Shylily went from unknown to Twitch sensation basically overnight. The orca VTuber has climbed to nearly a million followers in less than a year, rewriting the rulebook for the medium along the way by being unapologetically herself.
VTubing has its quirks and charms. For many creators, it’s more than just getting an animated model and calling it a day. There is, or at least was, expectations of having some sort of lore with a beautiful heartfelt story, plus some level of character immersion.
It was a different world to what Shylily once knew on Twitch. The unapologetic orca VTuber is open about their past, having streamed on the platform since 2015. Seeing the medium’s rise piqued her interest, and over the course of a year she blossomed into one of Twitch’s biggest VTubers with more than 900,000 followers and a rapid growth only rivaled by some of the platform’s other stars like Kai Cenat.
None of this wouldn’t have happened, however, if it wasn’t for a “meme” bet back in 2015.
“Basically I lost a bet,” she laughed when recapping her origins to Dexerto. “I was dared to stream Minecraft if I lost a bet. It was a meme in my friend circle. I lost that bet and I did stream.
“The stream worked out rather well, I had face cam and everything, and I was like ‘I guess I’ll get my makeup on, open up OBS, pop on the face cam, let’s go.’ I had a couple of people who came by to say hi and it was fun.”
Back then she was just living her life, working outside of streaming in the restaurant industry, and had a decent plan for the future. Streaming was just a way to pass the time for some social interaction. Once things got busy outside of that, she deleted everything except her ‘Shylily’ Twitch account.
“Work was going really well, I was going places in my job and about to have my own restaurant, managing all that,” she continued. “I could put my education to use, finally I’m doing something my mother is proud of.”
Then the global health crisis came crashing in, and suddenly she was out of a job. There were no opportunities elsewhere, and so there she was, looking at that abandoned Twitch account, and she felt the urge to go live once again.
“There’s only so much you can apply to when everyone loses their job, and there’s nothing there anymore. So I just streamed again, and around that time VTubing was already a thing and I discovered it.
“Basically I became a VTuber because it was really fun to mess around. I was suddenly Hatsune Miku and it was pretty f**king cool, I like that. I got into the ‘role’ a little bit, but I eventually dropped the role. I had the impression VTubing had to have this cute little voice and high pitched. I just dropped it because it hurt after a while.”
She’s not sappy about her lore as an orca, it’s just a cute visual. She doesn’t play by the VTuber meta rules, filling up her schedule with collabs and constantly having to do something. Instead, she takes what she did all those years ago — walking around in circles in Minecraft doing literally nothing but talking to chat — and instead of having her face posted in the bottom-right corner, there’s a “big tiddy anime girl”.
“Don’t know what to do? Become a VTuber. Don’t have a lore. I don’t really have a lore, I just became a VTuber,” she laughed again. “This lore thing was from people asking me ‘everyone has a lore, what’s yours?’ I was bored, that’s my lore! VTubing looked fun, and I wanted to give it a try.”
“VTubing has this specific meta where it’s collab-heavy, game-heavy, all those things. But I just talk. I do the fleshtuber thing where I sit in the camera with a Starbucks and talk for two hours, except there’s no Starbucks. I’m just a React Andy.”
Shylily didn’t play by the VTuber rulebook, and found success. This wasn’t in the life plan a few years ago, but now it’s all she knows and wants to know. The trickier part is making it last.
Swapping from facecam to VTubing
Speaking to Shylily, the first part of the name doesn’t really match her personality. Even just watching a minute of her stream, she is an open book talking about every topic under the sun. It can be like whiplash following along, but it’s the brand she’s made for herself.
Originally a facecam streamer, Shylily used her broadcast as a delivery service for random conversations. The gameplay in the background — first Minecraft, then League of Legends and World of Warcraft — was secondary to the interaction between her and chat. Streaming to her wasn’t some high and mighty content cause. It was, in every sense of the word, a pastime.
“I wasn’t addicted to streaming,” she said. “Once a week or every two weeks I’d hop online, but I still felt like I had this weird urge to do sh*t online instead of focusing on work.”
However, that exposure to the streaming space before the VTuber boom shaped the style of content she’d create upon her return.
