CultureViral SensationsWe See You

viral sensation: spirit payton is ms. pickles

June 25, 2019
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Here at AFROPUNK, we define culture. We are nothing without our community who are the ones who create the culture that we get to celebrate. Our platform is exactly that — a stage for those who break culture but are not always credited which, unfortunately, is not uncommon. Those who create culture are praised by the mainstream. They are copied but left in the dust once used. Well, more than a persona, our internet faves are real, talented and capable.

This is why we are celebrating Black Viral Sensations who are using social media to amplify their voice and presence. #AFROPUNKWESEEYOU

It is our immense pleasure to begin our “Breaking Culture” series with Spirit Payton, professionally known as ASMRTheChew and colloquially known as “The Pickle Lady” (which she proudly owns). Payton has over quite the reach with over 600,000 YouTube subscribers, 200,000 IG followers, and an infinite will to help others. Her videos began after her daughter introduced her to ASMR, finding it the only solace for her chronic pain. Once Payton realized her life was changed for the better with this sonic healing, instead of keeping it to herself, she decided to make videos with the intention of saving others. Since then, she has helped others with chronic pain, eating disorders, pregnancy, depression and more.

We spoke to Spirit Payton on the phone about being the viral sensation that she is.

Our theme this year at AFROPUNK is “WE SEE YOU.” What does that phrase means to you?

It means you see the person for who they are, what they represent, and what they put out.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from New Jersey but I live in Houston, Texas.

How did you initially get into the ASMR world?

I have a rapid bone disease. I deal with chronic pain, severe anxiety and pain anxiety. It got to the point where I was in so much pain that I couldn’t sleep. My daughter was doing research, trying to find something to bring me comfort and help me. She ran across ASMR. I never heard of it before but she put it on my headphones so I listened to it. I fell asleep and when I woke up, she said, “Mom, you’ve been asleep over two days!”

I was in this beautiful serene place. It was mountains, it was water, it was gorgeous. I just felt better. I woke up happy. I woke up ready and excited about life. I haven’t felt that way in years. I haven’t felt that way at all.

When she told me that it was ASMR, and that it was just someone tapping, crinkling paper and whispering to me, I was absolutely shocked. I could not hold a coffee cup in my hand. Literally I needed help just holding a coffee cup. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t get out of bed. I was bedridden. After listening to ASMR, within a week I noticed that I was sitting up. Before you know it, I was standing perfectly. I was in my kitchen cooking. My kids started dancing. They could not believe it. I was up cooking. I just felt happy for no reason. I couldn’t even explain it. You’re talking about a person who thought about dying every day. I felt like I was leaving this world. I felt like my time was up.

Why did you decide to create ASMR videos?

ASMR has helped me start to think about living. That’s why I decided to do it for other people — because I know what it does for me. It has literally given me my life back. I always had a very big personality but when you’re going through health issues, when you’re dealing with something you can’t explain to others and when you don’t have the energy to even live, it’s hard to come out of that.

ASMR gives you this euphoric feeling that you just cannot explain. You just feel better for no reason. When you feel better, it gives you the strength to try. It gives me the strength to go on. It gives me the strength to want to try to stand, to want to try to take another step. It gives me the strength to be able to know that a lot of my pain is there but I’m mentally strong enough to get through it.

Do you think that your audience has an accurate understanding of you?

I’m going to break down my audience. My audience are babies. Some women were pregnant when they listen to me or they watched my videos and it helped them get through their labor. Now, I also have babies that watch and it calms them down, it helps them sleep, keeps them from crying and brings them some comfort.

Then I have children who watch it because it helps them feel better. They feel comfort. They’re able to focus more. I have children that write in and they tell me, “Mama Spirit, I’m doing better in school. I’m doing better at home. I’m communicating with people better. I’m able to understand these things better.” I actually have children who have problems with angst. They say, “Mama Spirit, I no longer feel angsty. For some reason, I feel happy.”

Then, I’m dealing with teenagers. With teenagers you deal with people who come to you talking about suicide, who come to you about eating disorders, who come to you about their pressures at school, pressures at home. They’re able to cope.

Then, I have adults of all ages, some young and some of them older, who’re unable to deal with anxiety, depression, going through a divorce, going through a breakup, dealing with work, headaches, dealing with people.

I also have people that contact me, like therapists and doctors and athletes, who tell me that my videos have literally put them in a better state.

There’s not a day that I don’t get tons and tons of comments and emails from my positive community. You’re going to run into some negative stuff because people don’t understand what’s going on. That’s understandable. I get that but the majority of my community is very, very positive. Sometimes it weighs heavy on me because I have people who have listened to me who have passed away but they stayed with me the whole time.

There’s a lot of ASMR artists but I think there’s something specifically about you — your videos, in particular —  that draws so many people to you?

I truly believe it’s the love that I have. The genuine love that I have for the people. I think that they can feel it. Every day I show up I’m showing up for someone out there. I continue to live in my life so that I can make somebody else’s life better. I don’t lie about who I am, as far as my life, and what I do, and my personality. I’m not perfect. Some days I get up and I feel great. Some days I get up and it hurts me to put my feet on the ground, it hurts me to take that other step. Sometimes I cry just trying to make it back to my bed because I’m in so much pain but once I rest, when I think about the people, that’s what gets me up.

What’s your favorite food sound?

My favorite is the pickle sound, because it knocks you out.

Yeah, it’s pretty amazing.

When I hear the pickle sound it sends tingles from my brain to my back, then down to my toes. Sometimes I giggle, but before you know it, I’m snoring. I’m gone. I sleep so good. When I did the pickle, I knew it was going to be crazy. I knew they would say, “Ok, she’s done lost it.”

How do you feel about your nickname, “The Pickle Lady”?

I love it actually. I love it, because I love pickles. I genuinely eat pickles. I eat pickles as a snack. I eat pickles like I eat onions. I can’t eat them every day because you can’t eat pickles every day, you have to eat them in moderation.

You know there’s nowhere I go that I don’t get recognized? When people see me they already start to cry. They have me crying. They hold onto me, they don’t let me go. They just hold me. I say, “Wow.”