The Twitch Star With Thousands of Grandkids
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The Twitch Star With Thousands of Grandkids

by Emily Maskell

On Twitch, there is no one else quite like Granny. Tune in to one of her live streams and you are greeted with a title card that reads "Yer Doin So Well" as she belts along to Wendy Williams' rendition of "Native New Yorker" from The Masked Singer. The opening serenade sets the tone for what to expect from Granny's wildly entertaining streams: the next few hours will be full of laughter, mischief and chaotic gameplay.

A unique presence on the platform, the mononymous Granny has forged an identity that sets her apart from Twitch's saturation of character streamers: her lovable grandmother persona. Dressed in a curated selection of blouses, blazers and kimonos and never without her pearl necklace, Granny's voluminous white wig and oversized glasses make up the iconic look of her larger-than-life character. Broadcasting from New Zealand in her Hobbit House set-up — appearing through a door window with dancing butterflies, chirping birds and a rainbow in the sky above — she's the most tech-savvy Granny on the internet.

"If I could sum it up in an elevator pitch: the channel is an unscripted children's show for adults. That's the way it's always been," Granny tells me, remaining completely in character, during our call. Bridging a drag-loving audience with gaming viewers, she has fostered a family of thousands of followers who she names her "grandkids."

You may be surprised, then, that Granny's gameplay often centers on horror, including the likes of Dead by Daylight and Phasmophobia, a stark contrast to the endearing wholesomeness she exudes. Though, by her own admission, Granny scares easily: "There's something hilarious about screaming your brains out and immediately being able to laugh with everyone afterwards. To me, horror is a twisted avenue towards a greater comedy, just like life!" One moment she's reading heartfelt messages and offering inspirational advice, the next she's screaming and murdering in-game characters with an axe. The hysterical pairing will lure you in, but it is Granny's infectious laugh and dramatic reactions - alongside a sprinkling of innuendo — that will have you entertained for the duration of her five-hour-long streams four times a week.

Granny's Twitch origin story, which took her from a pursuit of acting in New York City before getting sidetracked by a career in the city's financial district ("I couldn't even explain to you now what I did") to her New Zealand Hobbit House to escape paralysing burnout, started with the action-adventure game Red Dead Redemption 2. "I found it so joyful to be making strangers on the internet laugh," Granny says while reminiscing on how, with the encouragement of online friends, she began a Twitch channel.

"It was a very humble beginning," she explains. "It was what I wanted to do in the first place, the quest I'd been on had gone way off path, I'd somehow circumvented in a unique way that I was not expecting. I was able to perform, have fun and make people happy which is truly something I never knew I enjoyed so much."

It is only recently Granny has opened up about this portion of her life, she tells me the decision to speak about something deeply personal was a weight off her shoulders and brought her a lot closer to her grandkids: "I was really glad I did it, I'd wanted to talk about it, I'd hinted at it before, but never gone into that amount of detail, but it was the right time." While little more is known about Granny — she remains an ageless enigma — it is the unyielding focus on the interaction between the grandkids and her that make the streams a joyous experience.

Broadcasting for over two years on Twitch, Granny's camera presence is effortlessly natural as she hosts her one-woman show. "There is a weird artistry that comes with streaming that I don't think content creators quite know how to describe. I suppose it would be very similar to the feeling an actor gets when they're on a stage," she ponders, noting her dream of being an actor was realised with her ability to perform on camera. Granny's show, though, is entirely unscripted which allows for a plethora of spontaneously delightful moments. She fondly recalls one such memory of playing Red Dead Redemption 2 online with some of her "grandkids": taking an in-game family photo became an unintentionally emotional moment when they collectively walked with lanterns to the Hercules song "Go the Distance."

"It was like a movie," she remembers. "I thought this was so beautiful, you can have these lovely little moments of connection." It was the song, in particular, that held poignant reverence: "'Go The Distance' is all about someone who is not in the right place, who knows if they keep on going they'll find a place they belong. If not, they'll create it themselves. I identify with that so much."

Granny has done exactly that: spotted an opportunity in the world of live streaming and forged a genuinely inclusive and nurturing online place. Such is the prevailing sentiment of her live shows: "'Yer Doing So Well' is the core tenant of the entire stream. If I can do it, you can. If your Gran's out here [in Dead by Daylight] repairing a generator in five meters of a man with scissors for hands, you can as well. You've got this, dear."

Throughout quarantine, when so many people have been unable to visit their grandparents, Granny has assumed the presence of the eccentric elder. "Streamers, in general, got a huge boost in viewership [during the pandemic]," Granny notes. "There are all these people flocking to find a place they can go where they can talk safely, in terms of not infecting each other. I did notice there was more of an importance in our position as streamers to not only do our job as we normally would but to really amp up what we're doing as now we are far more intricate in people's lives. We are now the weatherman or woman you see every morning that you become attached to."

When she isn't snatching wigs in Dead By Daylight or lip-syncing for her life, Granny is an avid Twitch viewer herself. Some of her personal streamer picks include OhTofu, hexy, PolySypher and Jason Sulli. Having already collaborated with drag icon Trixie Mattel and rapper-and-gamer T-Pain, Granny still has a few names on the collab wishlist: Milton Pike, "one of the funniest GTA streamers I've ever seen" and Kitboga, who occasionally prank calls scammers using a grandmother voice changer (Granny promised "I won't sue"). "Those streams are hysterical," Granny continues. "I can't even count the amount of hours I've spent listening to him scam the scam callers."

So what does the future hold for Granny? This is a question she wonders herself: "It's scary but it's also exciting, because everything that's happened so far has been very organic." She reveals that she would love to expand her streams into a variety show with "skits, musical numbers, interviews, storybook time, a cooking segment. I truly believe at some stage this is going to be more of a structured but unscripted children's show for adults, but also for children."

When Granny's Twitch live shows come to a close, she takes a moment to pause and ask her viewers to contemplate three core questions: "What is because of me? What is because of others? What is because?"

This moment of self-reflection, from the wisest of grandmothers, lets Granny's words radiate into the lives of her viewers beyond the stream. She leaves them with an open-armed declaration of acceptance. Granny wants you to know that, "No matter who you are, where you've been or where you're going, you're going to have a place here with the grandkids where you are welcome, like family."

Screenshots via Twitch