This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about influencers and internet culture. You can sign up here. In our column, Niche Drama, we discuss online community micro dramas.
Influencer Miia Kinnunen, also known by her YouTube channel name Miiasaurous, did what few before her have done — she canceled herself. And then she came back.
The 22-year-old content creator disappeared publicly for more than three months after admitting in a seemingly unprompted June 26 video (and a now-deleted follow-up three weeks later) that she fabricated “95%” of the stories about her life that she has shared since joining YouTube in 2011. Kinnunen, who is half white and half Asian, also admitted to using a “blaccent.”
“I have a problem with compulsive and pathological lying,” Kinnunen said.
Kinnunen, whose channel has more than 1 million subscribers, first found fame as a “storytime” YouTuber. She shared dramatic tales about her life, in the revealing-chat-to-the-camera style popularized by Tana Mongeau and Simply Nessa. But Kinnunen’s stories — about sex work, stripping, drug use, fights, mental health issues, and other aspects of her personal life — weren’t true, she confessed.
She lied because she “wanted to feel cool,” she said.
Kinnunen did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
“I really am so sorry that I contributed to so much bullshit and made this a really unhealthy and toxic place for myself and potentially other people,” she said in her video.
Though Kinnunen pivoted years ago from storytime videos to pop culture commentary, the “fabricated” persona remained. In her videos critiquing celebrity culture, she has criticized Lizzo’s shapewear line for being a “non-inclusive scam” and called out Ariana Grande for appropriating Asian culture — all while using that appropriated accent.
“I’m not Black, and I talked in a way that maybe didn’t have Black people and marginalized groups in mind ... adding to stigma that impacts them and worsens their lives,” Kinnunen said in the apology video. “I was wrong for that.”
She said in her apology video that she had received questions about the veracity of her stories and the authenticity of her accent from a handful of people, but not widespread callouts, as we’ve seen in the past with YouTubers like David Dobrik, Shane Dawson, and James Charles who also took a few months off from posting after issuing apologies.
“I think introspection and self-evaluation of one’s behavior on this scale is something we will see more often,” Angelo Antonio, an internet culture critic who has been following the saga, told BuzzFeed News. “If you think long enough about everything you have done over the span of your lifetime, you will find things that you don’t like about yourself. Outside criticism amplifies that. And I think that happened to her.”
On Oct. 22, almost four months after her initial apology, Kinnunen announced in a new video that she would be returning to YouTube. This time her content would focus on spotlighting other creators and the financial proceeds of her posts would be shared to “respective communities.”
“I’m excited for people to know who I actually am, not just some bullshit fabricated version of myself,” she said.
According to analytics platform Social Blade, Kinnunen lost at least 60,000 subscribers during her hiatus. Her apology video received more than 660,000 views, but her return announcement has only gotten 66,000, just one-tenth of the viewership. Both videos were met with mixed responses from her audience.
Some commenters applauded her “courage.”
“this almost made me cry. i have never, ever heard a youtuber i watched talk about pathological and compulsive lying,” wrote one YouTube commenter.
“In all seriousness, you could very well have gone and never did your apology videos […] Because you chose to ‘expose yourself’ in spite of all this, I think that shows the integrity you have,” another said.
“It takes gigantic fucking balls for her to even admit to lying about all of the things she's lied about. That in itself is a reason to give her a chance,” a user wrote.
“Is it nice I guess that she admitted it? Yeah sure,” a commenter wrote. “But it doesn’t really change the fact that she did it, defended these actions, criticized other creators for doing the exact same things, and then continued to use these ‘acts’ to try and ‘advocate’ for these marginalized groups.”
“my jaw dropped at every lie i vividly remember you telling that made me feel for you,” a commenter wrote. “i’m glad you’re acknowledging it and apologising, and i hope your life is full of happiness and stability after this, but i’m out.”
Antonio told BuzzFeed News that he doesn’t think Kinnunen will ever have the success she had before the “scandal” because a YouTuber apology can never be truly satisfying.
“Those she hurt will never get an apology that will be good enough because it’s in broad strokes, so someone will feel left out and the cycle continues,” he said. “Even if she canceled herself, or rather took accountability through introspection sparked by a few comments, she still has to produce income. Because life goes on.”