Streamers on the Rise: Cuptoast’s clever strategy for starting a fandom

By 05/09/2023
Streamers on the Rise: Cuptoast’s clever strategy for starting a fandom

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.

Cuptoast‘s mom threw out their first box.

By now you’ve probably heard of “faceless creators”–content creators (many of them Twitch streamers) who don’t show their faces in public. They often come up with clever ways to appear on camera: Some become VTubers, others make their own masks, and some, like Cuptoast, cut holes in a cardboard box.


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At the time, Cuptoast was 14 or 15 years old, and had been in the streaming community for a while as a fanartist. They knew they wanted to protect their privacy, but they also wanted to post photos of themself for their friends and growing fanbase, so they riffled through their house and found an Amazon box. It wasn’t exactly ideal, considering it was made to ship a tent, but Cuptoast cut the top off, squeezed into it, and snapped some photos. Their mom, not realizing it would soon be a historically significant object, tossed it out, but Cuptoast rescued it–and then went on to create two more versions of the box.

It’s now on its third iteration, and the design Cuptoast drew on it has become their signature appearance: a cheery-looking calico cat face.

When we started Streamers on the Rise, we did it with the goal of profiling creators who are growing their communities in interesting and sometimes groundbreaking ways.

Cuptoast is a prime example. They first started gaining an audience on Twitter, thanks to one deceptively simple thing: They decided that every time they replied to a tweet, they would attach a unique piece of art. That practice, along with the popularity of their fanart for other streamers and video games like Resident Evil, has helped them build a massive Twitter fanbase of more than 700,000 followers.

The size of their Twitter base was a big help when they started streaming in 2020. Of course, not everyone crossed over to Twitch with them, but the people who did show up for their streams meant they weren’t “starting from scratch-scratch” on a new platform, they say.

Data from Streams Charts

These days, Cuptoast–who is 17 and still in high school–is gaining thousands of followers a month across virtually every platform, including Twitch (where they have 431,000), YouTube (760K), and TikTok (882K). They’re still not sure where this whole thing is going or what the future looks like, but for now, they’re streaming every weekend–and making art 24/7.

Check out our chat with them below.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tubefilter: To give you a little introduction, this is a column that we’re doing every week where we are profiling streamers who are growing their communities in interesting and meaningful ways. I thought it’d be cool to chat with you, since you’re an example of that.

Cuptoast: Okay, sounds good!

Tubefilter: Great! Say somebody is reading this and they have never seen your content, they don’t know anything about you. Can you give me an intro about you?

Cuptoast: I am Cuptoast. I am a faceless content creator who does animation art and just likes to play with friends.

Tubefilter: And you’re 17, right?

Cuptoast: Yes.

Tubefilter: When did you start streaming?

Cuptoast: Probably in the COVID year, where school stopped. I was just at home all the time and I really had nothing to do. I started out as a fan artist and then it got bigger from there and I started making my own stuff.

Tubefilter: Did you start as a fan artist for other streamers?

Cuptoast: Yes, and it was that which is what inspired me to do the stuff that I do now.

Tubefilter: What other streamers’ communities were you a part of?

Cuptoast: I wasn’t really part of the streaming community. I was more of just there doing my own thing. It was mostly on Twitter, actually.

Tubefilter: I know you have a really big following on Twitter.

Cuptoast: Yes, because I started doing this thing. For every single response I did to someone, I would also make a drawing for it.

Tubefilter: Oh, cool.

Cuptoast: People started seeing it. They’re like, “Oh, this person does drawings with everything that she does. It’s interesting.” Then people started seeing it as that and thought it was fun.

Tubefilter: It’s funny, last week my furnace screwed up and filled my entire house to smoke and as I was sitting there, I was scrolling on my phone and I saw your comic where it’s like, “[experiencing traumatic event] Can’t wait to tell all my friends!” I sent it to my partner and was like, “This is me right now at this exact moment.” Then realized belatedly that it was your art!

Cuptoast: Oh my gosh!

Tubefilter: So you started growing on Twitter first, then what made you decide to take that to Twitch?

Cuptoast: I don’t know. The people that I was making fun stuff for were also streaming and I saw it was an option. I was friends with a streamer and he was there to really help me and stuff. Since I had that support, it made me more confident, like maybe I can do this and maybe it won’t be as confusing because I have this person to help me. I just started doing it, starting with the drawing, and at first, I didn’t talk, because I was really scared, but then eventually I started talking.

Tubefilter: What was it like to start growing your community? Did you go to your Twitter and be like, “Hey, I’m starting a Twitch”? I know it can be really difficult as a starting Twitch streamer to build a community.

