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How Valkyrae Went From GameStop To Queen Of Gaming

Valkyrae is well on her way to becoming a name that needs no introduction. But for those who are still unfamiliar with the record-setting streamer, Rachael "Valkyrae" Hofstetter earned the title of "fastest growing live streamer in the world" in 2020, according to the head of YouTube Gaming, Ryan Wyatt. She currently boasts over 3 million followers on both YouTube and Instagram and her meteoric career has shown no signs of slowing in 2021. In the first half of the year, the gaming celebrity appeared in multiple music videos and played "Among Us" with the likes of Jimmy Fallon.


Valkyrae's story is a relatable and inspiring one, with humble beginnings and a triumphant glow-up that would put Cinderella to shame. She already has everything she needs to succeed in the world of social media, but her eye for opportunity has allowed her to reach new heights of popularity as a streamer. What some fans may not realize is that, rather than being someone who adopted gaming as a means of achieving fame and fortune, Valkyrae is a dedicated gamer who fell in love with the hobby at an early age.

An early passion for gaming, courtesy of mom

In addition to paying her monthly bills, Valkyrae's streaming career has allowed her to support her mother, even affording a complete home remodel. While Valkyrae was speaking about her childhood on stream, a fan stated that her mother deserved to be spoiled for creating her, and Rae took the opportunity to correct a misconception. 


Gift of life aside, Valkyrae said, "the reason why I feel indebted to my mother ... is she was the one who got me into video games. And if she didn't get me into video games at a young age, I wouldn't be where I am today."

Valkyrae went on to say that she was always a bit of a tomboy, and that her mother never tried to force her to conform to any stereotypical gender norms. Apart from gaming, Rae enjoyed playing outside as a child, and mentioned that while aspects of her childhood were tumultuous — including her family's bouts with alcoholism and marital strife — she was always loved. 

Thanks to her mom, Valkyrae has been gaming her whole life. According to the streamer, her first experience with gaming was playing the retro classic "Bubble Bobble."


Working at GameStop while working Instagram

Valkyrae attended community college and worked at GameStop, which served as an obvious extension to her devotion to gaming. As noted by HyperX, she would regularly post content to Instagram about gaming-related topics, and cultivated quite a following by doing so. In the same period of time, Rae posted gaming videos to YouTube, though she initially did not receive much traffic. 


After hitting 4,000 subscribers on her Instagram, Rae filmed a Q&A on YouTube that she has since deleted. However, she later recorded her own reaction to the Q&A, allowing her and her fans to look back on her accomplishments since then. In the comments for that reaction video, several fans remarked that her online persona has grown more exuberant and energetic over the course of her career.

Her Instagram followers served as the foundation of her early fanbase, and that was where people started urging her to stream on Twitch. Shortly thereafter, her popularity went into overdrive. On Twitter, Valkyrae shared a picture of herself dressed for work circa 2015, and admitted that the first few years following her time at GameStop seemed to fly by. Now, it must seem like a lifetime ago.


The hustle has never stopped

Speaking about her career to the New York Times, Valkyrae stated, "I started streaming when I was 23 and I just haven't stopped. I've been doing this every day for years and years." Clearly, there is no overstating the value of that experience. Even though Rae's rise in popularity has certainly accelerated in recent years, hailing her as an overnight sensation would arguably trivialize her persistence and hard work. It is also easy for those unfamiliar with streaming to dismiss the job as simply "playing video games for an audience," but community building and hospitality are components for success.


Although Valkyrae has since signed an exclusive contract with YouTube, she came to prominence on Twitch playing a variety of competitive titles, including "Fortnite," "League of Legends," and "Teamfight Tactics." Like many Twitch streamers, she also hosted popular "IRL" and "Just Chatting" streams, allowing her to build a lively rapport with her fans. Much of this success and momentum can be traced back to the fact that she's never really slowed down since she got started.

