Belle Delphine is perhaps best known for her "gamer girl bathwater" stunt where she sold $30 jars of her used bathwater.
  • Belle Delphine is one of the biggest contemporary phenomena in online sex work. 
  • She opened up to Insider about her hardcore-porn debut, subversive style, and controversies.
  • Delphine also addressed why she's accused of selling another sex worker's nude photos.
  • This article contains links to and describes explicit content, including mentions of rape.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Rope-bound with duct tape over her mouth, Belle Delphine entered the new year with a new controversy. The pink-haired porn star had donned a brunette beehive, baby-blue vintage dress, and Mary Jane shoes for an X-rated staged-kidnapping fantasy shoot in the back of a gray van. She was accused of "promoting rape."

Delphine is a wildly successful OnlyFans performer, trollish provocateur, and YouTuber with nearly 2 million subscribers. At 21, she's become emblematic of a host of modern tropes about "gamer girls" and influencers - a budding cultural icon in the world of online sex work. Delphine has been permanently barred from Instagram, where she had more than 4.5 million followers, and was temporarily suspended from YouTube.

READ | SA-born Bell Delphine now makes R20 million a month selling erotic photos and bathwater

She unapologetically responded to critics who said she should have prefaced her explicit photo set with a trigger warning. "There is nothing wrong with enjoying power-play and BDSM where both people are consensual," Delphine wrote, comparing the backlash to the myth that video games cause violence. Attempts to have her "canceled" trended on Twitter.

Just the month before, Delphine capitalized on her controversies and desirability, moving into the realm of hardcore porn after posting mostly seminude imagery and partially censored clips on OnlyFans. She's already making $1.2 million a month, Delphine told Insider, which viewed screenshots of her November earnings taken from inside her account.

Delphine's porn teaser, which she tweeted to her 1.5 million followers, shows her in cat ears lifting a baby-blue crop top to reveal her bare nipples for the first time. It has 10.5 million views on Twitter alone. On YouTube, it's part of the opening sequence for a music video aptly titled "I'M DOING PORN." In it, Delphine gyrates for faux TikTok videos, wields a fake Uzi submachine gun, and splashes around half naked in a kiddie pool.

Delphine's Twitter promo for her porn debut, left, a provocative picture Delphine posted to Twitter, right.

Her orchestrated antics to promote her porn are part of what Delphine described to Insider as her online career "finally taking a climactic position." Her fame as a kawaii (Japanese for "cute") model, living meme, and purveyor of $30 "gamer girl bathwater" lasted for two years before Delphine went fully uncensored.

SA-born Delphine dropped out of school at 14 after being bullied for her 'edgy' online humour

Before developing the character of Delphine, she was born Mary-Belle Kirschner in South Africa and spent her very early years being raised in Cape Town. After Delphine's parents divorced, she moved with her mother to England, where she attended secondary school until dropping out in 2014 at 14.

She described herself as having been a "weird" kid, adding, "It's so strange seeing how many people from my old school have made tweets like, 'I can't believe the weird girl at school has turned out to be Belle Delphine.'"

Delphine said her "bad mental state" at a young age, combined with poor school attendance and readily available internet access, led her to YouTubers like Filthy Frank, an anti-political-correctness sketch-comedy character created by the J-pop artist Joji, and iDubbbz, an offensive personality known for his "Content Cop" series that exposes and mocks other YouTubers. The edgy, offensive comedy molded Delphine's humor and ultimately led to her social exclusion, she said.

She had just transferred schools to get a fresh start, but after her first day, a classmate took screenshots of an offensive joke Delphine made online and passed it around to students at both her old and new schools. 

"Basically this joke was a string of ironic comments. The initial thread started with someone saying, 'I love cancer.' So people were saying, like, 'I love cancer because you can get a free wig,'" Delphine said. "I said, 'I love cancer because you can go to Disneyland.'"

She lived in a small town, so the screenshots spread quickly, Delphine said. When she woke up the next morning, she said she checked her phone and read messages containing "hate after hate after hate." She couldn't face it in person, she added, and she never went back to school again.

"I was more sensitive on the internet then. I was still growing a thick skin at the time," she said. "Once you see so many negative comments in a row, it kind of makes you not care anymore. After you've seen the same hate comment 100 times, you think, 'I've heard that one.' You don't care."

