Sinder banked on VTubing’s success, and the investment is paying off

Sinder VTuber smilingTwitch: Sinder

Sinder gave up a full-time stable job in banking to make it as a content creator. Where cosplay and audio roleplay might have fallen short, VTubing has far exceeded expectations, and the fruits of her labor are being enjoyed just one year following her debut.

Sinder’s VTubing journey started with a fortune cookie.

Once upon a time, she was an award-winning competition cosplayer, rocking up to conventions in a variety of frocks for a decade. Cosplay was a retreat for her and a welcome timesink. She spent her time in college relatively directionless, getting a basic office job to fund her hobbies. Her passion didn’t pay the bills, but it wasn’t meant to really.

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Like many others in creative pursuits though, 2020 brought on change. Conventions were moved online or shut down entirely, and the cosplay scene changed entirely. Having grown a bit older and tired of it all, Sinder was looking for somewhere else to channel her energy.

She didn’t quite know it yet, but what she turned to was the virtual medium. 

“I was on YouTube one day and I stumbled across this audio roleplay of a ‘boyfriend experience’ thing,” she explained. “It was really weird and cringe, but I was kind of into it. I was like ‘wow I can make this kind of content too.’ It would be something to do, and it looks easy; and then I talked myself out of it because it was a weird thing to do.

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“That weekend, I went out to get Chinese with my parents. With Chinese food you also get the fortune cookie. I opened up my fortune cookie, and my fortune said something along the lines of ‘ideas you think are absurd ultimately lead to success.’ I said ‘wow, I have a really absurd idea that I’ve been thinking about for some time, maybe this is a sign I should give it a shot.’”

The idea was a blistering success. She blew up basically overnight on YouTube, with her roleplays reaching thousands of people. Eventually, it got to a point where the money she was earning through content creation was enough to justify quitting her “full-time professional banking job” ⁠— without earning the ire of her parents too much.

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But it wasn’t, ultimately, the audio roleplays that made Sinder the Twitch phenom she is now, a year on from her VTuber debut.

The hellhound deemed too nice for the underworld had been “secretly” working on her VTuber launch from back in 2020, but only got around to sharing it to the world in late June 2022. The streaming world was a different beast to cosplaying and roleplay, where she could tinker towards perfection on every little detail. 

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Despite her “perfectionist” fears, and general level it was her true personality shining through the veneer that led Sinder to a rapid ascent up the VTuber ranks.

“When I was thinking about becoming a VTuber, I had a persona for my audio channel. But because it’s mostly focused on audio and not visual, my character was kind of bland ⁠— a normal, pink cherry blossom anime girl. 

“I said ‘I want something cooler that will stand out, that represents me more,’ and it seems like such a weird complete 180 to do a metal fire [hellhound] but that feels more like me. That kind of fiery personality, and metal music is something I’m really passionate about. 

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“It felt more like me because when I was making audios, it was playing a character. I’d get into these roles. But when I embodied Sinder, I was like ‘this is me.’ I don’t have to pretend to fill a role. I can just do me, and be me. That’s what I really enjoy about being a VTuber.”

Sinder’s cosplay kickstart

If you went to any convention across North America in the 2010s, there’s a pretty good chance you saw Sinder in cosplay. At the time it was the best way of expressing herself, being able to dress up as the characters she loved in pop culture. And being a perfectionist, she got into the nuts and bolts of every outfit she painstakingly made.

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But the standards, especially at the professional competition level, did get to an unsettling point.

“It got to a point where you always have to one-up your game,” she said. “Everyone’s judging your looks because cosplay’s a very beautiful hobby and all the cute hot anime babes get all the attention. It’s very stressful, and it’s really hard on your self-image and self-confidence most of the time. 

“It became something I didn’t enjoy as much as I used to because of those reasons.”

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The pandemic was the straw that broke the camel’s back. With her focus moving towards the roleplay space and then VTubing, she no longer had the time to sink into mammoth projects gunning for that next prize, especially when her new-found hobbies were much more lucrative.

“It became very saturated online because conventions weren’t happening and everything was getting postponed and shut down,” she added. “Some conventions had to shut down completely because cons relied on ticket sales to operate and everything is volunteer-run and if they don’t have that, then there aren’t conventions, which is really sad.”

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What constantly takes her back is the different receptions to the two scenes. As a cosplayer, Sinder was only really seen for her looks, but she couldn’t make the personal impact on individual fans that she desired. Roleplaying and VTubing let her explore that ⁠— with the added benefit of personal security.

“Being a VTuber, people get to know you for who you are and your personality, and they’re not seeing your face first. They see your VTuber model of course, but it’s different in that sense. 

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“I feel more comfortable and I feel safe just being myself, anonymously online. No one is going to judge you as much as I’m used to. It was really eye-opening and nice to experience.”

Sinder hasn’t completely abandoned her cosplay roots. She has attended a few more conventions as a VTuber now, choosing to either dress up as her model or dust off one of her old creations. While it’s not a big part of her life anymore, it was an important stepping stone.

