Almost a year ago to the day, Naya practically hit reset on their YouTube career.
She had a storied history creating Minecraft and Roblox RP videos under the moniker ‘owTreyalP’ (PlayerTwo backwards) — as a cis male. With an adoration for anime, and the creativity of these virtual worlds before VTubing, she had slowly seen a drift in the way she presented herself online.
First it came with roleplaying women in these series. Then came the profile picture changes. A facecam, once a staple of her content, phased out of existence after the turn of the decade.
This collided with the videos that made her popular in the first place, long-form and easy-to-record one-take gameplay clips, being pushed out of the algorithm. As the meta evolved towards edited videos and being active on other platforms, Naya had to take stock on whether their eight-year legacy on YouTube was winding down.
“On my original owTreyalP’ channel, I tried to keep doing that kind of content, and everything just sunk,” she said. “All of a sudden I was barely getting 20% of the viewership I used to during the previous year, and it burned out my love for content creation.
“I loved doing my RP stuff in Minecraft — I used to make so many different characters, script writing, cinematography, editing, art pieces, skin making, there was so much involved with it. But with the amount of time you place into a single episode, it’s very tough to justify doing that with the amount of exposure YouTube will give you with it.
“I’ve jumped to different mediums like crazy, but I like sticking to a certain rhythm or theme. Adjusting to whatever the algorithm or meta is for content creation is very tough for me to break out of that shell.”
It was hard to stomach given content creation was a dream Naya wanted to chase years ago, dating back to her time in the military where she’d spend any amount of downtime jotting down skits and video ideas. These were a critical distraction from the emotional turmoil derived from training combined with a hearty dose of homesickness.
While few others believed in Naya’s dream — least of all her mother and her then-partner — she was powered by spite to push on regardless.
“I wanted to do content creating, at first, as an ‘I’ll show you’ type deal, but then it turned into more than that,” she said.
VTubing came at a perfect time. COVID led Naya to exploring more facets of their gender identity, coming out as trans in June 2022. The virtual world didn’t just let them roleplay as a character in an anime, but as an authentic version of themselves, an affirming representation.
“When I first started doing content creation, I was a cis male. I went by my birth name and I said I was a guy all the time. During COVID, it highlighted the points where I found out more about myself because you have a lot more alone time so a lot more to think about.
“I used to have thoughts like ‘I wish I could dress up like a girl’, but suppressed them because of friends, family, whatever… It started adding up over time. I had to figure that out by myself.
The one major issue was Naya’s past community. Coming out as trans did drive a wedge through their previous fanbase. Many accepted her on the new journey with open arms. However it also led to targeted harassment, nearly pushing them off the internet for good.
“During this time when I was figuring out more about myself and I started doing TikTok narrating, I put myself away from my original community. I was very scared of what they would say about me, knowing they knew me as my birth name and as a guy. If I started coming out as a girl to them, I was very scared of what that would become.
“I had a very low point in my life where I was falsely accused of a lot of things just because I was presenting myself as a trans girl who just came out. I was right to be scared about my old community because a lot of them were the people spreading the misinformation, were the people saying all these bad things about me. It really felt like an honest betrayal to myself.
“Still to this day, I’m still very scared about that. Even though I’m back to it and uploading on my original channel, every video I upload I don’t even need to see the comments as I know they’re there.”
However that issue isn’t present, or at least as prolific, in VTubing. Naya has found a new community who is willing to let her express herself in the most comfortable way possible. They uplift her, and combined with the medium’s power of self-affirmation, has changed her entire perspective on content creation and rekindled that same spark that ignited 10 years ago.
“There were a lot of times in content creation with ups and downs. A lot of those downs really made me realize ‘do I want to continue doing this?’ When I was able to get into VTubing, it resparked everything. It was like I just started off again, but I had all the prior knowledge of being a content creator already.
“From a humongous burnout phase to having the most fun in content creating I’ve had in my life, it felt amazing. Every once in a while I get the burnout, but when you get that second spark, there’s very few feelings that are better.
“ I’ve made so many awesome friends in the one year I’ve been out as trans than I had in all of my time [previously in] content creating. That’s one thing I love about VTubing compared to what I used to do before. Before I was a one girl show. I didn’t talk to many people, I just did my own thing, uploaded my videos, went to bed.
“Now, I’m surrounded by amazing people.”