Merry Trishmas

Merry Trishmas

Story by Ivan Guzman / Photography by Alyssa Kazew / Styling by Ali Kornhauser / Makeup by Eden Symone Lattanzio / Hair by Gregg Lennon Jr.
Dec 21, 2023

Trisha Paytas loved attention. The past tense in “loved” is crucial here, her highly clickable past selves being a harbinger for the now fully formed, stable version of Trish. This isn’t to say that she’s not still an internet icon for the people. The 35-year-old will always be relevant, a perpetual thumbnail that viewers can identify with faster than any up-and-coming TikToker can press “record.” She’s just learned to control the voices in her head is all.

In fact, Paytas invented “record.” Or at least the version of self-recording as we know it. The YouTuber has lived many lives, most famously becoming known for her Mukbangs, trolling videos and crying on her kitchen floor. She also has 10 albums and a slew of multi-million dollar budget music videos filmed on Paramount lots. Even if you aren’t familiar with her TV and internet-spanning body of work, her influence is surely still felt — in GIFs, reaction videos, relatable moments that live on forever and cement her inside of collective psyches throughout history like Cleopatra. Or Marilyn Monroe. Or at least a modern-day Anna Nicole Smith.

If reality TV is all about exploitation, then Paytas ushered in the new era of that: a more ephemeral, inward-looking self-exploitation, reflective of today’s collective loneliness. She’s got an old soul, seemingly tethered to the 20th-century standards of bygone celebrity and formats. “I have 8x10 headshots that I sign and give to people,” she says. In a recent interview, Paytas revealed that she still buys songs on iTunes.

Her latest venture, the Just Trish podcast, keeps to that ethos. She’s got the raw interview talent of heyday Howard Stern or Wendy Williams and hopes to manifest this current attention into a daytime talk show reminiscent of the olden days. Running the whole show is her ethereal husband Moses, who keeps their baby girl Malibu Barbie steady along for the ride. She’s got another baby — fittingly named Elvis — on the way. Cue “Blue Christmas.”

In celebration of the holidays, PAPER sat down with Trisha Paytas to talk all things internet history, manifestation, and the ups and downs of seeking attention on YouTube.

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I was driving up here, and I was just like, Wow. I’ve been watching you since I was in eighth grade.

How old are you now?


Wow! That’s a long time.

I was an OG.

You were saying you watched the old videos with Gigi and stuff. Wow.

Yeah. It’s been my dream to interview you for a long time. If you look back in your email in 2017, you’ll see my name. Me reaching out as a college student trying to interview you.

Oh my gosh! No way. Aww. Sorry, my eyes are watering, it’s from literally all this eyeliner. I should answer those more. I get a lot of emails from people who are in college. I should answer those more because I love to do that, too. To be someone’s first interview would be so cool.

Well, you just started really doing magazines this year, it seems like. What changed?

I have no idea. All I can think of is maybe the podcast, but it’s not like it’s that popular. It’s not Call Her Daddy, you know? It started in September, which is when the podcast started, I guess. I’ve done five [magazines] now. And it’s always so weird to me, it’s bizarre. I say yes to everything now because it’s so cool. I mean, PAPER is definitely the biggest that I’ve done. All the other ones I’ve done have been so fun, but PAPER is the biggest for sure.

For some reason, I remember you always talking about waiting outside of Michael Jackson’s house when you were a kid. Tell me about those times. Your fixations with celebrities were always so interesting to me.

I know, it’s so weird. Do you fixate over celebrities?


Okay, yeah. Because some people don’t. They have no connection, they don’t care about celebrities at all. And I’m like, that’s wild. It could be a Z-list celebrity, and I’m obsessed. The influencer kind of killed the celebrity, I think, because influencers I don’t necessarily get starstruck from. But if you’re on TV, even if you’re like a D-list actor that nobody knows, I get really starstruck. I think it’s harder to be an actor than it is to be an influencer.

