A Sunday in September last year. Jovan Hill calls on the live-streaming app Periscope, where more than 7,000 people view his message. He currently lives in a flat in Brooklyn, New York. He needs $7,000 urgently.
For 7 minutes he tells – while he is blowing – about his plans to move to Los Angeles, he comments on the reactions of viewers and repeatedly asks for money. “I am very poor today”, it sounds, among other things. Within a few minutes, the donations start to flow in via the online payment systems Venmo and PayPal.
It is not an uncommon phenomenon in Hill’s life, which gives his 200,000 followers on Periscope, Patreon, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram alive and sarcastic look at his existence and attempts to give meaning through live streams, photos and messages.
And it does not bother him. He would earn up to 5,700 euros per month, five times as much as he earned when he was still working in the cinema kiosk. Something that surprises him. “My friends tell me they do not understand why some people send money to a stranger. And I can follow them in that,” he said last year in an interview with the New York Times. “But it is a community. A community that is built around me.”
He also added a tip of the veil in the Daily Mirror. “I give my followers a service,” he says. “That’s why they give me money. It is a bit like the Kardashians. I sit in the chair, I complain and I throw in a joke from time to time. And people pay.”
Hill was raised by a single mother, in a family with 12 children. After he first heard anonymous from online message forums and interactive games, he went to the social networking site Tumblr. There he told about his life as a student and how it was to grow up as a gay person in a religious family (at home they were with Jehovah’s Witnesses).
In 2016, for the first time, the generosity of its followers became clear when the electricity at his grandmother – with whom he has a very good relationship – was closed because the bills had not been paid. He asked for help online and raised no less than $ 3,000. “That was the first time that I realized that my followers were involved in how things were going,” he said.
It was not until last year that he started the begging tour full-time after he stopped his studies just before he would graduate from Texas State University. He then had a “manic” period after a relationship break. Then he went to New York with barely 20 USD in his pocket.
There he went to live with another live-streamer/influencer and since neither of them had an income, they started asking their followers for money. With results, because soon they could even move to a more upscale apartment.
He left a job in a cinema kiosk after a few weeks. “I earned less than if I went live five times a day from my apartment. Why would I start working?”
Meanwhile, his home base is Los Angeles and he is also there to let his followers enjoy what he is going through. In a never-ending stream of streams and tweets.
He explains the negative comments he gets about the way he earns his money. “I get it every day, all day long,” he says. “Well, at the end of the day I have money in my account and that’s fine for me. And my followers can not care about either.”
Whether he wants to continue doing this? “I thought for a while that I might be noticed as a social media manager because with my own account I show how good I am. That seemed interesting to me to spread viral content and for celebrities. I was hoping to be approached to twitter for others. But for the time being, I still twitter for myself. I am my own social media manager. But more brands and television networks notice me and my influence on social media, so that can still change.”