Interview: Raven, the Acid Bath Princess – Then and Now
Posted: by The Editor
If you are over a certain age you remember the illustrious YouTube days when the internet was beginning to bloom with content, and we were all just starting to understand what it meant to be funny/interesting/creative on the world wide web. That same time period (the late 2000’s) was the peak of a certain era of “emo”: trips to Hot Topic, listening to My Chemical Romance, chugging Monster while daydreaming about the next Warped Tour lineup.
At this very moment in the history of the internet and underground music, a hero emerged: Raven, the Acid Bath Princess of Darkness along with her (not so merry) band of goths: Tara and Azer. These early era YouTube stars created deadpan videos playing up their emo style and attitudes to 10,000% of the normal range. Quickly their simple videos began to go viral and spread across the internet and music communities. Who were these two and were they seriously THIS emo? Unsurprisingly the hate mail followed suit.
And then, near the peak of their popularity, the videos stopped and Raven and her crew disappeared as fast as they had manifested. The world was left wondering, so what the fuck was that? And if either Raven or Tara would ever reemerge. However, after all these years. Raven is back, making more YouTube videos in the style she had helped invent, revealing lost footage from the old days, and beginning to reclaim her throne as the Emo Queen.
Raven spoke with Tina to discuss internet fame, being an adult emo, and what the culture of online comedy is now.
Tina: How does it feel to be internet popular again? What made you decide to come back to YouTube?
Raven: Honestly, it just feels so surreal. But for the most part, in the best possible ways. It’s really wild. I only returned publicly in the first place because I felt like I had to.
The three of us, Tara, Azer, and I, we were all inundated with really hateful, abusive, disgusting comments every single day that our videos were online. So starting from, like, 2008, all the way through present, honestly, I think that the the really bad stuff started to sort of taper down in intensity, although I was scrolling through the comments the other day, and Tara found one from three years ago of somebody threatening to rape and murder me. So, we were really just inundated with so much hate when we were when we were online. And after coming forward, I’ve heard from so many people that they had no idea. They thought that everyone thought our videos were funny. They thought that everyone knew their videos were jokes. But the fact of the matter is, they just they they didn’t, they didn’t at all.
And you know, I definitely expected some type of negative feedback, because I created Raven to troll people. But I was expecting comments that were more along the lines of like, “You guys are posers” or “What the fuck? Simple Plan isn’t goth”. Not comments that were saying, “you should have been aborted.” or “I hope your whole family dies of cancer.” Stuff like that. And so, over time, we kind of just stopped paying attention, because we assumed all of the feedback would have been the same. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we did have some people in the comments who were like, you know, you guys are hilarious, you geniuses, you are trolling people, so well, and the fact that people can’t pick up on this just means, you know, it reflects poorly on them, not you. But all of that. I think, I think when you’re in that kind of situation, especially when you’re already like a young, vulnerable teenager, or just a vulnerable, vulnerable person, period. I’m 31. And I’m still a big sensitive baby. So, that stuff just kind of hits you harder, and all of the good that people say it’s, it’s so easy to get outweighed by the bad, especially one even like, statistically the stuff that you’re seeing, that’s bad, you’re seeing like, you know, 70% more than the positive stuff.
So basically, Tara and I just decided a few years ago that we would keep the mystery alive for as long as we could. We decided that because, first of all, neither of us wanted to open ourselves up to that type of abuse again, because we assumed that coming forward would mean that, you know, it would be kind of like Groundhog Day with the YouTube comments. And we didn’t want that and you know, with me also, my career as a sex worker, I’m already an easy target. So I was worried that if I came forward, people would take that hatred over. And it would transfer into my career. But yeah, to begin with, I finally decided to come forward, because I mean, I look like Raven, because I am Raven, right? And over the past few years, some people started to put together the fact that Raven looks like a baby version of Petra, which is my dominatrix persona.
Did people ever recognize you in real life, from the videos, especially like when you’re working?
No, nobody has ever recognized me as Raven before, well, nobody in person. Although, around 2018 or so people started to make the connection that Petra looks like a grownup version of Raven. And so yeah, I would have people approached me on my work social media and asked me if I was if I was Raven. In 2018, that probably happened once every six months, so not that often at all. And, since Tara and I were still terrified to come out, it was easy for me to say, “oh, my God, I get that all the time. But I’ve watched those videos, and I’m a good five to six years older than those girls.” You know, just kind of leave it at that. But then, it kind of increased in intensity as time went on. So I got asked even more in 2019. In 2020, I was probably getting asked every three months or so. And this definitely correlated with the rising popularity of TikTok.