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“I’d like to say I’m still a cosplayer, I just don’t have the time for it anymore. That’s my big issue, not necessarily that I don’t [have the skills].

“I’ve been cosplaying for 10 years now, so I’ve been around the con scene ⁠— and conventions always have guests, and you want to go meet the guests in person. When I was a cosplayer I said ‘wow maybe I’d be invited to a convention and people will want to see me someday.’

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In January that came true because I was invited to Anime Los Angeles as a VTuber. I was in the guestbook, I had my own booth for people to come see me at. I did in-person and virtual meet and greets, and it was such an exciting experience that I never thought I would be able to do.”

Bringing her family into the virtual world

Sinder’s cosplay and VTubing dreams would have never been realized without her family.

Both her mom and dad, while not mainstays yet on stream, are incredibly active in her VTuber community. While Sinder streams, they’re often in the living room with their hellhound daughter on the living room TV.

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When cosplay was a bigger part of her life, they would drive her to conventions and take photos when required. So the step into VTubing wasn’t necessarily a big mental leap for their self-professed “weird anime weeb” daughter.

But what did lead to stunned silence at the proverbial dinner table was the news of Sinder moving on from her stable job to pursue this content creator life.

She had constantly showcased cosplayers earning thousands a month on Patreon to her parents, but they brushed off that fantasy for their daughter. With audio roleplay and VTubing, it was much more realistic.

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“I had already been creating content for two years at that point, and it was more beneficial for me at that time to leave and dedicate more time to making content because I was making more money as a content creator than I was as a banker. 

“I sat them both down and they were like ‘please tell us you’re not pregnant’ and I said ‘no!’”

“I said ‘I think I want to leave my job’ and my mom was immediately like ‘what?! You can’t leave your banking job to do this online thing! You’re crazy!’ She’s like ‘what about insurance and your retirement’ ⁠— all this stuff in the future. My dad just looked at me and said ‘I know you’re not stupid. If you know this is what you want to do, I’m going to support you.’”

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The risk ended up paying off: “Over time, as I started streaming more, I finally debuted ⁠— which took over a year and a half ⁠— but once I got the ball rolling, started streaming full-time and consistently, everything blew up.

“Recently my mom was talking to me and she said ‘when you showed me those pages of those cosplayers who made a living off of creating content on the internet, I never thought that was a realistic goal for you to hit, but you proved me wrong.’”

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Many in Sinder’s position often have to undertake this journey with minimal family support or understanding. But that couldn’t be farther from her truth. The support is inescapable, and that also comes with a slightly added cost of your parents knowing a little bit too much.

“I overslept and missed my stream start time so I started stream a little late. I woke up to a text from my dad saying ‘I was hoping to watch a Sinder stream but she’s not live yet.’ I was like ‘I fell asleep, I’m going live now, sorry dad.’

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“Sometimes I say really not-so-family-friendly things on stream and I usually go ‘my parents are probably watching right now, sorry mom and dad.’ It’s for the content, so I’m sure they understand.”

They have quickly risen to become cult heroes in her chat though, and Sinder surprised everyone when they came onto a special Valentine’s Day stream six months after debuting. 

It couldn’t have been a more awkward scenario. The streamer put out a dating application on Twitter with some “sussy questions” on it. Chat filled it out. Her parents were there to judge. It’s one hell of an introduction to Twitch, but that skit actually brought the three closer together ⁠— like any other family night together. 

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“It’s a little embarrassing, especially the context of that stream, but I think everyone had a lot of fun. My parents were cracking jokes, laughing together, and having a good time.

“My mom was really nervous about it, like ‘I don’t know if I’m going to do or say anything that I’m not supposed to.’ I said ‘mom you’ll be fine,’ and she killed it. My dad is the kind of guy who tells it like it is. He was being a little brutal, but my community likes that.”

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Their popularity ⁠— or notoriety ⁠— now has Sinder pressured from both sides. Her chat wants her parents to come on more often. Her parents are always leaving hints to make their own stream returns. In the middle is the streamer, and even though the first interaction could hardly have been more mortifying, she kind of wants it too.

“My dad really wants to do karaoke with me. He’s got a karaoke setup that he uses. He DJs family events like weddings and parties for friends. He’s got this whole setup, I don’t know where he got it. He used to do DJing and karaoke a lot growing up, so he’s got the microphones and the monitor and the programs that have the lyrics on screen. He’s a karaoke master. 

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“Of course my chat wants it, and it’s a matter of finding the time where our schedules line up, but there’s going to be more with my parents.”

Learning to go with the flow

Moments like that, and many other charms of VTubing and streaming, have loosened Sinder up a bit. Back in her cosplay and audio roleplay days, everything had to be perfect. A slip-up in recording, or a misplaced stitch, had to be immediately rectified.

