If I wanted to fully explain Poppy, I'd need about 600 more words. Depending on who you talk to, she's a musician, an artist, or a victim, and if you ask Poppy herself, the answer isn't any clearer. Believe me, I tried.
Poppy doesn't identify with an age. She doesn't have a hometown — according to Poppy, she's only ever existed on YouTube. Poppy also only refers to herself as Poppy, and she's her favorite person in the world.
Here's what we do know: Poppy is a singer and YouTuber, whose new show I'm Poppy premiered at Sundance, and the first episode of which is now available on YouTube Red. On the surface, it tells the story of a girl named Poppy who has been "chosen" to be the star of a new TV show. Like the cryptic videos she and creative partner Titanic Sinclair make on YouTube, I'm Poppy (also written and directed by Sinclair) is bubblegum pink on the surface with starkly dark undertones that are so creepy they're almost comical. For instance, "Thank you, Satan, but I'm a vegan," is a real line uttered in the premiere.
On the heels of the show's first installment, Poppy is kicking off her second tour on January 30 in NYC. We spoke to Poppy before she hit the road to talk about life as a newly-minted TV star, what she does when she's not on YouTube, and, uh, Tom Hanks?
How do you think the premiere of your show went?
I think it was really wonderful and a lot of people said really nice things about me so I think it went over really well.
Was it your idea to start a show? Was that something you had wanted for a while?
Titanic [Sinclair] and I have always wanted to have our own TV series and movie so I’m so happy that it’s happening.
Is it autobiographical at all?
The show is based on real experiences so we’re just telling what it’s like to be in Hollywood.
In the first episode there’s a lot of cult imagery and dark, sinister stuff, and I know a lot of people who have seen your videos have asked you if you’re trapped or in a cult, is this TV show addressing that?
Well, I’m not in a cult. I know a lot of people think that I am. I don’t think I’m trying to address anything I’m just trying to tell my story about what it’s like to live in Hollywood.
One of the scenes that stuck out to me was actually the very first scene when there was a different woman at the beginning. I know you’re kind of talking about your experience in Hollywood, was there anything about the treatment of women in Hollywood that you wanted to say with that? Or is this more a personal experience?
You’ll have to wait and see. She has a story and it’s very important but we can’t tell it ahead of time.
The show talks about how all Poppy wants is to make the world happy and cute. What does a happy and cute world look like to you?
In Poppy’s world there’s a lot of really nice people and we get to sing songs all the time and we also have a lot of nice friends and cute outfits.
Are there are any characters in the show or people in the show that are based on people in your real life?
All of them are based on people in my life. A lot of executives and also leaders that I’ve encountered and books that I’ve read, the leaders in the books, they’re based on these characters.
What did you do before you made YouTube videos?
I’ve always made YouTube videos. I made the cotton candy video with Titanic Sinclair, that was my first video, and before that I didn’t exist.
So you didn’t discover YouTube it’s just all you’ve ever known?
Well YouTube has always been around so I think that’s all I know. But Titanic Sinclair was the first person that said we should make YouTube videos together and I said okay.
Do you have any favorite YouTubers?
My favorite YouTuber is probably myself and I also really like this channel where the guy eats really old war food.
Do you follow Logan Paul kind of people? Have you seen what’s happened with that?
I heard that he made people mad but I don’t really know anything else.
After it happened, a lot of other creators were upset with YouTube saying it’s become kind of a toxic place, do you think it’s a toxic place?
For me, personally, Poppy YouTube is a great place and they’re very supportive of me, personally, Poppy, so I don’t have anything bad to say about YouTube they’re just my favorite website on the internet.
Are there any other websites that you go on?
Sometimes I go on Twitter just to talk to my fans.
Have you met your fans offline?
Sometimes when I go to my shows to play my music they’ll be waiting outside for me and I’ll wave to them and smile and take a selfie.
When you talk with fans what do you guys talk about?
Well, it depends on what medium we’re conversing. If it’s on Twitter and they send me a direct message, sometimes I’ll thank them for the art they create for me because a lot of my fans are very creative, but if it’s in person, usually, sometimes they’re scared so the conversation is really short.
Why do you think they’re scared? Just because they’re seeing you in real life
I think it’s because they’re seeing me outside of the internet.
When did you realize that you were famous? Was there a moment?
First, thank you for calling me famous. I think the first time that I was spotted outside of my studio was probably about a year ago and I was really scared because they knew what my name was but I didn’t know who they were.
Has there ever been anything bad that’s come with being famous?
I don’t like to talk about the bad things. It’s a challenge sometimes.
Do you think you’ll ever want to go offline and live an everyday life, or do you think you’ll always be “Poppy”?
Well, Poppy is all I know so I can’t really come out of my own body but I don’t know. I can’t predict the future. I just think the real world is boring and a lot of people are boring. I’m not boring and I don’t want to be boring.
How do you work to make things not boring?
I really like to move my ambitions into other things so if I get a fascination with, let’s say, dogs, then maybe I would want to be somebody that pets dogs a lot. It kind of just depends. I don’t like to stick to one thing.
Did you always want to be a singer?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to be a singer. It’s really the number one passion of mine. I released my album Poppy.Computer on October 6 last year, and the new single that I’m promoting is called Bleach Blonde Baby, and my tour starts on the 30th of January.
In New York, right?
Correct. In New York at the Bowery Ballroom.
Now that you’re going on tour do you have a favorite place that you’re most excited to visit?
I’m really excited to play at this music venue called Meow Wolf [in Santa Fe] because there’s a lot of art there and I like art.
I know a lot of your videos and what you do is inspired by Japanese culture. Are you going to be in Japan?
Yes, I’m playing a music festival that we just announced today in March.
What is it about Japan that’s so exciting to you?
Whenever I go to Japan the people are very nice to me and I really like their pop music because it’s kind of based off of jazz music and usually in the production there’s a lot of layers and their chord progressions are a lot different than American music.
You know a lot about music, do you have any musical inspirations or take any classes on music?
I never went to school but I really like Gary Numan a lot, I learned a lot from him, and also Bjork.
When I watched the show there’s also some singing in the show, could fans expect new music that we’ll hear on the show?
Absolutely, there will be a new soundtrack. A new song with every episode. In the pilot episode you heard the song "This Is Real" sung by Poppy.
What else is there that you want to do? It kind of seems like you could do anything you wanted.
A lot my dreams are coming true but the next thing that I want to do is have my own fashion line and also be in movies and hopefully one day, if I work really hard I’ll meet Tom Hanks.
Did you see The Post?
No I didn’t. They haven’t really let me watch a lot of Tom Hanks movies recently. I was watching a lot of them at one point but now they just want me to focus on my own career and not Tom Hanks’ career.
Who is “they”?
They don’t really like it when I say too many things about them.
Do you watch any TV?
Not recently. I do like the news. Especially the Los Angeles news. But I don’t really spend a lot of time watching TV.
So when you’re not making YouTube videos or singing what are you doing with your time?
I try to just sit and be in my own head and think my own thoughts because there’s a lot of pop culture and a lot of news always around and I try not to pay attention to it I just want to think my own thoughts.
Do you hope that your music will inspire other people to do what you’re doing?
I can only hope that what I do inspires other people. I just don’t want to be boring.
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