Cuptoast: Because I already have the community on Twitter, some people just migrated over, so it wasn’t really starting from scratch-scratch. But it is totally different. You see my Twitter, do you want to watch me stream? It’s not the same. Obviously, it’s not as much but people were really nice and supportive. People liked me and I had a lot of streamer friends who helped me along the way too.

Tubefilter: Very cool. I’ve talked to four other people for this column so far and pretty much everybody has said that it’s really difficult. It’s not like YouTube, where you can just upload a video and get viewers because YouTube recommends your video to other people. With Twitch, it’s very hard to grow just by streaming. You have to be active on other platforms or with other people. Does that seem correct to you?

Cuptoast: Yes, that is very true. Without the Twitter or anything else or connections and stuff, I feel like it would not have been as fun or as easy.

Tubefilter: Got it. How did you come up with your box design?

Cuptoast: It all started when I wanted to post pictures of myself but then I didn’t want to post my face. I got this really long box that my mom got from Amazon because she was buying a tent. I put the entire thing on me and I was like, where I have made it easier for myself so I could actually see and walk around without being like this [gestures] because the box went over my entire half of the body. I got a kitchen knife and I seared it off the first top and then I used the kitchen knife to cut holes and I made a very, very sketchy-looking version of this where it had no mesh and it was ripped.

My mom threw it away on accident, but I still have it. This is I think the third box, the prototype.

Tubefilter: What made you want to use a cat face?

Cuptoast: That was the thing that I would do. I’d reply to people with a drawing of a cat. Not a hamster! Everyone thinks it’s a hamster or a mouse, but it’s a cat! I’m just not good at drawing cats! But I can draw cats now. Back then I couldn’t. The design just stuck and she just got around and there’s nothing I can really do about it. She is a cat even though people don’t think so.

Tubefilter: It surprises me that people think it’s anything but a cat.

Cuptoast: To be fair, I do draw it a lot without color, so you can’t really see a calico cat. It’s just like some weird round thing. You can’t tell.

Tubefilter: A related question–I very much understand why you wouldn’t want to show your face, but for people who don’t get it, can you talk a little bit about that decision?

Cuptoast: As someone who is still in high school and also started pretty while ago, I was maybe like 15, 14, I can’t remember. I don’t want my face to be out there for people to see. I don’t want to be worried about my family, because I still live at home. When you see someone’s face, I feel like you can do a lot with that. I don’t want to draw attention to my home and stuff. I want my family to be okay. I want to feel like my family’s okay. And I still go to school, so I don’t want to go to school and then people see me and bother me. I don’t like that either.

Tubefilter: Has anybody pressured you to do a face reveal?

Cuptoast: There is people who are like, “You should face reveal at this, you should face reveal at that. It would be cool. It would be fun,” or whatever. The majority of the people in my community are chill. Whenever I make jokes about it, everyone freaks out a little, and it’s scary. Everyone’s really nice about it except for when I go to conventions and they’re like, “Take off your box,” I’m like, “But you invited me…” Anyway most people are very nice but some people do be like, “Oh yes, you should do a face reveal. Oh, let’s see your face.”

It doesn’t really feel like pressure. Why should I have to listen to these strangers to reveal a privacy? They’re strangers on the internet. I don’t have to do anything for them.

Tubefilter: That’s a very solid and very healthy outlook on that kind of stuff, from somebody who’s very young. Props to you.

Cuptoast: I think it’s because I grew up in a very good place.

Tubefilter: I’m glad! I know you’re a full-time high school student. Are you back in in-person school or has your school stayed virtual?

Cuptoast: It’s in-person but if I’m sick they have the option for it to be online. The teachers don’t like doing it, though, because they have to have a Zoom thing just for one student. Sometimes they just don’t do it. But they do have that option. Sometimes I go back and forth where I live a lot because of family. Sometimes when it’s stuff like that or I’m going somewhere because of a convention or whatever, then I have that thing. I just have to bring a phone or an iPad or something so I can attend school if it’s possible.

Tubefilter: What does your streaming schedule look like?

Cuptoast: I don’t really have a schedule. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, no streaming at all except for today because I think today’s a holiday. I’m going to stream today. Normally, no, I do not stream on the weekdays. I need to do homework. Friday is an exception because it’s Friday. I will do school and then I go home and then I do stream. Then Saturday, Sunday, I do my best to stream on those days because if I skip a day, then it’s like I’m not streaming at all, often. I would like to stream more often, but usually, homework is priority over streaming. I never really have set times like, “Hey, I’m streaming every single day at 2 p.m.” It’s more of just like, “Hey, I’m streaming right now. It’s happening now.” That’s how it is.

Tubefilter: Are you planning on going to college? You don’t have to answer if it’s too personal.

