I remember him coming to see a play I did. He’s just always been really supportive. So when I auditioned for And Just Like That, I remember seeing him on the Zoom, because you were still Zooming back then, and I saw him and Michael Patrick King and it felt like, “Oh, there go my brothers. It’s time to see if we can find a good playground to play on.” And it happened to be this story that I could tell with them, and I feel so grateful to do it.

Did you identify with one of the four women back when you were a viewer?

I mean, I think the answer is all of them, at some point. At some point I was all of those women, which is what I think made it so iconic but so fundamentally female. Those characters lived in our social and cultural psyche, because they were such strong archetypes. And newly created archetypes. That we felt like we could identify with as we came into the 21st century. If we were going to be a woman of the world, we were going to be one of those women, running around New York City living her best life. But I definitely was one of those audience members that was like, “It would be great to see some women of color in that world. It would be really enlightening. And I’ve thought more about it as my career has gained steam because there are so many women who have come out to me and said, “Your representation really matters. You doing the thing that you do really matters to me, and it’s really important for me to see that.” I haven’t completely stepped into the shoes of someone who can really inhabit that with a great deal of dexterity. But I definitely have felt like, “Oh, I see why it’s important.” And I see why it was important for And Just Like That to be different. To be the next chapter of Sex And The City. Why it was important for them to make it diverse, and inclusive, like they have.

Because the original show, as great as it was, certainly was very white, and had its blind spots in terms of gender identities, and all of that… I think it’s safe to say that the reboot has taken large steps to correct those wrongs of the past, but I’m curious to hear more about your take on how AJLT has tackled that. Also, in keeping with the chronology, when you first received that script and read about Nya’s scenes, I’m curious about your first impressions, and if you were immediately drawn to this character, and what was on the page versus what you brought to this woman through your preparations.

Well, first of all, I did not get the entire script. They were super secretive. Super duper. And then all throughout the filming, when we would get scripts for it, they would be on a highly secure… FBI, CIA version of script-reading documents. But I only got the scene, and the names were changed.

Which scene was that?

It was that very first scene, where Nya walks in with braids. Miranda very cautiously [says]: “Hey, don’t, that’s where the professor sits.” She’s like, I am the professor.”

Oh my god, that scene.

[Laughs] That was the very first one. And like many women of color, especially women from my tribe, who saw that scene, they’d lived it. So it wasn’t very hard for me to understand the arc of what that moment might look like, and what that relationship might look like. Because, you know, I’m sure this has happened to you, you meet someone who’s slightly awkward, and weird around you, because they’re trying to figure out how to conjugate what you are, and how to approach it in a respectful manner. And they may just fuck it up. But you end up actually becoming friends with that person, and you endear yourself to them and they endear themselves to you. That’s sort of the way some relationships begin.

When I encountered that audition, I thought, “I totally understand this moment. These women are going to be friends. And by the way, I know this is Cynthia Nixon’s character.” [Laughs] I know this isn’t Carrie Bradshaw, and I’m pretty sure it’s not Charlotte! They record your auditions and Cynthia saw mine and she said, “Oh, we have to have Karen, I love her work onstage. Can we really try to go for her?” I really didn’t think I got the audition. I thought, “Well, I tried. I really, really tried. And I love those guys, and I’ll have my chance. We’ve worked together before, and we’ll work together again. I know it.” Which is how I approach auditions. If I don’t get the job, it’s not my time. Not my opportunity. So then they called me back and said, “No, listen, we’d really, really love to have you.” “Oh, good! I need a comedy, after having done The Morning Show for eight, nine months.” I need comedy. So that’s how I popped in there.

Yeah, that scene, like I said, I’m a super-fan of the franchise, so I had some people over, and we were watching it that Thursday night, and the air just left the room. Everyone was screaming.

I know! Because you’re like, “Miranda… Oh! Oh! Miranda!” And one of the things that Michael said to me is: “Miranda is probably one of the most — is the most loved, of that quartet.” And I thought Cynthia Nixon just did a great job of shedding all fragility in the moment. And deciding that she was going to just muck up her character a little bit. She was going to make her a little messy. After seeing her seasons of Miranda as very, you know… not ever mussing, being mussed, in a way, especially around her career. We were going to see her for the first time step her foot into it. For me, it was really important to embody a Black woman who sees her going through the machinations of trying to figure out how to correct herself, versus Nya apologizing for Miranda’s gaffe, she just lets Miranda figure it out. I think that’s a lot of how it works, nowadays. Because there’s been this really strong response, what I wonder is how many people are affected by this notion of cancel culture, where if you make a mistake, a gaffe… Oh, you didn’t mean it that way, you’re going to get thrown out of society, you’re going to get canceled… I think there is some fear that she’s, like, a “Karen.” I don’t think so. I think she’s just a human being that said something politically incorrect, but apologizes, and we move on into a good friendship. Do you know what I mean?

Totally. I actually really admired that the show was willing to take these women who we have been with for so many years, and it really isn’t afraid to make them the butt of the joke, and make them go through these mistakes, and goof-ups, in order to learn and to grow. It sounds like you feel similarly. I think there was a way where they could have written this show where they didn’t tackle anything difficult like that. So I applaud the writers for not being afraid to go there, and have Miranda and Carrie and Charlotte mess up and look bad.

I also thought it was really, for me, and my friends, to have sat in these awkward moments… I thought it was funny. It was entertaining. You know?

Exactly. That scene was so funny. I saw some reactions online about people just thinking it was so horrifying, but, I mean, I was laughing.

If you’re cringing on the inside, that’s something to experience too. It’s a full service story, ay! Cringe, laugh, giggle, cry. Do those things. But I also feel, again, back to that idea of when I came into it, I certainly had fertile ground in my life for being amidst a sea of white women, in white spaces, as it were, and having to navigate that. With all of the education and style and the way you present yourself, you certainly can encounter some weird awkward moments like that, in spite of the fact you’re well put together. People are still trying to figure out how to be politically correct. And for me, it was really important, “OK, I’m going to bring this character to life, she’s going to be different from Mia Jordan, different from what I did on The Morning Show.’” But she is also going to be this super generous human being around this conversation of what it is like to talk a little bit about race politics, and put that in humor. Because I definitely feel like the last several years we have been on opposite sides. And having any sort of discourse around race, or the introduction of race into our conversations, is awkward, and cumbersome, and we’re often super clumsy about it. But I don’t think that that means it shouldn’t be talked about. I think part of what I love about this show that has come out in me, is normalizing the conversations between people of different genders and different races, normalizing the conversation of: “Hey, I’m different. This is how I want to be referred to. This is how you talk to someone, or this is how we include my race, or ethnicity, in a part of this conversation.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In that way I think it’s part and parcel with the groundbreaking history of the show, that they’re introducing these topics to this audience.

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So you touched on some of the fan reactions — I’m curious to hear more about that.

Once the show came out, I was like, “Everybody’s going to love it. I’m totally optimistic.’ So when people had knives out, I was like, ‘What? Are you kidding me?” Some of the feeling was, this needs to change, you guys need to change. Sara’s character Che needs to be included, la la la, Nya’s character, Miranda needs to confront her otherness… But then some people were like, “Why did you change it? Don’t change! Change it, but don’t change it like that!” It was definitely a knives out experience. But a lot of that has rolled off my back, because I know what’s coming. I know what’s on the horizon for this series. For this season. So I know that people are going to be like, “Oh, they did the thing that I thought they weren’t going to do.’ Or: “They’re doing more than I ever expected them to do with this.” The feedback has been like, “Oh, this character can’t just be there to serve the white character.” And, as the season has gone on, now you’ve seen Nya in her relationship with her husband, and you see that really her arc isn’t just about being Miranda’s professor, it’s about her struggles with IVF, and managing her own expectations for her life… And what does it mean to be a Black woman in a great relationship with a great Black man, and then decide not to create a Black family out of that? Are you kidding me? That’s also an interesting conversation to have. And I can’t wait for the audience to see the rest of the season, because I think they’re really going to be moved, and entertained, and laugh, and really be surprised.

Cynthia Nixon directed episode six, “Diwali.” So what was that like, because she’s your scene partner as well?

I think this is her first episodic television foray. It was great. She’s an actor’s actor. She’s a director’s actor. This is my first nude scene, naked scene, in television. Simulated sex scene, or whatever. And I had such nerves around it. A lot of vulnerability displayed in the moment for my character, and for my character’s husband, LeRoy McClain. As a female actor, you’re very sensitive about when you expose your body, when you make your actual, physical presence in that way, when you share it on screen. You always are very, very careful about that, because that shit is meme-able, OK? That shit lives in the world forever. So you just want to make sure that it actually was going to do something for the story, it’s going to do something for the character… it’s relevant, you know? So I definitely would not have seen myself doing that with any other director. Cynthia is just really warm and thoughtful. Or in any other production. With Michael Patrick King, and John, I knew they were going to make sure it was very beautiful, and tender, and sweet. There were notes in the script about: this is what it should look like, Naya’s on top… And so, it was very specific and really beautiful. She’s just a joy to act with. A lot of fun. Very early on, we had great friend chemistry.

COVID I’m sure has complicated things, but you talk about that organic friendship you developed — do you feel that the cast has had the chance to really bond off-set?

Inherent to doing episodic television is that you’re sitting around in your chairs waiting for the next scene to get set up. During the filming of The Morning Show season two, we really did have to keep our distance. We couldn’t be on set that long. This is prior to there being a vaccine, when we were filming that. But by the time we got to filming And Just Like That, the summer of 2021, there was a vaccine, almost everybody was vaccinated who was on set by August 2021, so we could sit around in the chairs and talk to each other without hindrance, without feeling like “I have to keep my distance.” So we did build those behind the scenes bonds. Kristin was fantastic. We bonded over dealing with her daughters and their hair — Kristin has adopted two beautiful African-American girls. We absolutely had the opportunity to bond. It was special. It really is. My social media person has put this picture online of us during one of our photoshoots for press, and we’re all seven of us lined up. It was just such a special day. Because we were bonded. I felt really strongly about the women that I worked with on that show.

You’ve done so many different roles in your career, and are now reaching this new level of visibility. I’m wondering what other types of characters are you most eager to play next?

It’s such a great question. I mean, a lot of it depends upon the collaborators, for me. I don’t want to tell just any story for any character up there. But I definitely feel like it’s time for me to start being in a leadership position in storytelling. Which looks like a leading role. I’ve spent a lot of time in the experience of supporting really extraordinary, fabulous women, like Jennifer and Reese, and even going back to Keri Russell in The Americans, and in the theater… I’ve spent a lot of time observing women, specifically white women, in leadership positions, in the jobs that I have had, and I think that it’s important for women of color to assume leadership positions in telling a story. Not just because of what it does for the story, but also what it does for the other actors, and how to be in that role. I think I have a good understanding of it now. I think definitely women who are in love, and who are happy, and who are complicated. There are people that I’d love to work with, actors I’d love to work with…

Can you name any of those?

Well, all the beautiful Black male actors out there, Mahershala Ali, André Holland was a colleague of mine from grad school… all the cuties. I also am a big fan of Jessica Chastain. But again, it is a question of who the storytellers are, and how to collaborate. And really, I think, the question is what kinds of stories do I want to tell next. I think there is so much more work to be done societally and artistically with the conversation about how we find common ground. I think my experience of having gone through this really extraordinary time of political unrest and societal unrest, has been “OK. There’s still a lot of work we have to do as human beings to figure out how to come together.” We paid a lot of lip service to that, but perhaps there is a lot of good use in telling stories where people find themselves on common ground that they never imagined themselves. And how do I tell more stories like that.

Photos courtesy of Warner Media

2020’s Most Read Articles on PAPER

When the outside world shut down in 2020, we all turned to our phones for entertainment. We scrolled for hours, days, weeks, maybe even months if you add up all our screen time — especially when the puzzle making and experimental baking era of early lockdown got old. And it did quickly.