Her lived experience as a facecam streamer was mixed, to say the least. The platform struggled, and still does, with a gender gap issue as female streamers were held to different standards to their male counterparts. It was a major consideration when returning to streaming. As much as it’s amazing to be an anime girl, there was also a desire to maintain some privacy.
“As much as I enjoyed Twitch, back then that website was ruthless,” she elaborated. “It was nasty, especially if you were a female, you were treated like an object.
“People would make clips of my channel where I’d slam the desk and my webcam would fall down, so I lean over to adjust it and people are like ‘oh tits.’ I’d get up to grab a glass of water and people are like ‘oh thighs’. For the most part it didn’t bother me, but there are better days and worse days.
“On those bad days, suddenly a dude will come into my DMs and screenshot a folder that’s just clips of me categorized by tits, ass, thighs, belly, moans. I was like ‘bro you clip all those weird moments?’ I felt so objectified because it’s my body, my face, my voice. I was tired of that garbage.”
That hate didn’t stop when she became a VTuber. In fact it arguably grew, purely based on having a bigger audience and the law of ratios coming into play. The insults just changed, and it turned into something she was more okay in dealing with in a public-facing industry.
“Let’s say 1-5% that just absolutely despise you, be it because you’re the person that you are, or the content you do — being a VTuber, a Minecraft streamer, whatever it is. They just like to hate and be like ‘bet it’s a guy behind the camera, an old dude with a voice changer.’
“I’m not saying VTubing helps to hide behind it, but you have this very clear differentiation between real life — me, my face, my body, me as a person — and what people associate with my name online. It does help to separate those things and when you turn off your stream, you turn off that hate and you don’t have to deal with it anymore. It doesn’t hit as personal anymore.”
The pressure was off when it came to streaming in multiple regards. She didn’t have to worry about the hours-long preparation to show herself on broadcast, making sure every inch of her body was perfectly groomed to appease some arbitrary standard.
Beyond that though, Shylily also had encounters as a facecam streamer that concerned her before her hiatus. Even with her comparatively small following, people would stop her in the street for random conversations. To her they were just strangers, and the one-way relationship made her feel uneasy. She didn’t want to deal with that again.
VTubing hasn’t made her immune to those interactions, but the community has been generally more “respectful” about that anonymity.
“I’d just be at a train station and some dude would pressure me into buying me Dunkin Donuts and eating them with him,” she recounted. “I didn’t know how to handle situations where people would walk up to you in real life and interact with you like they know you.
“To you, it’s a random person on the train walking up to you, grabbing my longboard and saying ‘yo Lily, cool board, looks really nice’ and I’m like ‘who are the f**k are you? You can’t just grab my sh*t.’ I would not be able to deal with it as well nowadays with my bigger presence online now. People would recognize me a lot more often now, just randomly grocery shopping.”
Exploding onto the VTuber scene
When Shylily started VTubing, she had a few thousand leftover followers from her early days. Some quizzed her about the swap from facecam to VTubing, but the reception was mostly positive.
However what she didn’t expect was a near-overnight explosion into the streaming consciousness. Lily worked hard in the lead-up to her Live2D redebut in early 2022, getting the word out there with networking and announcements in the months beforehand. And for her, she just ended up winning the Twitch lottery in some regard.
“I was live streaming like every other day. I did the same sh*t every day,” she explained. “But it took people to notice I exist because when I debuted my new model, I made the announcements and networking to make sure it was known, made sure it attracted a larger crowd.”
Part of her success she attributes to clipping channels like Cooksie, who watched her debut and spread the word far and wide about her antics. The flood of followers afterwards left her confused and thinking her channel was being botted.
However it showed the importance of one thing in Shylily’s eyes: being marketable.
“I did the same thing every day for two years, but I had no way to advertise myself to a larger crowd. When I did though, I blew up — quite literally overnight.
“It’s a bit sad too. Maybe some people who aren’t making it big aren’t making bad content, but they just have bad discoverability. I didn’t do TikTok, YouTube, or much on Twitter that could count as networking. I was just doing my thing every single day.”
