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The Bizarre Story Behind Pokimane's Rise To Fame

There are many millions of streamers going live at any given time, and further millions of live viewers watching their favorite streamer play the latest video game releases. One such streamer is Imane Anys, a.k.a. Pokimane. In the past, Pokimane has been referred to as the "most popular woman on Twitch," and the people saying that aren't exactly exaggerating. 

As one of the most popular streamers on one of the biggest platforms today, Anys has done quite well for herself. But how well? Some reports have claimed that her net worth is between $1-2 million. On that topic, however, Poki herself shot down the number, meaning the exact amount remains a mystery — for now.

Here's the bizarre story of Pokimane's success, her rise to fame, and the reason why so many tune in for each stream.

Pokimane's college days

Like many streamers, Pokimane's success came after an immense amount of hard work, as well as a bit of luck. Before finding her footing on Twitch, the popular streamer attended McMaster University in Ontario. There, she studied Chemical Engineering — a challenging degree program that can lead to comfy job opportunities after graduation. For example, the average chemical engineer earns about $75,000 per year to start.

That's no small sum, which makes it even more surprising to learn that Poki ultimately decided to drop out of college to pursue streaming full-time. As for why she made that move, the streamer has cited struggles balancing her love of streaming with the challenge of back-to-back classes. At times, she found herself working 12 hours a day, barely juggling coursework with her stream schedule.

Her decision proved fruitful. In 2017, Poki's viewership numbers from her regular League of Legends streams began to soar dramatically.

Co-founding OfflineTV

After gaining a huge following and finding success on Twitch, Pokimane partnered with other streamers to create OfflineTV, a collaborative network of content creators. The goal of OfflineTV was to show the world the behind-the-scenes lives of popular streamers and to push high-quality content. 

Pokimane was, of course, not alone in this venture. Many believe she joined the outfit later on in its lifespan but the reality is, in her own words, she was there at the inception. Poki was joined by the likes of Scarra (William Li), LilyPichu (Lily Ki), Michael Reeves, Yvonnie (Yvonne Ng), and Disguised Toast (Jeremy Wang). Together, the group formed OfflineTV, and Poki claims to have actually come up with the name for the collective.

The move to join forces ended up working out for the team, as the OfflineTV YouTube channel produces content for over 2 million followers and countless viewers. The channel regularly uploads vlogs and behind-the-scenes clips, as well as IRL content that details what being a streamer is genuinely like, for those who may not realize what goes on once a stream concludes.

Partnered streams and hard-earned awards

Gaining new followers, becoming a Twitch Partner, and enjoying the benefits of countless new subscribers each day are already impressive feats. However, Pokimane's profile rose even higher in 2018, thanks to a hard-earned award and partnered streams alongside big-name stars, like the NBA's Josh Hart.

First, Pokimane won the 10th Shorty Award for Best Twitch Streamer in 2018. It was a well-deserved award that highlighted her impressive growth on the streaming service in such a short time period, but that wasn't the only exciting thing to happen for her in 2018.

Poki also partnered with Epic Games for a sponsored Fortnite event in the same year. Initially, the plan was for Pokimane and rapper Desiigner to come together to dominate the battlefield live for millions of viewers to see. Desiigner, unfortunately, dropped out at the last minute. To replace him, the event hosts managed to nab Josh Hart of the New Orleans Pelicans to play alongside the popular streamer. Hart is no stranger to the game, and even plays in his spare time, making his participation in the stream a no-brainer for Epic.

Becoming a Twitch Ambassador

As a streamer who saw immense growth on Twitch, it makes total sense that the platform would want to partner with Pokimane for bigger events. In 2018, Pokimane partnered with the streaming platform for a number of events. This was no ordinary partnership, though. Not only would Pokimane serve as one of 15 ambassadors for TwitchCon 2018, but she would also would work on multiple videos for the Twitch Creator Camp.

What is Creator Camp, you ask? The camp is Twitch's official guidebook, or blog, which helps new content creators find their footing and produce the best, highest quality streams possible. Having Pokimane front-and-center for some of these tutorials, showing that anyone can make it big, was probably a smart move on Twitch's part. In this way, not only was Pokimane enjoying her new following, with countless viewers every stream, but she was quickly becoming the face of the next streaming generation. She was helping newcomers learn the ropes, thereby increasing her own brand recognition in the process.

Twitch exclusivity

Finding success on Twitch can be quite the challenge, as you can see from the many millions of channels streaming at any given time. But for Pokimane, success came rather quickly. She gained tons of followers, enacted a consistent streaming schedule, and made moves on the platform that put her at the forefront.

Her fans knew something big was coming, though some were a little nervous about the future of her channel. On her Twitter account, Poki teased a big announcement to come. Speculation arose and spread like wildfire, but Poki quickly reigned in the rumors with a short video, revealing a multi-year exclusivity deal with Twitch. As a follow-up to her short clip on Twitter, Pokimane released a video on her YouTube channel, talking about other streaming platforms and her decision to stick with Twitch.