As it turns out, PAPER fans were invested in some pretty strange stories (This one about a terrifying giant baby, for example, never leaves the charts). You loved debating over celebrity hairstyles, getting naked on TikTok and following the latest in meme culture. You also really, really loved K-pop. And Britney Spears. And Lady Gaga. But you also prioritized the important topics, from Black Lives Matter to hypocrisy in the entertainment industry.

Your thumbs must be tired from all the clicking, scrolling and sharing. But please never stop.

Below, we’ve reviewed and organized the top performing stories of 2020, from January to December — and it’s a wild ride, to say the very least. Good luck and here’s to hoping 2021 is less of a mess.


The New Year kicked off with an online frenzy surrounding Jeffree Star’s seemingly flawless relationship with then boyfriend Nathan Schwandt, which ultimately came to an end. (Meanwhile, new romance blossomed elsewhere in Cali.) PAPER readers continued to obsess over beauty news, but especially when YouTuber Nikkie Tutorials came out as transgender (with subsequent drama in the following days). The surprise Cheetah Girls reunion kept everyone clicking, as well as Lupita Nyong’o’s “afro clouds” hair and the story of one sad journalist who decided it was appropriate to criticize Blue Ivy Carter’s appearance. Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through.

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One month into 2020 and we were gifted Charlotte Awbery, the viral singer who covered Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” in a train station to massive praise. The internet also discovered what Rihanna smells like: “Shea butter and success,” according to Black-ish star Miles Brown. In the world of fashion, there were a few glimmers of joy (before the world descended into darkness) with Harry Styles wearing Marc Jacobs to the BRIT awards in London and Fendi making history with its first plus-size runway models. Of course, PAPER readers clicked on a lot of celebrity gossip, but we love you for that. Oh, and Wendy Williams wore Telfar. Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through.

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When the world first started grappling with COVID, Vanessa Hudgens took a big hit with her polarizing comments on an Instagram Live. Perhaps a sign of our dwindling mental health in March, the internet couldn’t stop debating over whether or not Andrew Cuomo’s nipples are pierced. This was also the start of a long year filled with coronavirus memes. Remember Ariana Grande washing her hands? And a long year filled with conspiracy theories, beginning with Keri Hilson’s claims that 5G was behind COVID’s global spread. Thankfully, we had brief levity in the form of Harry Styles wearing fishnets, which you all clicked on a lot. Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through.

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As we all started settling into quarantine, PAPER checked in a few friends to see how they’re passing the time. PAPER readers particularly loved Manu Rios’ photo diary, probably because he’s hot. Very hot. Go ahead, click it again. This was also the month the internet discovered — and fell in love with — a very sad bulldog named “Big Poppa.” His melancholy was like a mirror and everybody shared the shit out of his photos. Then we got into aliens (because why not?) when the Pentagon finally released Tom DeLonge’s previously top secret UFO footage. Oh, and Zayn and Gigi announced their baby. They’ve since had that baby. We’re getting old. Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through.

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With George Floyd’s murder, the world became newly awakened to cruel injustices towards the Black community. This wasn’t the beginning of Black Lives Matter — nor the beginning of racial inequality whatsoever — but the U.S. doubled down on its fight for civil rights and, especially, defunding the police. PAPER readers were very invested, as was the internet. “Justice for George Floyd” became Change.org’s biggest petition fo 2020. Elsewhere in May, Florence Pugh’s face in Midsommar sparked a viral meme and the gays were given Lady Gaga’s “Rain on Me.” The 1975 also released their new album, Notes on a Conditional Form, which you all loved. Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through.

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June is typically a month dedicated to LGBTQ+ pride, but with physical spaces still shut down under COVID the community turned to protest instead. Sandra Bland became a focal point, as people demanded that past cases of police brutality and negligence be reopened. There was also renewed focus on the safety of Black trans women, who’re the most at-risk in terms of everyday violence. In the midst of conversations surrounding Black Lives Matter, Lady Antebellum rebranded as Lady A, and the internet started calling on the band formerly known as the Dixie Chicks to remove “Dixie” from their name. Black creatives continued to prevail, including Saweetie with her hit single, “Tap In,” as well as all these Black-owned fashion businesses. Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through.

Lauren Jauregui and Chika Are the Role Models They Never Had

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Before things crumbled with their relationship, July was the month Demi Lovato announced her engagement to actor Max Ehrich. The internet quickly became addicted to their love affair. Online stan wars raged on (while neighboring stan accounts lost hope), Grimes took this unsettling photo of Elon Musk and Kanye West, and Timothée Chalamet got caught in some drama with then rumored girlfriend Eiza González. Jay Manuel gave PAPER piping hot tea, “skin therapist” Sean Garrette dished on his ultimate beauty secrets, and Kali Uchis opened up about activism and autonomy. Meanwhile on TikTok, austistic women thrived and an amazing account emerged that rates how celebs act toward service workers. Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through.

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After releasing their “WAP” video, searches for Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion spiked on Pornhub (a 235% increase for Cardi and 210% increase for Meg). In other sex-related news, drag artist Alexis Stone leaked a fake sex tape with her body double and broke down her viral project, Exploited, with PAPER. You all fell into her trap, yet again. Tess Holliday’s Grammys strawberry dress — which landed her on several worst dressed lists — sparked a debate on thin privilege, and another red carpet at this year’s remote VMAs kept the internet talking. All those Lady Gaga outfit changes live in our heads, rent-free. Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through.

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In September, Chris Evans accidentally shared a screenshot of his phone’s photo gallery that included his own dick pics. (You all clicked on that article a lot, so apparently you needed it — thank you, Chris.) What we didn’t need, though? Aaron Carter doing porn, but he persisted nonetheless with a livestream nude guitar performance. Jeffree Star boyfriend drama reemerged, and people briefly believed that Halsey and Cara Delevingne were dating. This was also the month that the internet was introduced to Nathan Apodaca, the viral TikToker whose Ocean Spray skateboard video stole the hearts of millions (including Fleetwood Mac). Oh, and PAPER readers really loved this list of 10 Instagram dogs to follow. Very sweet. Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through.

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The Country Music Awards couldn’t handle Noah Cyrus’ sheer performance look, but thankfully the star clapped back at her critics. (That same Saga NYC outfit went on to dominate 2020 Google searches.) Elsewhere in October, Vaquera kicked off an Instagram butt challenge throughout New York City and BLACKPINK’s Lisa wore this new Celine bag to widespread fandemonium. This was also the month of Emily in Paris, the Netflix series that spawned a million memes and renewed interest in French style under costumer Patricia Field. YouTubers kept quite busy this fall, with David Dobrik launching his own perfume line, Nikita Dragun partnering with Morphe Cosmetics and Tana Mongeau… offering booty pics in exchange for Biden votes. Politics! Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through.

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Although the 2020 election was nail-biting, its resulting memes provided some necessary relief. Nevada’s slow election results? The Four Seasons Total Landscaping parking lot? That “BBQ Beer Freedom” guy? Perfect fodder for an anxious internet. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to entertain bored TikTokers, many of whom started shaving down their teeth to partake in a viral “veneers check” trend. Billie Eilish also joined TikTok this month, but soon after changed her original iconic handle (RIP @coochiedestroyer5). Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Lopez and Hayley Williams kept PAPER readers clicking, and Kylie Jenner somehow became a Middle Eastern meme. Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through.

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Ah, December. The final month of an absolutely shit storm of a year. In a final twist, we received further confirmation that alien life exists (they just don’t think we’re ready to meet them yet). Probably true. Strange monoliths also started popping up around the world, although those were likely separate from anything extraterrestrial. A Ratatouille musical emerged on TikTok, while the platform also gave us an astrologist’s alarming prediction about the fate of Joe Biden in 2021. The queers won big with Elliot Page’s coming out, Troye Sivan’s mullet, Harry Styles in a dress (let’s not give him too much credit) and Shawn Mendes’ public apology for misgendering Sam Smith, who uses they/them pronouns. Also: Shaq dropped a thirsty comment on Megan Thee Stallion’s Instagram Live, haven’t we all? Here are five other PAPER stories you couldn’t stop scrolling through. In a final twist, we received

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This Doc Shows How Queers Kept Raving Under COVID

When the world shut down earlier this year, one group of Toronto queers opened the first — and largest — virtual queer rave on Zoom. Club Quarantine was co-founded by Brad, Mingus, Ceréna and Casey, and quickly became a nightly escape for the LGBTQ community to still dance, dress up and meet likeminded people while alone in lockdown. Apart from their own programming, which prioritized booking queer DJs and drag performers put out of work, Club Q went on to throw weekly parties with PAPER, featuring lineups with artists like Lady Gaga, Kim Petras, Pabllo Vittar, Big Freedia and more.

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A new documentary, premiering today, looks back on Club Q’s rise and impact through the perspective of Director Angie Bird, who was a regular at the party. “When COVID first hit, my industry completely shut down and so did all international flights,” Bird tells PAPER. “I felt really overwhelmed because I didn’t know when I’d work again and I also didn’t know when I’d be able to get home to my family in Australia. Club Q was an amazing distraction and it showed me just how important community is. It helped me and many others feel safe and connected during these unprecedented times.”

Realizing she had stumbled upon something special with Club Q, Bird set out to make a doc “that celebrated the ingenuity and relentless optimism of the LGBTQ+ community.” But the parameters of this project were new for Bird, who says she’d never made a doc in real time. “I usually tell stories about moments after they have happened, so this was a new way of working for me,” she says. “I started the doc in the first few weeks of the club, and it just kept evolving and getting bigger and better.”

Related | Casey MQ’s Album Tracklist as Celebrity Crushes

As the world changed under quarantine, so did Club Q’s mission, as they refocused their parties and social platforms to elevate Black voices while raising money for the most at-risk members of the LGBTQ community, namely Black trans women. “As Club Q evolved, so did the documentary,” Bird says, adding that she loved “watching the founders evolve their parties into a platform where they could help raise money for the trans community, for the Black community and for other vulnerable people in our community.”

Ultimately, Bird’s film on Club Q underscores the power of community, even during a pandemic. She says Thursday Arlyn, a featured club-goer from her doc, sums this up best: “Community can be found anywhere, community can be made anywhere.” And this is exactly what Bird intended for viewers to take away from the project. “I hope when people watch the film they know they are not alone,” she says. “There’s a lot of people out there who want to embrace them and celebrate them, and if you need a little pick me up, come and hang out with us all at Club Q. Everyone’s welcome.”

Watch the PAPER premiere of Club Quarantine by Angie Bird, below.

Photos courtesy of Angie Bird

Lil Nas X Knows You’ve Been Naughty

It is fair to say that this year has forced things into perspective. It’s also fair to say that this year has totally sucked. The “rules” that governed politics and pop culture and our civic and social lives don’t seem like they’ll ever go back to the way they existed before 2020. And maybe that’s a good thing.

This year has certainly helped Montero Lamar Hill see things differently. Hill — better known as the Grammy-winning artist Lil Nas X — got a much-needed break over the past few months that he almost certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed otherwise. With lockdowns around the world all year preventing him from touring and making promotional appearances, it’s the first time in the 21-year-old’s short career that he’s had some shade from the spotlight.

That career began, of course, when his single “Old Town Road” seemingly took over the world for what felt like all of last year but was actually 19 weeks, which is how long it sat at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, a record-breaking feat. Not only did the song launch Hill into the public’s consciousness, but it also took on a life of its own, spawning memes and dance challenges, remix after remix with heavy hitters like Billy Ray Cyrus, Young Thug, and BTS, merch deals and even a children’s book. The follow up, 7 EP, was released at the crest of the “Old Town Road” wave, capitalizing on the buzz, with lead single “Panini” securing Hill’s role as a chart-topper without doing much to signal what his true ambitions as an artist and performer really were.

“I want my fans to know how much I love what I do and that I’m loving myself more too. This is my ‘I’m here to stay’ project.”

