- [Josef] If you're like me, and you spend way too much time on Twitter, then you've probably encountered the people that unofficially rule over the site.
Of course, I'm talking about the Twitter stans and if you don't know what a stan is the dictionary describes a stan as an excessively, enthusiastic and devoted fan.
Stan groups rule over Twitter like a conquering army with the ability to create trends, sell out tickets, and shut down critics.
Some famous stan groups include the Swifties, the K-pop stans like BTS Army, and the Beyhive.
But the group I wanna talk about are the Barbz, the name given to the super fans of Nicki Minaj.
Do you call yourself a Barb?
- Yeah, I do, yeah, yeah, I do.
- So in order to get a better understanding of stan culture, I met some of the Barbz behind popular Nicki Minaj Twitter accounts.
- I feel like Nicki Minaj, in a way, she is a reflection of my personality and with this being said, if you don't (bleep) with her, you probably don't mess with me, so you gotta deuce.
- The Barbz have a reputation for being fiery online, but I wanted to see if there's more to being a Barb than meets the eye.
(upbeat music) The word stan is said to be a mashup of the word stalker and fan.
Some say the term was coined by Eminem, who released the track "Stan" in 2000.
The song tells the story of an obsessive fan who turns violent all because Eminem didn't reply back to his fanmail.
Eminem's song is really disturbing and his fictional character is not representative of real life stans.
Several years after the song's release, the term started spreading on to online spaces and by 2010, most stan communities were on Twitter.
Here's the thing, I'm a fan of many celebrities and I like to keep up with what they're doing, but does that make me a stan?
Turns out, no, there's a difference between being a fan and a stan.
Meet Cia, an aspiring Forensic Nurse, who proudly reps Nicki.
- [Cia] I'm gonna put it like this, there are like levels to it because I feel like you can be like a Nicki fan, which is like, you know, she drops like music.
Its kind of mainstream.
You'll listen to it.
You'll vibe for a little bit, and then there's a barb.
♪ My backs to them ♪ ♪ Yep, the queen's back, ♪ what's happenin'?
♪ - [Cia] It becomes like engaging with the music like what project does this person have coming out?
- [Cia] And some people use stan culture as their version of an escape of reality.
'Cause you can go online, you can meet people who are similar interests with you.
- [Josef] But the press surrounding stan groups is not all positive and media have even referred to stan culture as the dark side of social media.
- [Cia] I think most people from the outside looking in tend to always see the negative in something.
They don't usually see the community that gets built around this person.
- [Josef] While working on this episode, friends and colleagues of mine warned me not to mess with the Barbz.
They told me the Barbz will come after me if I'm not careful.
- [Cia] Every time going in, you're gonna hear the Barbz did this, the Barbz did that, the Barbz exposed this number, the Barbz got this account, like, removed from Twitter or Instagram.
That's the crazy things that you hear and I'm not denying that it happened.
It does happen.
There are people like that in the world, doesn't matter if you're in stan culture or just a regular person, this happens, but I think people forget that music and an artist becomes a hobby for some people.
- Okay, real quick, serious, serious, serious comment real quick.
- Meet Nate, a Barb who often interacts with Nicki, directly through the stan Twitter Spaces he orbits.
- [Nate] I'm not gonna hold you.
I have addiction to Twitter.
I really do have addiction.
- [Josef] Because Nate is such an active Nicki stan, I asked him what the etiquette is for being a Barb.
- You cannot, you cannot, you cannot be stanning people that Nicki Minaj, like you cannot stan her ops.
You have to be loyal to the queen.
You have to be loyal.
Like they do not like it when you stan another artist that's in a feud with her right now.
If you really gonna become a Barb and have your Barb card, you have to start from her discovery when she first started, until she, until she's present now.
You know, so like "Beam me up Scotty".
You know, "Sucka Free".
You know, if you wanna be a Barb listen to her mixtapes first, watch her old interviews.
Then you come up.
(upbeat music) - [Josef] Now that I've learned about Barb etiquette I decided it's time for me to meet some Barbz in person.
A venue in Brooklyn has been hosting Nicki Minaj themed parties, so I decided to go and check it out.
