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The untold truth of Valkyrae

What started with playing Bubble Bobble on the Nintendo Entertainment System has since turned into a lucrative career for Rachel Hofstetter. Under the screen name Valkyrae, Hofstetter's streams and gaming content have managed to amass a huge following online. With over 987,000 YouTube subscribers, 945,000 Twitch followers, and an impressive 1.8 million Instagram followers, Hofstetter has quickly risen through the ranks and made a name for herself within the streaming community.

Similar to how streamers like Tfue and Ninja got their massive followings largely thanks to the popularity of Fortnite, Valkyrae experienced a bump in popularity of her own after spending a considerable amount of time as a variety streamer. Though she still plays a variety of games on her streams, she has been involved in a few notable Fortnite tournaments. She competed with musician Murda Beatz in the 2018 Fortnite Pro-Am. A year later, she was paired with Justin Jones of the Los Angeles Chargers for the 2019 Fortnite celebrity Pro-Am. Additionally, the streamer was nominated for a Shorty Award in 2019 in recognition of her talents. 

But who exactly is Valkyrae, and how did she get her start in the world of streaming? For those unfamiliar with Hofstetter's work or for those simply looking to dive in deeper, here's the unknown truth about the YouTube streamer.

Valkyrae didn't set out to be a streamer

Though many dream about one day making it big on Twitch, Valkyrae didn't start out as an aspiring streamer. In the beginning, she was just a GameStop employee who had a passion for gaming and wanted to share her passion with other people. Her way of doing that? By posting pictures on Instagram and building a community of like-minded gamers. On her account, she would post about upcoming releases that she was excited for and examples of her retro consoles, as well as whichever games she happened to be playing at the time. 

Her Instagram account became fairly popular, amassing over 15,000 followers, and a pretty consistent suggestion kept coming from her followers: Stream on Twitch. Even though she didn't really know what Twitch was, according to an interview Hofstetter did with Business Insider, her response was, "Sure, why not?"

Valkyrae's rationale at the time was that she was already using her free time to play video games, and her Instagram made up the majority of Hofstetter's social life at that point. So it didn't seem like too much effort to just connect with more people and bring her Instagram audience with her to Twitch. If not for the support of her followers, Valkyrae may not have ever made the leap into the world of streaming.

She was the first woman to join 100 Thieves

After he retired from competitive play in Call of Duty with OpTic Gaming in 2016, Matthew Haag decided that he wanted to take his passion for competitive gaming and turn it into a business of his own. That was the impetus for him to create 100 Thieves, a "premium lifestyle brand and gaming organization," according to the company's website. 100 Thieves, which is co-owned by Drake, entrepreneur Scooter Braun, billionaire Dan Gilbert, and Matthew Haag, aims to offer competitive esports along with lifestyle content and an array of merchandise for fans to purchase.

In October of 2018, just a little under a year after the company was founded, 100 Thieves signed Rachel "Valkyrae" Hofstetter. Valkyrae was brought in as a content creator, but perhaps more notably, as the organization's first female member. In the video revealing Valkyrae's addition to the company, Matthew Haag explains how badly 100 Thieves wanted to sign her. Haag actually reached out to the streamer personally instead of going directly through her agent to communicate 100 Thieves' interest in bringing her on board.

Regarding Matthew Haag's determination to add her to the team, Valkyrae stated that the whole experience left a good impression. "I felt more than just a product for 100 Thieves," she said. Additionally, when summarizing her new role in 100 Thieves, Valkyrae expressed, "I'm just very excited for the future, for our team. Being part of it, and just watching everything grow, and seeing everyone else grow."

She moved out of the 100 Thieves L.A. Content House

In a video tour led by Valkyrae and Nadeshot, the 100 Thieves Los Angeles Content House was revealed. Like other content creators with decked-out digs, the Content House hosts multiple members of 100 Thieves in a shared space where they can all easily collaborate and work off one another. Initially, the home housed Valkyrae and Nadeshot, but the streamers CouRageJD and BrookeAB would later move in as well. However, in February 2020, just a little after a year of moving in, Valkyrae revealed she would be moving out of the Content House.

Despite moving out of the 100 Thieves' shared home, Valkyrae is still collaborating and creating content for the company. So why exactly did she move out? In a vlog showing off her new apartment, Valkyrae assures her fans that the reason she left wasn't because of anything nefarious

"I wanted to separate my work life from my at-home life a bit," the streamer said. She added, "The [Content] house is just five minutes away from here [...] So that's why I have my laptop here and stuff. So I come home, I get away from my computer [...] I'm starting to focus more on health and wellness and fitness, as well."

Valkyrae streams exclusively on YouTube

While Ninja and Shroud moved to Mixer and Twitch continues to sign exclusivity deals with other names, Valkyrae decided to go in a different direction. In January 2020, the streamer signed an exclusive agreement with YouTube, alongside Fortnite streamers Lannan "LazarBeam" Eacott and Elliott "Muselk" Watkins.

Following the announcement, Valkyrae released a video elaborating on why she made the shift from Twitch to YouTube. In the video, she explains that YouTube offered her a good deal of money to stream on the platform. According to Valkyrae, "I just wanted the sense of security. Like financial security [...] continuing to stream and play games like I always have as a hobby and not having to worry about numbers." Valkyrae also notes that she wanted to have all of her content in one place. "I just like the idea of having streams and videos all on one platform so I can just focus on one place," she said.

Similarly, YouTube also allows Valkyrae to focus on areas outside of gaming. "Now that I made the switch to YouTube, I feel like I can focus on not just gaming, but focus on other interests that I have as well," she explained, "like beauty, fashion, fitness, health and wellness [...] and just whatever it is." 

