For a time, Denino’s influence showed in Siragusa’s approach to IRL streams. She, too, had a penchant for risky stunts. Some, like a January 2020 stream in which she dressed in a frilly French maid costume and “cleaned” public places like IKEA and Walmart, were legitimately funny. But these broadcasts sometimes pushed boundaries into uncomfortable territory—during the maid stream, a Bed Bath & Beyond employee accused Siragusa of “soliciting,” and she was asked to leave the store.

During another, more notorious 2018 stream, Siragusa ended up leaving a gym after employees demanded she stop streaming out of respect for other customers’ privacy. After arguing with two employees, she elected to depart the premises rather than shut down her stream. Outside the gym, she thanked new subscribers and then said something alarming.

“It’s because I’m white,” Siragusa said during the 2018 stream, accusing the gym of “racist” behavior. “I bet if I was some wealthy Saudi prince, they wouldn’t want to keep me out. It’s because I’m a white girl.”

Siragusa now says that at the time she was making a straight-faced joke. Specifically, she was referencing an old Twitch meme about Saudi princes that she believes would no longer fly on the platform due to policies against racism and hateful conduct.

“It was a really old Twitch meme joke, but a lot of people didn’t get it, so poor choice, I guess,” Siragusa told Kotaku when asked about the gym incident. “I wouldn’t think anyone would take seriously that statement at all. I thought it was a very obvious joke, but whatever. It is what it is.”

Siragusa’s history is dotted with other run-ins with store employees—and even law enforcement. In 2018, she stayed at a salon for around 10 hours and streamed it after the establishment messed up her hair. She had her hair colored and re-colored throughout the day and due to disputes over pay, she was in regular communication with employees. Ultimately the salon called the police. Siragusa cooperated and did not end up having to pay, but she was forced to leave. At the time, some fans were put off by Siragusa’s behavior and described her as “entitled.”

Siragusa looks back on that incident as part of the reason she no longer does out-and-about IRL streams.

“I wasn’t being a nuisance for content,” she told Kotaku, explaining that she stuck around because incorrectly bleached hair harmed her ability to cosplay and do her job, but also that she recognizes she was inconveniencing other people. “But it’s a tricky situation. Everyone’s people. Everyone makes mistakes. I’ve grown a lot, and my new philosophy is just, ‘You know what? Don’t stream IRL anymore.’...I just try to be more considerate of other people and not get in anyone’s way.”

These days, partially due to a philosophy change and partially because of the pandemic, Siragusa streams from her home in Texas. This has not prevented her from creating the sort of provocative content that put her on the map. Based on audience numbers—Siragusa has more than doubled her follower count since January of this year—her current approach has only enhanced her appeal. Granted, 2021 has been particularly good to Siragusa in terms of Twitch trends. She did not pioneer the hot tub meta, but she was absolutely there to capitalize on it, albeit only after studying it from afar.

“When the hot tub meta was in its infancy in January, I watched on the sidelines expecting Twitch to crack down,” Siragusa said. “I didn’t join the meta until mid-March.”

While Siragusa happily admits that she followed in the footsteps of other female streamers who’d previously followed in her footsteps, she quickly put her own spin on hot tub streams. For example, she began hosting a regular hot tub podcast, where guests also streamed from hot tubs, whether they were inflatable, attached to actual swimming pools, or in the case of comedic VTuber sensation CodeMiko, digital.

Siragusa also added a now-signature piece of iconography to the mix: A floaty of Pickle Rick, the mean green meme machine from hit animated series Rick & Morty, which she’s straddled through many a hot tub stream. It’s a bit of visual strangeness that’s quintessentially Siragusa. A few weeks ago, she took things to the next level by slicing open her Pickle Rick floaty at the behest of a viewer who donated $1,000, sliding Rick’s deflated rubber carcass over her body, and shouting, “I’M PICKLE RIIIIIIICK,” at the top of her lungs while wobbling back and forth in knee-deep water. Bizarre as it might sound, this gets to the heart of why fans are captivated by Siragusa.

“She’s not afraid to be herself,” CodeMiko, who counts herself among Siragusa’s fans, told Kotaku in a DM. “She’s funny because she is just naturally herself and silly, and [she] doesn’t care what other people think of her.”

“She’s bombastic, loud, and colorful,” a fan who goes by the handle ColdfusionMBE told Kotaku in a DM. “I’d say I became a fan based on her looks, her inexhaustible graft (most streams were more than 12 hours), and her acerbic wit, which is needed with all the misogynistic trolls who infest her chat.”

