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Corpse Husband: how the popularity of a faceless influencer exposed a dark side of fandom culture

You’ve probably heard him narrate horror stories on YouTube. You’ve most likely jammed to his music on viral TikToks. And I’m pretty sure you may have stumbled across his Among Us gameplays on Twitch. If you’re still having a hard time guessing the mysterious influencer in question, here are a bunch of other clues: deep voice, veiny metal-ring-adorned hands, purple rabbit mask, and “choke me like you hate me, but you love me” (uwu). Oh, the last one struck a chord?

The emo rapguaranteed to leave you either scared or turned onfeatures a reclusive creator on the rise with an entire ‘simp army’ hot on his trail. Introducing Corpse Husband, a ‘faceless’ influencer rewriting the rules for content creation in a digital age.

A reclusive success story

Allegedly born on 8 August 1997, Corpse Husband—also known as Corpse—is an American YouTuber and musician based in San Diego, California. Again, allegedly. Before kicking off his YouTube career in 2015, Corpse had been praised for his deep voice and suggested he dip his toes into narration. More specifically, horror story narrations.

Corpse Husband: how the popularity of a faceless influencer exposed a dark side of fandom culture

Growing up alongside creepypasta channels like MrCreepyPasta, Chilling Tales for Dark Nights and Cryaotic, it wasn’t until the influencer came across Mr. Nightmare, Be. Busta, and Lazy Masquerade that he launched his own quests into the category. Today, the creator is part of a community of YouTubers known as ‘Horror Narration Channels’ and prefers to read true stories that are typically sent in from his subscribers or taken off subreddits like r/LetsNotMeet and r/NoSleep.

After lending his voice to horror narrations, Corpse slowly branched out into music with his debut single ‘MISS YOU!, followed by WHITE TEE’ and ‘E-GIRLS ARE RUINING MY LIFE!’. The latter has now amassed a whopping 100 million streams on Spotify and over 50 million views on YouTube. To date, he has around nine songs under his belt, seven of which he’s credited as the lead artist. Over the years, Corpse has also collaborated with The Living Tombstone, Savage Ga$p, Chills, Crusher and fellow vampire Machine Gun Kelly for ‘DAYWALKER!’—featuring YouTube’s most-watched female streamer Valkyrae.

During the pandemic, Corpse Husband also started streaming popular video games including Among Us with other internet personalities like PewDiePie, Sykkuno and surprise, surprise: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). “I can’t get over this dude’s voice. It’s so deep,” AOC was heard gasping on a Twitch livestream—hosted alongside high-profile streamers like Pokimane and Corpse Husband to encourage viewers to vote in the 2020 elections. The congresswoman further admitted to being distracted by the creator’s voice, giving more than enough content for fans to create heaps of viral compilations showing their wholesome interaction on YouTube.

The feral tale of #onlyfandom

Now let’s talk about the creator’s presence on TikTok. With 2.1 billion views on hashtags dedicated to musings about the anonymous artist, Corpse’s impact on the platform can be traced to his 5.2 million followers with less than ten videos on his account. Did I mention that most of these posts only feature his hands? Uploading black and white filtered clips, the creator can be seen rocking his veiny hands on a chair, casually stretching his fingers with a rose and a toy dinosaur between them and even offering hoodies to a flustered Sykkuno. Adorned with chunky metal rings, chipped nail polish and heart-beaded bracelets, Corpse’s #onlyhands have broken every platform they’ve graced with their presence.

@corpse_husband

YOU GUYS ARE CRAZY LMAO #corpse_husband #corpsehusband #onlyhands

♬ E-GIRLS ARE RUINING MY LIFE! - CORPSE & Savage Ga$p

Following his viral fame, Corpse has also launched his own line of merchandise—including exclusive posters, beanies, hoodies, face masks and more. The online store, which went live as a Christmas gift to his fans in 2020, reportedly crashed for many as the website received tremendous traffic across the globe. Most of the items sold out like hotcakes in under five minutes and continue to do so whenever they’re restocked.