For YouTube's eyes only

Valkyrae left Twitch behind and signed an exclusivity contract with YouTube in January 2020. Even though Twitch played a crucial role in her rise to internet stardom, the move to YouTube helped her gain a whole new audience from a younger demographic. Speaking with Business Insider, Rae remarked, "The one thing I regret the most is not uploading to YouTube sooner." She added, "Kids can't watch the stream in the middle of the day, so it helps that they have videos to watch when they get home from school or wherever they are."


That said, the move wasn't stres- free. In a video reviewing the successes of her landmark year, Valkyrae confessed that she was worried she was sacrificing or betraying her community by jumping to a new platform. Fame can be a fickle thing, especially where streaming is concerned, so it makes sense that those worries would weigh heavily on Valkyrae. Fortunately, her fans have stuck by her since she made the permanent change in platforms.

Cool collaborations and Among Us

Just as actors and musicians gain celebrity and credibility by performing with other luminaries in their respective fields, streamers also regularly grow in popularity by collaborating with other streamers. Valkyrae's rise to prominence continued as she collaborated with other high profile YouTubers and streaming stars, including Sykkuno, Corpse Husband, and PewDiePie.


While Rae has played a wide variety of titles with her friends and fellow streamers, "Among Us" deserves special mention. The once-obscure title became a major phenomenon in mid 2020, and it helped vault many streamers to the next echelon of popularity. 

There are many reasons why "Among Us" became a viral success, but streamers like Valkyrae were a huge part of it. At its core, it is a game where communication and social obfuscation are vital to success, meaning that streamers' personalities are able to come across more clearly than when playing other competitive titles. The game's ability to host many players also led to larger collaborations among popular streaming personalities.

Advocacy for women in gaming

Valkyrae has collaborated with many other streamers and personalities over the years, but a few in particular stand out. She's a part of what the internet calls the "Amigops" — a group consisting of Valkyrae, Sykkuno, Disguised Toast, and Corpse Husband. These four often streamed "Among Us" together at the height of the game's popularity. "Amigops" comes from a typo that Sykkuno made when typing "amigos," which became a meme and the nickname for their friend group (per Dexerto).


The four Amigops still keep in touch, even after moving on from the social deduction game. For example, Rae still talks to Corpse semi-regularly, to the point where she was able to give his fans a much-needed update on what the reclusive personality was doing when he stepped away from streaming for a while.

Aside from the Amigops, Valkyrae regularly appears alongside OfflineTV members. Some of her closest friends are Pokimane, LilyPichu, and others from the group — including her Amigop pal Disguised Toast. Valkyrae also regularly appears on-stream and at events alongside members of 100 Thieves, including founder Nadeshot and fellow co-owner Courage.

Co-owner of 100 Thieves and boss of her own brand

As noted by NBC News, female streamers have cited harassment as the main drawback and deterrent from working in the business. Despite her tremendous success, Valkyrae continues to endure haters on a daily basis. According to an interview with Business Insider, her attitude is to not take the hate personally since it is inevitable and unjustified. In the same interview, Rae revealed that she prefers to lift up her fellow women in the streaming industry. While it may not solve the problem overnight, that kind of positivity and community building seem to be some of the most effective ways to fight back against misogyny in gaming culture. 


As such, some of her frequent collaborators include female friends such as AlexiaRaye, ChicaLive, KittyPlays, and Pokimane. For nearly a year, Valkyrae actually lived in the same house as Pokimane and fellow streamers xChocoBars and StarSmitten, but the group decided to go their separate ways when their lease expired. Valkyrae detailed her reasons for leaving the house on YouTube, ranging from the creepy (a stalker found their address) to the pragmatic (she enjoys the freedom of living by herself).

Streamer turned music video star

After joining as a member in 2018, Valkyrae has become a co-owner of 100 Thieves, an online content creation, esports, and apparel organization — making her "one of the first women co-owners in esports." Other co-owners include Matthew "Nadeshot" Haag, Jack "CouRage" Dunlop, Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the rapper Drake. 