That last part is the unavoidable other side of the equation. Among Siragusa’s millions of followers are legions of haters. In her, they see a woman who’s knowingly using her body to make money in defiance of platform rules and norms. Not only that, she is frequently bold about it and has a history of reacting to pushback by behaving inconsiderately. This means that wherever Siragusa goes, a cloud of collective rage is not far behind.

“It’s extremely distracting and depressing to read Amouranth’s chat because of the huge amount of toxic comments constantly being thrown at her,” a streamer named Holly “PkmnMasterHolly” Patterson, who recently started helping moderate Siragusa’s chat, told Kotaku in an email. “I begin to lose hope for humanity when I see comments that tell her to ‘kill yourself’ or ‘I hope your parents die’ or even ‘I hope your horse dies.’ I’ve only been moderating for her for a month, and I’ve already needed to take time away from her chat to take a breather because it began to make me angry and hate people even outside of Twitch.”

Devin Nash, whose agency represents Siragusa, mentioned that people also regularly call restaurants she eats at to get her thrown out, and said her home has been doxxed on several occasions. Siragusa elaborated on this.

“To be totally transparent, recently [Twitch star Félix “xQc” Lengyel] mentioned getting swatted at a super high interval,” she told Kotaku in a recent email. “That’s been my reality for a while now: multiple times weekly.”

She owns guard dogs as a partial solution to the problem of strangers knowing where she lives, but police—who have been known to kill pets—remain a danger. Siragusa said that the sheer volume of swatting calls directed at her means she now has a decent relationship with local law enforcement, who usually show up in full force but just “ring the doorbell and make sure I’m OK before leaving.” It does leave her compromised when it comes to other threats, though. She’s considered buying a gun to protect herself in case one of the many people who know where she lives tries to break into her home, but if the bump in the night turns out to be cops, having a gun suddenly becomes a potentially dangerous liability. “Arming oneself isn’t something a popular streamer can do without adding reciprocal risk of endangering oneself more if the disturbance is due to swatting,” Siragusa said. “[It is] very concerning.”

Irate internet denizens come after Siragusa in other, equally personal ways. Many accuse her of being dishonest about her relationship status, specifically claiming that she’s secretly married to a multitude of different men—but that she lies so that her fans will continue to find her appealing. Both Siragusa and her assistant, Morgan, who has been in Siragusa’s orbit since she was 19 (she’s now 23), disputed this characterization, saying that she previously had a long-term boyfriend who cheated on her, and that’s pretty much the end of that story.

“I’ve seen articles that said I’m dating a celebrity called Matt Barr, and I don’t even know who that is,” Siragusa said. “I feel like I’m reading fanfiction every day. Some people email me thinking I’m married to them—that I’m in a relationship with them, and I don’t know who they are either.”

Most of the hate, though, does not faze Siragusa. “At this point, I’m just kind of desensitized to it,” she said. “It is immensely exhausting a little bit, which is why I try to just do my own thing and not worry about it too much.”

Morgan backed this up. “I’ve never seen anything get to her in the way that I feel like things get to me,” she said. “I’ve never seen her get, like, emotional and sad.”

“She’s never been affected by the average hate comment,” one of Siragusa’s longest tenured chat moderators, Dyeoxy, told Kotaku in a DM. “[This is] for various reasons, but mainly because hate comments speak more on the kind of person saying it, wasting their time instead of being productive.”

But an angry mob that follows you everywhere is still going to, at the very least, cause splash damage. And so, when Siragusa joined the hot tub scene, the water started to boil.

Hot tub streams turned some judgmental eyes before Siragusa dipped a toe into the meta, but once March rolled around and she dove into the deep end, she quickly became the smirking face that haunted anti-hot tub Twitch viewers’ nightmares. Siragusa and others like her were exploiting a loophole in Twitch’s rules, they said. Others implored Twitch to think of the children, who make up 21% of Twitch’s audience and who are regularly exposed to digital violence, cursing, gambling, scantily clad game characters, sex jokes, racism, and sexism. But critics contend that Siragusa’s streams are akin to pornography.

Siragusa responded to that line of critique during a stream in May.

“Stop acting like a porn star?” she replied to a viewer in chat. “Do you even watch porn? They have sex in that.”

