“Oh, no surprise there. A pissed off Asian chick with a stupid chipmunk voice. TROLOLOL!” Welcome to the online world of Xiao Hoang, better known as XiaoRishu to her followers. 21-years-old and based in London, Xiao has engaged thousands of YouTube viewers with her quirky kawaii style and comedic vlogs and skits. Armed with her sense of humor, expressive face, and trademark infantine voice, XiaoRishu seems charming and innocent; a girl no one would think of has having dogged antagonists. Lately, however, Xiao has been embroiled in she said, she said cyberbullying incidents involving the controversial Venus Angelic, Venus’s mother, Margaret Palermo, and each camp’s respective fans. In spite of her fear of retaliation, Xiao spoke to me about her and others’ experiences with Margaret Palermo’s supposed cyberbullying, as well as discussing her own YouTube channel and what it’s like to be XiaoRishu.
Alan Van: Can you describe your channel for the readers who aren’t acquainted with your videos?
XiaoRishu: It’s basically comedy-related. I like to do skits and sometimes parodies.
Alan: Do you write all of them and do all of the effects and all that?
Xiao: Yeah. I’ve never taken media studies lessons or any of that. I had to learn it from watching YouTube tutorials, so I’m self-taught.
Alan: How did you first get started on YouTube?
Xiao: Originally, I made videos to entertain my little cousin, because she was always bullied in school and I wanted to cheer her up. So I started making videos and suddenly more and more people started finding my videos, and everything just sort of blew up.
Alan: What was the reaction from people who were blowing it up? What were they saying?
Xiao: They were saying how funny I am, and that I should make more videos and consider it as a career. That’s when I applied for a YouTube partnership.
Alan: Had you ever thought before that you would be known as a youtube content creator?
Xiao: Not really. I thought I would I actually make videos and then just stop a few months later. But then it’s been over two years now.
Alan: How do you enjoy being a YouTube partner/creator?
Xiao: It feels weird. Because I have a lot of viewers who are from America, most of them are from America, and some of them are from here, and when they recognize me when I go out it feels really weird because I’m not a celebrity or anything. So when they say, “Oh my god, can I take a picture of you,” I’m like, “Ooooo, what?” [laughs] I’m still not used to it.
Alan: I did read on your blog that you wouldn’t do a TV interview if asked because you’d be too uncomfortable.
Xiao: Well, if they did ask me then I would probably pee myself in public [laughs]. I always end up making a fool out of myself when I’m nervous. Id probably fart, and then they’d be like, “Oh, god no.”
Alan: What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve had with someone who recognized you in public?
Xiao: The weirdest was negative attention I got. I went out to Chinatown, and there was this bunch of girls, and they were like, “Oh my god. Look, it’s that annoying girl from YouTube again.” I was like, [sad sound] “Oo.” That’s the weirdest part I hate.
Alan: What did you do?
Xiao: I pretended I didn’t hear. I walked away. They were Asians as well – can you believe that?
Alan: Maybe they were jealous?
Xiao: Well, all the people I hang out with were black.
Alan: A lot of your videos are about race. It’s often a subject of comedy for you. Why do you think so many of your videos are about race and being Asian?
Xiao: Because of my parents; they’re actually pretty racist [laughs]. So they always teach me how I should never hang out with black people, because when my dad moved to this country he was mugged. Ever since then, he’s been scared of black people. But I grew up around black people. So I consider them as my family. I used to hang out with Asians, but they were racist against my best friend who was black. So I stopped hanging out with Asians. I’m kind of the Asian-repeller [laughs]. But I still like Asians; there are some nice ones.
Alan: So tell me about this whole Venus Angelic bullying thing. What’s going on? How did it get to this point?
Xiao: Basically, I saw Venus Angelic’s videos since my friend recommended it. And she [Venus] had a lot of these hate comments, and I thought they were too harsh because she was only 14 at that time. So I made a video, and I defended her, saying that you should leave her alone and stop calling her names and stuff. A week later, my video got reported, and it got taken down, and I didn’t know why. Then when I commented on Venus’s channel, “Oh, they took down my video,” I found out I was blocked. She actually blocked me. When I made that video, she said, “Thank you.” She said, “Thank you,” and then blocked me. What’s going on? And recently, with all this drama, her mom and Venus admitted that it’s because I used one of her photos in my videos because I tried to promote her. That was understandable; I was like, “OK, so I used their photo and I never asked.” And then her mom started calling me a fame-sucker and comparing me to Hitler, and I was like, “What?” So then after that, I started getting all these anonymous people on Twitter attacking me, saying, “Oh, stay away from Venus. Stop copying her.” Then they started contacting all my female friends and saying that they should leave me for fame; they would give them all the followers they need and all that. At that time, I still couldn’t think, “Who could they be?” until right after my friends were contacted, Venus subscribed to one of them. And I thought, “That was a bit suspicious.” Then they said they could get Venus to unblock me and all the other victims, and I thought then that this person must have a direct link to Venus, because everyone knows Venus doesn’t have real friends in London or anything like that. Then that’s when everything added up, and then I called her out in a video. I was like, “I know it’s you.” If she was really innocent, then she would have contacted me saying, “You’ve made a mistake,” but she went straight to “I will take legal actions against this girl;” so she tried to sue me, and instead of trying to reason with me or find out who the anonymous person was, she just…yeah. And that’s how it went.
