Welcome to Streamers on the Rise, where we find streamers who are growing their channels, content, and audiences in extraordinary ways. Each week we’ll talk with a creator about what goes into livestreaming–both on and off camera.
Ask bbjess why she decided to start streaming on Twitch, and she’ll give it to you straight: she was bored.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, she got into Twitch during COVID, when it–and every other digital platform–was experiencing a major boom in traffic. At the time, Jess was a frontline worker managing multiple restaurants, and it was “miserable,” she says. Her escape was Twitch, where she joined the viewership of a sizable streamer and became a regular presence in his chat. When tighter lockdowns happened and she was stuck at home, she decided to try her hand at streaming.
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And she got lucky.
Well, lucky and unlucky.
“[W]hen I started streaming, unluckily, but luckily for me, the streamer that I watched, he had stopped streaming, so all of his audience came to hang out at my stream and it just snowballed,” she says.
By the time lockdowns eased and she was able to return to work, she’d fallen in love with streaming, and decided she would try holding down her management jobs and broadcasting on a semi-regular schedule.
“That only lasted like a week,” she says. “I was like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to stream. I can’t do that anymore.'”
So she quit her jobs and committed to streaming three times a week on Twitch, plus uploading clips of her streams–which are on the Just Chatting side of Twitch–to TikTok and Twitter. It was one of those clips, a snippet where she responds to a rude commenter while cosplaying as Lola Bunny, that helped her go viral on TikTok and really start bringing new people to her chat.
Now, Jess has 115,000 followers on Twitch and nearly 300,000 on TikTok, and says her goal as she continues growing her audience is to have streams that feel a little different, a little more “produced.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to achieve it,” she says. “I’m getting closer to the final thing but I don’t know what that is yet.”
Check out our chat with her below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: If you could give me a little bit of a rundown on you and your background and how you got into streaming, that’d be fantastic.
bbjess: Sure. I’m Jess. I started streaming out of, I guess, just pure boredom. I was watching a lot of Twitch during quarantine in early 2020, and I so quickly became a part of Twitch community. That’s all I did all day during quarantine. I would either be watching the Twitch streamer or I’d be in his Discord hanging out with my friends who literally felt like a family because at that time we weren’t hanging out with anyone else. After a while, I was a theater kid, I just got that performance envy and I had to give it a try for myself.
Right away, I had a blast and I never wanted to stop. It’s how it all started.
Tubefilter: Perfect. What did you do before quarantine? Were you in college, or working, or?
bbjess: I was working over full-time hours as a restaurant manager for multiple restaurants. It was miserable.
Tubefilter: I was going to say, that’s the world’s easiest job. [/sarcasm]
bbjess: Ugh, it was horrible. When I first started streaming, I tried making them coexist, working as a manager, and then coming home and streaming, but I could never find the energy. Luckily or unluckily, everything happened the way it happened and I had no choice but to be home.
Tubefilter: When that happened, were you out of a job or were you on furlough? When did the decision to quit that work and go full-time on Twitch come in?
bbjess: I was still working during 2020, so working restaurants during the height of the pandemic, which was driving me insane. Between both the coworkers and the people coming in to eat, it was just a madness show. Of course, at that time I was still trying to make streaming happen, but it wasn’t happening. It wasn’t until December of 2020 where I decided to step back from my manager role at the restaurant to try to have more time for stream. That only lasted like a week.
I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to stream. I can’t do that anymore.”
@bbjessttv RUINING MY LIFE ❤️ #tiktok #fyp #trending #bbjessttv #bbjess ♬ original sound – bbjess
Tubefilter: What was the biggest factor in growing your Twitch audience?
bbjess: Factor as in like the physical thing that I used, I guess TikTok. I was doing pretty steady growth after I became a full-time streamer. I think I hit close to 300 or 400 average viewers, and I was just having the time of my life and I wanted to share that. I started posting clips to TikTok and I had one clip go particularly very quickly viral. Overnight, I shot up to like 1,000 viewers and luckily haven’t looked back since.