Still, advertisers got squeamish about the trend, so Twitch finally took action in May, initially by demonetizing Siragusa—but not, curiously, other big-name hot tub streamers, of which there were only a small handful. This functionally dropped Siragusa’s Twitch ad revenue to $0, down from around $1,000 per day. Siragusa, whose typical response to bumps in the road is to plough through them by working even harder, was actually rattled.

“I think on the demonetization of ads, I saw her more scared than normal, not because of that action, but because of what it implies,” said Nash. “It’s like, ‘Where is Twitch going 6 months from now, 12 months from now? Is my discoverability going to die?’”

Siragusa agrees with this characterization. On one hand, she is—as Nash puts it—“the best monetized creator on Twitch” due to all of her endeavors on other platforms. On the other, what’s the point of Twitch being your fuller-than-full-time job if the platform is just going to bury you?

“The money itself, to be completely honest, wasn’t really on my radar,” Siragusa said. “It was more the signaling function and a question of whether there would be ‘tweaks’ to the content suggestion algorithm or whether certain channels (despite concurrent viewership) would be buried deep in the director.”

Not long after, Twitch created an entire hot tub section so that advertisers could opt out if they wanted. As a result, it did not take Twitch long to reactivate ads on Siragusa’s channel, but initially they brought in just a fraction of what they had before—between $25 and $50 per day. In June and July, however, they bounced back. Siragusa is relieved, but still wary.

“I am still nervous, but it seems the pointy end of the outrage has subsided some,” she said.

But where Siragusa goes, outrage tends to follow. This is both a blessing and a curse. Siragusa believes in letting your haters advertise for you because “people who don’t like you are more likely to make a post about you, and it’s more likely to go viral.” But once controversies hit a fever pitch, the mainstream starts to take notice.

“Many people had done various facets of the content that ended up getting me a suspension,” said Siragusa. “The difference is, they didn’t do it at 30,000 concurrent viewers with all of streamer Twitter losing their minds...The problem is, if there’s enough such grandstanding, it will eventually attract media attention. No mainstream media outlet is going to go out of their way to scrutinize people in bathing suits lounging around in hot tubs.”

This squares with how advertisers view Twitch, a source with knowledge of Twitch’s ad business told Kotaku. Essentially, most advertisers—still relatively new to Twitch compared to other platforms and mediums—aren’t going around manually searching Twitch for content they might find objectionable. Instead, they’re paying attention to headlines and conversations surrounding it. So when, in Twitch’s words, “the majority of our advertiser base” flagged Siragusa’s channel back in May, they were likely reacting to backlash—not the actual day-to-day content of her or other hot tub streamers’ channels.

If that incident marked the end of Siragusa’s troubles, it’d be one thing. But it didn’t. In late June this year, Siragusa and another popular female streamer, Indiefoxx, both got suspended from Twitch for participating in the successor to the hot tub meta: the ear-licking ASMR/yoga pants meta. Once again, Siragusa contends that other, smaller streamers pioneered the bizarrely specific new form, but it wasn’t until it made its way upstream to her broadcasts that it became a problem. Even now, she’s not entirely certain which part of her stream—which, true to form, involved not just yoga pants and a suggestive pose, but also a horse mask—got her suspended.

“The yoga poses/bizarre posing ASMR stuff—even to this day I can point out smaller channels that do it, so I figured [Twitch] would at least be a little bit transparent about the reasoning,” Siragusa said. “But the meeting I had was literally the most strange interaction I’ve ever had. The person assigned to me at Twitch basically repeated, like, five canned, prepared demurrals about why they wouldn’t say why: ‘Oh, we’re all adults here,’ ‘It wouldn’t benefit either party to explain why,’ ‘Let’s not dwell on specifics,’ and on and on ad nauseam.”

Community speculation has pretty firmly chalked it up to the poses and camera angles Siragusa used, but a Twitch spokesperson told Kotaku that the company does not comment on individual suspensions. The spokesperson added that Twitch “will only issue an account enforcement if a channel or content violates our guidelines” and that “we do not issue strikes based on advertiser feedback.” The spokesperson acknowledged, however, that if an advertiser “determines that their ads are appearing alongside content which misaligns with their brand values,” Twitch might suspend ads on that content, as it did with Siragusa’s channel (and others). In light of this, it plans in the coming months to provide “a better understanding of what ‘brand safe’ means to advertisers,” more ways for streamers to categorize content, and a policy update that will “make the lines between what we consider to be overtly or explicitly sexually suggestive more clear.”

What that will end up meaning is anybody’s guess. For now, Siragusa can continue to lick a microphone, but there’s no guarantee it will last.