In other news, his cult-like following—who once called themselves ‘little freaks’—have rented and flown a plane over his favourite restaurant, Sizzler’s Steakhouse, to promote his hit single ‘Agoraphobic’ on Spotify. The fandom has additionally helped secure a coveted billboard for the creator at the New York Times Square, trending both #corpseinthesky and #corpsebillboard on Twitter. Another chaotic achievement under their belt includes changing Wikipedia’s definition of breathing to “Corpse Husband.”

For those who are well-versed with fandoms in the Kpop industry, all of these activities might sound trivial and one might even consider them part of regular influencer culture. But let’s not forget that Corpse Husband is an anonymous, ‘faceless’ creator. Nobody knows his real name and what he actually looks like. In fact, in a rare interview with American YouTuber Anthony Padilla, Corpse admitted that those around him in real life have no clue of his online fame. “I come across as sketchy to everybody,” the influencer said, adding how he has a separate room for recording videos.

Whenever there are parties or gatherings hosted in his apartment, Corpse allegedly tells his guests not to enter that specific space. You know the typical assumptions that stem from such claims. The ‘E-GIRLS ARE RUINING MY LIFE!’ musician further confessed that he can’t answer simple questions like “What do you do for a living?” and “How do you make all this money?”

A digital game of assets and liabilities

But is it actually possible to maintain complete anonymity on the internet—especially when you’ve cultivated a fanbase who willingly tattoo your hair strands and sell out your favourite perfume in a matter of seconds?

“Being a ‘faceless’ influencer isn’t a new concept but it is still something that we don’t see often,” David Gosselin, CEO and president of the influencer management agency A-List Me, told SCREENSHOT. “We typically see influencers connecting with their followers by being relatable and showing their everyday life but ‘faceless’ influencers connect in a totally different way by being mysterious and intriguing their followers with the unknown.”

When SCREENSHOT reached out to the New York-based influencer marketing platform Upfluence, the team had similar insights to share. Solutions Architect Sean Byrne first highlighted the similarities between online avatars, an idea that has been around for decades, and being an anonymous influencer on the internet today. “The anonymity allows creators to establish a new persona and identity in whatever mould they choosehidden from the criticism and hate that can come with being an influencer in the public eye,” he said.

According to Byrne, this anonymity can also alleviate part of the fear and anxiety that typically grip influencers, especially at the start of their public journey. “It’s easy to feel insecure when thousands of people are seeing your face and are consuming what you’re producing. Posting anonymously allows creators to be true to themselves, keep their personal lives private and live a double life—if that’s what they seek,” he explained. “I’m sure it can be freeing to be walking down the street as Corpse Husband without anyone knowing who you truly are.”

But the faceless path to fame is not without cons.”From a creator perspective, being anonymous has some interesting downsides,” Byrne mentioned, adding how an influencer’s anonymity will most certainly work against them during their grind to grow and build a brand. “Typically, to get partnerships and brand deals, companies and partners want to make sure a creator fully represents their brand and values. They will be less trusting of a creator whose face they have yet to see,” the expert said. However, this isn’t an issue once an anonymous personality climbs into the “mega star” rank.

That said, this “mega star” rank in question brings a whole other set of concerns with itself. Ever since Corpse started gaining traction on YouTube, his fans have been begging the influencer for a face and name reveal. This became particularly concerning when he hit the six million followers mark on YouTube in December 2020—after which Twitter was flooded with images and even addresses of random people who users claimed to be “the real Corpse Husband.” In September 2021, pictures of an alleged 13-year-old boy went viral on the platform, with many suggesting that Corpse’s face was “not as he advertised.”

https://twitter.com/adddriiianaa/status/1441938452061179909

“They’re taking pictures of real-life people, I don’t know if they end up seeing it, and then because [they] think it’s me, they shit all over [them] even though they’re normal looking people,” Corpse Husband said in a second interview with Anthony Padilla. “[If] that’s what normal looking people get for [being] me, then I can’t imagine if it was actually me.” This is one of the reasons why the anonymous personality has brushed aside all hopes of a face reveal coming from him anytime soon.

In a Minecraft livestream, Corpse confessed the fact that people’s expectations of his appearance have peaked to unachievable standards. “When you have millions of people going like ‘I think he looks like this’ and you look dramatically different from all of them, it’s like you’re going to let down a lot of people at once and I’d rather not do that,” he admitted.

