An ode to Trisha Paytas

It starts with a cough, then comes the scream: “I hate my life.” Trisha Paytas’s words are set to a reggae-pop beat in the 2017 song “I Hate My Life”. Paris Hilton’s “Stars Are Blind” (2006) comes to mind. But apart from the soundscape, the contrast between the songs is stark. In the music video, Hilton is tumbling around with her lover on a sandy white beach while Paytas is washing paper plates in her kitchen.

My first encounter with Trisha Paytas was around five years ago when I saw the Youtube video “How to Look Skinny in Photos”. I don’t remember exactly how I got there, but I think it’s safe to assume that I googled “how to look skinny in photos”. I watched it over and over again. I immersed myself in the Trisha Paytas experience. I loved her quick-witted monologue, her deep understanding of visual illusions, her platinum blonde hair and oh, those plosive t’s. To this very day, I always put one leg in front of the other when I’m being photographed as per recommendation of Paytas.

“I Hate My Life” starts with Paytas on the couch of her her living room. We recognize the interior from her frequent vlogs and mukbang sessions. She has a remote control in her hand and she is  swapping aimlessly between channels. Intertwined is a scene where Paytas is seductively dancing in front of the kitchen sink. She is wearing a ripped white t-shirt that exposes her shoulders and cleavage but somehow manages to keep the integrity of the collar for that signature depressed-in-sweats look. She sings while making eye contact with the camera: “I hate my life but I don’t want to die.”

When the first verse starts, we see Paytas laying in her pink satin bed. The bedding looks like an updated version of the Bobby Trendy custom-made bed on the Anna Nicole Show. “So every single morning I wake up,” she sings as she gets up and walks to the bathroom. “I should go and put on makeup.” She stares at her reflection in the mirror, occasionally shooting off a fake smile; the grin of a person who is fed up. “But what’s the point when I hate my face?” She dives straight into the core of depression. What is the point? Is there a point? Does life have meaning? She goes on to taunt her chubby face and her thighs that, according to Paytas, are so fat that they make the world quake beneath her when she walks. We see a close up of Paytas’s legs as she walks into the kitchen. She opens the fridge, brushed stainless steel, and grabs a can of whipped cream whose content she proceeds to spray directly into her mouth. Her face is smeared with whipped cream, and she grins towards the camera. The music video for “I Hate My Life” consists of short, fast clips, so now, we’re watching Paytas wash paper plates in her kitchen sink while repeating the words of the chorus like a mantra: “I hate my life but I don’t want to die.” This is a play on the person that Paytas portrays in the ongoing work of art that is her internet presence. It is also my favorite detail of the music video. By rinsing paper plates, she  demonstrates to us what kind of person she is: an impractical woman who cannot keep house and who dares flaunt it.

In the next scene, Paytas sits clothed in an empty bathtub. Indifferently, she states: “Your life is better than mine.” All of our lives are better than hers. She grabs a razor and puts it to her wrist. “I don’t want to die, but I’m scared of death.” She swiftly replaces the razor with a bag of chips. “But I hate my life.” She stuffs her mouth with chips and cries into the bag. Following up on the previous kitchen scene, she throws the wet paper plates in the bin.

Cut to Paytas standing alone in an empty 7-Eleven parking lot somewhere in Los Angeles. She’s wearing a very short, ocean green sequin dress with a white faux-fur and a bright pink cowboy hat. She leans on her millennial pink Hummer (which is frequently featured in her videos), oozing of confidence. “I got money and it [my life] still sucks.” The consecutive lines speak for themselves: “I can’t stop eating. It’s a problem. My boyfriend was gay. Now I ain’t got one. I got lipo but I’m still fat. It didn’t work.” These are all real issues that Paytas has discussed extensively on in her videos, and I’m sure that they also do contribute negatively to the perceived suckiness of her life. But consider that fact that she hates her life even though she is now financially well off (this wasn’t always the case). Will she be happy if she loses weight? Will be she be happy if she gets a boyfriend or even a husband? Surely not.

I am not trying to, and I will not, condone Paytas to a life of unhappiness. Given the title of the song, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Paytas is no stranger to depression and anxiety, on which she capitalizes in clever ways. But Paytas is full of paradoxes. She’s the unofficial cover girl of the body positivity movement where “Fat Chicks” (2015) is the anthem. Paytas lays it down for us: “Fat is a word used to negatively bring down a girl with a little extra junk in the trunk. But being called fat is just a label. A label put on to us by others who can’t handle this wow-wow-wow. So I’ll take that label and wear it because it does not define me. You wanna call me fat? Well, you’d be right.” Meanwhile, she’s hurt to the core of her being when she’s described as “fat” by her boyfriend (in a descriptive, non-condescending way). “Body positivity [means] eating whatever you want and then crying about it after, then going on Instagram to say you’re sexy even though you truly don’t believe it,” she says in a Vogue Parody video. This gives us a clue about the degree of dissociation that Paytas is capable of, and even comfortable with.

In “I Hate My Life”,  Paytas turns this disassociation into a joke. But everything she says rings true. She is all alone in the universe that she has created. There is no one in it but her. Not even dragons, as she woefully declares in “I Hate My Life”. (Paytas is a Game of Thrones fan and identifies especially with Khaleesi, the Unburnt Mother of Dragons.) But in this sparse universe, there is pain. There’s joy as well, but the pain is persistent, never fully absent. Paytas does not want to live or die. It’s a true, philosophical aporia. Shared, I am sure, with many of her predecessors. Anna Nicole Smith and Marilyn Monroe comes to mind, women who lost their lives too soon. Monroe and Smith both died of depression and prescription drug abuse, a problem faced by Paytas as well.

But this is an ode to Trisha Paytas. I want her to live a long life full of happiness and fulfillment — a rich life with lots of experiences, good and bad. I want for her to continue to create and express herself and share with the world her unique perspective. “I Hate My Life” ends with Paytas driving around in her Hummer, getting fast food from multiple restaurants. She eats it alone in her car. “I hate my life and this is the song,” she sings. “I hate my life, so just move along.”

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