Tubefilter: What clip was that?
bbjess: It was a clip of me dressed as Lola Bunny doing my thing. I have a bunch of cameras and I switched through them and I play music. It was me dancing and then I noticed a troll comment and I turned on the music and I look in the camera and I was like, “If you’re going to troll me, you got to try harder. I went to public school and I know I have a flat ass, so give me anything else.” It was that.
Tubefilter: I see why that went viral. I’ve talked to a few other people for this column and most of them have told me that it’s really hard to start a Twitch channel and only stream and still grow–that you have to rely on outside platforms like TikTok. I was curious if you had any more thoughts about that?
bbjess: I think there’s a way to grow on Twitch, if you don’t mind heavily networking, because that’s how I started. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without TikTok and Twitter and outside platforms. At the beginning, like I said, I started as a viewer, so when I started streaming, unluckily, but luckily for me, the streamer that I watched, he had stopped streaming, so all of his audience came to hang out at my stream and it just snowballed.
Tubefilter: How have things changed between then and now?
bbjess: The biggest thing is my balance and how I’m handling it. I’m still learning, but in 2021, I lived alone in an apartment and I don’t think I ever left. I was like 24/7 on the computer. If I wasn’t streaming, I was hanging out in Discord or I was making other content to post, and I just had zero IRL existence. I was just BBJess. As this continues, I’m like, I don’t know, I’m ready for this to go away at any second. I know how fickle the internet is, and I know that this job doesn’t seem to last forever.
I’ve always just tried to live as much in the moment as I can. I’m trying to be more comfortable in, I don’t know, not taking this for granted, but being grateful for what I have and also existing outside of the internet.
Tubefilter: What is your current streaming schedule like? Do you have a set schedule?
bbjess: For the last three years, I have done a stream every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday evening. I only stream for, maximum, like five hours. From day one on Twitch, I saw this trend of people streaming 14 hours every day and I knew that was not for me and that was not sustainable. Very early on, I just started doing what I wanted, when I wanted, and that’s it.
Tubefilter: What can somebody coming to your stream expect in terms of content?
bbjess: My stream is essentially like my brain on camera. It’s hard to say because it’s never really like one thing or another. Sometimes it’s, we do karaoke and we have a good time. Sometimes it feels like a standup set. But no matter what, if you come in and you talk and chat, you can expect that I’m going to read your comment. I read every single comment. I mean, that’s the heart of Twitch, is interactivity. If people wanted to just watch content, they could open YouTube, but they want to be a part of it. They want to influence it. My goal is that everyone who comes into my stream feels like they can directly impact what they’re watching.
Tubefilter: How did you learn how to balance streaming and addressing people in chat and how to keep everything going?
bbjess: I think because I grew up online, like chronically online, I’ve been watching YouTubers since I was like nine years old. It never really felt like something that was out of character. It felt very easy to fall into. I also have my degree in theater for performing and directing. It felt like the natural evolution of that. Before I was in restaurant, I worked in professional theater and all the time my colleagues and I would have conversations about, “What’s the future of theater? Theater’s been around forever, but it can’t be the way it is now always. What’s next? What’s it going to look like?”
Then COVID hit and everyone was doing online plays on Zoom calls, and then I just took it to Twitch instead.
@bbjessttv I hear it in my sleep #fyp #twitch #livestream ♬ Pointless – Lewis Capaldi
Tubefilter: Yes, I was going to say there was a lot of musical theater and a lot of acting that happened online that year. It was very interesting.
bbjess: I was thinking about it the other day about just how ingrained TikTok became that year for me. I didn’t start TikTok as a streamer. I was just a person who was bored, and I loved it.
Tubefilter: Do you still post TikTok regularly? What’s your spread of platforms? Do you post on YouTube?
bbjess: My main platforms are Twitch, Twitter, and TikTok. I try to post a TikTok every day. I don’t really have a schedule. I just post usually stream clips because, I don’t know, I really love my streams and I just want to share the fun moments I have with people. Then Twitter is just like the new Facebook, it feels like. It’s just where to catch up with everybody. It doesn’t really feel like a professional platform. It just feels like I’m catching up on the day. Then I have Instagram, but I don’t care about my Instagram. And I have a YouTube, but I don’t know what to post to YouTube.