“With streaming, that’s all happening live,” she continued. I can’t edit anything. If I trip over my words, which I do a lot because I tend to stutter, I was really self-conscious of that.

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“But after getting into it, you have such a dedicated community of the nicest people. They don’t care about that. They’re there for you, and they’re still having a good time. I’ve learned to laugh at myself for my mishaps and stupidity, and they think it’s endearing, which I’m thankful for.”

It also has pushed her further out of her comfort zone. Music was never something she considered as a content path for herself, but being surrounded in the VTubing scene with plenty of covers, original songs, and karaoke streams, it rubs off on you.

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Being a metalhead for the ages with a design to match, it was a clear-cut choice for Sinder as to the direction she would go.

“I had a karaoke stream, and I had so much fun and everyone had such a positive reaction singing these stupid metal songs where I have a voice like this,” she laughed.

She took it a step further when she was practically dared into singing the notorious tune CPR, popularized in the VTubing space by friend Akuma Nihmune

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“I had it as a goal that I would sing part of CPR with [Numi’s] BGM track of the song on stream if we hit the goal. Of course we did, and I sang like the first verse and everyone went crazy for it. It ended up being a sub alert, it was all over my stream, and I said ‘alright guys, if you want it to be a full cover, you’re going to pay for it.’”

Sinder joined forces with Daryl Barnes, a top music producer in the VTubing space, to flesh out the full track once that goal was blown away. Sinder recalled the embarrassment of approaching Barnes with this “really raunchy disgusting song”. 

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And she also had to make it metal. At the time, she was inspired by Little V Mills, a metal cover artist on YouTube who Sinder listened to on stream regularly. While it seemed, and truly was, ambitious, Barnes got to work and ultimately everyone was happy.

“She loved the idea, she ended up coming up with this more rock-metal track that sounded like the original, same tempo and everything. I think it kind of worked? It made me really happy to hear.

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“I released it, and I’m glad everything worked out. It was around Valentine’s Day I wanted to have it premiered for, to give it a big reveal. It was meant to be a joke, if that wasn’t obvious. It’s a stupid song, and I’m definitely not a rapper and it’s more of a rap song.”

While her community loved Sinder pulling through with the goods, it very quickly led to harassment online once the song left her close circle. The streamer, those who worked on the song, and even fans were targeted with harassment and threats. 

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The reveal of Sinder’s CPR cover reached 21.8 million views on Twitter with more than 14,000 quote tweets. Those were equal parts vitriol and support as her community battled back against the punching down.

Sinder spoke out about the response on stream after the rage had peaked, giving sage advice to any aspiring content creator.

“It was no longer about me, it was about harassing and being really mean to anyone involved or anyone trying to support me,” she added. “I wanted to make it clear it was my first time trying something, it’s not going to be good ⁠— I didn’t expect it to be good ⁠— but my community really liked it and that’s all that matters to me. 

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“New things can be scary, especially potentially getting this reaction out of it, and I wanted to make it clear in my response to the situation that you shouldn’t let my experience deter you from trying something new, or trying to make music. You’re not going to be perfect at something on the first try. You need to be consistent with it and keep practicing.”

And while it was easy to get absorbed in the wave of hate, Sinder more broadly noticed the love she received privately.

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It wasn’t just VTuber friends reaching out, but musicians and metalheads: “One of them actually tweeted out something along the lines of ‘I support horny ara-ara big booba anime girls making metal music,’” she recalled.

A rap song was maybe an ambitious start for someone with minimal music background. It’s something Sinder would have been deathly afraid of releasing years ago. But now she doesn’t care. As long as she’s happy, and the community will enjoy it, then it’s fair game.

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There’s more music on the way, but she did promise it would be “less raunchy”. Don’t forget her parents were on that Valentine’s Day stream where it was first debuted.

“My parents were like ‘I really want to support your song but the lyrics are so bad, we can’t listen to it,’” she laughed.

“I’m pretty sure my dad got up and left when the song was playing, he was so quiet! I wanted to leave! I tried hiding my model but my mom was like ‘get back here, you’re going to have to sit and stay while we all suffer and listen to this!’”

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It’s hard to believe all these little moments have happened in the last year. Sinder’s growth has been a whirlwind. If you look at the numbers that’s obvious, but the more meaningful side is how she’s come out of her shell to pursue this new love.

Previously she had no real career direction, and had her number one outlet taken away from her at the turn of the decade. But with ample support and a healthy dose of luck, her fortunes turned around.

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“It’s mind-blowing how things can change in such a short amount of time. It’s also a huge self-confidence boost. It feels like I’m doing something right, when before, in terms of a career path, I never knew what I wanted to do.

“I thought I might have wanted to be a cosplayer growing up, but I’ve never felt more at home than being a streamer. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else now, which is so crazy because I never saw myself doing this in the first place a couple of years ago! I was way too shy! I was way too insecure and nervous. 

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“I did put in the work to get to where I am, but it really all fell into place so perfectly. I’m so thankful for that.”

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