You've probably never heard of Violet Benson, but you likely see her jokes all over your Instagram newsfeed. The 26-year-old runs the insanely popular account @daddyissues_, which has nearly 2 million followers.
We first wrote about Daddy Issues back in January, when the account was just beginning to blow up after its start in July 2014. On Sunday (August 30), Daddy Issues took over @MTVLife's Twitter to live-tweet the VMAs. After a year of anonymity, Benson is exclusively revealing her identity as Daddy Issues to MTV News, speaking up about the inspiration behind her hilarious posts, online fame and what she really thinks about The Fat Jew controversy.
MTV: You have a crazy huge social media following today. What came before all that?
Violet Benson: I’m from St. Petersburg, Russia. I moved to the U.S. when I was 14 because we won the green card lottery. I also lived in Israel a little bit, and then I went to school [in] Los Angeles. I graduated high school pretty early, and then I went to California State University, Northridge where I studied business law and graduated [at] about [age] 19 or 20, because my dad just forced me to take a bazillion classes nonstop. Then I [pursued] law, then accounting. So I was actually an accountant before I started my Instagram account.
MTV: What inspired you to start the Daddy Issues Instagram?
Benson: I was very unhappy in my public accounting position. I felt somewhat harassed by the women that I was working with on my team. They were all older than me, and they made me feel just worthless and useless in everything I was doing. They kind of made me feel bad about my looks and made it seem like the only reason I was working there was because I was a cute girl. So it was kind of an escape for me to start an Instagram account where I can make people laugh, because it was just always my thing. I was a class clown in high school. I didn’t even have any type of social media accounts back then [before I started Daddy Issues].
MTV: I'm a huge fan of the account myself. What's the experience and response been like for you?
Benson: The cool thing about Daddy Issues is that when I started it, it was making me feel better about myself. It made me feel a little less worthless because I was making other people happy. I started posting more feminine-related things and it was really cool because I didn’t even know that other women could relate [to them]. I always felt like I must be so weird and [that] nobody else thinks like me. Then I would post something and I suddenly noticed all these girls tagging each other and I was like, "Holy sh-t. This is amazing." I don’t feel that weird anymore because everyone else can relate to this.
MTV: Why did you choose to stay anonymous? And how'd you come up with the name Daddy Issues?
Benson: I thought it would be a better way to relate to people without making it about me. And the reason the name is Daddy Issues is because I came up with it really fast. I grew up with daddy issues. I mean, most girls probably have daddy issues. It was just a funny name. I put no thought to it and now it's funny because when people do know me and know I’m Daddy Issues they’ll be like, "Hey, that’s Daddy Issues," and I’m like, sh-t, I wish I would’ve thought of a better name. But whatever, I mean it’s funny (laughs).
MTV: Who's known your real identity this whole time?
Benson: My family and close friends do know ... some people know in L.A., but I do my best to keep to myself. When something like this happens, you start losing friends and you have to stay friends with their specific people because you never know who’s going to divulge information.
MTV: What went into your decision to reveal who you are?
Benson: So many followers and fans reach out to me constantly with emails and messages for advice or to tell me how much I’ve helped them, and I'm really big on responding to everyone. Because of that, a lot of them felt like it's not fair that they don’t know who I am when they feel so close to me. It feels like my next step is to put a face to my Instagram. Right now, it just seems like it’s just a ghost, and nobody knows if it’s real when I talk about things.
MTV: Wow, that's amazing. You respond to everyone who messages you?
Benson: It’s super time-consuming, I’m not going to lie. I get a lot of DMs every day, and I get a good amount of email from fans, too. But I feel like I wouldn’t be where I am without these people. Plus, if I’m able to help even just one person, that’s all that matters to me. I think it’s important to care about other people and I think a lot of us look the other way sometimes when somebody is unhappy or whatever because we just assume we’re going through our own sh-t.
Even if I’m having a bad day, just making someone else feel better cheers me up. A lot of messages I get are [asking for] advice about dating, which is insane because if I knew what I was doing, I would be in a relationship right now (laughs). Because I feel like I developed so late with my looks, I’m still so awkward with guys, so it’s funny when people email me about guy advice and I’m like, sh-t, I wish I knew.
