It’s hard not to encounter Trisha Paytas on YouTube. Their channel boasts a plethora of content: mass-eating mukbangs, storytimes, collabs with other famously divisive YouTubers, shopping hauls, music videos, dance covers, ASMR, drama fuel and scandal commentary. Paytas, who uses she/they pronouns, has managed to involve themself in every trend, every internet subcommunity and, somehow, every known controversy. That’s right – standing out amongst all the makeup gurus, daily life vloggers and Let’s Players, Paytas’s consistent content of choice is unadulterated drama.
The birth of their first daughter has proven to be no exception. After seven months of pregnancy, as well as a conspiracy theory that their baby was the reincarnation of the late Queen Elizabeth II, Paytas surprised fans on September 15 with an Instagram post of them and their newborn, captioned, “She has arrived ?Meet our daughter, Malibu Barbie Paytas-Hacmon.”
News of the baby’s birth and her unique name spread quickly across the Internet, with both Paytas’s copious fans and haters quick to react.
“Soooo are we just going to ignore the fact she gave her daughter a stripper name,” commented Instagram user @disneyadventures_56.
Right below, on the same post, user @heryumadatme wrote “Not Malibu Barbie ?.” Both comments received thousands of likes as others voiced their agreement.
Others defended Paytas’s name choice, such as blogger @studiosimms: “Malibu Barbie… I expected nothing less and honestly the name is perfect.”
And some helpfully pointed out that the baby could always go by a nickname. “Barbie is actually a cute name and so is ‘Mally.’ So even though it’s kinda wild that she put them both together I don’t think it will be so bad in practice,” Reddit user @goofus_andallant offered.
But in all the humor and backlash surrounding the situation, a single question resounds: “Is this real?” It’s the tenth comment on every publication or post featuring Malibu Barbie that Paytas publishes. The knee-jerk response of an Internet oversaturated by Paytas’s antics, fifteen years after their YouTube channel blndsundoll4mj first went live in 2007, is cynical disbelief.
Because Paytas, a self-described “troll,” has made their endless pursuit of attention indistinguishable from the extremes they have gone to get it, which leaves fans always wondering when and whether they’re actively making a joke. Previously, they have adopted a racist Japanese pop star persona, “Trishii,” stated they were no longer a person, claimed to be part Black and have dissociative identity disorder and, most controversially, come out as a transgender gay man in 2019. In an 2021 Insider interview, Paytas described themself as having “spent the last decade and a half trying on different identities to see which ones will make [them] the most famous.”
Each and every time they wind up in a controversy, the online backlash is massive. To continue watching their channel and googling their name is decried as a moral failure. Comments flood YouTube compilations, Reddit posts and Twitter pages begging others to please please please stop watching their content, giving them clicks, allowing them to convert shock value into monetary profit. So what makes the Internet unable to give up Paytas, the epitome of the “problematic fave” trope?
A large part of it is their perceived blunt honesty. Paytas is incredibly open with their online community, discussing the ugliest parts of life with a magnetizing frankness. They have revealed their personal insecurities, their plastic surgeries, their struggles with their mental health, their history in sex work and what they’ve learned through it all. Those who follow their content up until this day know who they are – and they wouldn’t quite be “Trish” if they weren’t shocking for the simple sake of being shocking, always changing identities in order to escape boredom. And in understanding Paytas, fans feel that a part of Paytas, perhaps the only genuine side known, irreversibly belongs to them… and then the creator no longer seems so malicious.
Paytas is a true anti-influencer, the role model’s shadow, the product of a generation to which the only tried-and-true entertainment is getting angry over and over again. There is a fascinating quality to the unabashed emotional rollercoaster that is their life, and they are just as aware as we are that we’ll forgive them eventually in order to have the continued privilege of watching it. Their content reflects the Internet itself, the embodiment of sensory superfluidity — a different stylistic phase every few weeks: heaps upon heaps of purses, an entire sheet pan of oven baked chicken, an expansive nursery themed after the name of their newborn baby (who is named after a classic toy) and featuring three shades of bright pink. Trisha Paytas is 1000% camp, a star who takes their Internet disrepute and embraces their failure with full, passionate seriousness. And just like with their aesthetic counterpart, in all their awkwardness and ugly, embarrassing moments, it seems even the relentless Internet can’t help but feel empathy, a little human tenderness for them.
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