Clippers do have a divisive reputation in the VTuber community. While they are great for discovering new content creators and keeping up with active streamers, there are issues with channels taking things out of context — either innocently or nefariously — and also stepping on the original creator’s toes.
But Shylily sees it as ‘no harm, no foul’ when it comes to the importance of their role in the space: “People have opened up more to the idea of clippers, but my guy, they take work off your shoulders.
“If you have your own clip channel, I can understand how clippers can be annoying. But I feel half the people who don’t like clippers don’t even upload clips, so why does it matter to you if someone makes a living off of sharing your content? Are you that selfish? I thought you were a streamer because you wanted to make people happy and give them a good time.
“You’re watching someone else’s meme compilation. You’re watching an Asmongold video, HowToBasic, whatever you want. You’re a React Andy — you’re making monetary gain eating your instant ramen watching a meme compilation. Stop being stuck up and lecturing people on how they can and can’t use your content.”
Shylily also reforged the VTuber meta in her wake. As she rocketed up in followers — gaining around 100,000 a month for most of 2022 on her road to 1 million — people took notice of what she was doing differently. Yes, she plays games and collaborates. But people don’t tune into her stream to watch her interact with others. They watch for Shylily.
That’s an important distinction the orca highlights. She doesn’t just accept collabs to play games she’s not interested in. She does interact with others in the space, but tries to stay out of the echo chamber. She streams the same content she did as a facecam streamer, not seeing the real purpose in conforming to the ‘meta’ this medium had curated for itself. Sometimes she’ll hop on a trend if she enjoys it, such as subathons (which she treats as a personal challenge to entertain fans for as long as possible).
In that, people started changing their perspective on VTubing.
“That changed the meta a bit because I blew up with that and suddenly when I see clips on YouTube, it’s not someone having a funny moment in a collab. It’s them reacting to memes, playing a game by themselves.
“People are so hungry for collabs, but that can’t be healthy for the streamer. They can’t fill their schedule because people don’t have time to collab. They must have asked a billion people to collab, and on the days they don’t have a collab they just don’t stream. I’m like why not? Chat is there for you. You are their content. It’s healthy for your chat, and you too, to just be yourself and have fun doing what you want to do.
“I don’t really care about what others do, or what impact it has. I just do what I want to do, not because someone else is doing it. If you’re doing something that someone else is doing, what’s the incentive of watching you over them? Especially when they’re more established. So just do what you want to do — if you’re following the meta, there’s not really an incentive to watch you.”
Dropping the streamer ego and being vulnerable
As the growth came through, Shylily was trying her hardest to keep up. Indie VTubers go at this alone typically, doing everything from scratch and occasionally commissioning some help when it comes to art or other things outside of their skill set.
It was taking its toll a few months in. She hadn’t seen her family in months, even after things started opening up again. Shylily managed to move out to a bigger house thanks to streaming, but she hadn’t even set up anything outside her computer room because it could wait while going live couldn’t.
“I found myself being a bit too dependent on stream. I let it sink in a couple of weeks ago. I moved into my new place around three months ago. I have worked my ass off to move into this place, just so I can unpack my streaming setup and go live. I had nothing. No towels, no furniture. I have my setup on the floor and I went live.
“I still didn’t unpack because all I needed was that streaming setup, and I thought maybe that mentality is a bit unhealthy. Maybe I’m a little too attached to the idea of live streaming. I have this bigger place but I live smaller because the rooms are full of boxes that have to be unpacked and that’s it.”
There was “no work-life balance”, she emphasized, and that was an expectation when going into this line of work. But instead of letting that become the norm, she wanted to try and make it sustainable. Streaming was a passion, and if that passion was paying her bills, she wanted it to keep it alive for as long as possible without burning out.
Shylily ended up hiring a team of staffers to help her out daily. She has a manager, Boeska, to facilitate everything now — collabs, merch drops, the lot. The orca was also very candid in telling fans she would be cutting down stream hours and taking at least one day a week off to avoid burnout.
Streamers, especially independents in the VTuber space, have this “ego” to go alone in Shylily’s eyes. But once she realized no one cared but herself, and all she was doing was running herself into the ground, she did away with all of that — and it was for the best.