I saw your videos circulating around again, and was wondering who is bringing these back? And then suddenly people were posting it again on Instagram. I was really excited, actually, when I saw it again. Because for me, it was like a big part of my so called ‘internet upbringing’. Especially because I was like one of those annoying hot topic emo kids.
Yeah, it really started increasing in 2020. Around the fall of 2020, there was a TikTok video that got a lot of attention because I’m listed as both Petra and Raven. I got maybe 50 followers within 4 hours after that, which was unheard of for me, and I had 3 different people DMing me about the TikTok. Anytime somebody asked, I just always denied it, but then after that September incident, I got in touch with Tara. And I told her that I might want to start thinking about coming out soon, because it seems like things might spiral out of my control. We decided not to come out and just, you know, keep the secret alive, because that TikTok wasn’t terribly popular, and after a day, everything had died down. and I was back to living in peace.
But then at the end of December, I noticed that there was definitely an uptick in new followers and people commenting, “Are you Raven?” on my photos as Petra, and people arguing in the comments about whether or not it was me or not. I just kind of watched everything and didn’t really bother jumping in. But by the end of the year, everything had snowballed, and I was getting hundreds of new followers a day, and my comments on my photos were just getting flooded. It was too much. I still had all of those anxieties from being so emotionally scarred from my experience on YouTube. I was really worried, and I was starting to get really fucking anxious about it.
I worried that since there was this Internet manhunt trying to figure out who Raven was, and where she was now, if I didn’t say anything, somebody may have gotten so wrapped up in the fervor of trying to be the one to find me and get the pat on the back or whatever, that they might dox me in ways that were incredibly dangerous to me as a sex worker, without even realizing like what they were doing. So, I decided that I need to just come clean as soon as possible, and just claim everything.
I thought that maybe that would be enough to put all of the attention to rest and that, you know, maybe 1000 people would see my video. I just kind of thought that, like, I would move on, and it would be business as usual, and that like nobody would fucking care. But that’s not what happened at all. And it’s been so wild.
— Raven, the Acid Bath Princess (@ravenisaposer) January 2, 2021
I love to see how much support you’ve gotten since returning, and how much love that’s come your way, because like I said, for so many of us those videos were such a big part of our childhood, that we are still quoting them as adults.
That’s so wild to me and blows me away because I really had no idea and neither did Tara or Azer. We’ve all just been living these past 12 years thinking that we tried to be funny, but the only people who thought it was funny were us, and everybody else just hated us and wanted us gone. And so to wake up every single day to all of these messages in my DMs talking like, “Oh my God, your videos means so much to me.” or “I thought you guys were so cool. I wanted to be like. You all really inspired me.” It’s, it’s made me cry multiple times, because I just have not expected it at all. And I lived the past 12 years thinking that something I cared about and I was really proud of, that it was just hated and loathed by everyone except for me. I think subconsciously that kind of weighed on me in ways that I never really allowed myself to process until these these past few days. And so just being subjected to so much love and appreciation after thinking for years and years and years. Nothing I ever did mattered. Just makes me really emotional, and I’ve cried in every single one of my interviews.
What was the original initial inspiration for the videos?
Around that time in my life, my late teens, I wanted a career in comedy. I wanted to be a comedy performer and writer. And I fell in love with improv when I was 13. I fucking loved it. I spent a lot of time in high school, writing sketches and creating characters with my friends and riffing off of each other, going back and forth, creating characters and stuff. I discovered 4chan in about 2006, and I decided that I wanted to create some characters. YouTube was fairly new, but I wanted to create some characters, put them on YouTube and troll people with them, and have them go viral as a result of the trolling, and hopefully, it would have led to something bigger.
So I decided that so back in 2007 or so, and goth kids and emo kids and alternative kids, they were everyone’s punch line at that time. When I was 12 through 14, I went through my own “goth” phase. I’m putting it in quotes because like, I was not goth. I was totally emo. But I didn’t want to be called emo because nobody wanted to be called emo. It wasn’t something that like anyone took a point of pride in. I thought Goths were tougher, and I wanted to be tough. I got picked on a lot, and I was always the weird kid. Baby Sarah got picked on a lot.
