Some say that Catie Wayne destroyed the internet. Others prefer to think that, for a time, the 16-year-old drama student ruled over the web’s collective nerd horde as its queen. The story of Boxxy is one of the internet’s strangest and most engaging stories.
There was nothing particularly special about Catie Wayne. A confident drama student, fond of creating different personas as well as playing videogames, Wayne was an unremarkable internet user. That was until the internet discovered her alter ego.
January 2008: The first videos
The first Boxxy videos were an in-joke betweeen friends. Recorded for another user of the anime hangout game Gaia Online, Wayne created her character based on her username: MoldyLunchbox. Applying heavy eye makeup and talking with a high-pitched, energetic tone, Catie Wayne became “Boxxy”.
Looking back on the video now, it’s obvious that the hyperactive Boxxy was thrown together as a joke. But after languishing in obscurity on Boxxy’s YouTube channel for almost a year, the videos suddenly began to spread across the internet, with one group in particular growing obsessed with the fake American teenager.
December 2008: Boxxy is discovered
It’s possible to trace the exact events and sites that led to Wayne’s immense popularity. From forum to forum, Wayne’s videos took on a life of their own as amused users shared the hyperactive teenager’s joke videos amongst themselves.
The spread of Boxxy can be attributed to archaic distraction site I-Am-Bored.com. The first Boxxy video was posted in a discussion thread on December 27.
Realising that her videos were beginning to be seen by people outside of Gaia Online, Wayne deleted them from her YouTube account, hoping to stem the comments that were being posted. But despite her best efforts, copies had been saved and soon they would be posted on the site that would change her life forever.
January 2009: 4chan reacts
4chan’s notorious /b/ message board is the stuff of internet legend. If you believe what you read, you’d imagine it was a fetid cesspit of gore, child porn, hackers and terrorists. And indeed these things can be found on /b/. Yet the site’s overblown media reputation has overtaken /b/’s somewhat laid-back approach to its own fame.
The same pages that spawned the protest group Anonymous took to Boxxy soon after her video was reposted onto the site. Finally, here was an attractive teenage girl who enjoyed anime, video games and sharing photos and videos of herself.
4chan quickly grew obsessed with Boxxy, with users scouring the web for information about the girl behind the eye make-up.
As Boxxy’s popularity continued to grow, some users felt perturbed by this hyperactive teenager. The CBCR was formed: the “Center for Boxxy Control and Restriction”.
Another group of users launched “Operation Valkyrie”, a plan to hack into Boxxy’s accounts and remove all traces of her from the internet. The plan failed. With none of her accounts compromised, her popularity continued to rise.
January 2009: Boxxy addresses 4chan
Realising that 4chan users had been spending hours viewing her videos, trawling her online profiles and searching relentlessly for her home address, Wayne again daubed herself with eyeliner and became Boxxy. The new video directly addressed 4chan, dispelling the myths that she took drugs and had an attention disorder.
January 2009: The 4chan DDoS
Boxxy had managed to split the 4chan community into two groups: those who believed that Boxxy was the “Queen” of 4chan and those who believed she was just another forced, derivative meme. The former tended to be newer users, called “newfags”; the latter, older users, who are called “oldfags” on the site.
Things got ugly. Eventually almost every thread on the site was filled with images of Boxxy, posts about Boxxy or links to Boxxy’s videos.
The “oldfags” cracked. Operation Clampdown was created to co-ordinate a mass attack on 4chan unless the Boxxy spread was halted.
A Distributed Denial of Service attack was launched on 4chan by its own users on 10 January – a remarkable moment in internet history that even made the pages of the British Guardian newspaper. Boxxy had proved so divisive that the most notorious community on the internet was at war with itself.
January 2009: The hack
The CBCR’s conversations in their private chat room turned desperate as Boxxy’s popularity grew following her third video. Eventually a plan was hatched: the gang of hackers recreated one of Wayne’s old email accounts and used it to seize control of her online presence. They accessed her YouTube account, making all of Boxxy’s videos private and posted a warning of their own:
The bizarre video, with its soundtrack of a song named Guacamole Chip Stand featuring Daniel Radcliffe coughing and Conan O’Brien talking about snacks over a Daft Punk song, angered Boxxy’s fans.