Michael Jackson, I loved him since I was young. My dad lived in California, so every time we came out, I begged him to take me to Neverland. We would sit outside his house and we did get to meet him a couple times. When he came out, he would say “hi.” Now you know that you’re not supposed to do that, but back then so many fans did it, so you just did it, too.

Dress: Skims, Coat: Dries Van Noten (Courtesy of Lidow Archive)

It was a different time.

Michael was so nice. He’s probably one of the only celebrities that would talk to fans waiting outside his house. You see Justin Bieber being like, “I’m at my house, don’t ask for pictures,” which totally makes sense. But Michael Jackson would stop and take pictures with people and sign autographs. He was so cool and we would just hang out there. I always wanted to go inside. But I loved Michael Jackson. I know there’s controversy, but as a kid, you don’t know that.

Maybe your fixation with The Weeknd right now stems from that. Because The Weeknd is basically just Michael Jackson.

I always say that, too. Wait, do people make that comparison? I’ve never heard that before, but no, the first time my husband played him in the car, it was after The Idol, but I didn’t know. I was like, “Is this Michael Jackson?” For me, I only ever knew The Weeknd from The Idol, so I thought he was a rapper or something. So when I heard his songs, I was like, “That sounds like Michael Jackson.” [Singing] “Tell me what you really want, baby I can take my time.”

But even with your Rick Moranis outro from your old videos, you go through phases of fixations on celebrities. You talk a lot about manifesting nowadays and I feel like that’s what you were doing. Maybe you didn’t know the words to put to it, but you were manifesting by doing that.

My whole life.

Trying to get closer to these celebrities or trying to make something happen.

It’s bizarre, especially with celebrities. If I talk about them, I somehow get connected to them. When I first moved to LA, I moved here for Quentin Tarantino and within three months I met Quentin Tarantino. The latest weird manifestation is The Weeknd. Because he’s so massive, does not do interviews, he’s not on social media like that. And literally yesterday, The Weeknd liked the Zach Sang clip on Instagram publicly and sent me a DM saying, “Thanks for the support, me and my team appreciate it.” I was like, me and my team? Does that mean it’s Abel DMing me? That is wild to me. I still can’t get over it. I screenshotted it, I did everything, like that is crazy. And he liked it publicly! Everyone was like, The Weeknd liked your clip! I really do think that’s manifesting it because it’s speaking it out loud. And when you think about stuff constantly, it’s manifesting.

Me and Moses were talking about you and manifesting, and how that’s what you were doing but maybe you didn’t even know it.


He says that he always thought you were a genius.

Moses said that? Oh my God, did you interview him? You should!

I was telling him! I wanna do a whole separate interview with Moses because he’s so fascinating.

He’s so interesting. He’s so smart. That’s so nice that he said that. With me, he doesn’t say stuff like that. He’s not very, “I love you” and stuff. He doesn’t say much. I mean, I know it and I feel it, but that’s so nice.

What’s Moses’ love language?

We’ve never done the test, but I just know that it’s acts of service. I always thought that mine was gifts. I love when people give me gifts, but for Moses, acts of service. He does so much.

It’s clear. He was basically the set director for this shoot.

Every day he just does more and more. We’ll have a 15-hour day and last night he made me lasagna, which takes like three hours to make. He’ll go pick up stuff for me at the store. He’s really thoughtful and I’ve never had anyone do anything for me.

I love giving people gifts. It’s so funny, though, because Moses hates gifts. I’m always buying stuff and he’s like, “Stop buying me things.” But I’m like, it’s my gift! It’s my love language to him.

In literature, they talk about “the Christ figure.” I feel like he’s that.

That’s so funny. He used to play Jesus. He played Jesus from like 30 to 35. He played Jesus on the Discovery Channel, a bunch of documentaries. It’s weird. When I met him, he had really long hair and was very skinny.

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Well, Jesus was a carpenter.

Yeah and that’s literally Moses. He’s from that same area, the Middle East. Moses is from Israel. We’re not, like, pro-Israel or anything like that. But Jesus was from Nazareth and Jerusalem. He literally grew up on the land that Jesus walked, so it is weird. That’s so funny you said that. It’s giving very Christ.

