|Intro||British cosplayer, model and internet personality|
|Is||Internet personality Cosplayer Pornographic actor Model Artist Television producer Video blogger Nanny Barista Rapper YouTuber|
|Field||Arts Fashion Film, TV, Stage & Radio Food and Drinks Internet Music|
|Birth||23 October 1999, South Africa|
|Residence||London, England, UK|
Mary-Belle Kirschner (born 23 October 1999), better known by her online alias Belle Delphine, is an English internet personality. She is most notable for her glamour and cosplay modeling on Instagram. Her posts on the platform are often influenced by popular Internet memes and trends, and feature a risqué aesthetic that has garnered media attention. Media outlets have also described Kirschner as a cross between an Internet troll and a performance artist.
Life and career
Early years and developing an aesthetic
Kirschner was born on 23 October 1999 in Cape Town, South Africa and eventually moved to the United Kingdom. Kirschner has had an Instagram account since 2015, and in July 2016, she registered a YouTube account. In August 2016, Kirschner uploaded a makeup tutorial video, demonstrating how to do a cat-eye.
In 2018, Kirschner began to regularly upload pictures of her modeling and cosplaying. Her Instagram modeling had a distinct, self-proclaimed "weird elf kitty girl" aesthetic, and she used accessories such as pink wigs, thigh-high stockings, and cat ears. In March 2018, Kirschner launched a Patreon account, where supporters could pledge a monthly donation. Her content has earned her over 4,400 supporters on the website. Polygon noted that one follower spent $2,500 in exchange for a personal Skype conversation with Kirschner.
In September 2018, she uploaded a second YouTube video featuring her giving a tour of her pastel pink room, while wearing fake braces and thigh-high stockings. Rolling Stone noted that her aesthetic in this second video is more in-line with that of the one she later adopted during her rise to prominence on Instagram; the publication described that aesthetic as "alien Disney princess porn star." Once she adopted this new online aesthetic, her Instagram account surged from 850,000 followers in November 2018 to 4.2 million in July 2019. Her content has also featured a notable usage of ahegao facial expressions which are exaggerated, eyes-rolled-back expressions that signify an orgasm, and often featured in adult anime. Kirschner additionally produces cosplay content, as she has cosplayed characters such as Harley Quinn and D.Va. Complex further described the nature of Kirschner's content, detailing that "along with her more traditional photos, she has posted clips of herself coyly eating a raw egg, shell and all. A scroll through her feed is just as likely to find colorful thirst traps as it is to see photos of her playing with a dead octopus." This comment references her 3rd video on Youtube, where she literally played with a dead octopus, which she called Timmy. She performed multiple activities with the animal, such as cooking a pancake, scrolling through Tinder, playing Mario Kart, playing board games, watching a horror, and finally, brushing it's teeth and going to bed.
Pornhub account and GamerGirl Bath Water stunts
In June 2019, Kirschner posted on Instagram, promising to create a Pornhub account if her post reached 1 million likes. Pornhub responded to the post, calling it "the best news." The post quickly earned over 1.8 million likes; in response, Kirschner held up her promise and created a Pornhub account, to which she uploaded 12 videos. Reactions to this were mixed, as many of Kirschner's fans were disappointed as her uploads were troll videos that featured misleading titles and thumbnails. Each of the videos received poor like-to-dislike ratios, ranging between 66% and 77% dislikes. Harry Hill of Mashable commented that "Arguably the best video, 'PEWDIEPIE goes all the way INSIDE Belle Delphine,' is a minute-long clip of a cat ear-clad [Kirschner] eating a picture of YouTuber PewDiePie, winking throughout." PewDiePie responded to Kirschner's video, continuing with its joking nature. Later in 2019, Kirschner was nominated for a Pornhub Award. In December, Pornhub released their annual statistics report, which included Kirschner as the most-searched celebrity in 2019; "Belle Delphine" was also the fourth-most-searched term in general during the year.
On 1 July 2019, Kirschner launched her online storefront, along with a product that was dubbed "GamerGirl Bath Water". The product was marketed as the remains of her bath water and was priced at $30 (£24). Kirschner stated that the idea to sell her bath water came from continued fan comments on her photos saying they would drink her bathwater. Upon initially selling the product, Kirschner added the note: "This water is not for drinking and should only be used for sentimental purposes." The product was a commerical success for Kirschner, as the first run of the bath water sold out in three days.
Her selling of GamerGirl Bath Water was met with considerable controversy, media coverage, and Internet memes. The response from general Internet users also included tangential hoaxes based around the bath water, as well as parody and knock-off products. Two days after the bath water product sold out, a website was created attempting to capitalize on its success, selling "GamerGirl Pee" for just under $10,000; this new website and product was confirmed to not be associated with Kirschner. @BakeRises, a since-banned Twitter user, impersonated The Daily Mail as a means to fabricate a headline alleging that Kirschner's product caused a herpes outbreak. Snopes debunked this claim, stating that "the 'herpes' twist to the story was no more than a hoax." YouTube video responses also sprung up featuring individuals drinking, cooking, and vaping the bath water.
EJ Dickson of Rolling Stone noted that the response from media outlets alternated between "deriding [Kirschner's] fans for their naïvete and applauding her for her marketing savvy." Katie Bishop, writing for The Guardian, reported that the sale was "widely mocked." In concurrence, the International Business Times wrote, "while some people were amused by the idea of buying someone's bathwater, others have said that anyone who bought the GamerGirl Bath Water was 'sad' and 'pathetic.'" Patricia Hernandez of Polygon commented, "Perhaps this seems like a strange thing to do, but it's very similar to the phenomenon of sex workers selling intimate items, such as panties." Hernandez additionally opined, "What's curious about [Kirschner's] side hustle here is that it seems to be a mixture of business and next-level performance art. In the video advertising the bath water, she outright calls this a stunt. And if you look at her wider Instagram oeuvre, [Kirschner's] work is defined by her willingness to go there. The result is as strange as it is funny."
