November 2014 on YouTube: a video entitled Poppy Eats Cotton Candy gets the web buzzing. In front of a pastel-green backdrop, a girl with long platinum hair and a sequined pink top eats a stick of candyfloss. Once finished, she looks mischievously at the camera, sticks out her tongue and giggles. The screen fades to black. In barely a minute and a half, with neither captions nor explanations, YouTubers discovered a strange new fetish figure, who was back a few days later with a second clip entitled Thursdays Are So Boring: to a J-pop soundtrack by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, she had her nails varnished by two people disguised in full body suits. Once again there was no dialogue and no information, mystery reigning supreme. Viewers had to wait almost two months before the peroxide blonde’s professional identity was revealed in a third video that had her looking into the camera and repeating “I’m Poppy. I’m Poppy. I’m Poppy,” for 10 minutes straight. Absurd, hypnotizing and disturbing, the clip went viral. That day, 7 January 2015, Poppy was officially born.
With her doll’s face, high girly voice and fake smile, Poppy is a “phenomenon” in the strict sense of the word (in its original Greek it means “that which appears”). Firstly because she emerged as an essentially visual apparition, virtual and volatile, as disembodied as she was elusive. Provided you had internet access she could be called up from anywhere, a pastel vision in soft lighting. But she was also a phenomenon in the more accepted sense of the word, springing into the limelight in a way that, while entirely symptomatic of our times, was utterly original. Freed from materialization or explicit intentions, her presence in the virtual world was entirely solipsistic and needed no justification.
As a good product of music industry, Poppy belongs to a generation of artists whose music is only one part of a global identity.
From the start she fascinated, attracting a community of fans, who, as though observing a strange phenomenon in science class, watched her talking to a plant or taking questions from a robot called Charlotte Quinn. Her rehearsed replies, all given with the same angelic expression in the same bright monotone, raised a disturbing question: in the end, wasn’t this bubble-gum girl even more artificial than Charlotte the robot? And who was behind all this? The truth is that the Poppy avatar was the creation of not one but two people: the first, who we see on the screen, is a certain Moriah Rose Pereira, born in Boston in 1995; the second is an American director and musician called Titanic Sinclair. Together they dreamt up these kooky videos in which Moriah always took on the starring role, ironically parodying today’s advertising, blogger and YouTuber trends, but also politics, culture, society and technology, and in doing so subverting a whole ecosystem with their cryptic soigné scenarios.