So can Corpse Husband always keep his fans guessing? Or, given how the internet works, is the creator’s face reveal bound to happen against his will someday? “There have been a few ‘leaks’ of Corpse Husband over the past few years but it seems none of them hold any weight,” Byrne said, adding how he expects a proper face reveal to come from the creator himself in the future instead of it inevitably happening against his will. “So many faceless creators have done such a great job with their anonymity and since it’s their entire brand, they’ll be intentionally careful about it.”

In this regard, A-List Me’s David Gosselin gave the example of Banksy, the England-based street artist, political activist and film director whose identity remains unconfirmed—yet has amassed a whopping 11.2 million followers on Instagram. “As the brand continues to grow, so will the mystery behind it,” Gosselin said. “The more people that follow Corpse Husband will create more suspense of who [he] is.” Although Gosselin believes Corpse can maintain the air of mystery he has created around his identity, the CEO highlighted how it’ll become harder to do so as his popularity skyrockets.

Byrne, on the other hand, directed my train of thought to Corpse’s struggle with severe anxiety, which is heightened due to his fame. The creator has also been laying low ever since the slew of memes and trolls on his identity exposed a horrifying side of the internet. “Corpse recently spoke about why he’s slowed down his content creation regarding YouTube videos and Twitch streams, crediting this change to intense social anxiety,” Byrne explained. “If Corpse was out streaming and creating YouTube videos daily, there’d be a higher chance of his face reveal to happen against his will. But since he’s taken a step back, I think he will be in full control if and when he ever decides to reveal his likeness to his fans.”

In his livestreams and Twitter account, the anonymous influencer has also been vocal about his battle with chronic illnesses and health problems including fibromyalgia, sleep apnea, insomnia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—which is partly responsible for his deep voice—and an eye disease which causes inflammation, often requiring him to wear an eyepatch.

When asked about his views on the unrealistic expectations of Corpse that have festered within the public over time, Byrne mentioned, “The audience will imagine and create an image in their head based on the persona a creator has established, and if the reveal happens and it doesn’t meet those expectations, the backlash can be rough.” According to the expert, there’s no right or wrong answer to being anonymous or not—just differences in the pros and cons. “A creator should align themselves with what’s important to them and take that leap of faith,” he added.

To do or not to do

Now onto the elephant in the room. Even if Corpse does a face reveal on his own terms, will it ultimately do more harm than good to the creator’s fame? I mean, the very element of mystery—which Corpse has built his presence around—would be eliminated from the scene. It’d be an entire shift from his ethos as a faceless influencer, right?

Gosselin believes that it makes more sense for Corpse Husband to maintain his anonymity. “My reasoning is ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken’,” the CEO said. At the same time, however, he outlined how influencers ultimately know their followers better than others and therefore know the best content strategy for their brand. “Corpse Husband is more than just a faceless influencer and will be able to maintain a strong connection even if there is a face reveal,” Gosselin added.

Alex Curry, an influencer marketing strategist for gaming and esports at Upfluence, further divulged some historical insights on how a face reveal isn’t really a deterrent for anonymous influencers. “During the early years of digital content creation, especially within esports, a plethora of gaming content creators opted out of the traditional ‘on-screen’ appearance and instead chose to let their gameplay or creative voice-over narrations speak to their audience,” he said.

One such creator who has seamlessly aligned audience expectations and transitioned from a voice-over personality to an on-screen influencer, according to Curry, is Ali-A. “Having first created a YouTube and Twitch presence in early 2009, Ali-A became an illustrious figure among the gaming community for his interpersonal relationship with his audience by simply recording or voicing his Call of Duty gameplay to his audience,” the expert explained. “In three short years, he amassed 400,000 followers between YouTube and Twitch.TV—known at the time as Justin.TV.”