This is Flwrshrk, a DJ in New York who has been inspired by Nikki's music and spins her songs for beloved fans at this recurring party.
- She literally, like, paved the way for all of these artists, these new rappers.
Also there wasn't many women doing it at the time doing it so well.
And, like, actually getting the accolades that she did.
- What does it mean to be a Barb?
- To like have a deep, deep love for Nikki.
- The fact that Nicki Minaj has never won a Grammy.
You know, you have to like if they're not gonna give it to her you have to prove why she deserves it.
You have to go on the floor, you have to sing the hardest bars.
- [Josef] Why do you think the Barbz are so present on Twitter?
- Her engagement with her fans is why she has like a huge fan base on Twitter.
Literally, you talk to her like a regular person.
She talks to them like regular people.
- Another common misconception about Stan culture is that the fans are in one-sided of relationships with their favorite celebrity.
But that's not entirely true.
Nicki is invested in her Barbz and has found ways to connect with them and support them.
- Like how Nicki Minaj surprised her Barbz by joining in on the streaming parties.
She's also helped pay off nearly 40 Barbz' student loans.
And according to receipts, eight of those loans totaled over $18,000.
- [Nate] People always ask, like, like why do these Barbz go hard?
There are a reason why, cause it's the way we We really have a personal connection with her.
If you don't know, just know I had a passing in my family and with this being said, you know, she sent me this beautiful message on my dad.
In the morning.
"Just sending you all my love and condolences.
Focus on love.
Losing a parent feels so scary and painful.
Just know that I think of the world of you.
And I know both of your parents were proud of you no matter what you guys went through."
And she put a little unicorn emoji.
- [Cia] I tweeted the most random thing about a Caribbean song that she did.
She laughed at it, retweeted it, like it, and followed me.
And I was like.
- [Josef] For some, it's hard to understand why people become stans of celebrities.
But after asking people why they became a Barb, many have told me that it's because it's like a family.
Cia even told me about a close friendship she made with another Barb she met over Twitter.
He even invited her over for Thanksgiving to meet his family last year.
- And you know, we met for like the first time.
So it was like a lot of hugging.
And we FaceTimed all of our friends from our group chat, like, oh my God, look who I met.
And we're just all like having fun.
- It was cool.
We had a good time.
I jokingly introduced you as my girlfriend to people.
My family, when you came in the house.
And they were like why you ain't say nothing about no girl?
I was like, I was like, relax.
I was just joking.
Like I was just joking.
- For many, stan culture is about belonging.
Fandoms may start with a celebrity, but what ties them together are their shared affinities not just with the celebrity, but also each other.
- And now it becomes more than just Nicki Minaj.
It becomes, I meet a friend with this person because of her so I'm grateful for that connection.
- Stan culture is not a completely new thing either.
From the screamers of Beatlemania to the cosplayers at Star Wars premieres, being a dedicated super fan has been around for a long time.
The difference today is the way these communities use the internet to work together.
- The Barbz definitely set like a, a standard of like of like fan bases and how they even go hard to promote Nikki.
So they definitely on it and the streaming parties, listening parties.
You know what, Nikki streaming, you gonna do this.
Okay, QC You do this, Nate do that.
- There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
So like there are these really big, like Instagram and Twitter Barb accounts that have like 10K, 20K, 30K and they like host rooms or they'll have group chats to say like, okay we wanna get this trending.
So here's how we're gonna go about it.
We're gonna do TikTok videos dedicated to this.
Like, it may seem like it's just the Barbz, like, you know just doing stuff, but it's very strategic.
And there are lot, I feel like a lot of these people should work for like the FBI or something.
- Even the famous rapper, Lil NAS X got his start on Twitter as a Nicki stan account called @NasMaraj.
His Barb account gained almost 150,000 followers long before he even became famous.
- I know him as @NasMaraj on Twitter.
That's how I know him as.
I know him as a troll.
- In the end, I don't see much difference between the people becoming super fans of pop stars and rappers and the people that become super fans of sports players.
- I have a friend that has a certain quarterback's jersey hanging in his apartment, but we don't call him a stan.
I'm certain more stan communities will form around new celebrities.
And maybe those communities will be able to learn a thing or two from the Barbz that came before them.