Rachell Hofstetter always wants to do more. With four million subscribers on YouTube, the streamer known as Valkyrae has become one of the top women creators in gaming since she started back in 2015. Viewers can’t get enough of her bubbly personality and quirky antics, devouring her streams as she trash-talks in Valorant or discovers the imposter in Among Us. Her online popularity has already brought her plenty of opportunities—she co-owns the esports team 100 Thieves, appeared in charity dodgeball games with Twitch’s president, posed for photoshoots with K-Pop stars has appeared in multiple Bella Poarch music videos, and co-hosted the 2023 Streamer Awards. And she still wants to keep pushing herself out of her comfort zone.
So when Apple reached out looking for a “female gamer” for its movie The Family Plan, she jumped at the opportunity. “I don’t know what it was about me, but they thought I was perfect for the role,” Hofstetter tells Kotaku. “They just found me and I had to take the opportunity. I got lucky.”
The Family Plan stars Mark Wahlberg as a suburban dad with a secret—he’s a retired spy and his old work buddies are out to get him. So, naturally, he takes his wife, boy-crazy daughter, and Valorant-playing son on a road trip to Las Vegas. Turns out, the son (Van Crosby) is a streaming protege who helps Hofstetter’s character win a tournament to prove to his dad that gaming is a worthwhile hobby.
Filming that tournament scene was difficult for Hofstetter, who initially felt that her skills as a streamer didn’t transfer over to the movie cameras, where dozens of onlookers could scrutinize her every move. Normally, she’s alone in her aesthetically lit room with headphones firmly planted on her head. But on set, she found it difficult to “keep eye contact” because she felt “shy and nervous.”
Eventually, she realized that if these actors and actresses never “touched a game in their life and they’re pretending to be professional gamers,” then she could fake it too. Thankfully, she didn’t know at the time that Crosby already had quite a lot of experience with Valorant. (He tells Kotaku that he plays the game “every day with his friends” so had that “experience to bring into the character.”)
As influencers have grown in cultural prominence, we’re seeing more of them pop in these kinds of cameos, like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Seán “JackSepticEye” McLoughlin in Free Guy, Kai Cenat in Good Burger 2, and Matthew “MatPat” Patrick in Five Nights at Freddy’s. Hofstetter says that’s because online creators establish a close bond with their fans that’s difficult for athletes, musicians, or actors to replicate.
“People feel like they know us because we’re streaming every single day. It’s live. It’s not edited,” she explains. “You can’t act on a stream every day, so I feel like they’re recognizing the value of streamers in that way.”
But the streaming life wasn’t always quite so glamorous for Hoffstetter. “I would work at GameStop and then go home and stream for nine hours, and that was just my routine for a couple of years,” she explains. “And then it turned into just streaming. And then, I started to feel pain in my legs, I started to feel back pain, and I was starting to feel unhealthy. And also, really quiet and lonely. Even though I was making a lot of friends online.”
Over time, the boundaries between Hofstetter’s online and real-world life began to blur. “I talked about everything, whether it was family issues, my parents getting a divorce, my dad passing away,” she explains. In 2016, she started dating streamer Michael “Sonii” Sherman and brought her audience along for the relationship until they broke up in 2021. The aftermath of their split marked a turning point for Hofstetter.
“I had public relationships and when those failed, I recognized that people online were saying things that aren’t accurate, or they’re spreading misinformation,” she says. “They’re taking things that I’ve said differently. And I’ve recognized over the years that I can’t just be an open book like that.”
Hofstetter is more cautious now about what she shares and how she shares it. (I was told before the interview by her representation that I couldn’t ask about how her esports organization laid off 20 percent of its staff in November, or her controversial blue-light skincare line.)
That makes her something of an exception among online creators, where creating an overblown and exaggerated persona is the norm. But Hofstetter says she can’t approach streaming that way. “If you’re faking it, people can tell if you’re doing it for money,” she adds. When she screams in a game of Lethal Company because a monster is coming to get her or she wins a tight match in Valorant, those squeals are exactly what she’d do if her stream was offline.
When you’re in front of a camera for dozens of hours a week, who you are is going to leak through eventually. Hofstetter says accepting this inevitability is key to success.
“The advice I give to a lot of people that are striving to become a streamer or a YouTuber is that you can’t act,” Hofstetter said. “It would be too exhausting. It would be impossible. Also, people can tell.”
Hofstetter’s next mountain to climb? She wants to be in a horror movie. “I’m just so good at screaming,” she says. “That’s all I do on stream is just scream when I’m getting killed in a game.”
“Maybe I’ll get acting classes,” she adds with a laugh.