It’s an ugly truth that sex sells and in the world of streaming, which is very visual, it’s safe to say that looks factor in the way the business functions.
For example, some streamers have side hustles selling their bath water and farts for hundreds of dollars, a model which some in Singapore have tried to replicate.
But while looks play a part, they aren’t everything - at least according to Twitch streamer Denise Teo, or more popularly known by her online moniker supercatkei, at a time one of Singapore’s fastest-growing Twitch streamers.
However, her success doesn’t only come from being a pretty girl, even if “first impressions do matter”.
Speaking to Yahoo Southeast Asia in July, the 25-year-old said, “I think first impressions do matter. I wouldn't constitute that to a gender, but I think what we do is very visual, right? Immediately once you click on to a video, or you click on to a stream, the first thing you're going to see is literally what's right in front of you and what you hear, of course.
“Some people say looks don’t matter at all - well, it really depends on where you’re at in your journey, and what kind of skills and gifts you have that’s coupled with you as a person.”
Teo said that streamers have their own different challenges, so she doesn’t know “if it's harder or easier for female streamers”, but, she thinks it isn’t fair to assume one has it easier if they’re female.
As for how much looks really matter in this industry, Teo replied, “I think it’s like 50 per cent. I think if you have that extra 50 per cent, then it’s easier for you. But there are many streamers and there are many creators who have been wildly successful without showing their face or any other part of themselves.”
Yet, there are streamers who capitalise on looks and sex to draw in their crowd.
To this, Teo said, “I think to each their own. Everyone can make content they way they want to. I’ve never really thought that much about it, to be honest.
“They can do whatever they want to and I’ll create content, and I’ll make money the way that I want to, and the way that resonates with me.”
That said, Teo admitted that the values of content creators and what they create do reflect upon their viewers, who might feel enabled to behave in a similar manner.
She explained, “[It’s] not just about those who create that kind of content, but talk about the streamers who very clearly scold people on the Internet and they make it like a thing, or people who litter on the streets.
“It naturally affects how the viewers see creators and streamers and even impacts on how viewers think that they can behave… I think we often forget that as creators, we really do have that social responsibility of influencing and educating our viewers.”
But since she can’t control the kind of content other streamers create, she focuses on “what I can do for myself and for my community”.
And if someone comes into her chat and attempts to sexualise her or make inappropriate comments, Teo isn’t afraid “to stand up for myself and to remind my viewers of what, I think, is how we should treat people”.
The ‘unknown’ scares her more than lewd comments
Teo has received “all sorts” of lewd comments - “unfortunately” - but what scares her more is “what people do on the side that I don't know of”.
She shared, “For example, I know [my images] have been in lewd Telegram groups. I don't even know why I'm in that because I don't even do anything… I don't talk about it very much because I don't know if the Internet is the place to do so.”
The extreme side of things are scarier than comments which objectify her or criticise her body, she admitted.
“I think I'm so desensitised - not saying it's okay, because it's really not okay - but that end of the spectrum is less scary and much easier to control and manage,” Teo said of the inappropriate comments she has received.
The negativity that comes her way might be daunting, but Teo seems to have a handle on it. When dealing with these situations or people, she relies on her values and what she believes in.
She added, “I always try my best to approach the situations with as much kindness as possible, [and] whether I can resolve it on my own, amicably - I always try to do that first.
“Obviously if things are way too far out of hand, then yeah, you have to call the police or something like that. But unfortunately, a lot of times I just let it be because I have no idea how to better handle these things. If anyone knows, please tell me because I don't know. I'm still learning.”
Had no intention to try streaming
It’s true that Teo is still learning, somewhat, as streaming wasn’t something that she had roots in.
She was only exposed to streaming a year before she started her own Twitch stream as she was moderating for someone she was close to.
“That was how I learned about Twitch streaming in the first place,” she said. “That was my only relation to live streaming. I had no interest in it whatsoever, had no intention to try it out myself, until I left my first startup in early 2020, and I came back home due to COVID.”
With the extra time she had, coupled with her interest in gaming, she thought it would be a good opportunity to try it out herself.
She added, “I hadn't watch any streamers at that point. I didn't know about this industry. I just really love video games, and I just wanted to find a way to kill that time, especially during Covid, during the lockdown.”
It’s been an unpredictable (her word) journey for her as what started “purely for fun” and as a way to “connect with more people” turned into a full-time job with her after she saw some success.
According to Teo, when she first started, Singapore had a “small viewership pool” and it “wasn't so easy for streamers to get viewership”. It was also before Twitch had an office in Singapore, she said.
Teo recalled, “I noticed that my concurrent viewership was growing very steadily, but also very quickly. And it's one of those things that you can't ignore, right? When you see something good that's happening and something must be working - I didn't know what, to be really honest with you, but I was enjoying it.
“People were coming in and telling me, ‘Hey, you know, like, you're pretty good at this.’ So I was like, ‘Oh, okay. I'll just keep trying it out.’ And that was the only metric I had at that point of time. I really didn't have anything else.”
The other thing that “flipped the switch” for her, was hitting 500 subscribers, which was a lot.
She added, “Until today, it's really not so simple to get 500 subscribers on Twitch, depending on on your size, obviously. But when I hit that number, I was like, ‘Wow, that's a substantial amount of money.’ And if I can maintain that, just 500 subscribers, I could potentially do this as a full-time job.”
After she hunkered down and decided on building her Twitch presence, she saw good indicators of growth. One of them was the fact that she was averaging about 1,000 new followers a month. When she started in August, she had zero followers but by December, she had 5,000.
“This was before TikTok,” she pointed out. “So that was a really big sign that I was doing something right.”
Now, the streamer has 75,000 followers on her Twitch account - a far cry from the 5,000 milestone years ago.
She added, “In terms of viewership, I think I grew quite steadily. Maybe, like, 25 per cent more viewership every month, which again, was a really good indicator that we are going in the right direction, especially when the platform was still so new of a concept to Singaporeans and to people in Singapore.”
‘I’m a very ordinary person’
When asked what she thinks made her stand out from the pack in a way that would account for her rapid growth in numbers, Teo mulled over it and said it was a “tough question”.
She explained after a moment, “To be really honest, I don't think I'm anything very special. Like, I think I'm a very ordinary person. I'm just like any other person you see on the street. I don't have any fascinating talents or skills. I don't think I'm very funny either.”
“But I think at that time, again, there weren't a lot of people like me. So, people on the Internet were mean and a little bit more loud, and they use strong language. Then all of a sudden, you see this girl coming onto the platform, and I'm just all flowers, and, like, trying to spread kindness to people,” Teo said, adding that she has “never swore at all in my life” and people initially thought it was a persona.
Eventually, she reckoned her niceness won out as it proved that one could succeed in this industry by being true to yourself.
“I think you attract your own tribe of people, and my people just found me. And I think that's how I stood out at that time.”
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