After she dropped out of school, Delphine worked odd jobs like waitressing and nannying for four years while posting content like cosplay and room tours online to a mostly female audience. She still enjoys dark humor, and not much offends her unless it's something malicious, she said.

"In some ways, it really propelled me more into the internet. When that happened, and everyone in my hometown kind of turned against me, it really kind of made me turn against them and go, 'F--- you.' It really isolated me even more because I thought the internet was the only place people accepted me."

She represents a new generation of online sex work, but her entry point became one of her biggest controversies

Delphine's unusual brand of sexiness builds on what she loved and posted as a teenager. A longtime lover of anime and kawaii aesthetics, she posted a cat-eye makeup tutorial on YouTube at 16. Her early Instagram account included pictures of her in pink wigs, thigh-high stockings, and Harley Quinn and "Overwatch" cosplay outfits.

"I was confident, but at the same time I didn't like speaking much," Delphine said about her teenage years. "I'd always show my humor through being self-deprecating or doing something stupid."

When she was 17, Delphine was approached by an older man offering a deal in which she would hand over her Facebook account to him so he could pass off another adult sex worker's nude photos as Delphine, she said. In return, a still underage Delphine would make a percentage of the profits. She agreed.

Delphine in 2016 still wore cat ears in her early makeup-tutorial videos.

"I stopped working with him very soon after because I didn't like him," Delphine said. "He's actually an older guy, and he was very suspicious. He asked for my mom's credit card, and eventually I just felt uncomfortable with the whole situation."

Several years later, in January 2019, the adult sex worker Minty Darling alleged Delphine had sold Darling's nudes while Delphine was underage. Delphine said she offered the meager earnings she made from Darling's photos to her- an offer that was declined. She and Darling reached an agreement privately, and Delphine hasn't commented on the controversy until now. Delphine said she was the only underage girl involved.

"This whole situation is very difficult because I've been told by everyone around me not to speak out about it, and I can't name this guy. But I wasn't the first girl he did this to," Delphine said.

In direct messages with Insider, Darling confirmed Delphine's account. Darling said she's been in the adult industry "a very long time" and was "mostly just disappointed" to see her content being profited off by someone else. 

Once she turned 18, though, Delphine decided to start incorporating bizarre, sexual elements into her online profiles. The rise of OnlyFans has helped normalize softcore sex work, but Delphine began selling partially nude images on Patreon before online sex work became a side hustle for millions of people, influencers, and celebrities.

Read more: Michael B. Jordan and 15 other celebrities who have made OnlyFans pages

More than just a standard camgirl or provocative Instagrammer, Delphine was eliciting a reaction from her viewers that was intended to travel. Her social-media stunts started small, like smiling at the camera while eating a raw egg, shell and all, but Delphine's talent lies beyond her physical appearance and shows she possesses a sharp strategy, wealth of online knowledge, and dark sense of humor.

"I like creating a dialogue of: 'Oh, this girl's really weird, but I'm interested so I'm going to share it," Delphine said. "I've used the internet for a very long time, and I'm practically on my computer all day and have been for several years. I kind of analyze what I click on, what I'm interested in, and what makes me want to ask questions."

Provocative stunts leave her audience confused, amused, and sometimes enraged

Delphine's memorable appearance and strange behavior catapulted her to online notoriety. First, on Instagram, where she rose from 850,000 followers in November 2018 to 4.2 million in July 2019. That summer, Delphine said she would make a Pornhub account if one of her Instagram posts received over 1 million likes. When it did, she uploaded 12 videos as promised - and every single one of them was a fake-out.

In one video, titled "PEWDIEPIE goes all the way INSIDE Belle Delphine," she winked while eating a photo of the most subscribed-to individual YouTuber, Felix Kjellberg. Each video she posted received between 66 and 76% dislikes, but Delphine was the most searched celebrity figure on Pornhub in 2019.

"You want people to respond, whether that's, 'Oh, I like that,' or, 'Oh, I don't like that,'" Delphine said. "Negative attention can sometimes be positive attention."

Delphine's early stunts included eating a raw egg and playing with a dead octopus on Instagram, and later she sold her used bathwater.

The Pornhub stunt directly preceded her used-bathwater sale, in which Delphine said she sold out of hundreds of $30 jars of dirty bathwater intended for "sentimental use" in just three days.

