Before her September 2016 move to Missouri, Macaiyla Edwards’ love for both gaming and memes could’ve easily been seen as something other than the start of a successful Internet career unfolding.
As a student at Colonie Central High School, she’d often miss days on end just to play Call of Duty. And not just a few days. Edwards, now 22, estimates she missed about 45 days total and about three or four weeks each academic year to focus on gaming. And even when she was at school, she considered herself a bit of a jokester.
“Jokes were always a part of my life,” Edwards said. “Especially how many times I’d go to internal suspension. They’d call me on the loudspeaker and everyone would look at me. That was the start of being an idiot.”
But Edwards’ current career trajectory is anything but a joke. The gamer is currently balancing massive audiences on several platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Twitch and beyond. Roughly 225,000 people follow her on Twitch (twitch.tv/macaiyla), a video game streaming service, to watch her stream games like League of Legends and Valorant. Another 165,000 follow her on Instagram (@macaiyla) for fitness and life updates and nearly 200,000 Twitter (@macawcaw123) followers keep up with her on the app for, well, the jokes and memes. Basically, Edwards’ unfiltered humor, love for fitness and appreciation for gaming have all contributed to where she is now: An Internet personality with a steadily growing fanbase.
“I never wanted to be — I don’t want to say ‘famous’ — but I never wanted to have a social media presence,” Edwards said. “I just wanted to be one of those fitness girls. But it’s cool to see this grow.”
Edwards moved to Missouri in 2016 after she met her boyfriend, Tyler Steinkamp, while playing the video game H1Z1 earlier that year. The two immediately hit it off as Steinkamp, known by his Internet moniker Tyler1, was quickly growing a fanbase of now 4.1 million Twitch followers, making him now the 21st most followed streamer on the platform. The pair soon frequented gaming conventions together and Edwards found a new home in Missouri, when she realized she had a future in gaming.
“In September 2016 I had about 1,500 followers and 11 regular viewers [on Twitch]. And then, a month later when I met my boyfriend and we started dating, that’s when it took off,” Edwards said. “Around October and November, I hit 5,000 followers. And it’s still weird to adjust to.”
Shortly after, Edwards began to see her Instagram following explode, too, as she started posting updates of her fitness journey on a regular basis and the occasional selfie, which can earn upwards of 30,000 likes.
When she streams frequently — which she hasn’t done as much lately — Edwards said she sees about 2,500 viewers watching her and listening to her commentary during her gaming sessions. But lately, her focus has shifted to building her online presence in other areas. Still, regardless of which avenue she’s focused on at a certain time, it all helps her connect to her fans on all different platforms.
“My favorite part is the people that I meet,” Edwards said. “My friends online and then the fans. When you go to events and see that many people, it’s just a different world. There are a lot that come up to me to tell me that I’ve made them laugh, or they like my Twitter. That makes me happy. I’ve never met a mean person at a convention. They’ll bring their phone up and say, ‘I love this Tweet.’ Usually my boyfriend is the main focus, but I’ll think people are there for him and they want me to sign shirts or his merch.”
Edwards jokingly considers her Twitter presence to be “awful,” as she regularly floods her followers’ feeds with raunchy jokes and memes, but that doesn’t mean her fans feel the same way. After all, it’s another avenue that’s introduced her to even larger audiences.
“People enjoy seeing me write stupid things,” Edwards said. “It inspires them to not have a filter… [Then on Twitch,] there’s always people in our chats saying ‘Greetings from Venezuela or Argentina.’ It’s crazy that they’re that far away and watching or paying attention. There’s so many people from Japan that say hi.”
The international attention has been a lot to adjust to, Edwards said, but she embraces it. It’s giving her the opportunity to build beyond the online presence, too. At the moment, Edwards has started a business online where she sells stickers and pins featuring her drawings. And outside of that, she has even bigger plans: Selling her own merchandise by the end of the year and, hopefully, starting a clothing line of fitness leggings and shorts.
“It’s given me a platform to branch out,” Edwards said. “I can just do so much now. It’s limitless.”
To boost up her resume on the side, Edwards also works a retail job while she gets more involved in business ventures.
“Gaming is a job. It’s a great job,” Edwards said. “But I do want to have my own business one day. I do it (retail) so I have additional work experience that’s not involved with gaming.”
Edwards’ journey toward notoriety and building a brand has been unconventional to say the least. But she hopes other local kids, like she was just a few years ago, pursue their passions on the side, too. Even if everyone else thinks they’re just playing around.
“Even if you have one viewer or no viewers,” Edwards said. “There are so many people who end up getting lucky and anyone can become famous or get 100 viewers one day. You just can’t give up in a couple months. There are people I know who have been streaming for six years and now they like it. Do what you love. And if gaming is something you love, continue it.”