Sweet Anita: How I accidentally became Twitch famous
Sweet Anita looks to the camera against a purple background.
Sweet Anita rehabilitates animals and cares for her mother in the real world, but boasts a hugely original presence on Twitch. Known for her witty sense of humor, incredibly supportive community, and coprolalia, a severe symptom of Tourette’s Syndrome, Anita’s rise as a Twitch star was purely accidental. Now, her unpredictable streams have led to 1.2 million followers on Twitch and over 31,000 in her Discord server.
Here, Anita describes the path that’s led her to this point and how she hopes to continue educating, inspiring, and using philanthropy to help others.
Starting out streaming
In the beginning, I just used to get drunk and play Overwatch. I loved it, because with push-to-talk, people met me before my condition, so I basically ended up in a position where people didn’t see me as a party trick or a quirk. All of those very strong reactions to my condition were just gone. I gained a lot of confidence from being valued beyond that particular aspect of me, because people tend to really focus on it a lot.
I ended up filling my entire Blizzard account. I had over 200 friends, and they didn’t all fit in a game of Overwatch. In order to hang out with them too, I started streaming. I found out about streaming because I bumped into a streamer online. I just started chatting to him during one of our Overwatch games, and he said, ‘Just so you know, I am streaming.’ I found his chat, and they were like, ‘She is either a streamer, a voice actor or a soundboard, and we are gonna find out.’ And they were Googling me. They were going full-on Twitch detective on me!
I thought, well, if I can pass for any of these three things effortlessly, why not? Let’s go. And now, I’m all three.
On becoming Twitch famous
I started to stream, and I thought, “Well, I’m scuffed. I don’t understand anything about what makes a cool Twitch stream. I don’t understand why people watch the biggest streamers on this platform. What’s cool about them?” I knew nothing.
I sent out a link to all of my friends, but I didn’t expect it to last long. I can’t follow TOS perfectly because of my tics. That’s when a lot of my friends discovered that I had Tourette’s, because I was not tech-savvy enough to put PTT on stream then. I just had no idea. So, I thought, “Well, this is fun, until I get found out.” But I did get found out — and I got a lot of attention.
It just exploded out of nowhere. Kotaku did an article about me, PewDiePie put me in a video, the tech review guy did a video about me. A load of articles happened, and in four months, I went from 20 average viewers to 15,000 average viewers at one point. It got pretty crazy, and it got out of hand. From there, I’ve just adapted and settled into it.
Honestly, I figured everyone would just get bored of me. I thought, “Ah, people are just curious about my condition. You know, shouting the word ‘f**k’ every now and again is only going to be entertaining for so long. So, they’re here for now and things will go back to just me and my twenty friends soon enough.” But they’re still here.
Rejecting the role-model stereotype
I have a large platform now, but I’m not trying to be an example of how you should be or what you should aspire to, because that’s limiting. I don’t even let kids watch my stream (which is 18 plus), because the minute you become a role model, people can find you and go, “You can’t do this, you’re a role model!” So, I’ve just been like, “Come, and hang out if you want to, but don’t expect a thing.” I find it terrifying when people put me up on a pedestal.
However, I still do care about using my platform to educate about Tourettes and helping with others’ mental wellbeing after I got the therapy I needed to have a real life.
I couldn’t afford therapy at the time. There was a charity that contributed and helped top up my payments. I walked away thinking that if I ever have money, I’m gonna pay it forward, and I’m gonna contribute to that charity.
Unfortunately, this charity no longer exists, but we set up an account that I deposit a set amount of money into every month, which allows [my therapist] to help people in the community that normally wouldn’t be able to get the assistance they need.
Streamin’ ain’t easy
Not everything about streaming is hunky-dory, though. With streaming, a big disadvantage as a woman is that you have a mostly male viewerbase, since nearly 80% of Twitch is made up of male users. Nobody raises their little boys to dress up as Princess Leia or idolize women and put themselves in our shoes. So, when they admire us, they tend to convert it into lust, and they tend to want to desire us and possess us. They can either fancy you or ignore you.
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At the extreme, that fancying turns into lust and into an unhealthy obsession. That’s why numerous female streamers and influencers, including myself, have had disturbing experiences with stalkers. I’ve already discussed this issue at length and no longer want to allow it to hijack my content. So I’m moving on, but have fortunately been able to begin working with a Member of Parliament to potentially change UK stalking laws.
If anything happens to me, I really hope that I'm the last canary in the coal mine. The law needs to change, No job should have such a high risk of rape, assault or death, especially not live streaming.
— Sweet Anita (@Tweet4nita) July 14, 2020
I can’t, however, avoid the horniness of chat when I broadcast. It’s an inevitability. There are a lot of people that are very socially isolated, and Twitch is a symptom of loneliness. It’s an industry that helps people feel less lonely. You develop a connection with streamers. That’s what it’s about.
The way I deal with it is as with any inevitability in my life: I am given a lot of energy and attention, and that is a tool. I choose what I build with it. So, every situation — when people laugh at you, when people hate you, when people love you — it’s all a tool you get to use to build. If people waste their time and energy on hate, it doesn’t mean you have to waste that energy. You can use it.
When people are a bit clueless and fumbly, and they come onto me in inappropriate ways, I use it to make jokes and to educate people about sex education, to break down stereotypes. I slip punchlines and little surreptitious comments that help people grow and connect better, to empathize with my position whilst laughing.
Even past these hardships, the job contains additional stressors. It’s lonely. You can’t make friends. People will try to get close to you for clout, to try to exploit you. People will become dangerous and become stalkers. There’s very little time to meet people outside of streaming. It’s really difficult to connect to people in a real sense; it’s dangerous to. There’s so much to it, and it’s emotionally taxing. There’s very little time to do anything else. A lot of streamers don’t see this until it’s too late.
What’s next for Anita?
There’s a lot on my plate and I do sometimes feel stretched thin — but it’s worth being exhausted from time to time to do the things that make you happy to be alive. I do have quite a lot lined up for the future, some of which includes having a much bigger impact when I get back out into the world.
I want to show people they can do anything and teach them how to be confident even if it’s scary. On the outlook, you might think I’m quite inhibited by my condition, and I want to show people how to navigate tricky situations. If you’ve followed me for any amount of time in public, you know I have to deal with that a lot. I want to show people how to make a difference even when you’ve got an obstacle, and that’s probably what the next step in my content will be.
Making a difference
With Tourette’s, everything is on hard mode, and you don’t really see what it means to have this condition until it’s humanized. I think people see it as an oddity. Some people fetishize it. It’s kind of impossible to understand until you see what it is to live with it rather than how you get diagnosed with it or a description of it. I think it helps people to understand, and that’s cool. The more people who can identify it and understand it, the safer people like me are in public.
Things are getting better. Every chance I get to help people understand my condition, I get to be a part of making the world a safer place for people like me. It’s a privilege, it’s an exhausting privilege, but it’s privilege all the same.