Twitch did not invent livestreaming, nor did the website that eventually evolved into Twitch, Many credit JenniCam, a 19 year-old college student’s rudimentary camera setup that slowly broadcasted her life in 1996, with that distinction. Among many other things, JenniCam included a striptease component. Twitch did not invent sustainable means of making money off livestreaming, either. MyFreeCams, a site dedicated to live broadcasts with a typically sexual slant, launched in 2002 and predates by five years. MyFreeCams came up with a tip-based token system to pay performers, which echoed forward to Twitch’s “bit” donation functionality. And yet, despite the role sex work played in paving the path streamers walk today, many believe it has no place on modern livestreaming platforms.

This cycle has played out across a multitude of digital mediums, and its aftershocks continue to reshuffle the internet’s tectonic plates to this day. Siragusa has experienced this firsthand, given that she played a key role in pioneering Twitch IRL, which ultimately evolved into what is now Twitch’s most popular category, Just Chatting.

“She 100% is one of the OG e-girls on Twitch,” TheNicoleT, a streamer who counts Siragusa as an inspiration, told Kotaku in an email. “Her influence led to more women feeling comfortable to stream without gaming in the IRL category, as this was shunned before. People made fun of you for just sitting and chatting. Now it’s the biggest category.”

Despite that history, many angrily called for Siragusa to take hot tub streams out of Just Chatting even before Twitch created a dedicated category for them. Some went so far as to argue the opposite of TheNicoleT’s stance—namely, that Siragusa’s mere presence was making life on Twitch more difficult for other women by giving horndog harassers the wrong expectations. PixieKittie, a former developer on games like SMITE and Paladins turned streamer and model, disputes this notion.

“Thirsty people exist in Valkyrae and Pokimane’s chats, and they don’t do anything inherently sexual at all,” she told Kotaku in a DM, noting that Siragusa has helped inspire her to confront misogynists in her own chat. “It [only becomes] a problem when women show their bodies.”

Siragusa’s Twitch streams are relatively tame in the grand scheme of sexual suggestiveness. She’ll wear a swimsuit or lick a microphone, but she does not remove clothing or perform overtly sexual acts, as that’d net her an immediate sentence to the deepest, purplest pits of Twitch Jail. When she showed explicit nudity on stream in 2019, it was an accident, and Twitch suspended her.

Content that graduates from suggestive to sexual is largely reserved for Siragusa’s OnlyFans, which is a key part of her content strategy, but not her main focal point as far as interest goes.

“She’s creative and very data-driven and stuff,” said Morgan, “but when it comes to, like, aesthetic and sensual things, I feel like that’s kind of where she relies more on me to figure out what to do.”

“I’m pretty inexperienced sexually,” Siragusa concurred. “I’ve learned far, far more in the course of making OnlyFans content than what I knew going into the endeavor. It’s definitely a means to an end.”

Morgan went on to talk about how people often misconstrue sex workers as single-mindedly sexual beings, but like most stereotypes, that perception has roots in truth in the same way a tree that’s being yanked up by a tornado has roots in the ground.

“While they have fun doing these things, and they make them feel sexy, it’s not like that’s all they do 100% of the time,” Morgan said. “I think [Twitch] is helpful for that. I wish that was something people were capable of seeing for other sex workers, because they’re all very interesting and dynamic people.”

But Siragusa also frequently finds herself face-to-face with the opposite problem: Because she cranks out so much content across so many platforms, spends upwards of half of each day on stream, and replies to messages on OnlyFans, some fans think they know her a little too well. That can result in inappropriate expectations and possessive behaviors from viewers who don’t know where the line is or don’t care to go looking for it.

One fan contacted by Kotaku confessed to going overboard, but also acknowledged that Siragusa doesn’t owe them anything.

“I myself have spent what seems like a lot of time and energy messaging her with no response,” the fan told Kotaku in a DM. “Honestly I commend her for not replying. People can go overboard when receiving a message from someone that they consider a celebrity. They can even do so without receiving a response...It’s ridiculous for someone to think that she should focus on them rather than her own life.”

Morgan wishes more fans would adopt that kind of mentality.

“On OnlyFans in particular, she answers messages all the time,” Morgan said. “I feel like people can misconstrue that. It should be viewed as a ‘support local businesses’-type thing and not a [statement of] ‘hey, you can date this local business.’”