While these accomplishments are virtually unheard of for a brand-new artist, examining his trajectory makes clear the unique challenges young Black artists face when hitting the mainstream. There’s a constant tug-of-war between who they want to be and which lens we’re most comfortable observing them through. Black women artists and Black queer artists understand this even more acutely. Hill’s contemporaries, like Lizzo and Megan Thee Stallion, are new to fame but face constant scrutiny. And in Hill’s case, being an out, gay man means there’s more untreaded territory to traverse. Even more reason to be careful.

Since March he’s split his time between his home in Los Angeles and with his family in the Atlanta area, where he’s from. He says the downtime was much needed. “I’ve been looking for approval in the wrong places.” he tells PAPER on a Zoom call. “I’m trying to learn to just be thankful for the people that do support me.” That support from his fans has come with its fair share of scrutiny as well.

“I do want to go beyond any other artist’s impact. I don’t want to do what has been done. I want to have a lifelong career.”

Hill’s media narrative has shifted almost as much as he’s traded out his collection of cowboy hats. First he was a genre-bending freedom fighter trying to get on the country music charts, testing the limits of what the genre could be and who had the right to make that distinction. This was replaced with bemusement at how his hit record spread around the world in a way that’s never been seen before, and the internet savvy that he possessed which made it all possible. And finally, his decision to come out last summer earned him even more attention as he was lauded as a trailblazer while also being questioned for his motives. This has been the toughest challenge for him to navigate.

According to Hill, he “planned to die with the secret.” He told the Guardian earlier this year that changed when he hit mainstream success. The new standard for 2020 pop stars is part politician, part artist. Hill is keenly aware of that fact, pausing and thinking long before answering even the smallest questions.

He felt the urge to set an example for his fans, as well as get ahead of the breadcrumbs his history on the internet would have led people down. He wanted it to be on his own terms. Even after this revelation, which came in the form of a tweet last June shocking even the people on his creative team, he’s still been tight-lipped about his dating and personal life. “I definitely dance around whatever I want to say or do on the internet,” he says “I want to get to a point where I can share everything with the world, but I’m not there yet.” This is out of an abundance of caution. He doesn’t like saying the wrong thing.

But this year has allowed him time to give more thought about how he does want to let his fans in. With his next project, which will be his first full-length album, out next year, he promises something more “honest” and less “PG-13.” It’ll be his attempt to wrestle his narrative back into his own hands.

“I definitely dance around whatever I want to say or do on the internet. I want to get to a point where I can share everything with the world, but I’m not there yet.”

On his first single from the project, “Holiday,” which dropped last month, Hill is cockier than he’s ever been. “Man, I snuck in on a horse, I got no remorse/I pulled a gimmick, I admit it, I got no remorse,” he rap-sings on the track. It also features his first explicit reference to being gay on a song. He raps, “I might bottom on the low, but I top shit,” a line he was nervous about including.

“Even saying it in the studio. I was like, ‘Damn, do I want to say this in front of these people?'” he says. The fear started to creep in. Would he alienate his straight fans? Even his queer fans? “Within the community it’s kind of like a taboo in a way to say,” he said. “Which doesn’t make sense because, you know, we’re all gay.” After much thought, he decided to keep it in.

Hill’s greatest strength as an artist and as a personality is his self-awareness, and his ability to bring you in on the joke. He doesn’t pretend to have it all figured out, and he doesn’t ever take himself too seriously, always offering a wink and a nudge that he finds it just as funny as you do that he’s a huge star.

While humour is what has not only made his fans love him so much, and made him such a family-friendly marketing alternative to other Soundcloud rappers who play in similar sonic worlds, it’s also left a question mark over his career. Is there much past the laughs? He thinks with his album, he’ll prove that there is. “I want [my fans] to know how much I love what I do and that I’m loving myself more too,” he says. “This is my ‘I’m here to stay’ project.”

He’s been hard at work this year, getting his hands dirtier in the songwriting process, trying to push the boundaries he previously placed on himself. Before recording “Old Town Road,” he had only just started making music. The song was recorded in under an hour, in a studio he paid just $20 to use. Now he has a lot more freedom. “I’m just taking my time on songs, much more than I did before,” he says. “I would go into the studio and whatever I did with the song that day, that was it.” EP 7 demonstrated how little he is governed by genre, just like all the other music industry traditions that he ignores. He says that’ll be the same on this record.

This go around, he’s less concerned about how his fans will receive the music, and more concerned with making something he’s proud of. Despite saying he has “zero doubt” his fans will love it. “I’m thankful for every single fan of mine, but I feel like it’s very important to me, as an artist, or creator in general, to create what I want to create no matter who’s watching, because I’ll never be happy if I don’t.”

Hill has shown how adept he is at directing your attention where he wants it, which is in part why he loves embodying different characters in his fashion and music videos. He’s hung up the cowboy hat to trade for a cyberpunk Santa getup, which is his new look for the “Holiday” rollout. “Every day everybody, we dress up in drag in a way,” he says. “It’s just so fun, like being able to be a different person all the time.”

Hill’s trepidation with establishing himself as one kind of artist or performer, seems less to do with fear of acceptance and more to do with being pigeonholed. When asked who his inspirations are, he lists off some of the top-selling artists of the past decade: Drake, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, Frank Ocean. He couldn’t land on one. As much as he wants to be thought of as a standalone icon, he just wants to do what feels right.

“I do want to go beyond any other artist’s impact. I don’t want to do what has been done. I want to have a lifelong career,” he says before trailing off. “Unless I decide to do something else.”

Photography: Charlotte Rutherford

Styling: Hodo Musa

Hair: Malcolm Marquez

Makeup: Anthony H. Nguyen

Studio: Hubble Studio

FILA Has a New Dance Challenge With Your Favorite TikTok Stars

This article is a sponsored collaboration between FILA and PAPER

This year has been rough no doubt, but FILA’s new dance challenge #UpTheBeat will make your day a bit better — and help make a difference. The brand’s dance was choreographed by The Williams Family, the award-winning brothers, who you’ve seen compete on America’s Got Talent and World of Dance, and it’s set to SAINt JHN’s 2020 single, “Gorgeous.”

PAPER and FILA joined forces on the #UpTheBeat challenge with some of our favorite TikTok dance stars: Brian Esperon, the choreographer who famously created that “WAP” dance; and Amanda LaCount, who started out on America’s Got Talent and just last year danced in Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty show. FILA’s larger campaign also features big-name talent, including Ava Michelle from Netflix’s Tall Girl and World of Dance superstar Kaycee Rice.

Related | FILA’s New Collection Pays Homage to Its Heritage in Winter Sports

FILA is donating up to a total of $50,000 in support of World Central Kitchen’s COVID-19 Relief Fund when users create videos and join the #UpTheBeat challenge.

Check out our video, below, where TikTok stars show you how to #UpTheBeat in FILA’s latest looks.


NEW #UPTHEBEAT CHALLENGE FROM FILA 🗣️ Tiktok icons @besperon and @amanda_lacount bodied this 🥵#ad

♬ Gorgeous (Clean) [Official] – SAINt JHN

Direction/DP: Olivier Lessard
Choreography: The Williams Brothers
Production: Peter Schwab @pschwab____
Hair: Dritan Vushaj
Makeup: Dana Delaney
Styling: Ariel Leon-Coeur
Local Prod: Cookie Walukas

ppcocaine Isn’t Scared of a Little Viral Fame

All of 2020 has felt like a bad dream, and the holiday season is especially grim. So this week we’re leaning in to the terror and celebrating with Five Days of Rico Nasty, the rapper whose debut album, Nightmare Vacation, doesn’t seek to comfort listeners so much as validate their anger and anxieties. We’ll be talking to the rapper and her collaborators about the best and worst parts of an awful year… that just happened to have some pretty great music.

“Every bitch in the world is a slut, whether they deny it or not,” says ppcocaine with a knowing chuckle. The 19-year-old rapper, whose sex-obsessed, devilish rhymes have turned TikTok upside down this year, is describing the video for “Slut” that she’s due to release in a few days to PAPER over Zoom and sounds excited. It’ll be just the third music video in her young career, and it arrives right at the end of a whirlwind 2020.

Before picking up the pen last December, ppcocaine was a dancer at a strip club, dealt with drug abuse, and went through a period of homelessness. But after making friends with rising rapper NextYoungin, she met a producer named SpainDaGoat who encouraged her to try out rapping. She was an instant natural, developing a unique style — originally under the name “trapbunniebubbles” — that twisted the innocence of nursery rhymes on their heads with crotch-grabbing raps over their purescent beats, delivered with the kinds of cadences that each deserve an individual straightjacket. Songs like “3 Musketeers,” “PJ” and “DDLG” would go viral on TikTok, leading her to the kind of instant fame that most would dream of.

Related | Welcome to Rico Nasty’s Nightmare

With that kind of fame comes having to learn at the blink of an eye. She’s been “canceled” a couple of times for insensitive lyrics and misgendering someone during an argument without her knowledge, so trying to figure out how to be the best version of herself, that respects others and can cope with the stress of always needing to be perfect, can be exhausting. But ppcocaine hasn’t been discouraged by what she’s experienced so far — it’s all apart of the process. “Mentally, for a while it was tough, but I’ve gotten, I wouldn’t say over it, but I’ve gotten better at phasing it out,” she says of the drama.

For this installment of Five Days of Rico Nasty, PAPER spoke with ppcocaine about her wild year, collaborating with Rico Nasty and what she’s working on, below.

2020 has been a huge year for you. How would you describe it?

Pretty crazy. I guess you could say my year kind of started in December of last year. So it’s just been really crazy. I really couldn’t put another word to it.

What made you want to start rapping? Do you remember what you were thinking?

Well, I started writing when I was younger, like 15 and 16. I didn’t start recording until December. But I really didn’t think anything of it, I just recorded it because it was fun and I liked the way that my voice sounded.

How have you been enjoying making music so far?

It’s been really good getting to work with all the people that I want to work with and meeting people that I never thought I would ever meet in my life. So it’s been pretty cool.

So having this breakout year this year, how does it feel for it to have happened during the pandemic? Do you think that everyone being locked down has had an impact on your growth?

Yeah, it definitely has helped and hurt. It hurts because I can’t go to shows and stuff, but it helps because I really use TikTok as my platform, so it’s really like everybody’s sitting down on their phones on TikTok. So it’s like no one’s really doing anything. They’re not going outside. They’re not doing shit. So using TikTok and having everyone be on there has really helped. And yeah, the only thing I would say is a downfall is not being able to go to shows and stuff.

What kind of growing pains do you think that you’ve gone through in the industry?

I mean, I was kind of born for this shit. Not to toot my own horn, but I have been performing since I was a little kid, whether it be dance, choir, or ballet. So really, I’ve always been a drama queen. I’ve always been the star of everything. I like to be the center of attention. So there isn’t really anything that I would say is a downfall. Everybody deals with hate, so that’s one thing, but I just know how to handle it well. So other than that, I really haven’t had any problems.

So when dealing with that hate on social media, does that have any impact on your creative process?

Creative process, it doesn’t really affect me at all because I really don’t care. I just would make music to make them mad, you know? But mentally, for a while it was tough, but I’ve gotten, I wouldn’t say over it, but I’ve gotten better at phasing it out.

Related | ppcocaine Is Living the TikTok Fairytale

You worked with Rico Nasty on the “Smack A Bitch” remix. How did your relationship with her develop?

I’ve always listened to her. When I was a younger, she was my spirit animal. I just like how she screams. I like how she carries herself and shit. So I was like I always wanted to work with her. Literally, when people would compare me to her, I would take that as a compliment because I’d be like, “Bro, I fucking love her.”

And then, I recorded it while I was in Atlanta. And at the time that I recorded it, something irritating was going on right before, so it kind of fueled my rage and then hers too. So it was super lit because I’m like, “Yes.” And I sound angry in the song.