The parasocial relationship of it all. I just remember being in eighth grade and I was a lonely, closeted tween. I remember watching your videos and feeling like I had a friend.


I remember one vlog in particular. It was your birthday and you went to Disneyland with your mom. You just cried alone at the end because you felt lonely.

I remember that. Oh my God, all my birthdays, I was like, I feel like such a loser. I only have my mom to be with me. And now I’m grateful for that. But you were a teenager feeling lonely and I was like 25, like ugh. That’s what I always made videos for. I was lonely and I didn’t think anyone else felt the way I did, you know? But hearing stuff like that about people feels nice. It makes me sad, too, when you say that you were closeted as a teen. That must be so hard. When I hear people’s coming out stories or people saying that they had to wait til they were 20 to come out. Or some people say that they never would’ve. I just had a TikToker guest on. It comes out next week and he was telling me his coming out story. He was going to stay closeted. He was just going to date girls his whole life and I was like, That’s wild. Up until 25. That’s crazy. And I know people who don’t ever come out. That’s so sad.

How big of a role has loneliness played through your YouTube career?

It’s the whole reason I did YouTube. I was lonely my entire life. Literally until I met Moses, I was lonely and so depressed. I only had YouTube. Thank God for YouTube because if I was working a job I hated in retail or something, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to live. But I just thought, Wow, I’m making money. I was fortunate enough to make music videos and stuff that gave me temporary happiness. But yeah, I was lonely. I didn’t have anyone. I didn’t date anyone until I was 30. I had one relationship, but that was a fake one. Fake in the sense that it didn’t feel real. Moses was the first person I ever lived with and I was 32 when I met him.

Moses was telling me that his whole life, he thought he was going to be a seeker. Just seeking things, philosophizing things through his water stuff. Then he met you and now he’s actually living.

Oh my gosh.

I feel like that’s you, too, in a way. You were seeking and now you have what you wanted.

Oh my God, you’re making me cry. Because I’m telling you, he doesn’t say stuff like this. But I know what he’s talking about because he would always tell me about his philosophy stuff with his channel, called Channel Water. And I said, “Why did you stop it?” He said, “Because it was all about finding the meaning of life and I found it.” I was like, Ahhh.

And y’all are living it now.

That’s how I feel, too. It’s so weird. We feel the same way. Because we always spent holidays alone. I feel the exact same way. Oh my gosh, I don’t know why I’m getting so emotional. Maybe it’s the pregnancy. [Crying] Like, I’m actually crying.

But you were seeking, right? Through your YouTube videos, even the trolling — trying to get a reaction out of people. You were seeking something.

Well, also just attention. Any sort of attention was good attention when you weren’t getting it anywhere else. I was addicted to the attention, for sure. I’m glad you could see it because I always feel bad when people can’t see that or they think I’m a bad person. I hear it a lot, like, “She’s problematic. She’s a terrible person.” I get why people say it, but I like when people can see it for what it was, which was a desperate cry. So when I see people online hating, I always know it comes from a place of they’re also miserable, because that was also me. There’s always some attention-seeking there that they’re not getting in their life. And it makes me sad for them because I know how that feels.

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How important is forgiveness? In a recent video, you were talking about how you’re embarrassed by your old videos and how, when Malibu grows up, you’re scared that she’s gonna watch them.

Forgiveness is the only way to get through life. Forgiving yourself, forgiving others. They always say that, even forgiving people who did you wrong, it’s more for you. Otherwise you hang on to it. Same with me. I was embarrassed. I was really hard on myself and I didn’t wanna forgive myself. It’s still hard for me. That’s why I’m self-deprecating sometimes. I know I was problematic, but I know I can get past that because I did forgive myself. But forgiveness is hard. If you don’t have forgiveness, then life is miserable. Even people who did you so wrong.

Did you have a partying era in LA? A raving era?

I had like one year of WeHo. I think I was 26 or 27. I was in love with this guy who would always go to WeHo to dance. That was for a year. It was fun. It’s the Gayborhood, but straight girls and straight guys like to go out there. The clubs are just more dance-y and pop and fun. But no, I definitely never had a rave phase. I don’t even regret it because I never wanted to go out. I was just home.