But it wasn’t until Ali-A decided to bring his audience deeper into his life that he finally revealed his face to the public. “His audience took his face reveal extremely well because they were connected to his personality over a surface-level outer appearance,” Curry continued. “Just like Corpse Husband’s audience, Ali-A’s fans had been teased with fake leaked images of his face and even questioned whether other personalities on the platform had created Ali-A as an alternate alias. Today, he sits at 17.2 million subscribers and is still very relevant in the esports space.”

The influencer marketing strategist ultimately believes that, “given the fact his fellow gaming content creators have set such a positive precedent on face reveals, should Corpse choose to do one, his fame will only continue to grow.”

The incognito norm

At a time when we’ve learned to embrace our virtual selves, the rise of Corpse Husband as a global phenomenon signals the overarching appeal of anonymous influencers—who are constantly rewriting norms for content creation in a digital age. “Everything is on the internet now and whether you are a faceless influencer or going the more typical route, you would be able to build a strong presence by just having a social media handle,” Gosselin admitted in this regard.

Curry further explained how influencer culture has shifted beyond physical or face-to-face interactions being the standard, all thanks to the pandemic. “Audiences that had followed their favourite creator from the very early stages of their career are now maturing into an influencer genre that focuses heavily on the deeper interpersonal development between [one’s] content and their fanbase,” he said. According to the expert, gone is the era where a public figure’s success is centred around their physical appearance, materialistic flexing and constant updates to keep their fans hooked.

“We are witnessing a shift where less is more and seeing higher engagement rates in this landscape too. Not being able to constantly know the whereabouts of your favourite influencer keeps audiences guessing as to the next piece of content that will be revealed.” This norm also translates into a positive impact on creators who are faced with the constant pressure to deliver content to their massive audiences. “Influencers are now able to take frequent breaks instead of generating content at such a large volume which eventually leads to burnout,” Curry concluded.

So buckle up, 2022. It might just be the peak time to embrace reclusive creators who are basing their success entirely around their wholesome content and personality online.

Introducing Nikocado Avocado, the YouTuber slowly killing himself for views

Some people quit smoking for their New Year’s resolution, others join the gym. YouTuber Nikocado Avocado, however, has the aim of hitting 400 pounds (just over 181 kilos). Chances are you’ve seen the famous mukbanger’s content recommended by the YouTube algorithm—known for his aggressive outbursts, his jarring persona and gluttony.

It’s the fuel that’s propelled him to stardom. It’s his identity, his brand—from KFC to Burger King, you name it and over the five years of his YouTube career, he’s eaten it. It’s what makes Nikocado Avocado (real name Nicholas Perry) stand out among the sea of countless other mukbang content creators. Let’s just say, if mukbang was pop music, he’d be Beyoncé.

Yet despite his success on the surface, Nikocado Avocado’s journey has a darker underbelly—a story of addiction to engagement that is leading him to an early grave. To understand how he got to this point, we have to look back.

The story of Nikocado Avocado

Only half a decade ago, Nikocado Avocado was a vegan vlogger living a modest life in Colombia. At the time, he weighed between 150 to 160 pounds, a stark contrast to his weight now, which is approximately 350 pounds. On 5 October 2016, the first of many mukbang videos were uploaded to his channel—and while he made the decision to start eating meat, he would still maintain a relatively clean diet.

At the time, the content creator stuck out like a sore thumb in the mukbang community, as in the beginning, these types of videos were almost entirely dominated by women creators. During his early career, Nikocado Avocado would almost always include his pet parrot in his videos while he ate—a novel and slightly absurd characteristic which would assist him in standing out from the crowd.

In the early stages of his mukbang career, he seemed to be relatively unscathed by his diet. According to research on the psychology of mukbang videos, this type of content impacts the “viewers’ perception of food consumption and thinness because mukbangers who were very thin and slim consumed very large portions of food and did not gain weight.” This is no doubt a spell which Nikocado Avocado found himself under—claiming to be a long-term fan of mukbang videos, it’s plausible that he was convinced he was immune to obesity caused by mukbang eating.

This was short-lived, however. When he weighed himself in May 2017, he’d gained 50 pounds. The problem is, instead of seeing this as a genuine health concern, he instead integrated it into his content with the goal of gaining both more weight and more views. In another upload titled “I’m getting fat & don’t know why,” he would state that his weight gain was “a medical mystery” that it was just “water weight” or “stress.” 