While Valkyrae acknowledges that the platform still needs work, she expresses that the YouTube team seems to team values her opinion. "I feel like a priority on YouTube [...] it's really cool like it feels like my opinion is being heard."

She makes enough money from streaming to take care of her mother

On Twitch, streamers usually make money through four main channels: donations, subscriptions, advertisements, and sponsorships. For smaller creators, getting paid largely depends on the number of viewers a streamer has and on the generosity of those tuning in. Some days you may not get a lot of donations or subscriptions, while you may get a massive payoff on other days. Luckily for Valkyrae, after only three years, she was able to pay off her mother's debt and help fund her childcare business.

After signing her contract with YouTube, Valkyrae revealed that a significant consideration for taking the deal was the payoff. More specifically, the money she would be earning would be used to continue to provide for her mother. "She's fully dependent on me, and we've been remodeling the house in the Philippines," Valkyrae said. "[W]e actually did remodel, finish remodeling the house in Washington, my hometown [...] [S]he's not cheap." 

Various sources give conflicting answers regarding Valkyrae's net worth, and the numbers range from $178,000 to $5 million. However, in one of her videos, Valkyrae Googles her net worth, and a source pops up stating that, as of March 5, 2020, she has an estimated net worth of $1.5 million. Though she ultimately neglects to comment, she does state that she makes enough to continue completely funding her mother, donating money, and living comfortably. With this in mind, it's pretty safe to assume the streamer won't be hurting for cash anytime soon.

Two public breakups later, she's still here

For a few years, Hofstetter had been publicly dating fellow streamer Michael "SonyD" Sherman. The two ended up splitting, making the official announcement in December of 2018. In a follow-up vlog, Valkyrae explained that this was due to the couple's desire to work on their individual "personal improvement."

However, in the wake of their breakup, Michael and Rachel remained friends and eventually got back together. However, their rekindled relationship was not destined to last. Once again, the couple broke up and, according to Valkyrae's later explanation, "[T]he things that needed to be worked on and fulfilled and whatever never got fulfilled, because we got back together and stuff."

The two still seem to be on amicable terms, with both Rachel and Michael moving on to focus on their careers. Soon after the couple broke up for the second time, it was announced that Michael joined T1 esports. Hofstetter continues to create content for YouTube and has also started posting to TikTok. However, she notes the latest breakup has been difficult. "I think I'm going crazy with content right now because it's helping distract me from Michael not being around anymore," she said. "I hope he's doing okay. Still love and care about him a lot [...] If you love someone, let them go, and if it's meant to be in the future, it's meant to be. Otherwise, right now, I'm going to focus on myself."

White knights have the Valkyrae stamp of approval

One of the key areas of scrutiny that affects women who stream is their relationships (or lack thereof) with fans. Some women, in particular, are accused of taking advantage of their fan base to get more subscriptions and donations. In addition to the streamers themselves, fans can also land in hot water when jumping to the defense of their favorite streamers against criticisms or concerns. While these more earnest supporters are not kindly regarded in most circles, Valkyrae has said that she doesn't mind white-knighting.

In a Q&A video, Valkyrae said, "I appreciate the simps and the white knights, because they're kind, you know? They don't seem like they're being stalkers and stuff, you know? They're not putting a woman on a pedestal and giving her everything. They're just giving her a compliment, right?"

Citing an issue with people jumping to conclusions and how that can affect a community, the streamer continued. "Nowadays, if you just compliment someone, you're a simp. And I think it's making people not be nice." So while some may see these types of fans as desperately trying to get some extra female attention from their favorite streamer, Valkyrae's interpretation is much more charitable.

Valkyrae empowers female creators through collaboration

Given that women face a large amount of harassment in the streaming world, building and maintaining a positive community may seem like an incredibly daunting task. Considering that women can be easily dismissed as "Twitch Thots" and are barraged with abuse from disgruntled gamers, it's not too hard to guess why some women may be reluctant to jump into the world of gaming or engage with the community at large. In an interview with Business Insider, Valkyrae noted that "The harassment is never-ending, so you can't take it personally." However, she also believes one of the best ways to tackle sexism within the streaming community is through collaborating and uplifting other women.

Valkyrae told Business Insider, "I like playing with other girls because I get to show other people that girls can dominate as well [...] And usually the streamers I play with are all really good, and I get to see other girls are commenting on the videos and it's all about girl power and it's just heartwarming to see." According to the streamer, the video comments on these collaborations are often from teenage girls and mothers watching with their daughters.

When looking at Valkyrae's YouTube channel, other prominent women such as Pokimane, ChicaLive, KittyPlays, and AlexiaRaye, are often featured in streams or in vlogs. This likely helps cross-promote communities while also helping to better represent women in the gaming community.

Switching to YouTube led to a shift in demographics

In an interview with Business Insider, Valkyrae revealed that even though her audience is still mostly male, her number of female viewers has tripled since she started uploading streams to YouTube. Similarly, she remarks that alongside the growing female viewership, the amount of younger viewers watching her videos has also increased.

When discussing the demographics of her videos, Valkyrae makes a note of the diversity within the Fortnite community. She expressed, "The one thing I regret the most is not uploading to YouTube sooner [...] That's where so many people in the Fortnite community have found me, mostly because the audience is younger there." While Fortnite helps to bring in younger viewers, the game also brings in female audiences as well. "I don't know what it is about Fortnite," she told Business Insider. "But it's true, I see so many more female viewers and streamers compared to other video games."

Fortnite may be helping to draw in a more diverse crowd. Still, considering Valkyrae's own efforts to feature other popular women in streams, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that her channel has seen a rise in female viewership.