But after that, even before that, we were texting and stuff. We’d occasionally FaceTime. And recently, she was just in Cali, so we linked up for the first time, and we were just talking about regular shit. She’s just a regular ass person. A lot of people take their fame and put themselves on a pedestal, but hanging out with her made me realize she’s super down-to-earth, and she’s super eager and shit. And I like those kind of people to hang around. I don’t like people who, I wouldn’t say think too highly of themselves, but kind of like, I don’t know, are conceited in a way. But she wasn’t conceited, she was just really chill.

I just had a good time hanging out with her because we were talking about crystals and shit, and it’s like some people think that shit’s weird. And the fact that she’s really open-minded, and she really was just having a cool ass conversation with me, and it was lit. We hung out the day before she went back to Maryland, so I was like, “Yes!” I was so hyped to hang out with her.

What are some things that you’re doing to stay down-to-earth?

I’m really just myself. If somebody were to ask me a question, I just answer like an open book. My whole life I’ve always been an open book. I don’t really like to hold shit in because it’s like what’s the point? And it’s like I know growing up, if the people that I admired were openly talking about the shit that they go through and openly talking about their troubles and shit, I feel like in a way that would have helped me to know that celebrities are not emotionless because most celebrities don’t show their openness to the world. They don’t show anything to the world. And it’s like, bro, for what though? Why? Why aren’t you opening yourself up? It doesn’t make sense.

And just me kind of using my voice to speak on issues that other people aren’t going to talk about, I just feel like why not be open with my followers? I went on TikTok, and I talked about my whole ass period with them. I really don’t mind what I talk about because it’s like I know someone needs to hear it. I know someone needs to hear this shit.

Speaking of openness with fans, I saw that you said that you respond to a lot of your messages on Twitter. What kinds of messages do you usually get?

Most of them are happy. Some of them come to me when they feel like they’re having mental health issues. And me, growing up, I had a lot of mental health issues. So it’s like, I’m not a therapist, but I’m a really easy person to talk to. And everything me and my fans talk about is confidential. I’m not going to go post what me and my fans talk about because it’s like some of them come to me with real issues and stuff. And it’s like I know I’m not a therapist, but hearing it from someone they admire or being able to talk to someone they admire and for them to give them actual help and lead them to the right resources, it helps them.

At this stage in your career, is being a role model something that you want to be?

Yeah. I wasn’t surrounded by the best role models growing up. And me myself, I’m not saying I’m the best role model either because there’s a lot of shit that I’ve done that I’m not proud of. But I know now that I wasn’t proud of that stuff, so it’s easier for me to lead them in the right direction, not to follow in my footsteps. I don’t encourage anyone to follow in my footsteps. Yeah, I have a big follower range. Life is pretty sweet right now, but it’s like I wouldn’t tell people to follow the footsteps that I did to get here.

You’ve announced that you’re dropping on the 18th and the 22nd. So I just wanted to ask you, what are you working on now? What do you have planned for the near future?

Well, on the 18th, I drop a song with a music video that’s kind of going around TikTok. It’s called “Slut” because every bitch in this world is a slut, whether they deny it or not. They’re all sluts. I have that one coming out. And then I have just a little Christmas anthem coming out on the 22nd. So that one’s fun. And then I really just work with Bankroll Got It, and I go to his studio quite often. Whenever he’s free, I’ll go there, and I’ll cut up because I like the vibes there and stuff. It’s really nice. But I have a lot of songs just on the shelf, posted up for whenever it’s ready to be dropped.

Noah Cyrus’ Sheer CMT Look Dominated 2020 Searches

In October, Noah Cyrus caused a frenzy after performing at the CMT Awards in a sheer bodysuit, bedazzled thong and cowboy hat, with many trolls describing her look as “disgusting” and “inappropriate.” (She eventually clapped back in the best way possible.)

In fact, her look was so controversial that it topped this year’s Google list of top trending searches for celebrity outfits, beating out spikes in searches for Lizzo’s basketball game look and the Grammy red carpet looks for Lil Nas X and Billie Eillish.

Phil Gomez, the stylist behind Cyrus’ stage costume, was inspired by Cher, Dolly Parton and the infamous Britney Spears MTV moment, describing the concept as always to disrupt and, of course, “BAWDY.”

Related | Noah Cyrus Examines Herself

“As a visual artist you always hope for some sort reaction,” he tells PAPER. “Working with public figures will always prompt internet trolls but when I saw that the outfit was making headlines on CNN, FOX News and even UK media outlets, that’s when I realized it was something bigger than the typical online feedback.”

The rhinestone bodysuit was commissioned from SAGA NYC founder and designer Sandra Gagalo, who spent hours bedazzling the custom nude look that emulated Cyrus’ song, “This is Us,” with Jimmie Allen. She tells PAPER that her strategically placed crystal thong and triangle bra stood out because it was a commentary on Instagram culture and the fantasy that it brings.

“I focused on a macro vs. micro concept on the piece,” she says. “The macro moment was her looking like she had crystal lingerie floating on her body. The micro element was in the details because my mesh catsuit is tailored to a T. It has dozens of panels sewn together with different opacities. I think that concept brought a multi-dimensionality to her outfit. Overall, she looked like a dream and that was my goal.”

The space cowgirl fantasy was complete with a country-inspired hat and gloves by Brooklyn designer Phallic Cunt. Gagalo acknowledges the internet went wild, but admits she’s cool with it.

“It’s up to us fashion designers to push the collective consciousness towards gender and race equality,” she says. “It’s 2020 and women are allowed to express themselves. We are working through and healing from thousands of years of societal oppression. Noah’s look was empowering. The fact that it was controversial and had people talking about it shows me that I did my job and made some art happen. I think it’s important for our culture to keep evolving.”

Photo via Getty

Comedy Queen Naomi Watanabe on Owning Her Style

With her lip-syncing chops, comedic monologues and celebrity impersonations, Naomi Watanabe is Japan’s reigning queen of Instagram, racking up more followers than anyone else in her country.

Since going viral for her “Crazy in Love” cover, the superstar has parlayed her fame into acting (she’s set to play the role of Tracy Turnblad in the upcoming Hairspray musical) and fashion, founding her own fashion line called Punyus.

Related | Meet Naomi Watanabe, Japan’s Boundary-Breaking Funny Girl

Earlier this year, the “Japanese Beyoncé,” as Watanabe’s known, was announced as the new global ambassador for Kate Spade, where she brought her signature eccentric and playful style to the brand’s spring ads. The next act in that partnership unfolds today with the debut of a handbag capsule designed by Watanabe and Kate Spade Creative Director Nicola Glass.

“I think the recent trend of small bags is really cute, but I also wanted to show a range in this collection,” she tells PAPER of the launch, which consists of a large faux fur tote and camera bags in two sizes. “The medium Infinite style fits both an iPhone and all your credit cards and the large tote can carry all your makeup and a laptop, which I often have with me. I like that you can use all the styles separately or together.”

Though comedy and fashion seem like two different worlds, Watanabe feels like they can complement each other seamlessly. “When I do a comedy sketch, I think of fashion and looks first,” she says. “That’s how I start getting into a character, I always think about what they would be wearing.”

She continues, “Comedy and fashion definitely complement each other, but sometimes we don’t see it like that. I know in the past I’ve gotten some comments about being a comedian who is into fashion, since they are seen as opposites, but they both provide so much inspiration to me. Hopefully there’s more collaboration in the future.”

Related | The 2020 Pop Girl Gift Guide

As for the final product, she wanted the range to be true reflection of her personal style, which she describes as colorful and experimental. “I remember when I first came to New York, my friends were telling me how to dress in the New York style, so I bought things that would match that, but then I got lazy and just started wearing things I brought with me from Japan,” she says. “And then people actually stopped me on the street to ask me about my outfits! It’s more original to wear what you like, so I try not to be too conscious of what other people want me to wear and just wear what I like!

Check out the Naomi Watanabe x Kate Spade New York collection, below, and shop the range now on Kate Spade’s website.

Photos courtesy of Kate Spade

Wildflower Cases Are the Only Reason to Have a Phone

Devon Lee Carlson is the People’s influencer. Sure, she’s graced the covers of magazines, secured many a high fashion partnership, including #ad posts for Burberry and tees for Marc Jacobs, and has been seen on the occasional yacht for best friend Bella Hadid‘s birthday celebrations, but nevertheless, she keeps it real. Footage of her latest TikTok dance challenge trials? Check. Frequent Spongebob content? She’s got you. BTS video footage on her YouTube channel about what goes into creating Wildflower cases, her iconic iPhone case brand? Always top of mind.

Our humble queen has a way of making her one million followers and counting feel like they can relate. Her ability to make the unattainable feel within reach (at the palm of your hand, or, on the back of your phone) is her key to success.

“We put a lot of love into it and I think that Gen Z likes to know who’s designing their products and what goes into the process. With my sister and I’s vlog channels and everything we post on social media, I think it gives people kind of an insight into what they’re buying into,” Carlson tells PAPER.

A full-on family affair, Carlson founded Wildflower — known for its loud, free-spirited designs and top tier collabs — with her mom, dad and sister Sydney when she was still in high school and her designs have since been sported by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Dua Lipa and more. Its cult-like status quickly landed the brand on Vogue and Forbes.

Years later, Wildflower, nor Carlson, show any signs of slowing. Even through what was inarguably a challenging year, the brand managed to launch some exciting new collaborations and designs, including one just last month with beauty vlogger turned actress/ model Amanda Steele. If her YouTube videos are any indication, there’s sure to be more coming soon.

“I would’ve never guessed that I was going to be in this position in a million years,” she says. “I dreamt of everything that I’m doing right now.”

PAPER caught up with Carlson to talk running her own business, some dream customers and, as always, staying true to herself.

How are you doing during this chaotic time? What’s getting you through 2020?

Trixie and Katya’s fucking YouTube channel. Their web series. Literally every week I watch it within the first hour it’s been posted. It brings me so much joy, it seriously makes me so happy.

Talk me through your decision to start wildflower cases: what gave you the idea, what inspired you and how did you bring it to life?

I mean, it was more of just a hobby when we started. My sister and I have always just been creative and loved fashion, so when my mom had originally surprised us with these cases, we instantly had so many ideas and we were just getting them to our friends at school and I even had posted on Instagram, when Instagram just first came out, one of my first post was a picture of the cases that me and my sister had designed and my mom has made, saying, “If you want these let me know. $35 we could meet in the Quad.” We didn’t really have any big goals or anything, it was literally just for fun, and meeting Miley [Cyrus] opened our eyes to the possibilities of what it could be because she was so instantly excited about our product that we had made.

My dad’s entire background is in product development and he’s a graphic designer, and he just was like, “Guys, I am the guy to make this come to life.” So it kind of just was so meant to be. It was insane. I was at a point in my life where I could have either gone down the college route, and done that whole thing, which I had never really wanted to do but I was just like, “I don’t know what to do.” And then Wildflower happened in April of my senior year so it just gave me something to do; it was my form of college, in a sense. It was such an accident that it’s hard to say the steps that we took to get it to where it is or see its potential, we were just like, “Let’s try.”

There’s such a strong, diverse range of designs. How do you come up with them? Do you have a favorite, or one your phone is wearing right now?

Well, the one I have on my phone right now is a throwback case because I had designed it in 2017 and we got so many requests to bring it back for the new iPhone sizes that we did and it’s a pink leopard case that we had had that I begged my parents to make. But I feel like what me and my sister love to do with the designs for Wildflower is make it: anyone with any style can find something that they like. Sydney and I’s style is a little all over the place — we just wear whatever makes us happy — so I think it’s fun to think of designs and of all my friends and ur customers and constantly see who’s wearing our case and try to design something that I know each of my friends with different styles would wear. So that’s always something that I keep in mind when designing is “Okay well will my really chic friends like this and my funky friends like that and some of my friends who like to dress more plain, would they all like it?” And then I’m like okay that’s it, that’s gonna be a hit, when I know it can hit every single aesthetic. We’re definitely aware that we do that; I think that’s part of our secret.

