“I’m a very open person,” said Rita during a lull in our half-hour interview. “You can literally ask me anything, I really don’t care.”
She wasn’t kidding. Over the course of our conversation, I was impressed by Rita’s frankness and blown away by the tales she shared from her life and streaming career. Thoughtful and honest, Rita is immensely grateful for the benefits of her streaming success, but realistic about the strains of her lifestyle and the drawbacks of being a public figure. At the end of our chat, I walked away with a newfound respect for the variety streamer.
Unlike many members of the #GSQUAD, Rita is not a native English speaker. She was born on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where she grew up speaking Greek and Armenian—and not touching any video games. “Growing up, my parents never let my brother and I have any gaming consoles,” said Rita, “so I literally did not have my first gaming console until I was like 12 years old.”
When Rita was nine, her family moved to California to be closer to some of her father’s relatives. At the time, her grandfather had cancer and needed more help with his medical treatments, and Rita’s parents believed that their children would benefit from America’s superior educational system.
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After spending 14 years stateside, Rita’s English is fluent and effortless, but every so often the cadences of her speech still bring forth an occasional Mediterranean lilt. “I do have some viewers that come into my chat and are like, ‘oh, hey, are you Armenian? I’m Armenian.’ And then I’ll just talk to them in Armenian during our livestream,” said Rita with a laugh. “Everybody else in my chat is like, ‘oh my god, what the heck is going on? Did you just cast a spell on me?’”
Rita’s streaming journey didn’t begin until years after she moved to the United States, when a friend that she met through Tumblr introduced her to Twitch for the first time. “The conversation of old-school Runescape came up, and he was like, ‘oh, you play?’ And I was like ‘yeah,’...Runescape was actually the first game I streamed.”
It wasn’t long until Rita expanded her streaming repertoire to include a wider array of titles. “I’m a variety streamer, I cannot commit to one game,” said Rita. “I get so bored, like I go through little phases with each game.” That isn’t to say that variety streaming hasn’t helped her career: “I think being a variety streamer from the beginning has allowed me to grow my community and meet even more people because of it.”
Since Rita embarked on her Twitch journey, her loved ones have slowly come around to her chosen vocation—well, some of them, anyway. Her father still struggles to understand her choice to play video games for a living, but her mother has embraced her daughter’s career, even appearing alongside her on stream from time to time. “My parents are divorced, and I’ve been living with my mom since high school, so I’m a lot closer with her,” said Rita. “My mom wasn’t accepting in the beginning, but now, she’s all for it.”
During her years of streaming, Rita has built up a loyal fanbase, but she’s avoided falling into the mental trap of feeling like she constantly needs to stream. “It does take a huge mental toll sometimes,” said Rita. “I feel like I see people go through little ruts—people who stream full-time as a career. And it’s because they spend so much time within their house just gaming and stuff and they don’t have a social aspect to their lives—like they don’t go out.”
To deal with her own feelings of burnout, Rita has learned to occasionally take days-long breaks from social media. “And I try to just go to the gym as much as possible and not let that affect my fitness life,” said the streamer. “There have been times where if I’m going through a rut, I won’t even feel like going to the gym, but I will do my absolute best to still get out of the house.”
For Rita, the gym is a safe space, somewhere to recharge and be alone with her thoughts. “When I go to the gym, it’s me time—it’s not work,” said the streamer. Unfortunately, however, there have been times when Rita’s fame has threatened her ability to fully relax while working out. Last year, a fan figured out Rita’s real-life identity and began to stalk her at her gym.
“He knew I was going to the gym at night because he was watching my streams, and he would go to the gym at the same time,” said Rita. “This kid would literally just follow me around everywhere at the gym, not saying one single word.”
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Killed it today with my new workout! 😁 doing some step-ups with 25 pound plates in each hand to finish up my leg day workout 😆 #Tminus30 #Openfit @myopenfit #ad - - - - #fitness #instafit #fitnessmotivation #fitnessgirl #stepups
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At first, Rita just thought the person following her around was a run-of-the-mill creep, but she soon put two and two together when he tried to add her on her social media accounts. “I recognized his username from my chat, and I looked him up on Instagram and saw who he was,” said Rita. She immediately contacted the manager of her gym, who flagged the stalker’s account to inform other staff members about the situation.
“But the manager told me that they can’t do anything about it unless the guy does something physical to me,” said Rita. To this day, she still sometimes sees her stalker at the gym—and he’s not the only person who she’s caught red-handed ogling her or filming her from afar.
In spite of these serious issues, Rita has a positive attitude about streaming, gushing about the many cool opportunities that she has achieved through her sponsorships and streaming fame. “Like, I did a commercial for GameStop because of SoaR Gaming,” said Rita. “That was awesome, like the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.” Rita regularly travels for her work; just last week, she participated in a charity event in Atlanta, Georgia, where she was given a free wristband for Imagine Music Festival and snapped a picture with Shaquille O’Neal.
am just a smol girl pic.twitter.com/ByOk6emD17— Rita (@gnarlyrita) September 22, 2019
And though she’s confident that male streamers don’t experience nearly as much harassment as their female counterparts, Rita acknowledges that her gender has given her some advantages in the streaming arena as well. “I do feel like females in general within the gaming community have it easier when it comes to numbers, like viewers, followers, subscribers, getting more donations and everything,” said Rita. “For guys, they literally either have to be insanely good at the video game that they’re streaming, or they have to be really, really entertaining.”
At the end of the day, Rita’s Twitch success is built on a commendably healthy attitude towards the streaming lifestyle. Though she values streaming as an important facet of her career, she refuses to let it dominate her life. Fitness remains one of her greatest passions, and she makes sure to travel for fun on top of her work trips.
“Just stay true to yourself, and keep doing what you feel is right,” said Rita. “I feel like, within the community, a lot of people try to take shortcuts, and I’ve just seen a lot of people lose friends and everything. But if you are always committed to just being yourself, you’re always going to have really good supporters having your back, no matter what.”
This article was written by Alexander Lee, an esports journalist, lifelong Nintendo fan, and proud cat dad. Follow him on Twitter @alexleewastaken, and check out more of his work on his website www.alexlee.work.