At a time when other big-name streamers, including Ninja, were switching to competing platforms like Mixer, Pokimane's exclusivity deal with Twitch was a big win for the streaming platform.

Pokimane flourishes on YouTube

For many content creators, transitioning from YouTube to Twitch comes at a natural plateau. Eventually, uploading videos once or twice per week can stagnate. When that happens, interaction between streamer and fanbase can drop, leaving an entire community hungry for even more content. It makes sense to start streaming consistently to deliver the kind of live gameplay and commentary that the community enjoys.

Pokimane essentially went the opposite way. She started on Twitch, then opened up two separate YouTube channels, both of which have enjoyed a good bit of success. Her main channel focuses on her gaming clips from her streams and vlogs. Her second channel, which is less active, focuses on ASMR content, including whispering videos. Both channels have millions of subscribers, which has led to

N? to further success and ad revenue for Pokimane's growing operation.

In starting up these two channels, Pokimane diversified her content in a way that didn't add an excessive amount of work on her part, while still focusing on the medium that made her famous.

Cloak creative director

Clothing for gamers, by gamers — sounds like a fun idea, right? In 2018, prominent YouTubers Jacksepticeye and Markiplier put their heads together and came up with a clothing brand called Cloak, which is aimed at content creators and gamers alike. In their words, Cloak is for "people like us, who game all day."

In June 2020, as Pokimane was still diversifying her portfolio, she announced that she was joined the clothing company as a partner and creative director. Her latter role allows her to help with the designs and brand recognition of the up-and-coming clothing line.

In February 2021, Poki released a brand-new clothing collection through Cloak called Self Love Story. This collection features several sweatshirts and t-shirts featuring the Cloak logo, as well as anime-inspired artwork adorning the front and back of multiple pieces in the collection.

What the future holds for Pokimane and Cloak remains to be seen, but Poki is clearly enjoying her role in the company.

Pokimane's controversies

No streamer is immune to controversy. It seems like the longer you spend time interacting with fans and other content creators, the more likely you are to endure severe arguments and mishaps online. It happens to everyone, even Pokimane, who has feuded with more than a few famous people.

In mid-2020, Pokimane found herself in hot water after accidentally opening a link to an adult website while streaming to countless viewers. For her transgression, some fellow streamers called for her to be banned. Ultimately, she received a warning from Twitch, which she said was "deserved."

In 2018, Pokimane and Keemstar duked it out online after the latter posted a video picking fun at Halloween costumes, including one Pokimane wore. Keemstar also argued with some of Poki's fans, which the streamer took personally, leading to a significant feud.

Pokimane received advice from someone within the community to copyright strike a video by YouTuber BowBlax, which documented the feud between Poki and Keem. BowBlax's video was taken down almost immediately by YouTube, which led to a significant backlash against Poki for seemingly striking a video simply because she was mad about it. She has since apologized, saying she should have taken a different course of action.

Venturing into Rust

In December 2020, OfflineTV entered the world of Rust. The crew launched its very own server, one with very specific rules laid out by the team's talent manager, BaboAbe. The whole point of the server was to bring content creators together into a shared role-playing survival experience. What the team at OfflineTV may not have realized, however, is that Rust is a cult game featuring a diehard community of players — many of whom take the game very seriously.

As part of OfflineTV, Pokimane found herself playing Rust on stream, too. She enjoyed some success, alongside her collaborators, and caught the attention of developer Facepunch. The studio decided to release an exclusive in-game skin with Pokimane, which viewers could receive by watching her stream the game at a very specific time. Unfortunately for everyone who wanted one, Pokimane found Rust too trying. Explaining that she simply wasn't enjoying herself, Pokimane decided to quit playing the game early into the server's life.

Due to her quitting the survival game during the limited release event, her garage door skin skyrocketed in popularity and rarity.

Success in Among Us

If you want to be a successful content creator, especially on Twitch, you may want to follow along with the latest trends. Among Us was, arguably, one of the most popular games to play for a while. It's what viewers wanted to see more than many other titles, and so it made complete sense for Poki to pick up the game.

Pokimane found immense success streaming Among Us. But she wasn't alone on camera. The popular streamer partnered with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in October 2020. That stream, which included the likes of Dr. Lupo, Jacksepticeye, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, managed to smash Twitch viewership records. The crew saw a staggering 439,000 viewers at the stream's peak. They fell short of the all-time record, which is held by Ninja and Drake, who played Fortnite to over 616,000 viewers. Even so, it was an impressive showing.

Whatever the next trend is on Twitch, Pokimane will surely throw her hat in the ring and make waves.

Capping her Twitch donations

In late 2020, Pokimane placed a cap on how much fans can donate to her. Viewers have long been able to give their favorite streamers donations, and for many, these contributions make up a sizable portion of their income. Pokimane's decision was unexpected to say the least, and it might affect how other major streamers handle their donations moving forward.