By the time he hit the 300 pounds mark in April 2020, his mindset had visibly changed. No longer was Nikocado Avocado claiming any ambition to change his ways—instead, he’d claim he passed the point of no return and that it was easier to embrace his weight for views rather than going through the effort of losing it. This only amplified his viewership—as his weight continued to grow, so did his ad revenue.

By April 2021, with more than five million subscribers across six channels, he’d earned enough money to move into a $2.3 million penthouse flat. A comment left on the video announcing his new move states, “enjoy your house bro. You got not much time left.” It encapsulates the dilemma Nikocado Avocado faces: the exchange of health for money. Or, on a deeper level: the exchange of health for meaning.

Why do people enjoy watching mukbang videos?

But how has the YouTuber amassed such a vast and loyal fanbase? According to Kagan Kircaburun—a psychology researcher at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) who specialises in behavioural addictions online and is the first academic researcher into the addictive behaviour of mukbang watching—the answer is not black and white.

“According to our research, there were many reasons why people watch mukbang videos. We pinned down six main reasons why people are drawn to the videos: entertainment; sexual gratification; obtaining healthy eating gratification; discovering different foods—particularly Asian cuisine; using mukbang to escape from real-life problems or unpleasant feelings; and, finally, to watch their favourite YouTuber,” Kircaburun told SCREENSHOT.

That said, the researcher also added that, in some circumstances, mukbang watching can have therapeutic value. He recalled a time when he interviewed a woman who watches mukbang videos to help her deal with the symptoms of anorexia. “It made her feel relieved, reducing anxiety and helping her eat,” Kircaburun noted. “Listening to the sounds of eating, as well as watching the facial expressions of mukbang creators, can also have a therapeutic effect for those dealing with eating disorders,” he continued.

This echoes the views of mukbang video creator Rammseth Mukbang, who noted that watching someone “eat a certain meal can soothe people who are on a diet—like they are ‘eating in spirit’. I’ve had feedback that my video helps people after a stressful day. We are entertainment, but there is also a human touch… We bring comfort to viewers, we make a positive impact.”

Emily, a 26-year-old student living in Philadelphia—and self-proclaimed “lover of mukbang”—highlighted how it was the “relatability and human aspect” that draws her to mukbang content. She shared that she often watches mukbang videos while eating too and that “reading the comments helps me feel like part of a wider community.”

This is also something Rammseth Mukbang touched upon, describing the online community as “flawed yet beautiful.” In his experience, there is a significant disconnect between larger and smaller creators. “Bigger channels naturally move away from the community. Between smaller channels, you develop some fun banter and real connections. You all want to grow, so there is a sense of camaraderie.”

Like with most things in life there are always two sides to the coin—the good always comes with the bad. Mukbang is no different. Kircaburun warned that there are numerous ways in which watching this type of content can lead to unhealthy behaviour. Not only can the videos “affect someone’s eating and table manners negatively,” it can also lead to “some adolescent and young people becoming obese as a result of watching the content for a long time,” he explained.

“Making these videos involves consuming a very high capacity of food, some creators are professional eaters. But young people see this and think it’s normal. This can lead to a warped perception of food quantity and ultimately obesity,” Kircaburun added. Nikocado Avocado’s story is an embodiment of this, a reflection of the impact mukbang making can have on the health of its creators (and viewers too). A hyperbole and amplified reflection? Perhaps, but a reflection nonetheless—and something which urgently needs addressing.

On one hand a success, on the other a death sentence

“On one hand it’s a success story, at least from a marketing perspective,” noted Paul Smith, CEO of Baked Bean Marketing—an online marketing agency that specialises in managing high profile influencers—when speaking to SCREENSHOT. “In five years, he’s amassed almost three million followers and hundreds of millions of views.”

But at what cost? It’s clear Nikocado Avocado has bitten more than he can chew. Smith added, “On the flip side, he’s 300 pounds more than he weighed when he started making videos. You have to ask whether all that money he’s generated from this brand is worth it. Let’s not kid ourselves, a lot of this is about money—but is it worth the health implications? That’s the burning question.”