“She should just follow the rules.” It’s one of the more common refrains that gets thrown in Siragusa’s direction. Technically, she does follow them the lion’s share of the time, and when she’s gotten suspended, she has historically course-corrected in a direction that keeps her from getting the dreaded perma-boot. But that’s not really what people are referring to in this case. What they mean is that Siragusa should paint more traditionally within the lines—or, to put a finer point on it, that she should take the stuff that can be construed as sexual somewhere else.

This rhetoric sounds good when tut-tutted out in the midst of an online argument, but it gives undue power to those making the rules—which includes not just the platforms in question, but those footing their bills. It also presumes a status quo in which sex workers of any stripe will always have solid ground on which to stand. With companies like Apple and Google, advertisers, credit card companies, payment processors, and lawmakers doing their best to sanitize the internet, that is far from guaranteed.

“It’s a situation where we’ve seen a gradual build up of companies like Apple and Google being able to police content that’s within their app stores that other companies are putting out on their apps, but also a situation where we have payment processors [like PayPal and CCBill] continuing to stress what should or should not be allowed on the internet,” Ana Valens, a former Daily Dot reporter and current We Got This Covered managing editor who specializes in queer communities and adult content creation, told Kotaku over a Discord call. “That all leads up to banks and credit cards that get to dictate what free expression is on the internet.”

Valens went on to say that when Twitch first codified rules that specifically targeted sexually suggestive content in 2018, it was a “huge canary in the coal mine moment,” because it meant that not just nudity, but also “more fetishy content on Twitch could get banned or be in this weird, murky gray area on the platform.” That’s since borne itself out in Twitch’s responses to both hot tub streams and ear-licking ASMR. The eternal concern is that, given the way the winds of the internet are blowing, Twitch could become more restrictive over time. But nothing’s set in stone.

“A lot of sites are trying to walk a very thin line of allowing adult content, while also at times not being transparent about it,” said Valens, noting that it seems to be an ongoing point of conflict within some companies. This aligns with what some sources have told Kotaku about Twitch: that teams at the company are not in agreement about how to handle partners with multiple rules violations on their records—like Siragusa—which sometimes puts teams like Partnerships and Trust & Safety at odds with each other.

Siragusa isn’t optimistic about powerful entities’ current attitudes toward sex work, but she sees a sliver of hope amongst all the dark clouds.

“I think the general trend of banishing sexual content or cracking down hard on edgy content is here to stay,” she said. “I only hope the trend will reverse at some point. I’m actually of the opinion that the seeming ubiquity of girls making OnlyFans accounts might help normalize attitudes towards sexy content. I think there’s definitely headwinds in the short term, but I think the long term is promising.”

Siragusa is better than most at giving off an air of unflappability, but it takes an incredible amount of work to run a Twitch channel every day, film tailored content for every other platform under the sun each week, and try to stay one step ahead of the curve while also treading lightly enough to not set off the Twitch-branded minefield around her.

“It’s like a never-ending race,” Siragusa said. “I never get to be the hare, to sit and rest. I have to always keep going. I have to try to keep improving something, make it more appealing.”

Last year, she hit a wall. She went on the stream of Dr. Alok Kanojia, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist known by Twitch fans as “Dr. K,” and it all came pouring out. She confessed that she didn’t know how she felt about herself anymore, that she’d become “a robot” in her quest to optimize her life. At the time, she noted that her coping mechanism was to suppress her emotions and bury herself in more work. The on-stream conversation forced her to realize that something needed to change. So she bought a horse.

“I took [Dr. K’s] advice and started taking a day off to go enjoy spending time with my horse,” Siragusa said. “I still stream at night, but at least I have the day to decompress once a week. That’s helped my mental health a lot. I think it has come through in my stream that now I’m in a happier place.”

That, in her estimation, is where her recent tidal wave of weird, compellingly silly content is coming from. That’s why she’s wearing Pickle Rick’s skin and licking a microphone for an inhuman amount of time. She’s actually enjoying herself. Will it last? To an extent, that’s up to Twitch, which seems to be in the process of coming up with an answer, albeit mostly through sudden, difficult-to-interpret actions rather than words. Perhaps later this year, the company will finally put its foot down one way or another. But until then, if owning a horse has taught Siragusa anything, it’s how to enjoy the ride.

“More people have been like, ‘Amouranth’s actually funny. She’s actually fun and chill,’” Siragusa said. “And it’s like, ‘Maybe that’s because I’m not crazy anymore’—as far as being overworked, I mean. I’m still working all the time, but now I’m moving in a direction I actually care about.”