Tubefilter: Just personally I would suggest probably cross-posting your TikTok content to YouTube Shorts. For TikTok, do you always post clips or do you post any original videos? Or is it mostly like, ”Hey, here’s what I’m up to in my stream”?
bbjess: It’s not really original videos. If I don’t post a clip, then I’m partaking in some kind of TikTok trend. I’m so guilty of hearing a TikTok soundbite and then singing that over and over again for the next like two weeks until something else is viral. It’s usually just partaking in something that’s really fun.
Tubefilter: Can you talk a little bit about your community growth? Do you know where new people are coming in from? Is it mostly TikTok? How many people do you have active in chat per stream?
bbjess: I know I have a lot of lurkers. A ton of lurkers, because my chat moves pretty consistently. Every so often I like to ask the chat like, ”Hey, if you’re here and if you’re lurking, type 69 in chat.” If you’re a first-time viewer, I always make sure to say–because I have really bad social anxiety when it comes to new places or new spaces–I’m like, ”If this is your first time here and you don’t really know how to join in, just type 69.” As soon as I say that, I’ll have a flood of first-time viewers type, and that’s a pretty consistent trend. I genuinely have no clue how many people are actually consuming the content. I know that if I call, they’re there.
Tubefilter: Do you feel like streaming has helped you with your social anxiety?
bbjess: I don’t know if it’s helped with the anxiety at all, especially because I’ve spent so much more time inside, behind a computer, away from physical humans. Also, I think there’s something to, like, when I go live and I’m throwing a party and being my energetic self and having so much fun, that’s my outlet, like, “All right, I’m going to get all of my weird out so that when I go out in public, I don’t feel this need to be perceived” I guess it’s just very much like a, “All right, well I’m going to be in NPC mode now while I go to Target,” and then when I come home, then I can be BBJess.
Tubefilter: I get that so much.
bbjess: Yay. Okay. I’m glad I don’t sound crazy.
Tubefilter: No, no, not at all. NPC mode. I love that. I’ve never heard anybody put it like that, but it makes so much sense.
bbjess: Oh, I’ll do it. I’ll go out and do a whole day of chores and come home and be like, ”Who did that? Was that me?”
Tubefilter: That’s such an interesting way to think about it. Do you intend to try getting back into theater or is Twitch going to be your full-time thing for the foreseeable future? What are your plans?
bbjess: This is going to sound terrible to anyone who knows me and knows how deeply I love theater, but I think Twitch fixed all of the problems that I did have with theater. I’m very much like a type-A person when it comes to my job and things that I take seriously. The fact that I get to be completely in control of everything, I get to be the performer. I get to be the stage manager. I’m the director, I’m the producer. That is very, very addictive to me. I’ve thought about going and doing community theater on the side just to meet people and feel that feeling again. It would take up way too much time that I just don’t have right now.
Tubefilter: Understandable. You stream three days a week, but how much time do you spend on content creation outside of that?
bbjess: Most of my content is my stream. I put everything I have into whatever I’m doing while I’m live. Then that usually generates the best content to post for the days following.
@bbjessttv♬ original sound – bbjess
Tubefilter: I’ve been working in this space for five years, but I’ve always spoken to people who do YouTube, so it’s a very different planning process from streaming. Do you plan for livestreams?
bbjess: It’s so funny you say that. I always wanted to be a YouTuber growing up, and then I tried in college. I tried to do the vlogging, and it’s so time-consuming. It is a completely different job than just being a livestreamer, which for me, I really just prefer focusing on the live in the moment, the interactivity, the interactions. I get way more fulfillment from that than editing.