Your cases have been seen on everyone from Dua Lipa to Trixie Mattel to even having a feature on Euphoria. What’s the experience like, seeing your product out in the wild? Did you expect Gen Z to really pick up on these the way they have?

I mean, it’s still so crazy to me. My sister and I both are constantly going through Wildflower’s tagged photos on Instagram and seeing anyone with a case in public I instantly get nervous and excited and it’s so crazy. It doesn’t feel real to me at all, ever. And I just am excited whenever we get any good feedback. I think that people can tell that a lot of love goes into it and we’re a small business and it’s literally just like me and my sister, coming up with these designs and my mom. We handwrite all the notes and everything still; we put a lot of love into it and I think that Gen Z likes to know who’s designing their products and what goes into the process and with my sister and I’s vlog channels and everything we post on social media, It gives people insight into what they’re buying into. We just have so much fun with it, and we’re so grateful that this is our job at all. It’s so insane to us, and we just love seeing anyone with our cases.

Lots of tiktokers have also been seen sporting your cases. Do you think that platform has helped your brand grow?

Totally. My “For You” page is constantly filled with people doing “outfit of the week” videos and they’re changing their case with their outfit. That makes me so happy because I’m like “That’s what I do!” — I just think it’s so cool. But I genuinely love TikTok so much because I think that there’s something for everyone on the app. I watch cooking videos, I watch fashion videos, I watch dance — it’s so all over the place. My sister and I have been watching TikTok for like a year, and we instantly fell in love with Charli and Dixie and Addison and all those girls just because my sister and I were competitive dancers so it’s like seeing these younger girls doing the 2020 or 2019 version of the dance world. We just fell in love with them instantly and DM’d them on Instagram. Just seeing them use it makes me so happy.

Any dream users of Wildflower cases?

I had said in an interview before that Trixie was my dream, and then she seriously started using it and I was like “Oh my god! This is insane!” So this is a little manifestation moment, let me think. I would love to see Katya with one. I’ve said RuPaul in the past. I’m seriously just so grateful for all the support we get, it’s really insane. I want people to want to have them, I don’t want to ever force anyone to use our product. So I get excited when people genuinely like it.

What’s the process been like working with your mom and sister? Any tension, bonding moments, etc.?

A little bit of everything. We definitely have cried over designs and fought over designs. But we’ve also completely agreed, instantly, and I think it’s really made us look at each other as a family in so many different lights. Because I can go to her for advice on life stuff, but then also business stuff, and my parents have just always been very supportive of anything Sydney and I want to do so I think working together, it’s like it was meant to be. I feel like we’re a family that thrives in that scenario. It just works pretty well for us. But there’s definitely creative arguments; we were in an argument this morning over stuff. We argue over business how families argue in general, so it’s just very walls down all the time. Whenever we have someone work with us even like Taj [Alwan], I’m like “You’re literally going to be a part of the family now.” We love everyone, and it’s all love at the end of the day.

How has the experience of being an entrepreneur differed from your many other roles: model, influencer, Youtuber, etc.?

I think because I started as an entrepreneur with my family, it gave me a different approach to the entire internet and social media influencer worlds because I was reaching out to people to send cases to or to collaborate with, and at the same time I was becoming an influencer myself, unintentionally. But I feel like it’s given me the ability to not have to do everything and be able to pick and choose what jobs I want to do because it makes being an influencer and a model more of a hobby for me because my full time job is Wildflower. I have the privilege to only work with certain brands that I’m very excited about and I feel like I don’t have to do everything because it’s more of a fun thing for me — so when I get to work with Louis Vuitton or these brands I’m so excited because it’s more of a dream that I’m like, “Oh my gosh I can’t believe that Wildflower has led me to this.”

I want to talk about your YouTube channel. You have an overwhelmingly fun and exciting energy on the platform. What are some of your favorite types of videos to post?

I really only post vlogs, and I’ve gotten to do so many exciting, fun things that I felt like I just want to share with the world because I can’t even believe my own life. So I feel like my channel has turned into all these crazy, insane vlogs, but at the same time I’ll look back and be like “Okay, I’ll post a vlog where I’m just not leaving my house for an entire day and the whole vlog is just me at home,” but then my next one is like “Touring the world with my boyfriend.” It’s very all over the place.

But YouTube has kind of been hard for me recently, with everything going on. It’s always been only vlogs when I’m in the mood to vlog, otherwise it’s so forced, and that’s not fun to watch me do that. It hasn’t really inspired me to vlog. Certain days I’ll be very excited and pull out my camera but then I’ll watch back the footage and just not be inspired by it, or feel like “I don’t know who’ll watch this,” and I don’t end up posting for like a month. Then everyone starts messaging me and I’ll get excited again and end up posting. I’m just so vulnerable on there that it’s just hard for me to keep up with it, so I really do enjoy it, it’s just a lot mentally. But I love it, I just finished editing one right now that’s about to go up. I just love being a part of the YouTube world. I think it’s really fun and creative and cool.

What do you hope fans take away from your content, and from your presence on all of your platforms as a whole?

I just really want to inspire people to be themselves and express themselves through hair, beauty, fashion, photography and anything. Just follow your dreams and be a good person because you never know what’s going to happen to you. I would’ve never guessed that I was going to be in this position in a million years. I dreamt of everything that I’m doing right now. I want to say living with no expectations, because I feel like that’s what I do and I can dream as much as I want, but my expectations were set very low as a child. So I feel like everything that I do now is so insane to me, and exciting. But I just want to inspire people to be themselves and be confident in who they are, and do what makes them feel good.

Photography: Vijat Mohindra

Styling: Marc Eram

Makeup: Gilbert Soliz

Passing the Hood By Air Flag to Nomi Ruiz

“Despite what we’re told, the American flag has never represented freedom for Black people,” wrote Channing Hargrove in PAPER’s America cover story with Hood By Air. “For many it has become a tangible symbol of the white supremacy, hate and intolerance that has always been prevalent in our country.”

Which is why HBA, the luxury brand famous for disrupting old ideas, redesigned the flag by flipping it upside down and introducing the statement, “New World Citizen.”

Related | Hood By Air Flips the Flag

For any new symbol to take root, it needs people to support and carry out its values, so PAPER sent out the HBA flag to members in our community — individuals who’re similarly sparking conversations and challenging pre-existing ideas across internet culture, music and more.

Below, Nomi Ruiz — musician, actress, writer and a self-proclaimed “Renaissance woman” — answers questions provided by HBA Creative Director Shayne Oliver and poses with the “New World Citizen” flag over Zoom for Full Tac.

How do you receive your information?

I guess, the internet, you know, and word of mouth. It depends on what type of information. It could be friends texting me stuff, or I guess it’s our phones now. I have my newsfeed set up to give me information I prefer and block information that I’m not really into. I try to be really careful to not just bombard myself with a bunch of stuff. I’ve muted some things.

What symbolism most represents your online culture?

I do have this logo that I use for a project, called Jessica 6. It’s the number six with a spider woman in it and she has six legs. And so that’s been used by a lot of fans and people I feel connected with and people have gotten it tattooed. I wanted it to feel like a gang symbol, so that people could feel like they’re a part of whatever messages I’m putting out there with my music. When people see that image, it makes them think they’re a part of whatever it is that I’m creating and the messages that I’m spreading.

I wanted the spider to feel like this sort of like extraterrestrial being. I wanted it to be femme and I also wanted it to be otherworldly. I think it represents individuality and not conforming and sort of separating yourself from others. I think people that like to rock the t-shirts and logo, they feel special like they’re one of a kind. They sort of separate themselves from society.

The name Jessica 6 came from Logan’s Run. It’s this super old-school ’70s sci-fi movie and there’s this character in it Jessica 6. It’s about a society that lives in the underground and they don’t realize it until someone rejects the rules that they’re supposed to be given. And she believes that there’s something more and breaks the surface eventually.

Who was the last person you hugged?

The last person I hugged… I think it was my friend Laurice, who’s moving to Mexico City. She’s one of my home girls and we had a little hang the other day. She’s a cool girl.

Who would you pass the flag onto next?

My friend Anohni. She’s a singer and she’s pretty major. She’s very vocal about shifting the landscape of society and the world at large. I think she’d be a good representative of this sort of banner.

Other than Hood By Air, what is HBA an acronym for?

Home Bound At (Last).

Do you exist in real life?

I guess that depends on the definition of real life. Who knows, right now? IRL, URL [Laughs]. I guess I grew up in many different forms of reality. I think I make an effort to make sure I’m present in whatever people’s idea of reality is nowadays, just to make sure that me and where I come from and the people that identify with me are represented.

I think about multiple realities. There’s IRL, sort of in the flesh, and there’s society walking down the street and there’s the idea of who I am in people’s minds when it comes to… like you said information, when people receive information. It’s so foreign to all of us. No one really knows what people are receiving. That is an alternate reality in itself: receiving information. I try to make sure that I’m a part of whatever information is getting out there, whether that’s writing or music or whatever artistic endeavor that I’ve been taking on in that moment. I hope that it breaks through that version of other people’s alternate realities… information reality, I guess? The information highway?

From the start, 2020 has felt like a pivotal turning point for America. Ahead of what could be the most consequential election in our lifetimes, many of us are starting to re-think our behaviors, question old assumptions and challenge longstanding institutions. Through it all, there are plenty of reasons to feel inspired.

Highlighting compelling people in pop culture, politics and the arts, PAPER will examine America in all of its splendor, grit and complexity, and search for the stories that give us hope, compel us to be better versions of ourselves and to understand America as the multi-faceted, dynamic place — and idea — that it is.

Zoom photo direction: Full Tac

Watch Lav in the Spotlight on ‘Reds’

The first song Lav ever released, “From Me, The Moon,” Billie Eilish wishes she’d written — though this should come as no surprise. The Venice-bred singer-songwriter started her career as a writer, and has penned poetry since she age 11. “From Me, The Moon,” like many things in her life, kind of just happened.

“I made ‘From Me, The Moon’ in my bathroom at 3:00 AM in 15 minutes on GarageBand.” After uploading it to Soundcloud in 2018, and finding out people liked it, she decided to seize the opportunity: “I was like, ‘Might as well make some money off of this. I’m going to upload it to Spotify on TuneCore.’ And then it blew up.” So she quit school and left the residential center she was at in Utah to give music a shot back in LA.

When she found out Billie Eilish, who she considers the “John Lennon of our generation,” liked the song, she couldn’t believe it.

The 22-year-old has released a few singles since then, all of which are leading up to an EP slated to drop in January 2021, on top of maintaining a strong presence on TikTok, OnlyFans and Twitter for her hundreds of thousands of followers — all of whom tune in for her “oversharing” of personal, relatable content.

“My personality is very compartmentalized, and I consistently overshare so I can undershare, if that makes sense. So part of my persona was, I’m going to lay everything out. I’m going to make edgy jokes about my vagina and post nudes. And then part of me also has been writing pretty intimate poetry since I was 11.”

While she maintains a fairly comedic social persona online, ultimately Lav strives to keep her lyrics earnest and vulnerable. “I try to compartmentalize my Instagram, where I don’t make jokes and it’s just very serious,” she says. “It’s been really weird to navigate, because I don’t take myself too seriously, but I would like people to take something intimate away from my music.”

Her latest single, “Reds,” and its music video premiering today on PAPER, shows just how serious Lav is about her staying-power in the industry. “[It’s] probably the most different of my songs,” she says. “I really took inspiration from Methyl Ethel and Still Woozy and really New Age, neo-funk elements with ‘Reds,’ and I definitely want to go more into that direction.” The result is a breezy track that revolves around the sweetness of a summer romance.