You’ve talked about how you had drug problems.

Oh yeah, I definitely had drug problems all my life.

But that was more just in your home?

Yeah, it was in my home or with people that were really into drugs. If I was obsessed with someone or in love with someone, I would do drugs if they did it. I had an addiction from 18-20. I was stripping, so I was just addicted because people were constantly giving me drugs. I was escorting, so that was that. This was 2006 to 2010. I was getting a lot of drugs then and I was just taking anything. Not too hard, I was doing coke and stuff.

The meth came in 2019. I met a couple guys that I was in love with, and they were really big into huffing and meth. It was really scary. Both of them passed away in 2022 right after my daughter was born. It was crazy. It was back to back, within a month of each other. And I dated them within months of each other in 2019, so it was really bizarre. And they both were, like, in the news. It was really, really sad. So that made me scared. But I stopped doing drugs when I met Moses. I was on Xanax, but then I got off that.

You say you were dating someone and they did drugs. Do you think you were more addicted to the validation?

Definitely, yes. It’s weird. I was never a fiend or an addict, which I’m thankful for. They definitely were. They definitely had sickness and it made me sad. I just wanted to be ironically cool. I was like, I wanna do that, too.

What were your holidays like growing up? Do you have bad associations with them?

Yeah, a little bit of sadness. It’s not anyone’s fault, but my parents were divorced so my dad was here in California with my stepmom, who I didn’t necessarily get along with. And then my mom was back home in Illinois with my sister from a different father. So me and my brother would have to travel on the holidays while the other kids got to stay home in the snow and be cozy in their beds. We were traveling, usually on Christmas Day because it was cheap. And then my dad would pick us up, and we would go to McDonald’s or Chinese or something. We never had family holidays literally until I met Moses. For Thanksgiving, I’d go see my dad and we’d go out to eat, and then Christmas, we’d usually go out to eat.

So [me and Moses] decided when we got together that we were gonna host holidays, especially with Malibu. We’re gonna have a family holiday every single year at our house so that she feels stable. And now we invite everyone. So my brother will come, my dad will come, my mom will come. We make everyone come on the same day. But yeah, they’re just sad because they’re not like they see in the movies.

What’s the scariest moment of your life? There’s this one story I remember you telling of this A-ist celebrity shooting at you or something?

Oh, ironically that wasn’t even the scariest moment of my life. That was a big actor, who... Oh, my God, I just hallucinated and thought someone was coming in. Because my eyes are all watery.

The actor guy triggered you.

Yeah, literally maybe, oh my gosh. Yeah, that one was crazy. That was in Malibu and it was a really A-list actor. When I tell people the name, they’re like, “What the hell?” I can tell you after. I don’t think I’ve ever said it, even when I’ve done other podcasts. Because he’s just so big and massive, but it was wild. It was weird because I was so young and I was a little out of my mind. I was definitely on drugs. This was in my escorting days. So to me, it felt like, is this not normal? He was playing around, shooting the gun around my head. I guess in hindsight, that might be the scariest moment because I’ve never been shot at before.

Same. Most people haven’t.

Well, I was on... I don’t even know what it was. It wasn’t Molly. What’s the one where it’s like a Listerine strip?

Acid? LSD?

Maybe. One of those.

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That’s scary! Tripping and being shot at.

That’s why I almost was like, did that really happen? And the only reason I knew it was real is because he apologized. I went back to go get my sunglasses and there were bullet holes. Literally a week later and he had apologized. He was like, “Are you okay? I didn’t mean to shoot you,” or something. Can you imagine? I was like, “What happened?” Imagine I was shot and didn’t know. That story was wild because I try to think of the events leading up to it and all I remember is it being so vivid. Nothing was melting or anything, but it was just so odd. Especially being with that person. I think because I was on something crazy, it wasn’t that scary.