Pokimane first announced the cap on Twitter on November 1, 2020, setting the maximum donation she can receive to just $5. She thanked her fans for supporting her to the point where she no longer needs to rely on big donations to keep herself going financially. She had some pretty clear ideas on what her most generous donors should do with any leftover money. "Please support growing channels, charities, and treat yourselves," she wrote. Some criticized Pokimane for drawing attention to herself with the donation cap, but most saw the move as a genuine attempt at aiding her followers and smaller streamers.

Ban from Twitch

In late 2021 and early 2022, a new trend swept its way through Twitch. The "TV meta" saw streamers watching some of their favorite series and providing reactions and commentary to fans. It became a popular way for people to gather and view shows, but it also fell into a bit of a legal gray area because streamers didn't have the rights to share shows with their audiences.

Pokimane experienced the risks of streaming a copyrighted series to thousands of followers firsthand. In January 2022, she streamed episodes of "Avatar: The Last Airbender" as a way of getting into the TV meta, but the experiment backfired and got her banned from Twitch. Pokimane's ban highlighted the ongoing tension between streamers and copyright laws. Technically, streamers don't have the rights to show off the video games they're playing either, but streaming works as free promotion for gaming companies, so they often don't bother with copyright takedowns.

Luckily for Pokimane, the ban was just temporary. She let everyone know via Twitter that she'd be gone for 48 hours. After that, it was back to business as usual.

Alleged feud with Ninja

It's no secret that Twitch culture can be pretty toxic toward female streamers. Pokimane has been the target of harassment many times in the past, but an incident early in 2022 really highlighted how far Twitch still has to go. A streamer called JiDion used Twitch's raid function to send his viewers to Pokimane's channel to berate and harass her in January. It got so bad that Pokimane had to shut down her stream for the day. In response, Twitch banned JiDion, but the problems didn't end there.

Pokimane went on to talk about how it upsets her that other big Twitch streamers don't stand up against harassment on the platform. She specifically called out Ninja, claiming that he was working behind the scenes to try and convince Twitch to unban JiDion. Ninja allegedly fired back in a private message, telling Pokimane she was making "a big mistake" by coming after him (via Inverse). Like many Twitch feuds, this one eventually fizzled away, but the issues underlying the fight still very much need to be addressed by Twitch and the streaming community.

Pokimane is still loyal to Twitch

Pokimane had a rough start to 2022. After getting banned from Twitch, being targeted by hate raids, and supposedly arguing with one of the biggest streamers on the platform, it's no wonder that she admitted on stream that she had considered quitting Twitch, or even leaving streaming behind altogether. Complicating matters further, she was in the midst of renegotiating her contract with Twitch.

For a tenuous moment, it seemed like Pokimane was about to leave the scene and give up her streaming career. Instead, she decided not only to stick around but also to re-sign an exclusive contract with Twitch. In a video called "I Made The Biggest Decision Of My Life," Pokimane explained why she couldn't give up streaming. She told her viewers that she had to stay with Twitch because she "can't get enough of that good good Twitch chat." For now it looks like Pokimane's fans will still be able to find her right where she's always been.

Podcast with xQc

Pokimane isn't just going about business as usual on Twitch. She's also kicking off some exciting new projects. Fans got excited about Pokimane's latest endeavor when xQc revealed that he and Pokimane planned to produce a podcast together. The buzz began in early April, but barely a week later the Pokimane and xQC podcast was already in trouble. They scheduled their first episode for April 9, but when Pokimane logged into Twitch she found her partner missing.

After xQc ghosted the first episode of the podcast, many expected that it would never actually get off the ground. Despite all the disappointment, Pokimane kept the stream going, and she and xQc worked out their issues and scheduled a new date for the first episode. Their podcast finally kicked off in May. It's hosted on Twitch, but the episodes also make their way over to YouTube. It's still early days for the show, and no one knows where it's going to go, but fans are just excited to see two of their favorite creators working together.

What's next for Pokimane?

So, what's next for Pokimane? The fan-favorite streamer continues to grow her Twitch channel, with new followers and subscribers joining her daily, and her main YouTube channel is doing quite well, too. Pokimane has turned her attention to Hollywood, beginning with a cameo in Ryan Reynolds' Free Guy. She announced her involvement with the film over on Twitter in October 2020.

The movie follows a video game NPC who begins to fight back against the fictional world he inhabits. Poki will be joined by several other streamers in cameo roles, including Lazarbeam and Ninja.

Whether or not Anys intends to continue this path and dive headfirst into Hollywood remains to be seen, though it would make sense. Her entire medium focuses on video-based content and entertaining the masses. Movies are one more method to entertain, which is why some of her fellow streamers have set their sights on Hollywood. If she continues to diversify, maybe fans will see her wind up in another movie or two before long.