The music video for “Reds,” which she co-directed, blends Lav’s love of all things vintage and film. In it, we see the musician switching up wigs, ping ponging between different on-stage personas — a skill, we’re sure, has been well-practiced.

Below, watch the PAPER premiere of the “Reds” music video, and be sure to stay on the look out for Lav’s new EP, which is coming sometime in the new year.

Photos courtesy of Lav

Andrea Russett Shares Her ‘Darkest Hours’

Andrea Russett’s venture into music began with the nervous posting of anonymous covers. Soon after, anonymous covers gave way to short vocal clips on Snapchat, and it was ultimately the encouraging reactions from followers that pushed her out of her online comfort zone, a place she had largely been living in since she first rooted her presence on the internet over a decade ago.

What once felt like an “outlandish dream” of releasing music of her own only came to fruition recently, with a support system of more than 11.7 million Instagram and Twitter followers combined and nearly three million YouTube subscribers. Some of those fans have watched Russett’s journey for years; now, they are watching her add to the lengthy portfolio of content she built her foundation on with the pursuit of her true passion.

On October 8, they heard her first single, “Darkest Hour,” for the first time.

“It was actually this last New Year’s, or maybe the one before, that I told myself — I made the decision that this was going to be the time where I actually focus on what I’m passionate about, rather than just keep doing this and that, here and there,” Russett told PAPER. “I wanted to follow my dreams for real, and if it fails, it fails. But at least I can say I tried.”

Russett has always loved music, but there’s no doubt that creating her new normal brought some concern about how fans would react. Fortunately, Russett said her followers have made the sometimes anxiety-inducing move to music an exciting one, with many providing seemingly unconditional support.

“I was really nervous when I finally made the decision that I was going to turn my focus to music over the last year, year and a half, and I was really nervous about how people would react,” Russett said. “But I thankfully have literally the best viewers in the world. Over the last 10 years, I have gone in so many different avenues and different routes and they’ve just stuck by me and been just as excited as I am for it. They’ve made the whole transition process more exciting than stressful, which I was concerned about.”

how it started:
how it’s going:
🥺 pic.twitter.com/aFsM0Uac2G

— Andrea Russett (@AndreaRussett) October 7, 2020

Despite that, being a nervous person is not how Russett would typically describe herself. But the emotions she was feeling in the hours leading up to the single’s release begged to differ, and rightfully so. She hopes, though, that the song she describes as her “baby” will speak for itself. And its candidness just might.

Perhaps most importantly, the release of the song will bring forth an openness and freedom that Russett hasn’t yet had the opportunity to experience in previous ventures. She is prepared to break out of the online mold, but this certainly isn’t goodbye to the internet, either.

This transparency extends to a more personal territory, as well. “Darkest Hour” is a forthright depiction of Russett’s experiences with her own mental health, an area she has hardly shied away from with her own fanbase.

She prides herself on her ability to speak freely and responsibly (which came with growth, of course) to her followers, and the tough stuff is all wrapped up in the conversation.

“I’m no expert, I’m still trying to figure this out just as much as the rest of us,” Russett said. “But through Instagram, through Twitter, that kind of stuff, I try to be super open and honest about the way I’m feeling and my own mental health and not paint it out to be anything. I think there are a lot of influencers who paint a perfect life, and when you see that, and you see that they don’t have any bad days online, it’s like, ‘Am I the only one that’s going through this?’ And it makes you feel really lonely. Through posting my own struggles, it hopefully makes anyone else out there feel like, ‘Okay, I’m not the only one feeling this way or going through this.'”

In collaboration with writers Matt Romagna and Dan Wilson and a production team of Romagna and Lisa Filipelli, Russett went to work, and in turn, created a piece of art that feels emotionally raw with lyrics prying open inner anxieties: “Tell me that you’ll be there in my darkest hour/ When I’m fucked up and fading out/ Promise me you’ll be there when I’m losing power/ Say you’ll reach out for me when I’m sinking under.”

“… During the time [we wrote the song], I had met someone new that I was really interested in, and I was also going through a depressive episode,” Russett said. “And I think I was just so consumed with anxiety over the fact of like, ‘He’s going to figure it out eventually. He’s going to see this side of me eventually. Is it going to be too much? Do I hide it? Do I bury it? Is he going to be there?’ And I think it all just spilled out into the song.”

It’s the feelings that came in retrospect, though, that showcase how deeply personal the song is to her. Music is therapeutic for Russett and listening back to “Darkest Hour” helped her process former feelings.

“I think I didn’t really even realize what I was saying when I wrote it because I listen to it now and I was in a very different headspace, a very dark time in my life when I wrote that,” Russett said. “And it’s crazy to listen back to it now and think, ‘Wow, I didn’t even realize how down and struggling I was.’ But I think that being the first single, it’s just fitting for who I am as a person where it’s just like, ‘I’m open, I’m honest and I’m going to say how I feel even if it’s going to make a few people uncomfortable.'”

It seems the relatability will outweigh any discomfort Russett anticipates. Fan reactions have already created an outpour of support and excitement for Russett and, while she believes it can’t be loved by everyone, her existing support system undoubtedly has her back in this massive entrance to a new era for her art.

I’ve listened to Darkest Hour so much, I already know all the lyrics.

— Mer💙🕊lost her main account (@_lowkeyburgos) October 8, 2020

YO WHAT. That new @AndreaRussett song GAVE ME FUCKING CHILLS. Her voice is so unique and beautiful. EVERYONE GO LISTEN AND STREAM THE SONG! https://t.co/vqie797set#DarkestHour

— kimi ✨ (@comearoundbrock) October 8, 2020

“I’m nervous. I’m excited. I know that not everyone can love my song; it would be impossible for every single person that heard it to love it, and that’s okay,” Russett said. “I’m reminding myself of that. But I also just really believe that the music will speak for itself, and I’m proud of it. And that’s the only person’s opinion that matters.”

Stream “Darkest Hour,” below, and follow Andrea Russett on Instagram and Twitter.

Photography: Daniel Prakopcyk

Graphics: Claybourne Bujorian

Livestream This: Marquita! A Virtual Comedy Fundraiser

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.

Who? Comedian and Search Party star, John Early, is teaming up with the DSA Chapters of Tennessee to host a virtual fundraiser for Democratic nominee Marquita Bradshaw’s campaign for the Senate featuring appearances from Sarah Silverman, Bowen Yang, Jaboukie Young-White, Connie Britton, Kate Berlant, Naomi Ekperigin, Vicky With a V and more.

Related | This Generation of Comedy Is Queer

When? October 4 at 7 PM CST. Those who donate will receive a link to the show prior to the night’s performance.

Why Watch? Well, if Monday night’s presidential debate didn’t convince you that we are long overdue for new voices that will reinvigorate the American political system then let me be the first to welcome you to PAPER mag dot com, Mr. Trump. I’m afraid you aren’t going to like a lot of our content, but we appreciate the traffic anyways. As we all know, nothing makes our dark political reality a little bit more bearable than some good old fashioned comedy, and you would be hard pressed to find a better lineup without Bowen Yang, Jaboukie Young-White, Kate Berlant or Sarah Silverman. Plus it’s for a good cause, so what do you have to lose?

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Photo via Instagram

‘Hey Ladies’ Makes Fun of All the Boys Who Catcall You

Wuki, Yung Baby Tate and Stoppa just released the ultimate dance anthem, and it sounds more familiar than you’d think.

Related | Yung Baby Tate Is Every Woman

2020 has been a breakout year for Wuki: he received a Grammy nomination for his remix of Miley Cyrus’ “Mother’s Daughter,” became a TikTok trend with track “Better” and his single “Throw It” was featured in Netflix’s Work It with Sabrina Carpenter and Jordan Fisher.​ Now, the artist teamed up with Tate and Stoppa to create a reimagined rendition of the Sweet California classic, “Hey Mickey!” The famous ear-worm hook is paired with Tate’s smooth vocal style and Stoppa’s powerful rap verse.

“I remember this session like it was yesterday,” Stoppa tells PAPER. “He had an idea of this hook he wanted me to lay down, and once I did, the song came together super fast. We reconnected months later and he told me he got this badass artist named Yung Baby Tate on it, I heard her verse and was like ok yeah, I gotta redo mine because she killed it!”

Tate explains the song resonates so deeply because of the incessant catcalling and objectification she has to deal with on a daily basis. “Hey Ladies” provides a much-needed response and alternate perspective; an ironic look at how men try –– and fail –– to attract women.

“As a woman, I know first-hand how persistent a man can be when they feel entitled to your energy,” Tate said. “The amount of times my obviously uninterested friends and I have been approached with a ‘Hey, Ladiesssss’ is almost comical! Guys, word of advice, next time you see a lovely lady and want to approach her… please don’t be a creep, nerd, or loser about it. Trust me, we don’t like it!”

Wuki prides himself on championing Black artists and female empowerment, so he was more than happy to give Tate and Stoppa the perfect platform to run with this dance-ready tune.

“Really excited I finally get to release my first ‘pop’ record as Wuki,” the producer said. “To be honest I always struggle with making a pop song for myself, I never wanna make a typical vocal record — if it’s Wuki, it’s gotta be fun and booty bouncing. I really think we nailed it with this one though, it’s the perfect blend of the sounds I love on one record.”

Photo courtesy of Wuki

PAPER People: @pashtitutee

For most of 2020, our world has been reduced to the experiences we have on our phones. And TikTokers have been leading the charge in creating viral entertainment that keeps us scrolling for hours and hours. So this year’s PAPER People shifts its focus exclusively to TikTok — the breakout app our President wanted to ban, that launched sleeper hits and massive pop careers, that ushered in an entirely new generation of influence. Meet our 20 favorites across comedy, fashion, social justice and more, who are owning their spaces and racking in millions of likes. (And follow PAPER on TikTok).

Related | PAPER People 2020: Meet 20 TikTokers We Love

Pasha Mottley AKA @pashtitutee is master of the random cut. Her channel is hard to summarize: you kind of just have to head there and start watching. A series of comedy skits about what happens when a group of barbie dolls is left alone… her casually buying nacho Lunchables at Wawa with the sound of children screaming in the background… doing a unique impression of Jason Derulo on all fours on her bedroom floor. It’s relatable content, if you’re an internet freak. But super fun to watch either way.


Introducing our class of 2020 PAPER People exclusively on TikTok💕 Say hiiii to @pashtitutee ✨💋

♬ original sound – 🙂

PAPER People: @eyeamki

For most of 2020, our world has been reduced to the experiences we have on our phones. And TikTokers have been leading the charge in creating viral entertainment that keeps us scrolling for hours and hours. So this year’s PAPER People shifts its focus exclusively to TikTok — the breakout app our President wanted to ban, that launched sleeper hits and massive pop careers, that ushered in an entirely new generation of influence. Meet our 20 favorites across comedy, fashion, social justice and more, who are owning their spaces and racking in millions of likes. (And follow PAPER on TikTok).

Related | PAPER People 2020: Meet 20 TikTokers We Love

23-year-old singer Ki AKA @eyeamki is TikTok’s reigning popstar. Blue check and everything! She does covers as well as original music on her channel, but also killer duets and plenty of random funny shit on the side. Stay tuned: she recently teased to followers that she’s no longer an independent artist, and that a big announcement is on its way. Buy the merch now.


Introducing our class of 2020 PAPER People exclusively on TikTok💕 Meet internet popstar @eyeamki 🔥 Clothing by ##Diesel

♬ original sound – PAPER Magazine

If you could write the headline for your profile, what would it be?

It’s Ki Like Hi, The Entertainer Created For Your Sonic Inspiration.

Where do you want to be five years from now?

I see myself in five years from now being an established artist, working with my favorite creators in film, music and art. I see myself working on my fourth album and fully engulfed in acting and directing motion pictures.

If you could have a superpower what would it be and why?

A superpower? I have one already! It’s in my breathe. Just being alive is a super power! And being able to exude my breathe on this world with my artistry is an even bigger gift that I am blessed and fortunate to have.