In a July 2019 interview with The Guardian, Kirschner stated, "I'm lucky. I can do crazy things and get to see the world react to it, and there's definitely enjoyment in that, even if it's sometimes a little scary. I get a bigger reaction to my weirder content but I think that's only possible because I also make risqué content." She added, "I think it's been amazing and fun, but it's time to move on to new things. I have a diary next to my bed full of crazy ideas. I'm not sure what will top this, but I'm looking forward to seeing what will come next."
Instagram account ban and social media hiatus
On 19 July 2019, Kirschner's Instagram account was banned from the platform. Business Insider reported that Kirschner's account ban came "after a seemingly co-ordinated reporting campaign against her." However, a spokesperson for Instagram told the outlet that her account was not removed due to the aforementioned campaign, but rather because it violated the company's community guidelines. The specific post or reason that led to Kirschner's ban was not provided by the spokesperson, who cited privacy. At the time of her ban, the "belle.delphine" account accumulated over 4.5 million followers, according to Business Insider and Social Blade, a social media analytics firm.
On 1 August 2019, she posted an update on her Patreon account, detailing that she was working with Instagram to restore her account.
After her ban from Instagram, Kirschner utilized her Patreon and Twitter accounts to communicate with her followers. After a tweet on 21 August, she became uncharacteristically quiet on her social media platforms. This prompted many of her Patreon supporters to believe they were being scammed, as she previously promised upcoming special content. During her hiatus, PewDiePie featured memes relating to her GamerGirl Bath Water product on his Meme Review series.
On 4 October 2019, H3 Podcast co-host Ethan Klein suggested that Kirschner may have had legal trouble due to posting her bath water product. Days later, on 7 October, Kirschner tweeted an image claiming it to be her mugshot, with a caption detailing she was arrested. The image contained a "Metropolitan Police Service" watermark, although there has not yet been any external proof of an arrest. Kirschner later followed up the tweet, detailing that someone stole her pet hamster at a party and that her vandalization of that person's car resulted in her arrest. Online publications and users raised concerns over the validity of Kirschner's claims due to her previous trolling; in addition, some noted that Metropolitan Police mugshots do not contain watermarks.
Kirschner's Belle Delphine persona and her related content has garnered much curiosity and scrutiny from online users and media outlets alike. Various outlets, including The Cut, Business Insider, Kotaku, and Polygon have described her as a "troll", and several instances of her activity online as "stunts". Many of those outlets also assert that there is a satirical and ironic layer to her content; Bishop wrote that Kirschner "has successfully tapped into an online subculture by creating content that exists somewhere between internet pranks and erotic modeling. For many of her followers, Delphine is a personality before she is a pornographic model." Kirschner's polarizing social media presence has also been noted, with London Evening Standard writing that she "has sparked a flurry of debate online, with fans branding her everything from a master manipulator to a harmful sexist stereotype of gamer girls." Business Insider cited one fan response in particular, which likened Kirschner to a "2019 Andy Warhol". Alex Galbraith, writing for Complex, commented: "Her exceptionally weird stunts that seem to be satirizing the whole idea of sexiness. Citing her as "a surrealist troll that became too much for Instagram," Business Insider ranked Kirschner 89th on the 2019 edition of its UK Tech 100 list. The list's purpose is to feature the one-hundred "most interesting, innovative, and influential people shaping the UK tech scene."
Her association with a gamer girl image has been particularly emphasized by media publications. Kotaku has described her as a "peak self-aware egirl". Rolling Stones's EJ Dickson described Kirschner's posts as being more "bizarre" and "ridiculous", rather than "overtly sexual", and opined that: Such content appears to indicate that Delphine is leaning into — if not overtly parodying — the perception of the ideal girl as a hot, innocent young thing whose desire to play Fortnite is only eclipsed by her desire for nerdy gamer boy dick. After her GamerGirl Bath Water product went viral on the Internet, Kotaku opined that:
It is not a huge stretch to assert that [Kirschner], who has built up a body of work that can be read as satirical, might be in the midst of some sort of long-term joke here, especially given her long list of stunts that all tend to subvert or toy with well-established fetish tropes. Even the notion of 'gamer girl bath water' plays with all manner of stereotypes about women in games and how some men see them: as mythical unicorns to lust after.
Lela London, writing for The Telegraph, opined that "for women to truly escape gaming's gendered grip, we need to raise more non-fetishized Gamer Girls to the top. [Kirschner] is proof there is still quite a way to go." Aoife Wilson, Head of Video at Eurogamer has conversely commented positively on Kirschner's online persona and content, asserting that "[Kirschner] is an incredibly savvy businesswoman. She gained a huge online following through her love of cosplay and her ability to replicate real-life ahegao faces. She's kept that momentum going by engaging with her followers and trying new things, always skirting the line between sexy and surreal. She absolutely knows her audience."
Her content has also been examined from the perspective of its connection with themes found in Japanese culture and media. Dickson wrote that the references to Japanese culture in Kirschner's content have garnered her some criticism, as she has been "accused of racism and cultural appropriation in her cosplay, as well as capitalizing on the eroticization of young girls." Conversely, Japanese adult performer Marica Hase opined "I see her manga characters as more of an homage and not racist."
On why Kirschner attracts much controversy, Dickson wrote that:
Delphine markets herself as a 'gamer girl', which engages with a very specific stereotype about women in gaming. In the gaming community, there's a longstanding perception of female gamers as desperate attention-seekers who sexualize themselves to get more views and capitalize on horny dudes' desire for nerdy female counterparts.