In a now-viral TikTok, Rocky Paterra, 28, stares down the camera while singing lyrics that many of his peers can relate to.
“I’m a struggling actor / but if I’m asked by a stranger what I do, / I usually end up telling a lie / because there’s too much to get through,” he sings. “I’d rather smile and simply state that I have a full-time job...as an accountant.”
The actor and musician based in New York told BuzzFeed News that he created a profile on the app several months ago, but initially felt intimidated by the platform. He found his stride by “parodying the actor lifestyle.”
With more than 2 million views, “I’m an Accountant” stands as Paterra’s most popular TikTok. To his surprise, the sound has now been adopted by people working across the sex industry. It has become the meme song of choice for strippers, "sugar babies," and particularly creators on the content subscription platform OnlyFans.
“I forget the exact moment that I started to notice the song exiting [the] actor world and entering OnlyFans world as well as the actual accountant community, but I have been laughing along with every use of the sound,” Paterra said.
“It made me realize that the song can function as an anthem for any line of work that you might not always want to have conversations with people about. Explaining the struggling actor life sometimes comes with its own awkward and annoying dialogue, and I'm sure that's true for lots of other industries as well, so I'm just happy that my song can set a comedic tone for this scenario.”
Storm Green from Scottsdale, Arizona, joined OnlyFans during the coronavirus pandemic, and has been able to earn up to $30,000 a month from her content. The 24-year-old used Paterra’s vocals to create a TikTok that she captioned: “When you make thousands off of OF but your father asks where the money is coming from.”
She told BuzzFeed News that she thinks "the sound was taken over super fast by OF creators, since it's a perfect way to self-promo while still being funny.”
While her friends and immediate family are aware of her work and generally supportive, she admitted that she was nervous about publicizing being an OnlyFans creator to her audience on social media.
“It took me a while to advertise OF on my TikTok due to the stigma and knowing younger audiences follow me, but at the end of the day, I realized most of my followers know me and aren't going to judge me based on something so superficial,” she said.
Green pointed to the increasing number of well-known celebrities joining the platform, such as Cardi B and Tana Mongeau, as a positive trend with the potential to establish the site as a more mainstream community. She believes that “seeing bigger influencers and celebrities coming out with OnlyFans makes it easier for people to accept.”
Shay, 22, used to tell people she worked as a bartender.
“I started as a cocktail waitress at a strip club and then everybody kept asking me to dance and so then I shifted into that. So it's not completely a lie. But it's just easier because if I'm saying, Oh, I have to go to work at 10:00 pm, it's just easier to be like, yeah, I work at a bar.”
The dancer from Cleveland describes her parents as “very conservative” and unaware of her thriving OnlyFans channel.
“My immediate family does not know about OnlyFans,” she said. “They know that I strip. They're not happy about it, but it's kind of just like we don't talk about it really, I'm never gonna be like, ‘yeah, so last night at the strip club’ to them, you know what I mean?”
With the closure of clubs due to COVID-19, Shay pivoted to focus her attention on OnlyFans, a platform she has been on since last summer. She is now generating anywhere between $4,000 to $5,000 in monthly income.
In her TikTok, which has been viewed more than 1.4 million times, Shay responds to a follower-submitted question asking “what do you do?” She replies by emptying a trash bag full of cash onto the floor, to the sound of Paterra professing to be an accountant. Being transparent about her career and how she makes money brings a mixture of responses on her personal social media accounts.
“If you just go through my comments, if I talk about what I do at all, there's people like, ‘oh, I'm calling the IRS,’ I mean, go ahead, I pay my taxes. Then some people are like, ‘why do you disrespect yourself like that’ and ‘maybe you should get a real job,’” said Shay.
Shay, who hopes to own a fashion brand one day, criticized the persistent shaming of sex workers in society. She called out what she identified as a culture of hypocrisy that penalized consenting adults from talking about their work in the same way a teacher might discuss the details of their role.
“I just find it interesting how there’s this love for what we do, as in people love to consume porn, I know girls that really love the stripper aesthetic, like when the movie Hustlers came out, everybody was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ everybody wants to go start taking pole dancing classes,” she said.
She said it bothers her that these same people disrespect sex workers.
“It wouldn't be such an issue with me if people actually respected us more, but they don't,” she said. "We want to consume what you do, copy what you do, but we don't want you to be able to make a living off of it. It’s very strange.”
Brooke Schueneman, a content creator from Minnesota, has been generating additional income through Patreon to supplement the money she earns on YouTube by engaging with fetish communities, including feet content and selling custom photos and videos. The 25-year-old clarified that her content was “non-pornographic” and “non-nude.”
The full-time mom said that she had been able to pay off most of her debts, find extra cash to put away as savings, take care of her household, and even has had enough to support struggling families in need of assistance.
With the exception of her “incredibly supportive” fiancé, her family remains completely unaware of her side hustle.
“They have never been a fan of me putting myself online for safety reasons. I just try to keep that part of my life private from my parents,” said Schueneman.
“It’s kind of a bummer since I got 10,000,000 views on my TikTok and I can’t even tell them, since the video was about selling my feet photos,” she added.
As for Paterra, the virality of the song, which can be largely attributed to the way in which this community has picked up on it, has created enough momentum to release a fuller version on streaming sites.
“I never intended to put the song up for streaming since it was just another silly video for TikTok, and I usually separate comedy content from what I make as a singer/songwriter," he said. "But I got so many requests to make it available on those platforms, so I extended the song a bit and put it up on Spotify with my other albums and singles.”