“It’s one thing to see a person online for eight hours a day and say ‘well that’s basically a 9-5 job.’ But people don’t realize how much goes into it off stream. The networking, the appointments, showing up to other people’s streams, fixing setups, planning new layouts, avatars, costumes, seasonal sh*t.
“As an indie, you only have yourself and I wanted to keep that status. But I realized no one gives a sh*t except me. The agency VTubers don’t see you as more admirable just because you do the work they do but you do it yourself, the other indies don’t see it because they’re like ‘I also do it myself’, and the viewers don’t see it because they don’t see the effort beyond live streaming. No one except me cared, and so I said f**k it, got a manager, and sorted my work-life balance out and add some life back into there.”
There’s also the pressures that come from her audience about staying relevant. It’s not enough to just play the ‘meta’ games. If she’s going to play Genshin Impact, she has to make sure on launch day she’s up to snuff on the story and willing to roll on the new banner. But she can’t do all that grinding on stream, so her days off evaporate just as quick.
“People are like ‘oh you’re just playing Genshin’ but I need to stay relevant — no one wants to watch me play Genshin if I’m some casual. On launch day, you need to C6 the new character. You spend way too much money in a game and people are like why do you do that? Well I wouldn’t normally if it wasn’t for streaming — I couldn’t care less if I didn’t have the new character. I’d never spend all this extra cash on a pixel, but you have to stay relevant.”
If she didn’t take these measures, Shylily is convinced she’d burn out and “never go back to being quite the same”. She’s doing everything in her power to keep a healthy relationship with streaming so it can be her forever future.
“They hit the spot where they went too far, cut off too much, and every time they fix it, you see the scars. It’s always there. It will never fully heal. They push too far one time, and that’s just how it is now.”
Being unapologetically Shylily
As Shylily approaches one year since her big redebut and nearing one million followers, there’s a lot of learnings she’s made. There’s the aforementioned ones about burn out and making content you’re happy with. The other is being unapologetically yourself and letting things develop naturally.
This includes all the sides of the orca VTuber, whether you see them as good or bad. Sometimes the VTubing community can be “stuck up” compared to other mediums, she said. But if you just let things flourish, you’ll have a healthier relationship with streaming.
Shylily didn’t make her signature ‘womp womp’ a trend, but her chat did. At the end of the day she’s an entertainer and whatever the crowd finds funny ends up sticking.
“People keep thinking that as a VTuber you need to make branding things for yourself — noises, icons, fandom names. As a streamer, you don’t do any of those things. Chat decides what’s your thing. I haven’t decided a single one. Shrimps? Not my thing, but that’s the name of my community. The orca pup with the dog legs? Not my thing, but chat made it a thing. Womp womp is the same.”
However Shylily is also aware of the fact she lucked out. VTubing and streaming changed her life for the better, and it was all because of a particular set of circumstances falling her way. She did gently guide it all to a place she was comfortable with, but like her other ‘bits’, it was out of her hands.
“[VTubing] got me out of a deep f**king hole. I thought life was over. I thought I was going to have to live off government support and get screwed over, but it’s great because now I have a proper life I can be proud of.”
If it didn’t work out, she would have just gone back into the food industry as it was something she developed a real appreciation for. But the crossovers between why she loves streaming and hospitality are evident too.
“I really enjoyed being close with people though, making them smile, especially when you work in a place where tourism is a big thing. You meet so many people from various cultures and they have stories to tell and they love to tell them.
“You’ll stand at their table, ask where they’re from, and they’ll go on this big rant for 10 minutes about where they’re from, their plans, and it’s so interesting because you see their eyes light up and they’re so full of passion. That flipping of the switch in their brain, it’s so wholesome to see. I feel like I may or may not have a thing for that.”
As long as she can continue doing that to an audience online via VTubing, Shylily will continue to stream. She has no grandiose goals like “‘I want to become the biggest indie VTuber, bigger than any agency VTuber!’” She just wants to do “her thing”, and have people who appreciate her for who she is.
And to think this wild future spawned from a bet in 2015. Isn’t it funny how life changes?
“It’s crazy how it started off as a memey Minecraft stream just because it was an inside joke. Guess that worked out.”