It’s hard for Sweet Anita to think of a time when gaming wasn’t part of her life.
Eventually, she started playing online. The freedom was liberating, especially for a young woman with Tourette’s syndrome.
“[Online gaming is] really amazing for me because people can respond very negatively to my condition, or they can fetishize it or over-romanticize it. And it was really amazing to have a means of connecting with people, where people saw me before my condition,” the gamer told In The Know. “I think my whole life started — my whole social life — started with online gaming.”
Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder that manifests itself through tics, twitches or other involuntary actions. As Sweet Anita explained, it’s a very “visible” condition.
That visibility is one thing when you’re gaming with a few friends. It’s another thing entirely when you’re broadcasting for hundreds of thousands of fans.
Today, Sweet Anita’s life is under a much wider lens. The 29-year-old, who joined Twitch in 2018, now has more than 1.2 million followers on the platform. That’s on top of 880,000 YouTube subscribers and nearly 200,000 followers on Twitter.
Across all of her channels, Sweet Anita is outspoken about her condition. Her tics, which are often verbal, appear during her streams. She’s used her broadcasts to raise around $40,000 for disability-focused charities (and that number is still growing).
What she doesn’t want, though, is to be defined by her condition.
“I guess, it’s always the thing that people will notice about me first,” she told In The Know. “And the thing is I’ve grown used to it long before I’ve arrived on Twitch.
Sweet Anita said she has a “wonderful community” of viewers, but that many people —mostly those who don’t watch her streams — still “tend to think of me as just someone with Tourette’s syndrome.”
Instead of letting that get her down, Sweet Anita has turned the negativity around. Whenever people stereotype, criticize or pigeonhole her, she uses it as a chance to raise awareness.
She also lets her actions speak for her. Sweet Anita’s works often with Tourette’s Action, a U.K.-based charity that aims to help kids growing up with the condition. Her most recent fundraiser pulled together $11,000 for the organization.
“I didn’t expect [my channel] grow this fast or have this many people take an interest in me,” she told In The Know. “And while they’re here, I like to get them involved in the stuff that I’m passionate about and try to make a difference. And so far, it’s really working, which is great.”
When she’s not raising money for charity, Sweet Anita is broadcasting practically every day, playing games like Among Us and Crash Bandicoot (one of her favorites), as well as hanging out online with other A-list streamers.
Sweet Anita has joined an elite group. She’s one of only 170 or so Twitch users with more than 1 million followers, an accomplishment that comes with a lot of extra attention.
The streamer said she gets recognized in public regularly, which can be “kind of scary” at times.
“If you’re trying to just shop at your local place where you get food, or if you’re traveling somewhere where you have to go regularly, and someone recognizes you, they could tell people that they’ve spotted you, and you can end up with stalkers … and it could be really really dangerous,” she told In The Know.
Stalkers are an issue Sweet Anita has dealt with openly in the past months. In July, she received death threats from one obsessive follower. At the time, she discussed the incident during her streams and used Twitter to update her followers on the harrowing situation.
Sweet Anita’s fame has led to some horrible and frightening moments, but it’s also given her plenty of chances to fight for acceptance — especially for people with Tourette’s syndrome. Sometimes, getting recognized in public isn’t a bad thing.
“Once actually, at the cinema, I bought a ticket, and I do the thing that I always do if I go to the cinema. I go, ‘Hi, I have Tourette’s syndrome, so if I’m being noisy and someone complains, I’m happy to leave. I’d rather I stop watching than ruin it for many other people. So it’s okay to ask me to leave, and I won’t kick up a fuss,'” she explained.
“And the guy behind the counter stopped me and went, ‘I know who you are, I’ve seen your streams, and nobody’s kicking you out.'”
Check out In The Know’s interview with streaming psychiatrist Dr. K.
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