When I try to explain Poppy to my friends, words like abstract, unusual and unnerving are usually the first words to come to mind. Still, even those descriptions seem inadequate to describe her sheer weirdness.
For those unfamiliar with Poppy, however, this might be the best way to put it: imagine the surrealism of David Lynch mixed with the bubblegum aesthetic of Katy Perry, and you’ll have a reasonable idea of the YouTuber’s appeal.
Physically, she resembles a Barbie doll. Her bleach-blonde hair is a notorious staple of her infamous brand. However, the exact nature of who or what Poppy is and where she came from is a mystery — one that will likely haunt viewers for years to come.
Since Poppy arrived on YouTube in 2017, the internet has been constantly considering and reconsidering various explanations for her existence on the platform. Viewers and listeners have created countless theories about the YouTube persona, claiming the musician is everything from a cutesy cult leader to a CIA-influenced Satanist.
However, factual evidence contradicts these conspiracy theories. It might be best to think of Poppy as the embodiment of pop music itself, in addition to a satirical statement on the music industry and internet culture.
These topics are the predominant themes of the videos found on her YouTube channel. Many of these videos last less than a minute.
Some of them feature the musician standing alone against a colorless background, speaking in an android-like monotone with an unremitting smile on her face, accompanied by the sounds of soothing ambient music. Additional characters include an envious mannequin named Charlotte, bleeding dopplegangers and a talking house plant.
While it barely exceeds the one-minute mark, the video “What Rhymes with Breath” serves as a perfect example of what you can expect from the sum of Poppy’s content. Otherworldly sound design, a tongue-in-cheek self-awareness and the sinister underpinnings of a horror movie fuse to form an eerie surrealism.
“What Rhymes with Breath” is guaranteed to cause sleepless nights and make you ponder the oldest of questions: What did I just watch? Luckily for you, there are 317 more videos on the channel to help answer this question.
For those who prefer their online content with a side of weirdness, Poppy is a jewel. While anyone can act strange on Youtube, Poppy’s content stands apart by incorporating relevant commentary alongside a dreamlike, surrealistic randomness. The two elements, more often than not, coalesce into one neat, weird and incredibly entertaining little package.
If I were to express my personal theories regarding the channel and its various ideologies, this article would likely triple in word count. So, for both your sake and mine, I will restrain myself from doing so. However, taking into account the summary included above, I would encourage you to watch the videos and formulate your own thesis about Poppy.
Is Poppy one of the stranger things you’ll find on YouTube? Probably. Nonetheless, the videos are funny and unconventional. Also, for aspiring Youtubers, they’re an illustration of how creating a personalized brand can benefit your career.
An Inspiring Explanation
The success of the Poppy project can be credited to the combined efforts of two individuals: Moriah Pereira, the musician and actress who portrays Poppy and Titanic Sinclair (born Corey Mixter), the director behind the camera.
While Pereira’s background is as mysterious the Poppy character, Sinclair has had several interviews in response to Poppy’s newfound fame. In these interviews, he provides the long-sought context and explanation behind the Poppy persona.
The director’s interest in film began at a young age. In high school, he decided to become a professional director. After graduating, Sinclair moved to Los Angeles, where he began collaborating with now-famous singer-songwriter Børns. Shortly thereafter, Sinclair met Pereira through mutual friends. Together, they started crafting the groundwork for Poppy.
The filmmaker strives to create art that is unafraid to, for lack of a better phrase, be weird. During an interview at Sundance this year, Sinclair elaborated on this attitude. “I don’t think a lot of people who are creating things are aiming to explore the parts of the mind that are weird.”
The films of directors like Darren Aronofsky, Gus Van Sant and Stanley Kubrick served as an emotional template that Sinclair sought to replicate. Most importantly, he wants to recreate the ambiguity in those movies, which allows their audiences room for interpretation. If the sheer number of conspiracy theories that Poppy has spawned is any indication, it must be working.
“I think the number one mistake that a lot of people make who create or tell stories is they underestimate the intelligence of the audience. People are smart, especially nowadays,” Sinclair says.
“It’s exciting when the audience gets to be a participant. How many theories about ‘The Shining’ are out there? Who knows which one’s right? Or ‘2001’? That’s what gets me excited about things. Hopefully people feel that way [about Poppy].”
I find the success stories of artists like Sinclair fascinating, which is why I write about them so often. Similar to Bertie Gilbert and George Miller, Sinclair made his own success with his creativity. However, also like Gilbert and Miller, his success might’ve never existed 20 years ago without the assistance of the internet.
Looking back, Sinclair observes that doubt is an obstacle every creator will eventually face. “Just do it, if [being an artist] is really what you want to do,” he says. “There were plenty of times when someone convinced me I couldn’t do it, or it wasn’t possible, but there was still that little thing in the back of my head, or in my gut that said, ‘No, they’re wrong.’”
Despite the doubts the LA-based director may have previously faced, his efforts and Pereira’s have both yielded substantial rewards, particularly over the past year. Poppy released her debut album “Poppy.Computer” in October 2017 to positive audience reception and critical acclaim.
This past January, a short film based on the character, titled “I’m Poppy” premiered at Sundance. Since then, “I’m Poppy” has spawned a YouTube Red series. Pereira and Sinclair return to their respective roles in front of and behind the camera, with Sinclair as the director and producer.
There’s no telling what the future holds for Sinclair and Pereira. One fact is certain, however: normality will not be in the picture.