On 20 January, Wayne’s request to Google was approved and the Boxxy account was suspended. Eyrev, the leader of the Center for Boxxy Control and Restriction, posted an apology to Boxxy. The leader of the anti-Boxxy group later went on to form OSBE: the Organization for the Suppression of Boxxy-related Events.
False address information was created for Wayne, helping to keep her real identity hidden for slightly longer. But soon these red-herrings would be of no use when the internet turned up at the Wayne family home.
July 2009: Boxxpeace
Despite previous failed attempts to locate and meet Boxxy by 4chan users, “Boxxpeace” was planned as a Boxxy fan meet-up followed by a trip to investigate an address that had been claimed to be Boxxy’s California residence.
After meeting in the local park, the 4chan users claimed to see a girl with dark hair run past the window of the address purported to be Boxxy’s home. With Catie Wayne hidden from view, they decided to write “ANON” on her doorstep using flower petals.
One of Wayne’s former boyfriends was questioned by the group. When he confessed to having sex with Wayne and then dumping her, the 4chan users took a dislike to him. After their conversation was over, the attendants of Boxxpeace ate frozen yoghurt and returned home.
December 2009: The takedown
Shocked by the internet turning up at her front door, Catie Wayne refrained from posting more Boxxy videos. Several of her friends attempted to gain favour with the Boxxy-focused forums online by sharing private photos of Wayne at drama school. Nevertheless, focusing on her school work and ignoring the hype that surrounded her creation, Wayne’s life largely returned to normal.
However, on 10 December 2009, all of Boxxy’s videos were taken down from YouTube. A copyright claim had been filed by “Lia Dawson”. Boxxy’s videos, minus the millions of views that they had accrued, were uploaded to a YouTube account ran by “Lia Dawson & Frank Lawson”. They claimed to own the trademark for Boxxy and had taken action to reclaim the content.
Wayne eventually contacted YouTube and the video rights were restored to her YouTube channel.
November 2010: A new hope
Catie Wayne finally cashed in on her internet fame in November 2010. Despite previously requesting that her videos remain free of adverts and wishing to hide her full name, Wayne posted an eBay listing for an anime-themed satchel, also visiting one of her fan forums to ask for money on PayPal. According to Wayne, she was close to graduating from art school and was in desperate need of money.
A new YouTube account was created, promising more material from Catie Wayne. ANewHopeee posted an edited video of a Star Wars clip, teasing the return of the internet’s most-loved character.
January 2011: The return
Catie Wayne posted a video on her ANewHopeee channel in January 2011, where she explained her failed plans for Boxxy and that she would be staying away from the internet for “personal reasons”.
But, inevitably, Wayne did return to YouTube, and began regularly posting comedy sketches, make-up tutorials and videos of her cats.
Her new characters have failed to become as popular as Boxxy. Despite Wayne’s repeated efforts to create a cast of characters, it’s still Boxxy that most interests her fans.
January 2013: A real job
After descending into dreary vlogging for two years, Wayne landed a job presenting Animalist News, a YouTube channel posting news videos about animals.
To promote her new channel, Wayne posted a question and answer “AMA” thread on Reddit, the link aggregation site that has long been considered an enemy by 4chan.
Wayne responded to questions about her rise to fame, explaining how she would browse 4chan as they fought over her, although she only occasionally uses the site now. During the AMA Wayne also explained what school was like for her as she juggled her internet fame.
“High school was pretty rough. Everyone was aware, and everyone made damn sure I knew they were aware. I learned who my real friends were very quickly, as they continued to call me by my real name. Others insisted upon calling me Boxxy.”
But perhaps the most significant piece of news to surface on Reddit was Wayne’s claim that a new Boxxy video will be released in 2014.
Will a new Boxxy video cause 4chan to take itself off the internet and turn up at her house again? Probably not. /b/ has moved on from the days when Anonymous was formed, when users with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the internet were able to discover Wayne’s address. Boxxy is now a YouTube celebrity, hugging fans at VidCon like every other star on the internet.
But while Wayne enjoys her new career as a professional YouTube presenter, there will always be a gang of fans who follow her across the internet. While she actively panders to them through her social media and forum posts, Wayne is wary of entertaining the kind of internet users who made her famous.
From a 16-year-old drama student to a YouTube user with income and a sizeable audience, Wayne has had to overcome obsessed fans, death threats, jealous school friends and even home visits from the internet.
She says Boxxy will return in 2014. Until then, the internet waits patiently for the return of its queen.