ArcticAaliyah, simply known as Liyah, didn’t really have any big goals when starting out in streaming. She had always loved games and anime, like many of her VTubing peers, but sharing that with others was a struggle.
Real life streaming was out of the question for her due to her anxiety. And even finding circles in the real world to chat about her passions had burned her out in the past.
So when VTubing came along, it was a revelation.
“I had trust issues. I've had some friends in real life and I'd been betrayed by them.
“I saw other VTubers and I was like ‘I want to be a pretty anime character, too.’
“In real life, it's kind of difficult with everyone being in their little group and whatnot, and then some of them being just straight up jerks. Being online as a VTuber, there's other people who have the same interests as me.”
However, no matter the environment, she has found herself battling off one thing: racism.
Liyah has always been steadfast in showing off her true self — at least in character — on stream. There was no reason for her to not flex her beauty and comfort in her own body with her real skin tone and hair as a VTuber.
But the prejudice experienced in online spaces and real life chased her into the virtual world.
“I'm minding my business, playing games with some friends or by myself. And then you always have like — it's usually always like a first-time chatter, too — they'll come in, call me the n-word with the hard -er. Or a monkey. And it's like, why?
“Because I'm a dark skinned VTuber, I also get called tan. It's like there's a difference between tan and just being black. It’s always offensive because it's trying to erase dark skin’s existence.”
Off the back of this, Liyah has become one of the most vocal personalities in VTubing highlighting the racism BIPOC streamers face on a daily basis.
It doesn’t come from a place of being a savior, or any high moral being. In Liyah’s eyes, it’s all about standing up for her fellow black creators — fully expecting no one else to step in.
And those who proliferate the racist remarks? Well “they deserve” the criticism and heat the community throws their way.
“Like if you're going to call me like the N-word with the hard -er, I'm going to call you out. I'm not saying I'm like the voice of black people. I'm just speaking out like ‘hey, other black VTubers, watch out. You should probably ban this because he's going to call you the n-word with the hard -er.’ That's it.
“I have a few friends who are also black IRL, [but] they have pale skin models because they do not want to face the racism. I would love to see what their model would look like if they just used their skin tone because their skin is beautiful and I need them to know that.”
While Liyah is realistically jaded about racism being normalized in online spaces, what she has found in VTubing is a level of support offered from non-BIPOC folks, willing to actually step up and condemn the discrimination.
“We don't get surprised by whatever people throw at us. It's been like that for ages. It's not changing.
“[But] there are actual people who do care. That kind of surprised me because usually people just sweep whatever we say under the rug. But there's actual non-black people speaking up like ‘this isn't fair. This isn't right.’”
Liyah’s community that’s forged around her, as a result of everything she’s done creatively, has prompted her to open up a bit more.
VTubing isn’t a silver bullet to solving all the problems, but she can at least share her passions with people who respect and appreciate her for who she is.
“I sometimes feel like I'm still the same, but I do remember before I became a VTuber I did not like talking to people. I disliked everyone. But now I'm having fun making friends. I don't hate you guys.”
“I still have my moments where I just like to be by myself. You know what I mean?
“Being a VTuber, I'm constantly collabing or playing games with everyone. And then people I try to schedule stuff with me and then it's like ‘damn, where's my free time again? When can I watch my anime?’”
And if that’s all she gets out of VTubing, that’s enough.
“I don't really have any big dreams, just kind of rolling with it. If I actually go back to music, that's a plus. Or if I make it big one day, that's a plus.
“[But] I just want to play games and talk about anime. That's it.”
Learn more about Liyah's story in her Behind The Model episode.