Cuptoast: Maybe. Well, I already applied to community college. I’m not very academic. Not saying that people who go to community college aren’t academic. It’s just my reason personally. A lot of my content creator friends are going like, “Cuptoast, don’t do it, don’t go to college.” I don’t know how well this thing will go, so we will see.

Tubefilter: One thing I’ve noticed talking to you is that you’re very, very expressive with your hands. Is that something you had to learn because you can’t express with your face?

Cuptoast: Oh, now I’m aware of it.

Tubefilter: Oh, no, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you awkward! I also talk with my hands, if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Cuptoast: Definitely. I was always like this. I remember a lot when I was going to school, I’d talk a lot like that and I’d hit kids sometimes. I’d get put out in time-out. Wearing the box definitely did add more of it and stuff. Now it’s just habit. Even without the box, I do this thing [gesturing] when I talk. If I’m talking to a friend and I’m telling them something, I apparently do this a lot and I clap my hands. I guess it’s just a habit that I picked up. I just move a lot normally. I don’t know why, but I just do it.

Tubefilter: I was just curious because it comes off very, very expressive when you’re talking with your hands. I can very much tell your tone and your facial expression even if I can’t see your face. It’s very interesting. Can you tell me about how your community has grown over the past couple of years and why your community is so important?

Cuptoast: I think Ana [Sena, Senior Strategic Partner Manager at Twitch, who introduced us to Cuptoast] might have said that my community was a bit strange, because my community is 1% of everyone else’s communities all shoved together. Then somehow it became mine. They’re not as big as other people’s, but I still love them very much and they’re so very important to me. I like that I can see a lot of people and I can recognize people and it all becomes familiar.

Another reason she might have said it was strange is because unlike most content creators who do streaming and stuff, I am also into fandom stuff. Not in a content creator way, but as in a video game way. I am very into it to the point where it’s more of like–okay, it’s hard to explain, but when I do it, some people see me more as a fan artist than a content creator now. Instead of, “That’s Cuptoast,” it’s, “Oh yes, that’s the artist who makes the art of the character I like.” It’s a weird two communities, one where it’s like, oh yes, they watch because of me. Another one where they look at it because of the art that I’m making.

Tubefilter: Is there anything else you would want people to know about you?

Cuptoast: I don’t think I have many interesting things other than the box, and we already discussed that, so I’m not very sure.

Tubefilter: See, I feel like you’re downplaying yourself. Here, let me ask: Your Twitter community is also really vibrant. What is it like over there?

Cuptoast: I have the main account, Cuptoast, with the box, the animation, the drawing replies. The, “Oh, I’m streaming right now,” or, “Oh, let’s do this.” “Oh, I’m planning this.” “Watch the stream, watch the YouTube video.” Then I have an alt account cupTWOst. It’s like Cuptoast but with a two in it. It’s the best thing I ever came up with. There’s cupTWOst and that’s where I just pretend I  not have the big audience and I’ll spam reply to my friends. I’ll quote-tweet things that I think are funny. I’ll respond to people with weird gifts or I’ll post funny things. I post a lot of funny, I just say things that are usually just like random thoughts that I have in my head that don’t really matter. One of them is basically a spam account and the other one is just the Cuptoast account.

Tubefilter: Do you feel a lot of pressure having such a big audience? Is that part of why having a second account is nice for you? Because you have a pretty big audience for a 17-year-old.

Cuptoast: Oh, definitely. I’m very cautious about the things that I’m liking and stuff or looking at. I do my best to just like art or like things I see as funny, but I have to be very careful because I don’t want to upset people. To be honest, when I go on my main account, I’m just there to post and then I leave and I go to my alt account. Then I stay in my alt account because the people who are in the alt account, they already know what they signed up for. If I just went on my main account and I just started posting, then I would feel bad because these people have no idea why this is happening. They don’t really know that part of me. Then when I go to the alt account and I start doing all this stuff. I’m just like “Listen, man, you can unfollow. I would prefer it if you unfollowed if you weren’t really happy being here or seeing all these notifications.” That account is more just for having fun and I honestly enjoy it there way more.

Tubefilter: I know we addressed the potential of you going to college and your future plans. Do you have any other future plans or goals?

Cuptoast: I want to hit 800,000 on YouTube, I think. As for setting goals, I’m not really sure. I don’t normally set goals for myself because I’m always scared that I won’t hit them or I’ll do it and then I’ll look back on it and I’ll be like, “Wow, that was corny.” [laughs] I just like to live life how it happens. My little brother said I act like an NPC and I was offended but now I’m embracing it. I’m okay with just letting things happen, honestly.

Tubefilter: Act like an NPC! [laughs]

Cuptoast: Apparently I have idle animations. If I just stand somewhere, I just start moving.

Tubefilter: That just means you’re not content standing still.

Cuptoast: I’m just pumped up! That’s why!

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