What does your star chart say about you? (Do you agree?)

My astrological chart says that I’m a couture workaholic to the bone. And it’s true!

December 18 is the day I descended onto earth and oh gosh does it make me feel fabulous. Sagittarius sun which makes me a free, divalicous energy bunny!

Virgo rising which luckily combats my Sagittarius nature so my work, art and anything I express outwardly is organized with purpose — with a light layer of mad scientist — but that’s how I stay eclectically fetch. Lastly with my Aries moon, my double fire complex is obviously why I have a dragon tattoo wrapped around my right leg. I breathe fire, and lots of it!

What’s your next move if TikTok is banned?

My next move if Tiktok is banned? Keep doing what I’ve been doing! Inspiring the masses. Elevating growing and prospering in my music career. But it will be missed dearly. It’s truly a fun platform that is so unique and on its own level of awesome.

If you could give $1,000,000 to any charity, what would it be and why?

If I could give a million dollars to any charity it would be StandUp For Kids. This charity is something I truly care about and hits close to home because they end the cycle of youth homelessness. Children are the foundation of my fanbase. They are also our future — our future doctors, teachers, geniuses — and need to be nurtured and cared for correctly with passion. All children and definitely the ones who need a home under 18. Once given a chance we can all change the world positively.

What was your first reaction after going viral?

My first reaction after going viral was like walking through a storm of glitter. IMMACULATE! Just me being me; luckily my singing voice and music was my key to 10 million views over night. The one thing I love doing, the world does too. And that made me feel unstoppable. I was stunned, enamored and blessed. I went from eight monthly listeners to thousands of people listening to my music at once on a daily. Curated 2.1 Billion views from the sound of my singing voice. It’s a blessing, because Tiktok truly is the place to grow the gifted and talented.

Describe your best night in this quarantine?

My best night in quarantine so far was having a dynamic and adorable dance session with my mom in my kitchen. Not being able to have full cardio moment entertaining on stage is a serious bummer. But, busting a move with my forever bestie is always a magical vibe. I was raised on Depeche Mode and Destiny’s Child so you can say our nightly dinners are pretty diversely beautiful.

What gives you hope in 2020?

What gives me hope in 2020 is my music and my creative space. The fact that I can inspire, grow and express myself through my music is the biggest savior for this year of downs. Music still can change the climate of any sad moment. And being able to create it makes me feel unstoppable.

Creative direction: Agusta Yr (at No Agency New York)
Styling: Erika Golcher
Styling assistant: Macauley Deverin
Environments: Aspik Tears

Photography: Ana Karotkaya

PAPER People: @punker_irl

For most of 2020, our world has been reduced to the experiences we have on our phones. And TikTokers have been leading the charge in creating viral entertainment that keeps us scrolling for hours and hours. So this year’s PAPER People shifts its focus exclusively to TikTok — the breakout app our President wanted to ban, that launched sleeper hits and massive pop careers, that ushered in an entirely new generation of influence. Meet our 20 favorites across comedy, fashion, social justice and more, who are owning their spaces and racking in millions of likes. (And follow PAPER on TikTok).

Related | PAPER People 2020: Meet 20 TikTokers We Love

Think of Syd, AKA @punker_irl, as TikTok’s Manic Panic product representative. He’s reworking the mall goth look for Gen Z and gaining millions of fans while doing it. Hit follow to watch him raise mental health awareness while recreating Just Dance routines, lip sync to everyone from Doja Cat to Lil Peep, and even single handedly save the USPS by offering a PO box for fans to send letters to and promising to write back. Sometimes in full clown makeup.


Introducing our class of 2020 PAPER People exclusively on TikTok💕 We all want to be @punker_irl 🥺✨

♬ moment lildeath – yoogmi

What’s your favorite animal social media account to follow and why?

My favorite animal social media account is @Monkeys400 and the #MonkeyMonday because they make me happy.

What’s your go-to appetizer?

My favorite appetizer is Mozzarella sticks.

What’s your most overused word or phrase?

I use this made-up phrase that my friends and I used to say in middle school. Instead of saying, “On god,” we would say, “On baby.”

What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?

I think the most embarrassing thing I’ve done is sign up for TikTok.

What does your star chart say about you? (Do you agree?)

I am a Scorpio, i have a Pisces moon and my rising sign is a Capricorn, so this means I’m very moody, I wear a “mask” when meeting or talking to people, and I have a very strong urge to solve problems and get over them as fast as I can.

What was your first reaction after going viral?

When I first went viral my only two emotions were terrified and embarrassed.

What’s your favorite TikTok sound?

My favorite one is the “asdf” audio that goes like, “Ahh I’m a muffin it’s muffin time, who wants a muffin?” — very silly, very funny.

Where do you want to be when the world ends?

When the world ends, I would like to be with my friends because I wanna be with the people who make me the happiest.

What does your (UberEats, Seamless, GrubHub, etc.) order history look like?

My order history is literally just boba and s’mores blizzards from Dairy Queen.

What was the last song you listened to?

The last song I listened to was “Francis Forever” by Mitski.

Creative direction: Agusta Yr (at No Agency New York)
Styling: Erika Golcher
Styling assistant: Macauley Deverin
Environments: Aspik Tears

PAPER People: @iconiccpinkk

For most of 2020, our world has been reduced to the experiences we have on our phones. And TikTokers have been leading the charge in creating viral entertainment that keeps us scrolling for hours and hours. So this year’s PAPER People shifts its focus exclusively to TikTok — the breakout app our President wanted to ban, that launched sleeper hits and massive pop careers, that ushered in an entirely new generation of influence. Meet our 20 favorites across comedy, fashion, social justice and more, who are owning their spaces and racking in millions of likes. (And follow PAPER on TikTok).

Related | PAPER People 2020: Meet the 20 TikTokers We Love

On her extremely popular channel, 22-year-old Munera Fahiye AKA @iconiccpinkk shows the many advantages to wearing a hijab: you can covertly wear AirPods during class, store extra stuff in it and use it as a prop to create seamless duet videos on TikTok. Whether she’s dancing to “Money Trees” or accidentally going out to lunch during Ramadan, Munera is a must follow. She also has an amazing singing voice, even if her sister thinks it sounds like a dying mosquito.


Introducing our class of 2020 PAPER People exclusively on TikTok💥 say hello to our queen @iconiccpinkk 💕

♬ Excitement TRIPPIE REDD PARTYNEXTDOOR – jeanvictorm

What’s your favorite animal social media account to follow and why?

My favorite animal account is @thatlittlepuff on Tiktok. I really love the videos on there because it’s a little cute cat cooking stuff and I am obsessed with cats.

Describe the most recent photo or video on your phone.

It’s a picture of my baby brother on his birthday. He looks so happy I love him.

Where do you want to be when the world ends?

With my family eating popcorn and watching a movie.

What gives you hope in 2020?

I love seeing this generation fight for what’s right and we are using social media to demand the changes that should’ve happened a long time ago.

What was your first reaction after going viral?

It was exciting and scary at the same time. I was getting so many nice comments and it was heartwarming to see. A lot of people from my school started recognizing me from my videos and that was also really cool.

What was your last text?

It’s a text to my brother asking him to get me some taco bell.

In one word, how would you sum up the internet?


If you could have a superpower what would it be and why?

The ability to fly. When I was a kid I would take random objects and turn them into wings because I always wanted to fly for some reason.

What’s your most overused word or phrase?

I feel like I say “it is what it is” a lot because if something happens that I have no control over I just let it go and forget about it.

Describe your best night in this quarantine.

It’s having fun with my sisters and playing video games.

Creative direction: Agusta Yr (at No Agency New York)
Styling: Erika Golcher
Styling assistant: Macauley Deverin

PAPER People: @ladyefron

For most of 2020, our world has been reduced to the experiences we have on our phones. And TikTokers have been leading the charge in creating viral entertainment that keeps us scrolling for hours and hours. So this year’s PAPER People shifts its focus exclusively to TikTok — the breakout app our President wanted to ban, that launched sleeper hits and massive pop careers, that ushered in an entirely new generation of influence. Meet our 20 favorites across comedy, fashion, social justice and more, who are owning their spaces and racking in millions of likes. (And follow PAPER on TikTok).

Related | PAPER People 2020: Meet the 20 TikTokers We Love

Gather around, because Brooke Averick AKA @ladyefron (yes, as in Zac Efron’s wannabe wife) is the master of storytime. Whether she’s narrating the incidentals of her daily life, recalling a deeply embarrassing (or it would be, to most people) middle school moment or straight up reading from her 2009 diary, you’ll want to hear literally everything the 24-year-old creator has to say. Her comic timing is impeccable, her sense of shame nonexistent and her messages to her haters unapologetic. Dig deep for the Bar Mitzvah content, it’s worth it.


Introducing our class of 2020 PAPER People exclusively on TikTok💥 Tip your fedoras to @ladyefron 💕💕

♬ original sound – papermagazine

What’s your favorite animal social media account to follow and why?

Definitely @wolfgang2242. It’s run by a guy named Steve who exclusively adopts senior dogs (he also has a pig, chicken and turkey) and finally gives them their forever home. Follow at your own risk because every time one of the dogs dies I can’t get out of bed for a week.

What’s your go-to appetizer?

Chips and guac every time.

Describe the most recent photo or video on your phone.

The last photo on my phone is a screenshot from Google of Pauly D from Jersey Shore without hair gel.

Which TV shows are helping you survive 2020 and why?

New Girl and The Office. I’ve seen them each over 10 times all the way through, but they’re a huge source of comfort for me which is what we all need in 2020.

When was the last time you cried?

Honestly 10 minutes ago when my Chipotle was delivered and they forgot the guac.

If you could give $1,000,000 to any charity, what would it be and why?

I’d donate all the money to different teachers and schools. Having been a preschool teacher for two years, I know how hard teachers work and how little they get in return.

What’s your next move if TikTok is banned?

I’ll restart The Office and New Girl.

What was your first reaction after going viral?

I quit my job. Hindsight’s always 20/20.

What’s one thing you’d change about TikTok?

Not being able to edit captions after you post. 90% of my posts are riddled with typos.

What’s the worst zodiac sign?

I’ve never met a mentally stable Gemini. Let the records show that I’m a Gemini.

Creative direction: Agusta Yr (at No Agency New York)
Styling: Erika Golcher
Styling assistant: Macauley Deverin

PAPER People: @thereal_tati

For most of 2020, our world has been reduced to the experiences we have on our phones. And TikTokers have been leading the charge in creating viral entertainment that keeps us scrolling for hours and hours. So this year’s PAPER People shifts its focus exclusively to TikTok — the breakout app our President wanted to ban, that launched sleeper hits and massive pop careers, that ushered in an entirely new generation of influence. Meet our 20 favorites across comedy, fashion, social justice and more, who are owning their spaces and racking in millions of likes. (And follow PAPER on TikTok).


Introducing our class of 2020 PAPER People exclusively on TikTok✨ Bow down to @thereal_tati 😤

♬ STAN LIZ SANCHEZ 4 CLEAR SKIN RNNNNN – officiallizsanchez

Tati Tots, assemble! Tatayanna Mitchell, AKA @thereal_tati, is here. One half of TikTok’s most shipped couple, bonnet-wearing master of the duet and food influencer during her downtime, the 21-year-old from Michigan is an essential follow for her prolific comedic posts. We still don’t know what happened with her rumored boyfriend Devin, but will keep you updated. In the meantime, let’s watch her hang out with another fav, @snarkymarky.

What’s your go-to appetizer?

Honey BBQ boneless wings with ranch.

When was the last time you cried?

I cry all that time [laughs] whether it’s an emotional cry, happy cry, or me crying from laughing.

What’s the most overused phrase or word?

“It’s the *blank* for me” and “Chile” [laughs] I say both, everyone wears those sayings out.

What was the last song you listened to?