As reported by the New York Times, in her new role as co-owner, Valkyrae will help scout new talent and design new initiatives for the organization, all while continuing to develop her own content. This is a major step forward in terms of creative control, as Valkyrae will be able to guide the themes and tones of 100 Thieves' overall content moving forward.

Again, Rae's success has stemmed from sticking with her primary passion of gaming and using the various opportunities that presented to branch out into other areas of personal interest, such as fashion and apparel. Becoming a co-owner of 100 Thieves not only propelled her to new heights of fame in the gaming community, but also further established her as a savvy businesswoman.


Friends can make or break you

Valkyrae has continued to branch out beyond gaming, and recently started performing in music videos. In the music video for Machine Gun Kelly's "Daywalker!," Rae actually portrays fellow streamer and musician Corpse Husband in a triple crossover. Corpse, a musician in his own right who is known for his incredibly deep voice, had Valkyrae stand in for him in the video when it came time for his verse. 


For those wondering why one streamer would portray another, Rae explained on YouTube that Corpse has a genuine fear of public recognition, and didn't want to fail to live up fans' expectations.

On May 12, 2021, Valkyrae made yet another splash in a music video, this time appearing as herself in TikTok star Bella Poarch's video for "Build a B***h." That video has already been viewed well over 100 million times, bringing Valkyrae to an even wider audience than before.

Valkyrae has achieved a staggering amount in a relatively short time, going from humble GameStop worker to streaming sensation and gaming queen. Judging by her new pursuits, recent collaborations, and ever-expanding field of opportunities, it seems safe to say she is just getting started.


Collabs don't always work out

As mentioned previously, Valkyrae works on multiple passion projects and collaborations. In 2021 alone, she was part of 100 Thieves' collab with Gucci and a Maevix collab that recreated her iconic gaming chair, just to name a few. These high-profile collabs can serve to build trust between brands and hype fans on both sides, often resulting in win-win situations. Unfortunately, some of them don't work out.


Most notably, Valkyrae was hit with major backlash for being the face of a sketchy skincare brand in 2022. RFLCT, a brand that claimed to protect users' skin from blue light, attracted controversy early on because of the lack of evidence to support claims of blue light being harmful to skin. Critics accused the brand of creating a non-existent problem to profit from pseudoscience-backed products. Valkyrae eventually withdrew as the face of the brand after admitting that the hate was warranted and the company seemingly closed shop soon after. She went on a streaming hiatus to reflect on the situation before returning with her typically scheduled content. 

Before her hiatus, however, Valkyrae talked about how the RFLCT backlash had traumatized her and that she was going to therapy for it. It was apparently more tragic than fans thought, as she mentioned taking "way longer" than expected to return.


The future of Valkyrae

There's always a hot debate about whether Twitch or YouTube is the better streaming platform. This question was especially relevant in 2022, considering the leaked Twitch proposal that hinted towards nerfing streamer contracts with paycuts and a heavier emphasis on ad revenue. Valkyrae was one of the first to jump from Twitch to YouTube a couple of years ago, which was riskier at the time because fewer high profile streamers had made the move at the time. Since then, the platform has acquired popular streamers like TimTheTatman and Ludwig Ahgren, who either had a personal problem with Twitch or decided to switch because of a more lucrative offer. Even Valkyrae's Amigop buddy Sykkuno left Twitch for YouTube.


It doesn't seem like Valkyrae's leaving anytime soon, either. Her contract was set to expire at the beginning of 2022, prompting discussion regarding whether she would return to Twitch. Eventually, she revealed her decision to stick with YouTube in an announcement video featuring multiple humorous references to the difficult choice.

She's also trying out something new, though. Valkyrae recently mentioned that she's working on a song with Offline TV producer Brodin Plett and her friend Wendy "Natsumiii" Luo.