@CHASEICON is the eternal mood of the internet
The California teen tells us how impersonating Lady Gaga and comically calling out transmisogyny on dating apps made her an internet sensation.
Internet fame is an unpredictable thing. It happens to some people after months, if not years, of toiling at being entertaining online. But for some, it all boils down to a brief, serendipitous moment of unrehearsed humour that changes everything. That’s pretty much the case with Chase, a 19-year-old girl from Southern California who, in recent months, has racked up tens of thousands of followers for her wry, winking humour that’s catnip to Queer Twitter.
Like her breakout video, in which a man with the username ‘❤️twinks’ struck up a conversation with her on Grindr. As a trans woman, Chase is used to leery dudes sliding into her messages on the app, skipping all of the niceties and jumping straight into the gross dirty talk. She found a funny way of stalling them: by insisting on only speaking with them via voice notes -- sometimes as herself, others while impersonating famed British meme queen yourgirlfriend22 or pop visionary Charli XCX -- and distracting them with strange comments they have to navigate their way around in a conversation. Truth be told, it was never really her plan to go viral. “It was mostly for my own entertainment,” Chase says of the video series, which is still ongoing. “I was showing them to my friends and they were like dying of laughter, and it made me realise I should probably post them on Twitter!”
It was also her way of reclaiming a space that had been littered with guys who fetishised trans women, calling out the transmisogyny as she encountered it. “It’s funny how people are always so surprised over how men respond in the videos,” she says. “I’m provoking them of course, but I don’t even have to. The types of men who occupy those spaces are weird all on their own. The way trans women are objectified on there by men who would never be seen with them in the light of day is a sad reminder of how we are viewed by society -- but it’s nice to use trolling as a way to take the power back.”
It helped her spawn an internet fanbase who grew to be obsessed with her iconic, deadpan delivery; one that lends itself pretty nicely to what’s become her most popular videos to date. In early December, Chase posted a video of Kylie Jenner giving her crew a guided tour of the new Kylie Cosmetics office -- with her own voice dubbed over the top of it. “Hello everybody, it’s me! Kylie Jenner, self-made billionaire mogul, and welcome to my bathroom!” Chase says, as the make-up queen stands in a Chanel minidress in the palatial reception to her new workspace. She points out the “toilets” (chairs), “some pictures of Katy Perry” (portraits of Kylie) and a tub of customised M&Ms that Chase calls Adderall.
“The way she awkwardly tours her office was such good material without audio,” Chase says. “I felt like the possibilities were endless. Plus, she is the one everyone’s talking about!” She just hits record and wings it, often nailing the narrative in one take. In a festive video of Kylie making cookies with Stormi, she hones in on the nuances of vapid celebrity culture, poking a bit of fun at people who are privileged enough to take it. It’s never malicious (unless you steal the content of a trans woman without crediting her) -- if anything, it’s mostly out of love.
Like with her brilliant homages to one of her idols, Lady Gaga. When her followers started pointing out similarities in their voices, the pop musician became the next star Chase embodied. In one video, she recites the truly deranged Navy Seal Copypasta meme in the Italian-American’s voice.
In another, she dubs the star’s 73 Questions video for American Vogue (“There’s sure a lot of STEPPY steps on these STAIRY stairs! Stefani has still got it, lyrical genius.”) “I would love for Gaga to see [my videos] above anyone else,” Chase says. “I know she has a sense of humour. She’d find them funny -- I hope!”
In the beginning, the voiceovers gave her an extra layer of protection from public scrutiny (“I realised how much easier it was to make content without having to worry about what people would say about my looks”), but she soon relaxed and stepped in front of the lens too. Like in her completely unnecessary and yet perfect explainer of Charli XCX’s collab-heavy album cut “Shake It”, as if she’s talking to a disinterested Uber driver. It is, as she says, “right off the bat, iconic”.
The video gave her one of her first tastes of internet backlash, something she’s fully aware comes with your work going viral. “I’ve already been cancelled twice for wearing a Cardi B hoodie and for making a joke about Pabllo Vittar speaking Spanish when he actually speaks Portuguese,” she shrugs. “Sometimes I feel like people are just sitting at home all day staring at their computer waiting for me to do something problematic.” To counteract it, she’s released her own hugely ironic apology video, taking a comical dig at the internet’s polished influencers.
It’s that instinct for what’s funny, as well as cutting through the bullshit of the internet, that makes Chase’s videos so great. For some, it’s a learned talent that comes through actively trying to be funny for a long time. But internet-friendly comedy, no matter how nonsensical it might seem at times, is in Chase’s bones. Does she, the new owner of the key to Queer Twitter, see herself as a gay icon yet? “I do consider myself a gay icon!” she stresses. “I’m not sure if anyone else does yet, but hopefully they’ll catch on soon.”