TikTok Titan: WVU student becomes internet famous for anime cosplay | Culture

Eva, a student at West Virginia University, has found internet fame as a TikTok cosplayer under the username “itsevanoteva” and has over 400,000 followers.

Eva, who asked to be identified by her first name due to safety concerns, started her TikTok account at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to keep up with people online and reunite with some of her hobbies from middle school. When people found out she was named after the anime series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, she started gaining followers at a rapid pace.

Today, her account has evolved from cosplay and anime head-cannons, into a personal platform and social hub for her supporters of all ages through her TikTok and her Discord, “Eva Squad.”

“People can just talk to people who have similar interests, find friends. I just want people to find a sense of community and a sense of happiness,” she said.

Eva (pronounced “ay-vah”) started watching shows like Full Metal Alchemist and Attack on Titan with her dad in middle school. She said her parents, who are both supportive of her TikTok, used to have “anime-Fridays” throughout the 90’s, and they passed their appreciation onto Eva.

Before her TikTok following, Eva tried cosplaying some of her favorite characters from Attack on TItan, but she stopped because she was worried about what others thought of her.

“Once I got to high school, the nerdiness got beat out of me. Unfortunately, I kind of assimilated, because I [wanted] people to like me–I didn’t want people to think I’m weird.”

During the pandemic, she did not have to worry about the opinions of others, and her TikTok became her escape. Now that her following has grown, Eva wants to use her platform to create a safe space for others to not feel judged and to show that she feels comfortable being her true self.

She said that people from her high school will often recognize her on her page, but it no longer matters if they think her interests are “cool” or not.

“It’s got to a point where it’s like, you can’t judge it. I’m succeeding with it, and I’m having fun with it. So actually, none of your judgment matters.”

Now that she has become a part of a supportive online community, her interest in anime has been able to grow more than ever.

Through her Discord channel, followers can play games together, discuss their interests, and share recommendations that have expanded her watch-list.

“I feel like if I didn’t get into it on TikTok, then I wouldn’t be as intuitive as I am,” she said. “I’d still be pretty dang into it, but this really does expose me to a whole world.”

The anime that resonates the most with her is still Attack on Titan. When she started watching the show with her dad, she was 12–the same age as the characters whom she has grown up alongside.

“The story gets deeper and deeper and more complex,” she said. “I genuinely like it. It affected a lot of my early adolescence and definitely influenced who I am right now.”

When she first started her TikTok, Eva had no idea that it would become so popular.

“The minute I hit 100,000 [followers], my entire Discord server lit up…That’s the first six figure count on the path of whatever the heck I’m gonna get to, so that was definitely the biggest moment. I was like, wow, I kind of made it a little bit.”

Now, she said there are TikTok stars with even more followers than her that are tributing her or shouting out her work.

Her TikTok and Instagram accounts have become a secondary source of income, generating her over $1,600 from TikTok and around $200 to $250 from Instagram Reels every month through a combination of viewers and sponsors. She said she hopes to turn what she is making into a solid income source by expanding her Twitch game-streaming or creating a Youtube account with vlogs.

She said she hopes she can continue her social media presence for at least four more years. While she is prioritizing her studies, she has thought about the possibility of turning her hobby into a primary source of income sometime in the future.

Either way, her main goal is to find a way to help people.

For now, she is using her platform to uplift the voices of others. She has made TikToks supporting the Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate movements and the LGBTQ+ community, which she is a member of as a non-binary person.

“I’m so glad I have this follower base where I’m able to be like ‘Hey, there’s a problem going on. These people know what’s up. These people know what they’re talking about. They know the problem. Please go listen to them and educate yourselves.’”

She said that, in her experience, content creators will often shy away from these subjects, because they are worried about attracting the “wrong” audience.

Still, it is important to her that she boosts others.

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