This profile is part of NBC News’ series about former Vine stars, tied to the fifth anniversary of the platform’s death.
Nat Puff says her reputation as a Vine star is “a blessing and curse.”
Known online as Left at London — stylized as /@/ — Puff is one of a handful of Vine personalities who didn’t pivot to YouTube when the platform went down. She spent the years since the platform’s decline trying to avoid being pigeonholed as a comedian to pursue her musical ambitions. Navigating the balance between music and comedy became more complicated when she started blending the two and went viral for it on Twitter and TikTok.
Aging online is the most jarring part of it all.
In a TikTok video last year, Puff joked about the fans who tell her that they "grew up" on her content, even though she's still young enough to be on her parents' health insurance.
“I feel like I’m comfortable just being a little internet weirdo and trying to surprise people along the way with music stuff and [expletive] like that,” Puff said. “But age on the internet, in all of the discussions and insinuations ... being 25 on the internet, like, you might as well be their mom.”
Puff, who is a nonbinary trans woman, began posting videos when she was around 18. Many of her early videos were posted before she transitioned. Her reputation as a Vine star tends to precede her, and it’s often followed by uncomfortable misgendering. Being known as the “ha ha I do that guy,” a reference to one of her more popular Vines, is one of Puff’s biggest gripes.
“There are three reasons why that annoys me. Number one, that was, like, seven years ago,” Puff said. “I get it, it’s the most understandable one of the three. Number two, ‘guy’? Number three, there are three ha’s. It’s ‘Ha ha ha, I do that.’ Everybody says ‘ha ha,’ and it’s very Mandela effect to me.” (The “Mandela effect” is a phrase sometimes used to describe false memories.)
At the peak of her time on Vine, she had only about 13,000 followers and a handful of videos that actually went viral. A career making content wasn’t her priority, anyway; Puff, who was studying music at community college, considered herself an artist before an internet personality. Her musical aspirations and her presence on Vine were separate creative outlets.
Her online fame came after most of the internet abandoned the platform, when her videos were included in Vine compilations on YouTube. When the platform folded in 2017, the compilation videos became nostalgic outlets memorializing Vine’s glory days. Puff said people tend to be surprised that she “wasn’t popping online” when she was actively posting on Vine because of how popular her videos were in Vine compilations.
'If Vine was a ship that had sailed, Twitter was a lifeboat'
As the platform began declining, Puff began advertising her Twitter account over promoting her music.
“If Vine was a ship that had sailed, Twitter was a lifeboat,” Puff said. “And music was an aircraft, and it’s harder to get into an aircraft from a moving, sinking ship.”
Puff found decent success on Twitter, where she carved out a niche with punchy one-liners and LGBTQ activism. She didn’t think to use the platform to advertise her music until 2018, when she figured out how to use her knack for comedy to flex her music production skills.
“I remember I had done this funny little video on how to make a Frank Ocean song, and I was like, ‘What if I just did that again?’ And that’s how the middle era of my comedy career sort of started.” Puff said, referring to a video she posted on Twitter in 2018.
“And people were starting to box me in as, like, an internet comedian and not as a musician when I posted the Frank Ocean song thing,” Puff added. “I didn’t intend to advertise my music or anything like that. But I did intend for it to show off that I can do a little bit more than just make scurvy jokes. And so when I saw my streaming numbers go up because of those videos’ getting viral, I was really surprised.”
Puff started posting her videos on TikTok in 2019. Unlike Vine, she saw that the platform had the potential for engagement as a way to advertise her music. Between satirical rants about lesbian culture and dry quips about mental health, Puff also peppers in videos remixing songs.
Even though her 450,000 TikTok followers are overwhelmingly supportive, Puff’s content often lands on the “wrong side of TikTok” as it gains attention.
She learned to deal with being misgendered by people who remembered her from Vine through “radical acceptance,” but the rampant transphobia on TikTok is an ongoing battle. Misgendering someone is an act of violence, Puff said, so she approaches it by either ignoring the transphobic comments or making the offenders the butts of her jokes. Arguing with them doesn’t hit as hard as openly mocking them.
“I feel like I’m just starting to find it funny how wrong people can be. There was definitely a break point where, not to get dark here, but I was like, ‘If I get misgendered one more time, I’m either going to kill myself or laugh it off,’” Puff said. “And now I’m still here, baby!"
The internet is a 'scary place to develop'
As someone who grew up online, Puff feels a sense of obligation to take care of her young followers.
The relative anonymity the internet afforded in the early aughts is nonexistent now, and the line between reality and the online world is blurrier by the day.
She describes the internet as “such a scary place to develop” and worries about the teenagers immersed in TikTok today. Being a teenager famous online — old enough to be an adult but young enough to still be developing — “hindered” her progress “in many ways,” Puff said.
“It’s really weird to see, being on the internet and to watch the world be thrown in your face constantly,” she said. “I get the urge to be on the internet, and I’m not going to tell anybody to not be on the internet. But at the same time, I feel like in order to have internet access, you should be provided three months’ worth of DBT [a behavioral therapy strategy] right beforehand, just to make sure you’re capable of handling all that.”
I feel like in order to have internet access, you should be provided three months’ worth of DBT right beforehand, just to make sure you’re capable of handling all that.
Vine’s 6-second videos limited content to silly skits and one-line jokes. TikTok videos can be up to 3 minutes long, and Puff is horrified by the indifferent culture of engagement on the app.
TikTok’s potential for monetization, by selling “an insane amount of personal data,” leaves Puff unsettled about using it to promote herself.
In her nearly eight years as a creator, Puff learned that care is vital to surviving online. Care for herself to avoid burnout is a priority, and so is the care she has for her audience. Maintaining an online presence for so long isn’t just about avoiding getting canceled; it’s about caring enough about the people who follow her to accept criticism and grow from it.
The only way she knows how to navigate her role online is to be a better role model than the ones she had when she was younger. The self-awareness to question her own presence online developed only after years of having made content. Without getting “preachy,” Puff tries to encourage her audience to be more intentional about how it interacts with the internet — a practice with which she still struggles.
“I get really worried about my audience, how they’re coping with all of this [expletive] that’s happening in front of them,” Puff said with a sigh. “But I am trying to be myself as much as I can, and there are aspects where I’m like: ‘Am I changing myself so I can sell it? ... Am I doing a good job at helping my audience? Should I be doing more?’ There’s no answer. There is no definitive answer to that is what I’ve been learning. It's about what you feel is your responsibility."