And so I think part of what drew me to goth/emo/alt subculture, basically it was just that I felt protected that way. Like if I made myself untouchable, then nobody could touch me. I think it’s probably a lot deeper than that. Because I mean, I don’t think anybody when they’re a kid just wakes up one day, and it’s like, I’m going to be emo now. So many factors lead into it. It just made sense to me then. And in hindsight, of course, it makes sense to me now.
So, yeah, I went through my own little goth/emo/alt phase younger, but when I was about 15 or so I started coming out of that and getting into punk. And when I was in my more like, punk phase or whatever, looking back on my emo phase, I was like, “Oh, my God, what the fuck, I can’t believe I was embarrassing”. Between that and having had a history in comedy and making comedy characters, and then because I had previously been the same kind of cringey person that I was going to make fun of, I had a leg up.
I could take those characteristics that baby Sarah had, and just move them to Raven, and kind of amplify them enough for comedic effect. Adding some things in along the way like Tara and I are talking about how hot Gerard Way is, that’s something that I didn’t really do. I fucking loved hot topic though. I thought hot topic was like the epitome of high fashion at the time. So yeah, it was it was so easy for me to take that information and that knowledge and make it such a firm part of Raven’s identity, because it had been such a firm part of my identity.
So whenever I was thinking of video ideas or bits or whatever, all I pretty much had to do was think “okay, what can I say right now that would have pissed baby Sarah off.” One of the things that is an example of that was, baby Sarah being so obsessed with hot topic and would have been so offended by people calling themselves goths but like wearing pink and white. So we did incorporate those things into our videos on purpose, for that reason.
Were the videos scripted or improvised?
Mostly freestyling and improvised.
Do you ever feel that these videos are a time capsule of that age? Because it’s such a profound time for music and media and even though these videos are just comedy videos, it really did capture that phenomenon at the time like the emo, Twilight, Hot Topic, combination. And you did it in such a clever and condensed manner. Do you ever feel like it manages to kind of transcend YouTube and kind of just be emo history of that time?
Yes and no. The only reason why I’m gonna say no is just because I feel like we didn’t do a very good job of representing the fashion: makeup and hair, basically. I had very minimal makeup skills growing up, I wasn’t really allowed to or encouraged to wear makeup. So in some of those videos I was trying to make it look bad, but I was also trying to do my best at the same time. So yeah, I think in a few ways, I wish that we had had a better more stereotypical wardrobe, but at the same time, I think that because we didn’t that adds an element of realism to it, because for me when I was going through my little baby goth, baby, emo phase or whatever, I sure as hell didn’t come from a family that had enough money to take me a hot topic whenever I wanted. I couldn’t dress how I wanted so I just kind of like made the best of it. And I think that my friends who did come from wealthier families with parents who, like weren’t totally alarmed that their child is turned into this little like, dark, gloomy.
Why do you think there was the reaction to these videos that there was at the time that they came out? Why were they taken to be serious and not comedy?
I think it’s because of a few things. I think it’s because we were women and especially young women. Not only are women not allowed to be funny, but young women and like teenage people are not allowed to be funny either. Like there’s really no space for teenagers and young people in comedy. Or at least there wasn’t, I think social media and TikTok are probably changing that considerably. But in 2008 that wasn’t a thing. There wasn’t a space for us. And the fact that I have a very solid deadpan as well as like just a very natural intensity. I think that combination of deadpan and intensity, just kind of like sold everything.
Yeah, definitely. And like you said, the characters that you were playing effected that as well. There was such a big dislike for emo and the alternative community and that’s changed a lot now too. All of that stacked up against the videos and people’s perceptions of them. I think that probably swayed a lot of how people actually perceived it.
Yeah, and I can I can see that now. But for many, many years, I thought that people just didn’t see me as funny, and then that meant that I wasn’t funny.
Do you have any favorite memories surrounding the video making?
Oh my god. Well, I remember that it was so much fun. I just remember giggling about it. Logging back into YouTube after posting a video and seeing some mean comments and being like, “hehe, it’s working. Let me go troll them back.” And then reading more comments, there was a comment on one of the early videos, that was like, “you’re not goth. If you really were goth, you’d know who Joy Division were” And then I replied, “Joy Division? I don’t think so. If they’re not played at Hot Topic, then they’re not goth enough for me.” And feeling so delightful and giddy that I was able to continue the joke.
On a side note, I’m actually wearing a Joy Division shirt from hot topic. So I know you said that you’re working on on kind of creating a little bit more content. Can you tell us what it is that you’re planning to post?
