Brandon Stennis is better known by his streamer name iamBrandon. He’s a Twitch Streamer and Partner plus he founded Chicago Community MeetUp, a not-for-profit that supports the Chicago Area Twitch community.
I chatted to him about the life of a streamer and what challenges he faces in the industry for being both black and gay.
Robin: Hi Brandon! Thanks so much for joining me today, why don’t we start off by you introducing yourself to our readers.
Hi! My name is Brandon. I go by “iamBrandon” online and in the gaming world. I stream on Twitch and also work in the gaming industry as the Community Manager for Lightstream. I also like GIFs!
How long have you been streaming for?
I’ve been streaming going on for about 5 years this year. Seems a lot shorter than that.
What got you into streaming in the first place?
I used to be the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of a gaming news site called “UGRGaming.com”, but it’s now disbanded. One of the major things that we had to do was to gather all social media accounts for the site and Twitch happened to be one of them.
At first, one of the staff members wanted to stream on Twitch to help market the website to a new audience, but he started to feel he wanted to start his own channel and to see how Twitch would go for him. When there was no one who was available to stream on the UGRGaming channel, I decided since I was the founder of the company, I should be the one to keep the streams going.
After I realized you couldn’t market a website very well on Twitch and people were staying for my personality, I shifted my focus on just being me and that’s how I became a streamer.
What would you say to anyone thinking about becoming a streamer?
Do not go into it for any financial gain or hopes of fame. With streaming becoming more popular and mainstream, people have false senses of success which they soon find out when they start, it’s not easy.
Don’t spend a bunch of money on a streaming setup because you see what the veterans are streaming with. Of course, they will have great equipment and quality but most slowly built up their setup to be as awesome as it is now. Use what you have now and what is already around you.
If you don’t have a PC, there is also direct console streaming to help ease you into the art of streaming to see if you like it in the first place.
Have you always been out and proud on your channels?
Not necessarily, no. I was out amongst my friends and family, but when I wanted to make a name for myself in the gaming industry, I refused to be out sadly.
Years ago, it was not okay to be openly gay in the world, especially in the gaming community. I remember having a debate within myself about how I would conduct myself as a gaming journalist/streamer. I wanted to be taken seriously and did not want to be put into a box as the “gay black” guy who streams. I wanted people to know my content first and my sexuality second. This was a double-edged sword for me, mainly because I was out in my personal life, but in the closet in my professional life.
I was mainly scared of people not accepting me and creating their own narrative of who I was as a person. When I was trying to build myself as a streamer, I did unfortunately deal with situations with other streamers who, when I came out to them, grew distant and no longer wanted to speak to me after. These situations pushed me even further into the closet in the professional sense.
It wasn’t until I started to meet and converse with other gay streamers that I had the courage to ask, “how are you able to be out on the internet and not being afraid of what people will say?” The advice I was given helped me gain the courage within myself to not cared what people thought of me.
I had a second coming out pretty much as a streamer a few years ago. It was mainly to clear questions and assumptions that people had made of me at the time. Once I did that, I just went back to focusing on my content.
My channel doesn’t have much to do with my sexuality, it is just who I am. That’s why I’ve tried to use my platform to show just that. I am a normal person who just happens to not be the default of “straight”.
But that is the beautiful thing of being part of the LGBT community, we are all different and have so much to offer. Plus, we are some damn happy people in a world that is full of darkness sometimes!
How do you find being an out and proud streamer?
Now it is great! In the current climate with the world as it is in now, people are held accountable for their homophobia and it’s not the default or okay to be homophobic. Plus, there are so many LGBTQIA+ streamers than ever before. I don’t remember a time that it was like this.
Do you get much negativity, racism or homophobia for being an out black streamer?
I actually get more negativity as being a black streamer than anything. I did not expect this at all when I started streaming. I thought it would be the opposite. The racism I experienced as a beginner streamer almost caused me to quit streaming almost several times. There was a point that I would have someone come into my chat and say something racist to me every stream for about 3 months.
The sad part about it is that the trolls get an enjoyment out of being a racist. Being racist isn’t a joke and it’s not okay, nor does anyone “have to deal with it because it’s the internet”.
These experiences have made me stronger as a person and as an online personality. It’s hard to believe that I’ve surrounded myself with great supportive people in my life and to have to share the same oxygen with someone who attacks or questions in a negative way, “Why do we need a black history month? or Why do we need a pride month?”
It’s truly disgusting online sometimes, and I really hope those people educate themselves.
How far do you think the video games world has come with diversity?
There is much more that can be done. Over the last few years there have been gay characters and POC characters in video games, but no one should feel that that’s enough. There is always room for improvement, but it is nice that developers are taking into account that not only straight and white people play video games.
What more do you think the video games world can do to increase diversity and acceptance?
Consult and hire POCs. It’s quite hard to write or develop a character of a different race if you have no idea what they have to go through as a person. Sometimes people just need to listen to other experiences to get a richer idea of how to create these characters.
What games do you enjoy the most?
I am known for horror and retro games, but I do enjoy games like Overwatch. I started my online gaming experience with Call of Duty multiplayer, which some don’t know or assume, but I love those kinds of games from time to time.
What’s been the best game you’ve played in 2019?
The Resident Evil 2 remake. It would be a typical answer for me but being a fan of the series and having played the original Resident Evil 2, Capcom did an excellent job of catering to the old fans while trying to capture the hearts of new players.
What game defined your childhood?
I would say probably The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. It was the first big adventure game that I had ever played and completed. I still remember beating it for the first time and feeling so accomplished that I did.
What does the future hold for Brandon?
I don’t really know to be honest. I will be taking a step back from Streaming eventually, I don’t know when. I want to continue working in the gaming industry, but I do overall want to become a gaming personality in a huge way.
How can our readers keep up with you?
You can follow me here: