For the last five years, Spill Sesh, a popular YouTube channel, has covered the world of social media stars, providing detailed recaps and tart commentary on their scandals and beefs du jour.
But even as the Spill Sesh channel racked up more than 700,000 subscribers, the person behind it kept her identity secret. She has not appeared in the account’s more than 1,000 videos and has disguised her voice with an audio filter called monster.
Her viewers have long speculated about who or what was behind the channel. Was it a content farm? Or someone related to a famous YouTuber? Or maybe a famous YouTuber, doing gossip on the side? On Friday, the mystery was solved when the person behind Spill Sesh revealed her secret in a new video.
She is Kristi Cook, a former TMZ staff member who grew up in Florida. In an interview with The New York Times, the first she has given under her own name, she said that she had initially kept her identity hidden because she felt it gave her more creative freedom. Now that she’s self-employed, and doing well enough to own a house in Los Angeles, she sees no reason to stay in the shadows.
Ms. Cook, 26, developed an interest in pop culture as a young girl, during what she described as her “Disney Channel era.” After that, she went online and more or less stayed there. “YouTube was where I was consuming all my content from middle school and beyond,” she said.
She contributed to USA Today in her first year at Florida Atlantic University. Then she moved to California and worked as a tour guide on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, outside Los Angeles. She soon landed an internship at TMZ that eventually became a full-time job, and dropped out of college.
“Our art department was called ‘the galleries,’ and we made photo galleries,” Ms. Cook said. “On the top of the TMZ website, there’s like five main stories, and two of them are photo oriented.” Her work involved “scouring Instagram every single day,” she said, an experience that prepared her for eventual career.
“One day in 2018, I stumbled upon a drama video,” Ms. Cook said, referring to an online genre known as drama commentary, in which a host recaps the ups and downs of people with large followings on YouTube. “I was fascinated by the fact that people were interested in news about YouTubers, because at the time I didn’t think mainstream media was…