I also just, early on, maybe because I grew up on YouTube, YouTube just didn’t feel like an exciting place to grow. I was seeing this trend of everyone on YouTube either had been on YouTube for a decade now, or they had fame from another platform that they brought to YouTube. I didn’t really see a lot of authentic growth coming from new creators. Twitch just felt like the right avenue in all regards.
Tubefilter: Does YouTube feel different now to you?
bbjess: It feels a lot different. Growing up, YouTube felt like…I don’t know, like the height of British invasion with Zoella and Alfie Deyes. I was so obsessed with vloggers in Americ, aand I loved the British vloggers because of One Direction, it was a whole thing. I forgot the question.
Tubefilter: The question was, does YouTube feel more approachable these days?
bbjess: Definitely not more approachable. It feels more lonely, in my opinion, because when I watch YouTube, I’m doing it in my quiet time. I’m obsessed with food videos and Emma Chamberlain videos. It feels very, like…It feels more artistic instead of personable, I guess.
Tubefilter: That’s interesting. This is just from my personal experience, but I feel like a lot of people who are doing that very personable content are switching to YouTube Shorts. Then some people are doing these long, very edited, very polished, long-form videos.
BBJess: I love those six-hour deep dive videos about a theme park in Massachusetts. That’s nice.
Tubefilter: Oh my god, Defunctland.
bbjess: It’s incredible.
Tubefilter: It’s very cool. What are your plans for the foreseeable future, then, in terms of streaming? Do you plan to do anything this year that’s different? Do you plan to have any projects? What’s your goal?
bbjess: I feel so unprofessional being like, “I don’t know. I got no clue.” I feel like since this has started, I’ve just been riding this wave and hoping it doesn’t end.
Tubefilter: I feel like that’s a very common sentiment, though.
bbjess: This industry feels so fast-paced that I remember my first time I got an email where they’re like, ”Hey, we’re having an event in six months. Can you confirm?” I was like, ”That’s so long from now. I have no idea what’s going to be going on tomorrow, much less six months from now.” Planning big projects always seems so daunting when it comes to livestreaming.
@bbjessttv Well, this took a turn… #fyp ♬ original sound – bbjess
Tubefilter: Let me switch up the question a little bit. Do have any hopes for this year? Anything you hope will happen? Anything you want to work toward?
bbjess: Oh, yes. As far as Twitch goes, I have a lot of like, how do I word this, there is a world in my head that I really, really want to be able to convey on live stream. I’m not entirely sure how to go about doing it but I would love for my stream to still keep that personal touch that when you come in, I will talk to you and you know that I’m like, “I’m here for you and I want you to have the best experience.” I would love for it to feel more produced. I don’t know how I’m going to achieve it. Sometimes it’s conveying concepts or like character on camera. I don’t know, every stream feels like a practice. I’m getting closer to the final thing but I don’t know what that is yet.
Tubefilter: It sounds like you’re rehearsing for a play.
bbjess: It’s kind of how it feels. If that’s the trend, every stream, I used to get really in my head about numbers and things. “Ten less people watched me tonight than they did yesterday, like, what does this mean?” Something happened, where this year, I just fully threw myself into the moment and into enjoying it and every stream of 2023 so far, knock-on-wood, has been like a day at a theme park. I want to keep that going. I want to keep fostering that energy.
bbjess: Thank you. It feels healthy.
Tubefilter: I’m glad. Is there anything else that you feel readers should know about you?
bbjess: I would love for them to check out my channel, obviously. I want people to realize that Twitch is more than just gaming. I think we’re in a time now where that’s not the perception. When I first started streaming, every comment I got was, “So when are you going to play a game?” or “Why aren’t you playing a game?” “Like people watch this? What is this?” From day one I’ve had to explain well, Twitch didn’t start as a gaming platform. It was IRL streams. The internet hasn’t always just been video games.
As much as I do and am addicted to Valorant. I love it so much. I think about it every time of the day, even though I don’t stream it. I want people to know that there’s some really exciting content on Twitch not just my channel but I see it everyday of streamers trying to create personal connections but in a really, really entertaining and interesting way. I would just ask people to give content outside of gaming a try.