But in 2019, I was on a drug binge for a month with this guy who came out and visited me right after Christmas. I actually thought we were gonna die. He was convulsing and I was, too. I just remember the dog talking to me and I thought, Oh, we’re dying. He kept injecting me. It was crazy. Yeah, he passed away in 2021 and that made me so sad. We were binging for a month. My family didn’t know, no one knew anything. Then my first video back was in January 2020, and my lips were blue. It looked like I was dead. That was the scariest because I really thought that we were dying. I was shaking and withering, so I thought it was a slow death.

And then you met Moses.

Yeah, and I was still in love with that guy. He lived in San Antonio and he was supposed to come live with me. Then the pandemic happened and I was in love with Moses at the same time. But Moses will tell you, I was so in love with this guy. I was still FaceTiming him, so I wasn’t even paying attention to Moses. Even when Moses would come over and I was high on Xanax, I would be really mean to him. We had a really tumultuous relationship at the beginning. I would FaceTime this guy and Moses would be on FaceTime. This other guy was also on drugs, it was a mess. I don’t know how Moses stayed with me or loved me because we weren’t dating, but we were hanging out. It was a miracle that I stayed alive. If that guy would’ve moved in with me, I would’ve been dead, too.

What’s gonna be the Trish museum layout? Custom furniture by Moses?

Yes, I’m manifesting that! This is what I see: Moses has a water museum in Downtown LA. It’s in Inglewood, which is a little sketchy. So we wanna move the water museum here eventually. We wanna buy this big building and do a water museum on one side and a Trish museum on the other. My mom’s kept all my costumes, she’s kept everything. The idea would be to have a Trish museum where there’s ASMR, a Just Trish set replica where people can come. Ideally, it’d be cool to have furniture by Moses, some Korean fried cheese by Trish and have a whole little shopping center of everything we love. That’s the dream. There’s a place on the lake right by us. I would have a little cabaret club where I could sing every Saturday and people could come.

I think it’ll happen. You’re so good at manifesting.

I think so, too. And I’ve been talking about it a lot recently, so I think it’s gonna be a thing.

Would you ever go on tour again? The Trish fans want new music.

I know, I love music. Music is so expensive and touring is so expensive. I never made any money touring. I would love to. It’s not about money, but I guess if we had a tour bus and I could bring Moses and Malibu. Honestly, if I won the lottery I would do that. I would go on tour and shoot out money. But music is crazy. I probably spent 10 million dollars on music and music videos. When I met Moses, I literally had zero dollars to my name because I spent everything. I was broke for most of my twenties. I had made a lot of money, so it looked like I was rich, but really rich is just how much money you have in the bank. At the end of the day, it was zero dollars.

What was the Japanese pop star persona you had?

Pop star Trishi! Oh my God, how do you remember that? That was wild. “Kiss Kiss”! It was such a weird song. Someone wrote that for me. It was the same year Rebecca Black did “Friday,” so I was just trying to do a really awful song.


Yeah. It went viral for back then, it was like 2 million views.

I heard that you still buy songs on iTunes.

That was the clip that The Weeknd liked! Because I said that I bought The Weeknd songs, which is true. I can show you my phone. Sometimes people think I’m trolling or whatever, but that’s 100% true. I’ve been buying songs on iTunes since the iPod came out, so 2003 or something. Sometimes I buy whole albums on there. I really don’t know how to work Spotify. My sister had one and she told me the other day that it was Pandora. But I remember you couldn’t select songs, you couldn’t skip songs and I was like, “This is bullshit.” They’re telling me on Spotify now that you can pick, but…

You’re so good at adapting to the internet and you’re so up to date. But there’s still this part of you that’s so old school, tied to these old formats and idea of Hollywood. You still behold network TV and you see that as real success.

The goal, yeah. Like, if I’m on network TV on Wendy Williams or something. When in reality, you probably get more views just keeping it on YouTube. We would make more money keeping the podcast as is because it’s just the three of us, you know? So it is weird. I have 8x10 headshots that I sign and give to people. I’m definitely old school. I don’t know how to use printers. I’ll literally have someone print it out or Moses will go to FedEx. We don’t have a printer.