Given the fact that obesity is linked to more than sixty other chronic diseases, the answer to that question is blatantly obvious. So why does he continue to grow bigger? Smith described this as a snowball effect—a damaging cycle caused by YouTubers “all fighting for the same view.” He explained, “You make one video mukbang video today where you eat a certain amount of food. Tomorrow, to keep up engagement, you’ll have to put out a video even better than that. In Nikocado Avocado’s case, for instance, it’ll be a bigger portion of food. It’s a never-ending spiral.”

This is on the mind of every online content creator. It’s the toxic nature of the internet that, unfortunately, keeps us all hooked—tapping into our primal drive to keep growing engagement and, ultimately, feel valued. The Nikocado Avocado case can be likened to clout-chasers hungry enough for views to throw themselves on top of trains for TikTok views or fall off cliffs for a selfie.

This isn’t a secret either, social media apps are designed to be like this. Often in our mind’s eye, when we think of social media addiction, emphasis is placed on the consumer, but it impacts creators too. Akin to the addictive behaviour of doomscrolling, Nikocado Avocado (and most similar YouTubers sacrificing their health for viewership) are showing tell-tale signs of an addiction disorder. With Nikocado Avocado’s story in particular, his deadly habits have been cemented through an unmistakable brand: with extravagant, violent freakouts and a merch empire of T-shirts that read “you made me do it” or “it’s just water weight.”

An addiction to food, views and meaning

Smith “absolutely” believes that this snowball effect can breed addictive behaviour. “If you make three to five thousand pounds from advertising revenue—sometimes five to twenty thousand—off the back of your videos, ask yourself: would you stop?” And I agree. It’s easy to paint him as the perpetrator here—an individual who has damaged his health through the consequence of his own actions.

But that viewpoint is narrow-minded. Instead, it’s better to think of him as the victim—a person who’s dug himself a hole he can’t escape from. This rings true when you consider how his diet is not just drastically altering his body, but his mind too.

Behavioural science experts believe that “all entities capable of stimulating a person can be addictive; and whenever “a habit changes into an obligation, it can be considered as an addiction.” Nikocado Avocado has created a situation where his habit of eating vast quantities of food in front of a camera has turned into an obligation. To treat such an addictive disorder requires a multi-level approach: from personal support to specialised training. But to what extent should YouTube and similar social network channels step in—and do they at all?

Luckily, the internet isn’t as Wild West as it was 15 years ago. YouTube does have policies that every content creator has to abide by otherwise their videos will be removed, but these are nowhere near as stringent as those on traditional television networks, Smith further explained. “It’s a completely different ballgame to mainstream television. I believe there should be more control over what’s posted online. YouTube doesn’t take action 95 per cent of the time—unless it’s explicitly dangerous—so where does it end?”

Perhaps it’s the mere-exposure effect, but from researching his journey over the last few months, I’ve developed a soft spot for the guy. Indeed, Nikocado Avocado is the manifestation of modern-day internet culture—the good and the bad. He represents how new media, unlike traditional TV, has allowed any creative who sees a gap in the market to make a success of themselves, just with a camera and an internet connection. On the other hand, he embodies the worst of what digital culture has to offer: an addiction to engagement which can lead to a death sentence. Until measures are taken, from outside sources and Nikocado Avocado himself, he’ll continue to eat himself into an early grave… One mukbang at a time.

Debunking recent rumours about Nikocado Avocado's death

In July 2022, reports of the YouTuber’s rumoured death flooded the internet. “Apparently Nikocado Avocado is dead? Honestly I don’t believe that. Sometimes he gets offline to probably prepare more of his atrocious mukbang videos,” wrote one Twitter user at the time.

The unfounded claims appeared on TikTok too and a YouTube Shorts too, with one clip titled “Nikocado Avocado Passed Away (Trigger Warning), pray for his family” trending on the platform. The video has since been deleted.

The rumours that he has passed away stemmed from the fact that he hadn’t been very active on social media recently, leading many to suspect that something bad had happened to him. On 27 October however, Nikocado Avocado shared yet another video on his YouTube channel, in turn reassuring all of his fans.