In 2013, she started a stan Twitter account “pretty much just tweeting at Lady Gaga and all the celebrities that I liked.” Not yet showing her face, the young trans woman was quickly able to find community with people who shared her newfound fascination with celebrity and pop stardom. “I don’t have a whole lot of friends in my real life, so the fact that I made a bunch of internet friends all at once made it a lot easier,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Maybe I’m
“I saw other people getting fame on the internet, and it just seemed like something that I could totally do myself—probably better.”
not so unlikable.’” Back home, her family rejected her transition, except for her sister (according to Chase, the rest remain “very in denial”); online, she could be whoever she wanted. “I always just wanted to be normal,” she said.After four years of running the account anonymously, a 17-year-old Chase decided to step out from behind the curtain and begin posting more content. Up to that point, she’d developed a following but anonymity made it hard to make her own content stand out from the thousands of other similar stan accounts out there. She still wanted to be normal, she said, but she also wanted to taste all that she thought success had to offer. “I saw other people getting fame on the internet, and it just seemed like something that I could totally do myself—probably better,” she said. Two years of “doing stupid videos of myself talking in my car, throwing things, being an idiot,” followed, though she’s since scrubbed those social media postings from the internet.
Though she’s not yet being asked to hawk tummy-flattening teas or hair-restoring gummy bears on her Instagram, Chase says she’s already starting to see some payoff. Not only is her music career taking off, her part on Slag Wars—a show for which her role went beyond simple vocal narration, incorporating her own writing and snap takes into the mix—was beloved by fans and celebrities alike, including Drag Race alumni and pop stars like Allie X. Fans might have come for the voiceovers, but they certainly stayed for the full package.Never did her reach become clearer than in December 2020, when Chase launched a GoFundMe campaign to help finance her gender confirmation surgery after she was told the procedure would be more expensive than she’d originally budgeted for; it raised the necessary $5,500 (and then some) in only days. “For me, it was a tragic, hard-hitting moment in my life, where suddenly what I had put so much work into and sacrificed so much for was going to be taken away from me in an instant,” she said. “I had to do what I could to make sure that I was going to be able to get the surgery that I needed. Crowdfunding isn’t ideal. Nobody wants to put themselves out there. It’s hard to feel like a bad bitch when you need help. But sometimes bad bitches need help.”
“I have to remind myself that I’m a part of this now, and not necessarily another audience member just watching.”
BEHIND THE COVERAn interview with portrait photographer Lindsay Ellary, who shot Chase Icon for this story and the cover of The Fame Issue.VICE: You photographed social media star Chase Icon for this issue’s cover. Can you give us some background on the inspiration behind the shoot?
Lindsay Ellary: Well, I knew the theme of the issue was fame, and that Chase is also interested in the ideas surrounding fame, so a paparazzi-motivated shoot just made sense. I had just watched the Framing Britney Spears documentary and the notion of a paparazzo feasting on a woman trying to live her life felt like something I wanted to explore further. I also just really wanted to shoot an early 00s whale tail on a Segway.In hindsight, we really should have filmed Chase riding around on that Segway. Do you have any funny anecdotes from the shoot?
Watching the sweet Segway man very patiently teach Chase how to ride was pretty cute. Also, we bought Chromatica Oreos at the Newport Pier from a random dude on Craigslist.Where do you get your day-to-day inspiration?
I’m inspired by little puddles of light, and women, and generally anything that crushes my heart a bit.Lindsay Ellary lives in Los Angeles, and her work has been published in Vogue, W Magazine, The New Yorker, and TIME.