The untold truth of Poppy

Art is subjective, and for a surprisingly large number of people, this means that a strange, blonde lady who's released quietly ominous YouTube videos and loudly ominous music is the artist of the hour. Poppy has been causing confusion among the unwary viewers since she set up her YouTube channel, steadily gaining popularity with performance art videos centering on her eerie, borderline David Lynch-ian character, as well as a wildly varying musical output that gleefully ignores any and all genre lines. 

As you're about to find out, there seems to be no telling where Poppy might pop up, what she might do, and who she might be working with — and considering her rising success, her fans seem to love her all the more for this unpredictability. But who is she, really? How did she come up with her peculiar character, and what's her endgame with all of this oddness? Let's take a look at the untold truth of Poppy. 

Poppy begins

As The Guardian tells us, Poppy's real name is Moriah Pereira, but as her bizarro YouTube character feels equal parts artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial, she's understandably rather restrained when it comes to her personal life. 

However, she's been known to lift the veil of secrecy on select occasions, such as her big 2019 interview with NME. While the article notes that Poppy the artist is notorious for her robotic, "emotionally guarded" presence, it also manages to dig deeper into the person behind the veil. She reveals that she had a difficult, lonely childhood in Nashville and was bullied to the extent that she was eventually homeschooled. (Ironically, she was bullied for "being skinny and quiet," which combined with spending a chunk of her childhood alone with just her computer for company sounds an awful lot like building blocks for her eventual Poppy character.) 

Pereira eventually got a neat record deal with a major label, moved to Los Angeles without notifying anyone, and started building herself under the stage name ThatPoppy. Unfortunately, it soon transpired that her deal was awful, and she was unhappy with the way things were going with her ThatPoppy career. However, it just so happens she met a fellow artist called Titanic Sinclair, and the two started collaborating on YouTube despite her label's protests. The rest, as they say, is history. 

She's a YouTube phenomenon

Much of Poppy's appeal comes from her high-concept character that, according to The Guardian, can be described as "an alien, an object, a computer, your pet." It should be noted that those are her own creepy words, not some thirsty reporter's. There are hundreds of odd, cute, pastel tone videos on her YouTube channel, which feature her doing ... nothing much, really. She might hang around with a plant or a mannequin, or she might silently eat candy floss. She might repeat the words "I'm Poppy" for ten straight minutes or reassure us that she's not in a cult. 

Here's the catch, though. There's something oddly hypnotic about the character and the pacing of the videos, and it's extremely easy to fall down an online rabbit hole watching video after video of her doing whatever. In fact, Poppy's output and hushed tones have been compared to the popular ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos that some people find incredibly pleasing. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that her videos have a strange, quietly ominous, disturbing quality to them, which fascinates many internet denizens to no end. As a result, she's a subject of various conspiracy theories and much bemusement. It's all very strange and more than enough to put her on the map.  

Poppy has a religion

Many pop stars are revered figures who are essentially worshipped by their fans. As Business Insider tells us, Poppy has taken this to the next level by actually having a religion of her own. In fact, she didn't even have to found it herself, as a huge fan put it together for her. Appropriately enough, the religion is called Poppyism, and its "holy book" is a Google doc called The Gospel of Poppy. It's unclear just how much Poppy herself is in on that particular action, but she's certainly been riding the "cult leader" aesthetic herself. She has also published a book under the name The Gospel of Poppy, and The Clarion notes that her concert staff have been known to act as brainwashed cultists, with the merchandise people handing out cards that tell the attendees to "reserve your spot in the Church of Poppy." 

Regardless of all this, it appears that Poppy isn't planning to ditch online stardom in favor of building a megachurch. Her "cult" website, poppy.church, is now closed, and its message reveals that the whole thing was largely an "experimental storytelling and fan platform." 

She's a subject of wild conspiracy theories

With the exception of some of her I Disagree-era music videos, Poppy's output is not particularly visceral. However, there are often slightly unnerving elements woven into the Poppy fabric, and with the internet being what it is, this has led to some pretty wild conspiracy theories about her. In 2017, Business Insider and Mysterious Universe told us that Poppy was already a subject of an impressive array of wild tinfoil hat speculation, ranging from her being a robot or an otherwise inhuman figure to her being an Illuminati-controlled puppet or an unwilling test subject form the infamous Project MKUltra

Poppy, on the other hand, has been happy to add fuel to the fire by incorporating copious Illuminati symbols in her videos and selling a suspiciously specific T-shirt with the text, "I am not in a cult led by Poppy." In one concert, she even invoked the 1978 Jonestown incident (where Jim Jones manipulated over 900 cultists to drink poison) by passing out cups of Kool-Aid and announcing she wasn't responsible for any fatalities. Of course, the imagery Poppy drops here and there is likely just a part of her concept ... or is it? Dun dun DUNN.  

Poppy the musician

Apart from her career as a professional un-nerver of YouTube viewers, Poppy is a very popular musician. However, she's gone through quite an evolution as an artist. Her first release was a 2016 EP called Bubblebathwhich she released on Island Records under the stage name ThatPoppy. According to NME, she soon morphed into her familiar Poppy form and started leaning more heavily into her cute-yet-robotic YouTube persona. The result was two albums of "candy-flavored robo-pop," 2017's Poppy.computer and 2018's Am I A Girl?

In hindsight, however, it's easy to think that Poppy didn't exactly reach her full potential on those albums. A part of this was due to not one but two dodgy record deals she found herself in, and the rest comes from her self-admitted failure to listen to her gut because she was trying to keep her body of work stylistically consistent. More recently, she's said that she's "working more on impulse than before," and if you compare her old music to her latest and easily heaviest album, 2020's I Disagree, it's pretty easy to see that she practices what she preaches. 

Poppy and plagiarism accusations

In April 2018, dark clouds appeared on the pastel-hued skies of Planet Poppy. As The Verge tells us, a fellow YouTuber called Mars Argo (pictured) was suing both Poppy and her creative partner (and the Poppy character's alleged creator), Corey "Titanic Sinclair" Mixter. Argo, whose real name is Brittany Sheets, alleged that she was the original version of the Poppy character, and Moriah Pereira (Poppy's real name) was merely a "Mars Argo knockoff." Oh, and she also sought a restraining order against Mixter for domestic violence and noted that she'd endured "severe emotional and psychological abuse and manipulation" from him during their time together. That's some pretty heavy stuff.

Poppy was involved in the lawsuit for allegedly being a "knowing accomplice" to Mixter's assortment of atrocities, and also because the lawsuit made some pretty awful allegations about the nature of her character by pointing out an uncomfortable amount of similarities between "Mars Argo" and "Poppy." While Loudwire notes that the case was ultimately settled, it did create an apparently permanent rift between Poppy and Mixter, and Poppy has pointed out herself that her "creative partner" has indeed inflicted similar wrongdoings on her as he allegedly did on his Sheets. Meanwhile, the accusations of her character being a knockoff have obviously been settled as far as the law is concerned ... though some might think it's not entirely a coincidence that Poppy's character has been transitioning away from her origins recently. 

Her involvement with Titanic Sinclair

As NME notes, the majority of Poppy's career has been crafted in a creative partnership with a producer named Titanic Sinclair. The two met at a party and hit it off, with Sinclair comparing the chance encounter with the future star being "like meeting David Bowie." Poppy and Sinclair made Poppy's famous YouTube videos together, putting more and more effort into it as she became increasingly unhappy with her record company at the time. Poppy admits that the dynamic seems a lot like she's the hapless star and Sinclair is the man pulling the strings, but she insists that the image is intentional and their partnership is evenly matched.

Or rather, was. As Loudwire reports, Poppy parted ways with Sinclair in December 2019 in the aftermath of a lawsuit involving Sinclair's old partner, Mars Argo. Poppy explained the situation in a social media post where she broke character and said that a lot of unsavory things had been "brought to her attention." According to her, Sinclair had several "manipulative patterns" that he'd repeated numerous times on both her and others, including some of Poppy's former friends. She also stated that Sinclair has tried to "grab attention" in various underhanded ways, up to and including attempting suicide after messaging some fans first.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.   

Poppy and the WWE

A professional wrestling ring is pretty much the last place you'd imagine to see a willowy, otherwordly performer like Poppy in, but as Wrestling Inc. tells us, she hasn't only worked with the WWE — she's basically a regular on their NXT brand. Don't worry, she doesn't actually wrestle anyone (though, considering her unpredictability, we're not sure we'd bet against her if she did). Instead, she's performed several of her newer, harder tunes as theme songs of various NXT events and to promote a wrestler named Io Shirai. 