“Excitement” by Trippie Redd and PARTYNEXTDOOR.

What was your first reaction after going viral?

I was extremely excited and overwhelmed because I didn’t know what was next.

What’s the worst zodiac sign?

Although I’m not into astrology that much, I’ll have to say Gemini because of the personal experiences I’ve had with them.

Where do you want to be five years from now?

I want to be happy in my lovely home, owning three businesses and be able to bless my parents with a home.

What’s your next move if TikTok is banned?

I will move my platform to YouTube and grow my channel just how I grew my TikTok — maybe not as fast, but I will get there.

One word to describe the internet?


If you could describe the headline of your profile, what would it be?

“I just want to spend the rest of my life laughing.”

Creative direction: Agusta Yr (at No Agency New York)
Styling: Erika Golcher
Styling assistant: Macauley Deverin

Bella Thorne Apologizes for Hurting Sex Workers on OnlyFans

Last week, Bella Thorne basically broke OnlyFans when she made $1 million within the span of 24 hours. But controversy quickly arose after many accused her of “scamming” people by allegedly charging $200 for pay-per-view nude content, though she tweeted she wasn’t actually doing nudity.

Because of this whole stunt, other OnlyFans content creators are saying that the platform put a cap on how much they can charge for pay-per-view content. They say that because tons of subscribers are requesting refunds for Thorne’s non-nude “nudes,” the website has extended their cash-out period from 7 to 30 days.

Related | Bella Thorne’s OnlyFans ‘Scam’ Is Allegedly Affecting Sex Workers’ Pay

Now, Thorne has responded to these accusations. “I wanted to bring attention to the site, the more people on the site the more likely of a chance to normalize the stigmas, And in trying to do this I hurt you,” she wrote on Twitter. “I have risked my career a few times to remove the stigma behind sex work, porn, and the natural hatred people spew behind anything sex related. I wrote and directed a porn against the high brows of my peers and managers because I WANTED to help with the stigma behind sex.”

She continued, “I am a mainstream face and when you have a voice, a platform, you try to use you in helping others and advocate for something bigger than yourself. Again in this process I hurt you and for that I’m truly sorry. Ps. I’m meeting with only fans about the new restrictions to find out why!!! This is fucked up and I’m sorry comment any ideas or concerns you want brought up to OF!! and send me your links and a pic so I can promote you guys.”

PT1 Remove the stigma behind sex, sex work, and the negativity that surrounds the word SEX itself by bringing a mainstream face to it that’s what I was trying to do, to help bring more faces to the site to create more revenue for content creators on the site.

— BITCHIMBELLATHORNE (@bellathorne) August 29, 2020

I wanted to bring attention to the site, the more people on the site the more likely of a chance to normalize the stigmas, And in trying to do this I hurt you. I have risked my career a few times to remove the stigma behind sex work, porn, and the natural hatred people spew…

— BITCHIMBELLATHORNE (@bellathorne) August 29, 2020

behind anything sex related. I wrote and directed a porn against the high brows of my peers and managers because I WANTED to help with the stigma behind sex.

— BITCHIMBELLATHORNE (@bellathorne) August 29, 2020

…I am a mainstream face and when you have a voice, a platform, you try to use you in helping others and advocate for something bigger than yourself. Again in this process I hurt you and for that I’m truly sorry.

— BITCHIMBELLATHORNE (@bellathorne) August 29, 2020

Ps. I’m meeting with only fans about the new restrictions to find out why!!! This is fucked up and I’m sorry comment any ideas or concerns you want brought up to OF!! and send me your links and a pic so I can promote you guys

— BITCHIMBELLATHORNE (@bellathorne) August 29, 2020

In a statement provided to PAPER, OnlyFans said their new transaction limits were put in place to “to help prevent overspending and to allow our users to continue to use the site safely. We value all of the feedback received since this change was implemented and we will continue to review these limits.

Our objective remains to provide the best platform possible for the OnlyFans community.

We can confirm that any changes to transaction limits are not based on any one user.”

Photo via Getty

Rickey Thompson and Denzel Dion Have a Podcast Coming

Rickey Thompson and Denzel Dion have inked yet another deal together. Spotify has announced that the two influencers, who’re best friends and budding fashion icons, have signed a deal for an exclusive podcast series to air weekly.

Ever since their Vine days, Thompson and Dion have amassed massive following with their unique sense of humor. Now, they’re all over Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram with brands that have evolved into worldwide spectacles. Their new conquest will see them exploring, according to a press release, “personal stories from their week, delish on pop culture, fashion & music and engage with fans by giving them advice.”

View this post on Instagram Good morning 🥳🤎
A post shared by DENZEL DION (@denzeldion) on Aug 27, 2020 at 7:37am PDT

This is an exciting deal for Thompson and Dion, and they’re both as ecstatic. “I am so excited to have partnered with Spotify on this podcast,” says Thompson in a statement. “My friend Denzel and I have always dreamed of having a podcast, and the fact it’s with Spotify is the cherry on top! I can’t wait to start this journey and I couldn’t be happier.”

Dion continues, “I’m so ecstatic to have Spotify as a partner for our podcast, it feels like family. Rickey and I are ready for this new adventure. I can’t wait for us to speak our unapologetic minds and, most importantly, have fun while doing it!”

Related | Introducing: Road Trippin’ With Rickey Thompson and Denzel Dion

In July, Thompson and Dion partnered with Snapchat for a hilarious docuseries, Road Trippin’. On each episode, the duo traveled across rural America for wild adventures inspired by Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s reality show, The Simple Life. From taking part in skydiving to feeding hungry alligators, Road Trippin’ was a wild experience.

In a July interview with PAPER, the dynamic duo hinted at their creative takeover. “This isn’t the last that you’ll see of us,” said Thompson. “We’re going to do way, way more in fashion, of course. We definitely want to step into acting.”

Photo via Instagram

Bella Thorne Joins OnlyFans

Best-selling poet and award-winning porn director Bella Thorne has inevitably joined the popular subscription service OnlyFans, PAPER can exclusively announce. As well as sharing exclusive paid content on her channel, Thorne is also in talks to star in a documentary film about her experiences on the platform.

To answer your next question, subscribing to Thorne’s OnlyFans will cost $20 per month, and she’s expecting to draw a lot of attention. (“With safe estimates earning Bella $1 million a month,” a press release predicts.)

Related | FaceTiming About Poetry With Bella Thorne

Thorne’s selfies are already incredibly popular on Instagram, but her pivot to a subscription-based business model speaks to the general shift by influencers away from social networking and towards paid content. As well as monetizing her posts, she also hopes to bypass Instagram’s strict censorship policies by using a service that’s popular among adult entertainers for imposing few content restrictions.

“OnlyFans is the first platform where I can fully control my image; without censorship, without judgement, and without being bullied online for being me,” she tells PAPER.

Related | Bella Thorne Posts Her Own Nudes to Thwart Hacker

She also told us a little more about her upcoming movie, to be directed by Sean Baker, known for Tangerine and The Florida Project. She’s a “huge fan” of Baker’s work, and says that she shares “the same vision of the movie being a conversation starter for many important topics.”

Thorne, who famously leaked her own nudes when threatened by a hacker, is a strong advocate for women owning their sexuality — as well as their financial freedom. A self-confessed “wannabe mogul,” it’s no surprise that she’s turning to OnlyFans, which is currently peaking in popularity thanks to a shout out in Megan Thee Stallion and Beyonce’s “Savage” remix and has supposedly netted its creators more than $725 million in profits so far.

Whether she plans to share bikini pics or selfies or poems, we’re in. Subscribe to Bella Thorne on OnlyFans right here.

Photos courtesy of Bella Thorne

Tove Lo Rallied All Her Fans for a ‘Mateo’ Quarantine Video

Since Tove Lo can’t travel the world to meet her fans in person, she decided to cast them all in her newest video.

Edited by Garrett Guidera, the “Mateo” visual arrives today off Tove Lo’s 2019 album, Sunshine Kitty, and invites nearly 1,000 people to sing along to its lyrics. Much like Charli XCX’s “Forever” or Kim Petras’ “Malibu,” it’s a snapshot of this strange, isolating time when we’re connected mostly through the internet — and our love of music.

Related | Now It’s ALMA’s Time to Shine

“Since Sunshine Kitty was released, ‘Mateo’ has been a fan favorite,” Tove Lo says of the “Karaoke Video,” which features people dancing in the woods, showers and bedrooms. You’ll also see cameos from famous collaborators/friends like ALMA, Pabllo Vittar and Kah-Lo. “I always knew I wanted to do a visual for it.”

In March, Tove Lo says her team shot the “Mateo” lyric video at a venue in Manchester, called Albert Hall — right before they had to cancel all European shows and fly home because of COVID-19. “So much of the last few months has been about what can’t happen,” she continues, adding that “doing the quarantine karaoke challenge was a way to still connect with my fans and give everyone something to safely do while locked down. I was so overwhelmed by all the submissions.”

Related | Tove Lo Will DJ Tonight at PAPER x Club Quarantine

Even under such extreme restrictions, Tove Lo has been notably busy in quarantine, from her DJ debut this spring at PAPER x Club Quarantine to, more recently, performing “sadder badder cooler” on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. With just a white wall, some projections and a microphone, the pop star proved why she’s one of the most electric contemporary acts. “Why am I cooler than you?” she asks on the Sunshine Kitty single, though we have some answers.

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She also accomplished perhaps the most impossible of feats in quarantine… and in life: love, but not just love, marriage. Over the weekend, Tove Lo revealed that she married Swedish singer/songwriter Charlie Twaddle. “WHAT!? I’m a wifey!!!” she wrote on Instagram. “I never thought I would get married but then I met you Charlie. Thank you for making me the happiest I’ve ever been. You’re my person.”

Stream “Mateo” off Sunshine Kitty by Tove Lo, below.

Photo via YouTube

No, We Haven’t Blocked You

No, we haven’t blocked you — Instagram has blocked PAPER.

On July 8, 2020, Instagram disabled our account (@papermagazine), due to copyright notices filed by a company called Okularity. Our lawyers allege that Okularity crawls the internet for unauthorized use of images in order to extort account holders.

This is becoming increasingly common. Celebrities from Kim Kardashian to David Beckham are now being sued for posting unauthorized paparazzi photos of themselves, while several highly followed archival Instagram accounts have recently been disabled, as well.

With more than 1.7 million followers on Instagram, PAPER’s ability to communicate directly with our audience has been abruptly halted, and at a time when media coverage is more crucial than ever. It has also threatened our business, as so many magazines — and consequently their employees’ positions — are facing the financial repercussions of COVID-19.

That is why we are working with our legal team to fight this extortion and regain access to our Instagram account.

For now, you can follow us on TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook.

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 https://www.twitter.com/LilNasX/status/1273275886112927745 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

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

Here’s What Audrey Mika’s Up to in Quarantine

Much like everyone else in quarantine, 19-year-old Audrey Mika is stuck inside, lounging in her sweats, streaming Netflix and watching as the days run together. As a singer/songwriter, Mika has also been able to use this time to focus on her music.

Related | Audrey MiKa Is Outgrowing Her Toy Microphone

If you don’t know the rising musician, you can follow her through YouTube, where she started in her room with a toy microphone making cover songs. She rapidly rose to popularity (with now 1.5 million subscribers) through her Billie Eilish covers and her simplistic, sometimes comedic videos to accompany them.

Now, she’s ditched the toy microphone for the real deal, going on tour earlier this year with her 2020 5 A.M. EP. In early May, Mika also released her newest single, “Just Friends,” and a week later premiered the track’s music video.

Related | Please Don’t Give Yourself Quarantine Bangs

PAPER checked in with Mika to see how she spends her days in isolation. From dressing for absolutely nobody to hanging out with plants, Mika’s photo diary is extremely relatable.

Stream Audrey Mika’s 5 A.M. EP, below.

Photos courtesy of Audrey Mika