What’s your Instagram Explore page like? Mine is like Michael Jackson, shirtless twinks, Lady Gaga…

Do you like twinks? I’m surprised!


Oh, really! Because you’re so young, too, I would think that you’re really —

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You think I like older?

Yeah! I would think you’d like older guys. I love it. Twinks are my favorite, they’re just so cute and good looking.

But your Instagram Explore page.

[Laughs] Um, mine is pasta because we’re always looking for pasta recipes. Bling things. Now, it’s a lot of pregnancy stuff. My TikTok page is also like that. When we had our baby, it was all about birth and now it’s about pregnancy stuff. It’s very weird.

That sounds like you. Pasta, bling and pregnancy.

Literally! Moses’ is all serious. His is all politics and stuff. I don’t even think he looks it up, but I don’t know. We never talk about it or look at it.

Did you start meditating when you met Moses or before?

No, way after. When I met him, he was super spiritual, but I was not. I had a really bad cancellation in fall 2021, and I would say of all my cancellations, this was a really unfair cancellation truly based off lies. Usually, I can be like, “Yeah this was problematic,” but this was such a hard thing. We lost sponsorships. People were wild. I was so beside myself. These lies kept spreading and I couldn’t defend myself. Honestly, it was another low point where I was like, I don’t know how I’m gonna get out of this. Again, one of the reasons I did was because I had Moses. I had a reason to live, but I lost everything: Sponsorships, audience. People thinking I was someone that I wasn’t.

And Moses was getting so many lies spread about him, and he didn’t deserve it. His shit being brought up, too. So I just went to look for anything, any answers. I started reading books. The Secret is the first book everyone reads, right? Then I started getting into everything, like Hare Krishna. I studied Islam, Hinduism, Paganism, Wiccan, everything. And all of it was kind of the same, honestly. In Buddhism, meditation is just being silent. So in 2021 before I had my daughter, I would probably do it for six hours a day for three months straight. I would do it for two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon because I had nothing. I was going insane, I was hyperventilating. So I went to therapy, and in DBT, which is like science for borderline [personality disorder], it’s all about no thoughts. Just blank space. With science, therapy and religion, they’re all saying to do the same thing: Be silent with no thoughts. And it works. I still do it every morning.

We got married three months later and we got pregnant right away, which was crazy because we were trying to get pregnant for a year and a half. I was never on birth control in my life. So we got pregnant and it was a miracle. Clearing your head and not overthinking things helps so much. It’s easier said than done, but meditation changed my life. And Moses believed all of that, too, but he was never the one who introduced me to it because he was like, “You have to go on that journey yourself.” But he meditates differently. He meditates when he’s in the shower.

Because water?

Yeah! Oh, well you know his whole water philosophy. He really lives by the water philosophy. So mine’s a little different. I’m in a room just silent. I still do it to this day when I get up. I’ll go to the bathroom, watch Malibu and then I’m up there for 40 minutes every morning. Before you look at your phone, before anything. Just clear your head.

That’s my worst thing.

Looking right away?


Ugh, it gives me so much anxiety thinking about emails and stuff. Even if nothing bad is happening, I just know I’m not looking at my phone. Meditate first. Everything is so much better that way.

Does the Illuminati exist? Last question.

Oh! That’s the last one? [Laughs] You have good questions! Not that I know of. I’ve never been offered anything. Do you think so?

Maybe so, I’ve heard stories.

It’s crazy. I think maybe! I’ve never been approached and I think I would’ve been by now. Maybe not.

Pajamas: Ralph Lauren, Tee: Dolls Kill, Crown: Vintage (Courtesy of Paumé Los Angeles)

Photography: Alyssa Kazew
Styling: Ali Kornhauser (for The Only Agency)
Makeup: Eden Symone Lattanzio
Hair: Gregg Lennon Jr.
Production assistant: Ivan Guzman

Editor-in-chief: Justin Moran
Managing editor: Matt Wille
Editorial producer: Angelina Cantu
Ivan Guzman