Don't think that Poppy has tuned down the oddness for these events, though. If anything, she's turned it up to 11. Revolver describes her November 2019 performance at an event as "insane," and it's hard to disagree when you notice that her creepy show puts even the worst heel wrestlers to shame ... and that her backing band consists entirely of people in form-fitting PVC clothes, creepy doll masks, and platinum blonde wigs that are reminiscent of Poppy's older hairstyles. 

Her feud with Grimes

In 2018, Poppy had a high-profile collaboration with Canadian musician Grimes. Unfortunately, Spin reports that the fruit of their labor, a song called "Play Destroy," didn't exactly turn the two artists into BFFs. Poppy threw the first public stone in an interview with Billboard, stating that despite many months' attempts to get the song released, Grimes was standing in the way. Poppy went on to say that she was "bullied into submission" by Grimes and her people, and she even stated, "I got to watch her bully songwriters into signing NDA[s] and not taking credit for songs that they were a part of." 

That's two uses of the word 'bully,' which predictably didn't sit too well with Grimes. She addressed Poppy on Instagram, making clear that the YouTube star wasn't exactly her favorite coworker in history, saying, "Poppy, you dragged me into a disgusting situation and won't stop punishing me for not wanting to be a part of it. I don't want to work with you, you leaked the song anyway." She then told Poppy to "let it go." 

Poppy, it appears, did let it go. In a November 2019 interview with NME, the interviewer told Poppy how weird it was that Grimes' first single since the altercation, "We Appreciate Power," was from an artificial intelligence's point of view and almost seemed to dip into Poppy's aesthetic. However, Poppy wasn't interested in revisiting the spat and dismissed it as "kind of dead news." 

Poppy's graphic novels

It's easy to assume that an artist as permanently strange as Poppy would have some equally strange side projects. Well, it's true, and one of her more offbeat projects is Poppy's very own comic book universe. As The Hollywood Reporter tells us, the artist followed her 2017 book, The Gospel of Poppy, by diving headfirst in the world of comics. In 2019, she continued her oddly biblically-named literary career with a comic book called Genesis I, which told a version of her origin story. According to Loudwire, the title was a successful one, to the point of being one of Z2 Comics' best publications of the year. 

With that in mind, it's probably no surprise that Poppy is planning to continue her comic book domination in July 2020. Keeping with her new, harder image, the new title will be called Damnation: Poppy's Inferno, and it looks like we'll quite literally see the character trudging through Hell, thanks to malicious characters seeking to "control and change her for their own purposes." Surely, all of this has absolutely nothing to do with her recent break from her creative partner, Titanic Sinclair. After all, as Loudwire reminds us, Poppy and Sinclair's former partner Mars Argo have both alleged that he had a bad habit of doing suspiciously similar things to people.   

Going metal

Poppy rose to notoriety as a weird YouTuber and an eccentric pop star, but as NME tells us, after her first two records, she started adapting a radically different, though no less weird, direction. Her aesthetic took a turn for the dark, and by the end of 2019, Poppy was having photo shoots in fetish dungeons. The change reflected to her music, as well. The songs got heavier and the guitar walls were louder (also, there were guitar walls in the first place), to the point that her I Disagree album opened at #5 on Billboard's hard rock chart.  

Poppy says that the change was rather organic, as when she was making Am I Girl? she was already listening to heavier music, and the "disconnect" between her personal preferences and the relatively sugary tunes she was crafting in the studio was getting to her. She feels that it's the artist's right to evolve, and she compares her recent change to the way David Bowie moved away from his Ziggy Stardust character. 

Poppy soars to success

With 2020's I Disagree, the formerly much poppier Poppy was suddenly basically metal. That sort of radical tone shift might be a death sentence for some artists, but Poppy not only persevered — she soared. The album entered Billboard's emerging artists chart at No. 2, hard rock chart at No. 5, and top rock albums chart at No. 15. As Metacritic and Allmusic readily show, I Disagree also received some very, very nice reviews. Poppy's new direction drew comparison to artists from Slipknot and Rammstein to the Beach Boys, and even traditionally heavy metal-focused outlets such as Kerrang! couldn't help but admire the end product. 

And just like that, it looks like one of the hottest metal acts on the planet is a sweet-looking girl whose largest claim to fame used to be a bunch of strange YouTube videos where she acted like an artificial intelligence. Hey, maybe we all live in a computer simulation after all.