Alan: How have her, her mother, and her fans harassed you? What have they done?
Xiao: Well, her friends at first–they took Venus’s side, and they defended her. But then later on, their comments were removed and Venus blocked them, so they started believing me because Venus blocked her own fans. They said they didn’t understand why she would do that. And this girl posted a video response to mine saying that Venus took down her video as well. This girl made a video response trying out Venus’s “Sailor Moon” hair tutorial–gave credit to Venus in the video–but then she told me that originally the video was taken down. And I thought, “What’s the point of Venus making tutorials if she doesn’t want people to learn?” That’s just stupid in my opinion [laughs]. And what else? Her mom bullied this girl called Kelsey. Her user name is KimonoTime. She has a glass eye, and her mom posted this whole blog making fun of her saying how she’s stupid and her glass eye is all “effed” up. She made fun of her. Kelsey even met them in real life at this event called Hyper Japan, and she asked Venus to take a picture with her; but then after that, Margaret pulled Venus away and gave her an evil stare. And then she muttered something in her language–I don’t even understand–it was probably like, “Get away from this beep.” [laughs] Oh yeah, and the stores that they stole from.
Alan: What did they steal?
Xiao: J&K Contact Lenses is a company Venus offered to review their products if they sent her free contact lenses. So they sent them to her, and Venus backed out straight away, and said, “I’m not going to give you a review until you pay me for it,” even though they gave her the lenses for free. And then there was a recent one called sassyNpunk, another store; Venus picked out 300 dollars worth of products, and after she received them she said the products were rubbish, and she said she wouldn’t review them. So she practically kept their stuff for free; she never paid back. So that’s why everyone started calling her a thief. And yeah. [nervous laughter and exhale]
Alan: I’m going to ask you to be an armchair psychologist. Why do you think they might have done all these things that they’re being accused of?
Xiao: I think maybe they see us as their competition. Originally, her mom used to make fun of dances, but I don’t dance. Everyone’s telling me that I copied Venus because of my voice, and I’m like, “What the beep!?” [laughs] Yeah, that part I don’t get.
Alan: You think it’s mostly a competition thing? She’s bullying girls that she thinks are competing with Venus in some way?
Xiao: Everytime–when she blocked me, she called me fame-hungry. So she thinks I’m trying to steal Venus’s fame when I don’t really care about her. I just want her mom to leave us alone, thanks. [sighs]
Alan: So what do you think of Venus’s videos?
Xiao: I used to like them a lot, until when her mom started calling her innocent – I refused to agree with that. [laughs] Have you seen one of the video thumbnails? Like the title says, “Wow, they’re huge,” and then it says, “Censored.” I’m like, “Excuse me?” And then there was another video called “Glad ur a Lolicon,” so lolicon–like a little girl involved in intercourse and stuff. Its like, “Don’t call yourself that!”
Alan: So do you think there is this undercurrent of sexual provocativeness with her?
Alan: Do you believe them when they claim that they have no adult male fans?
Xiao: Um no, I don’t believe them. I’ve seen Venus’s photos on Facebook, and a lot of these guys who look like they’re 50 or 60-years-old, and they’re like, “Oooh, I could masturbate to this.” And I’m like, “Whoooah dude.” But you can’t blame them, because she was practically lying on the floor with her stuff showing.
Alan: What’s the state of your relationship with them today?
Xiao: I made a video to calm everyone down and tell them to stop harassing Venus, because when I made a video telling everyone that she blocked me, I didn’t want everyone to start attacking her. I just wanted people to know my side of the story, but everything just got out of hand. Everyone’s calmed down now. But today [this interview was conducted on May 24] her mom, she practically copied and pasted messages to me and all the other girls saying, “You have five days to take down everything,” and I just told her to explain why she stole from other shops, why she harassed all the other girls; and she starts replying, but she continued to reply to my friend who is actually the youngest out of all us. And she was saying how we’re all bullies when she started something. Ugh. I don’t know anymore. [laughs]
Alan: How can this be resolved? Where’s the end?
Xiao: I just want her to stop talking about us, period, because I ended this drama back like a week ago, but then she started posting more stuff about me, talking about my parents. I don’t even know why she brought them into it.
Alan: What did she say about your parents?
Xiao: I submitted a Facebook status saying that regarding all this drama I can’t help but just smile in front of my parents, because I don’t really want them to know what’s going on. And then Margaret started saying, “You’re trying to break a relationship between mother and daughter when you’re the fake one,” and I’m like, “Excuse me?” [laughs]
Alan: Are you going to respond to them anymore?