[Some] guys [message me] di-- pics ... Guys message me offering me sex. They’re like, "I love Netflix and chill. I’m looking for a girl that’s down for Netflix and chill." How do you not understand that’s a joke? Please don’t be creepy and email me offering me your penis. And some of the penis di-- pics I’ve gotten before have been insanely creative. Like they take pictures next to like, a pizza or they compare their hard penis next to a wine bottle. It’s crazy. And I block them. And I tell that to everyone -- you send me a di-- pic, you get blocked.
MTV: Oh my god, yeah, that's insane.
Benson: [But some people] message me the most amazing things. I’ve gotten emails before about the fact that one of their parents passed away and they’ve been super depressed but looking at my Instagram is the only thing that got them through it, which is mind-blowing to me. I’ve gotten emails about people being afraid of coming out or feeling different or bullied and saying that I helped them feel OK about being different. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I see these videos they send me or emails and I’m in tears. I do my best to respond and getting follow-up is great to know that everything’s OK with them. When I was growing up and I got bullied, I felt super alone ... so that’s why it’s important for me to respond to everyone.
I’m huge on anti-bullying, which people don’t really know that part [about me], but my whole Instagram is only making fun of myself. I never make fun of any other people, including celebs. I never post funny things about celebrities because I know what it’s like to be harassed and bullied in the workplace. When I was younger, I got bullied for not being cute. So in the workplace, when I finally got into my looks, I got kind of harassed for being cute. When my Instagram started growing, I told myself not everyone gets an opportunity to be able to have a voice, so if I’m able to have this voice I want to be able eventually to get involved with different organizations to speak up about anti-bullying. That’s one of my big passions and that’s why I also want to bring a face to my brand.
MTV: For sure. How do you make time for all this -- responding to messages, posting to social media?
Benson: Well, at first I stayed at my [accounting] job because I couldn’t believe that this could be a real job, but it was super time-consuming. I would barely sleep because I would be always making things, and I would read followers’ comments to figure out what else I [could] start making. [On] March 1, I finally quit my job and I pursued this full-time. Because I feel like I have such a strong voice with my followers and [it’s] so strong to women, I don’t feel comfortable adding anyone else to the creative part. When it comes to Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and whatever other social media platforms, that’s all me. I’m always on my phone and sometimes I forget that I’m working, it’s just like a habit now -- to look for funny things and to make stuff.
Benson: I create most of my own content, correct. I'm so used to seeing stuff I made up all over the internet without credit, but I never get upset since I feel like the greater purpose here is to make people laugh. I have no way of always knowing who makes what! I have seen my stuff on these small accounts where I am not credited, yet it seems that only big accounts get bashed for this. I could make [and post] 99 original memes and [then post] one meme I find on the internet and suddenly, I get bashed for always being unoriginal and stealing everyone's stuff. I think it's absurd and somewhat sh-tty to discredit me as a whole [for that].
I tend to not really focus ever on my competition [and] just do my own thing. I do make most of my stuff, and I watermark it when I do. All of my captions are mine, which are like short stories, and it seems like people like them more most of the time than the actual meme. When I post something that I did not make, I do not watermark it and I credit the creator only if I was able to find them! If they email me or message me that they created it, then I credit them right away.
MTV: Are you worried about how things are going to change once you reveal your identity?
Benson: I have friends now that are celebrities and social media influencers, so I’ve been watching how they’ve been acting. I think I’m definitely going to make sure to stay modest and to not [let] anything [get] to my head, and I’ll make sure to be as nice as possible to people, but I do also want to feel safe, obviously. I don’t think that much is going to change. Ask me again in a few months. I don’t want to talk about [it] like, “Yeah, being famous is gonna be amazing" and then I come out and no one cares. (laughs)
MTV: You recently signed with big-time talent company Creative Artists Agency and Digital Brand Architects for management. Congrats! What's up next for you?
Benson: I'm in production of creating a few fun shorts that have to do with Daddy Issues. They’re going to launch probably in the next few weeks. There’s [going to] be my website soon with blogs. I’m in talks ... about [more] production stuff for Daddy Issues but as usual, I prefer to be behind the scenes, so [I'd be] more [of a] producer and a writer.
Once I reveal myself, [I will be] exclusively on this dating app [Bumble]. We are planning on giving me access [to] all of the U.S. to talk to girls and boys and match with them. Two people will be able to win a date with me -- one boy and one girl. I'm really excited for this since I'm currently single and alone ... and am not on any other dating apps at the moment. I have had a long-standing relationship with Bumble, and I just love everything they are about.