Yeah, I honestly am still trying to figure that out because the past five days have honestly been such a blur and in the best way possible. I’m waiting to wake up one morning and like for nobody to care anymore or something like that. But I definitely do want to keep making videos for sure. So I have a I have a lot of unreleased footage that I’m going to be slowly rolling out. I want to do some videos where I talk a little bit more about little like fun facts behind the scenes things. I want to do some reaction videos where I react to watching the first time and years and years and years and like, tell stories about them and pointed out my favorite jokes and stuff. I want to do some videos where I scroll through each video and read out some of the most hilarious comments.
I also want to definitely speak on all of the harassment that we all receive. Because I think that for a lot of people, that is easy to kind of like gloss over. I want to do a video where maybe I scroll through, and I share some of the darker stuff that was said to us about how like, you know, we should kill ourselves and just talk a little bit more because the three of us at the time, we’re all struggling with our own mental health. I’ve had, like depression and anxiety issues for pretty much as long as I can remember. And at the time, it’s not like we could say, “Hey, you guys, a lot of you have been making really mean remarks about Tara’s weight, but her weight has fluctuated so much, because she’s on antidepressants.” We couldn’t say that back then, because then that would have just been fuel for more people to say even worse things about her.
When did you realize when did you realize you were an adult emo?
I’m 31 now, and I only realized I was an “adult emo” very slowly, over the years. I distinctly remember being 26 and taking a bath while listening to The Used and thinking “I can’t believe I actually like this, but I’m gonna fucking keep listening to it anyway.” It was always easier for me to embrace my love of pop punk as an adult, than it was for me to embrace my love of emo. So yeah, around 26 I started listening to more emo and I still joked about it in a self deprecating way. But by 28, I started embracing the it.
I know that you’ve kind of been away from the internet for a little while. So just kind of give us a brief rundown of what’s been going on?
I have been away from the internet for so long, because of my job as a sex worker, I have been a sex worker for 10 years now, in some capacity or another. And for the past five years or so, I have been focused on dominating, as a professional dominatrix. And so as sex workers, there’s definitely, a privacy required. The way that people talk about sex work now has changed dramatically from even just a few years ago. And it’s slowly starting to become more socially acceptable, I think.
But pretty much the first thing that you learn as a sex worker is that it makes you an easy target, and that people are going to harass you. And it is not smart for you to have social media connected to your personal life. So I shut it all down. I haven’t had social media for my personal life in years. And Tara hasn’t had personal social media for her personal life in years. Because she just thinks it’s toxic. And she thinks it’s nobody’s business, what she’s up to, on her own time, you know?
I’ve always had social media for my job. So I have still been on the internet, it’s just that I’ve been on the internet under a much different, much more underground persona. And then then COVID hit, and that really, really sucked a lot. A huge, huge mindfuck for everyone. It just totally decimated my income. Throughout my career in sex work, I have been doing a lot of stuff that is online, which is, I think another reason why people were able to kind of put two and two together to find me because, you know, I look the same. My voice sounds the same.
There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors that goes into sex work. I think a lot of clients and outside observers just think that, especially with the rise in Onlyfans right now, I think a lot of people think that all sex workers do is post nudes, and then make $100,000’s instantly, but that’s not what happens at all. And I was never mainstream popular as a sex worker. So even though I was working online, and I did have all of these different streams of income. I had to work my fucking ass off like every single day, because first of all, because you have to work your ass off every single day for sex work, but then you also have to work your ass off double if you are not crazy popular.
So I’ve been so work focused for so long, it makes me embarrassed to talk about it because I can’t say I have all these hobbies, or I did all of this travel. But I’ve done all of these really cool things, they just don’t seem cool to me. I went to grad school for creative nonfiction writing but then I decided to drop out because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I dropped out to open my first dungeon. I took some improv classes. But I ended up dropping out of those too, because I was depressed. It kind of plays whole stereotype of comedians being funny, but also being sad as shit. That’s that’s pretty much what I’ve been up to. But I’m working my ass off trying to like build something.
Raven and I ended our conversation soon after this. We laughed and cried together, reminiscing about the earliest days of social media, and how the world has changed so much before our eyes. It seems like only yesterday we were mall goths/emos, but in the end I’m glad that Raven immortalized this time, giving us something to revisit over and over again.
Konstantina Buhalis // @tinatlking
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