Xiao: Well, Venus’s agent sent me an email. She said that Venus cherishes her fans, she never blocks people, and that I should join them in an anti-cyberbullying campaign. Man, that’s like me joining a cyberbully [laughs]. Right after I replied to them, I got an anonymous text where they knew what I wrote in that email somehow and they tweeted it. That same anonymous person leaked my phone number and my location, and also called me a “chink” and “gook.” How could this anonymous person know what I wrote to the agent, and then Margaret posting to her Facebook saying that she could read all her agent’s emails and stuff. So I’m like, “Oooh, so it’s you, Margaret.” [laughs] She says it’s not her. I don’t really care if it’s not her anymore, but she has done a lot of stuff. Besides the fake accounts.
Alan: Do you feel afraid of or intimated by them in any way?
Xiao: Oh yeah. Well, not intimidated; I just feel scared. I don’t want her to run up to me in her bikini. [laughs]
Alan: I noticed that you’re on Twitter a lot. How does this work in your daily life? Does it come naturally to you?
Xiao: [laughs] Yeah, kind of. I used to think Twitter was boring. There’s nothing to do on it so I’d migrate to Facebook. Then I started using Twitter more because everyone was tweeting.
Alan: How do you see your relationship with your fans?
Xiao: I consider them more as my family or my brothers or sisters, so we’re quite close.
Alan: What’s your experience been like with King of the Web? I noticed that you’re on their site, and you’re #10.
Xiao: That was surprising. I didn’t think I’d make it to the top 10. Apparently, I won a package, but I haven’t gotten it yet.
Alan: What did you win?
Xiao: They said they were going to send me a bunch of packages, but I don’t know what’s going to be in them. I’m really excited just because it’s from America. I so desperately want to move there mainly because Venus is here. [laughs]
Alan: What do you want to do in America?
Xiao: I’ve actually been to America before when I was about seven. That was really fun. I want to go there to get into possibly filming or doing various voices for cartoon characters.
Alan: Tell me about your desire to be a voice actor. I saw that you were submitting videos of your voice acting to some event, and one of the judges was one of the Dragonball Z voice actors, right?
Xiao: It’s this event in Tokyo. They wanted international people to submit videos talking about Japan, and somehow my topic slipped towards KFC because I love KFC more than anything.
Alan: You love KFC?
Xiao: Yeah [laughs]. It’s like my life! I hope they feature me in the event. It’s around the 2nd or 3rd of June when they start showing. I’m nervous.
Alan: You’ve said that you eventually want to go into filming and voice acting. For you, is that the ultimate goal? Do you want to come off of YouTube or do you want to be a career YouTuber?
Xiao: Probably coming off of YouTube. I don’t know. I like YouTube.
Alan: So you think you’d eventually like to branch off of YouTube?
Xiao: Well, if I wasn’t filming then yeah, I’ll just stick to YouTube [laughs]. Directors would be like, “Lights, camera, action!” and I’ll just be like, “Uhhh, I can’t move.” I’ll be frozen. When you’re filming by yourself there’s no one watching you, and it doesn’t feel awkward, and you make less mistakes.
Alan: What can your family of fans look forward to from you?
Xiao: Well, I’ll probably dress up as a penis or something. I like to surprise people. Venus, she did a tutorial on how to look like a dog, and then I said I could dress up as a ball sack and look just as cute. [laughs] You’re not going to put that in are you? [laughs]
Alan: That “How to look like a dog” video was bizarre.
Xiao: I actually showed it to my mom.
Alan: What did she think?
Xiao: She was like, “Oh, crazy!”
Alan: When people watch your videos, what do you want them to take away? What are you contributing?
Xiao: I know if I can make one person smile then I feel good and lucky. Knowing that I can make thousands more happy, it makes me feel good about myself. Is that selfish?
Alan: No! That’s good. That was my last question. Is there anything else you want to add?
Xiao: I can’t really say. She is…I don’t know. I’m not allowed to state my own opinion. I promised my friends that I wouldn’t swear. [laughs]
Alan: You can swear, and you can say whatever you want.
Xiao: Have you seen her on Facebook when she was talking about this thing called a victim card?
Alan: No, I haven’t seen it.
Xiao: She picked it up from the police station, and everyone went crazy and they were like, “You picked up a victim card? That shows the real victim? What’s going on?” [laughs] She’s–ugh. She still continues to play as the victim basically. I remember when I made a video telling everyone to stop harassing Venus, and Margaret commented and said, “I’m glad you admitted that you’re wrong,” and I’m like, “Huh?” [laughs] She was like, “When I see you, come give me a hug,” and I cringed. I was like, [shivering sound]. This Saturday, there’s an anime convention, and apparently Margaret is going to be there, and I was like, “Fff–beep.” [sic] If she comes running after me in that bikini I’m going to run.
Alan: What else?
Xiao: Margaret is a liar. That’s all I’m going to say. [laughs] Venus had a live broadcast, and she told her fans, “Oh, this Chinese girl in London is bullying me,” and her Japanese viewers were like, “Let’s kill her!” and stuff like that. Venus, she lets them say those kind of stuff. If I saw my fans say, “Lets kill Venus,” I would immediately stop and be like, “How do you say that?”
Alan: That’s not cool.
Xiao: She doesn’t care. She wants me to die, that’s why.