In July 2019, Delphine's Instagram account was banned. The platform told Insider at the time that Delphine violated community guidelines but wouldn't go into detail because of privacy concerns. Pushing the limits on Instagram is Delphine's biggest regret, she said.

"Sometimes it feels like these platforms have it out for me in particular," she said. "My Instagram got taken down when there are other girls and porn stars posting the same type of content that I was."

After losing her platform overnight, she went offline before reappearing for a short-lived stunt in October 2019. Delphine, inspired by the trending hoax that she'd been arrested for selling bathwater, tweeted a fake Metropolitan Police mugshot of her.

Delphine concocted a story that a woman had stolen her hamster at a party, so she posted pictures of a defaced vehicle that she claimed was the thief's car. It was actually a cheap sedan Delphine purchased that day, but the whole hoax was loosely based on true events, she said.

Delphine bought a used vehicle for a stunt in which she pretended to have been arrested. She spray-painted a "Pepe" meme frog, which is commonly associated with the far-right, on the car.

"I have my hamsters in large vivariums, and when I came downstairs during the party, this woman went upstairs and took out my hamster and just let my hamster roam free," Delphine said. "She was obviously drunk or something. And then the next day I found my hamster walking around the upstairs of my house, loose."

How did the idea to plant her own arrest hoax stem from there? "I just thought it would be funny," she said. "To say, 'Oh, I've been arrested.'"

Delphine returned to social media after that in June with a YouTube parody video based on 6ix9ine's "Gooba" called "I'M BACK." The video served as a way to generate attention and announce Delphine's OnlyFans page. It has been viewed 36 million times. But in November, Delphine's YouTube channel was suddenly banned but later reinstated after backlash. The day she lost her channel, Delphine said she made the decision to do porn.

"I just thought 'this is my last opportunity to do it' because I didn't have a platform anymore," she said. "I'd rather say I was doing porn and release that when I feel like I'm at the top of internet relevancy, rather than when I'm on the downhill and I'm trying to claw myself back up."

There's a dark side to Delphine's lucrative online life

Delphine is typically bombarded by hate from both men and women, but she encounters far more than just crude and cruel comments. She says she's been doxxed, which means her address has been leaked online, and that she's had unwelcome visitors show up to her house. People have sent her emails containing gruesome pictures of dead bodies, Delphine said. 

"I've had a lot of scary incidences that have really unnerved me," Delphine said. "Like I know that there are a lot of weird 4chan threads about me that make me feel uncomfortable. I don't mind vague death threats because that's just a troll thing, but I think when people go into detail about it, that freaks me out a bit."

After the death of 17-year-old Bianca Devins - another e-girl with a small Instagram following who was stabbed to death - Delphine said she got comments suggesting she should be killed the same way.

"It had 1,000 likes on it, and I was just like, 'How could this be a comment that people are liking?' The fact that they want me to be murdered next, that really scared me," she said.

Delphine has also been dealt consequences in her personal life over her decision to pursue sex work. While her long-term boyfriend, who chooses to remain anonymous, is supportive of her career, Delphine isn't on speaking terms with her mother, who disapproves of her choices.

"I mean, obviously no parent wants to hear that their daughter is doing porn," Delphine said. "I think it's quite difficult for her to deal with, and I completely understand. We're giving each other space."

Delphine says she doesn't want to be an inspiration to anyone

For the foreseeable future, Delphine says she plans to "milk" her porn career. There's a lot of money to be made off OnlyFans while she maintains her youth and hype. Later, Delphine said she may consider starting a Twitch account, where she'd stream herself playing video games - but she added that she thought it would be hard for people to see her as "anything other than a porn star."

"I don't really have a negative connotation with porn," Delphine said. "It's become a lot more normalized in society."

She added that "it seems like every girl has an OnlyFans" now that use of the platform has skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic. But Delphine said her desire to do sex work stemmed from enjoyment and that she hoped other women wouldn't be driven to the field out of monetary concerns alone.

Delphine in her YouTube comeback video.

"I hate, in a way, that I'm contributing to that because people can see me and see my numbers and think, 'Oh, she's doing really well so that means I can do really well,'" Delphine said. "For every one successful girl you see, there are thousands of other girls working really hard and not earning anything."

She added: "I think being a sex worker and doing these things can be healthy, but I think it has to come from you. I did it because I've always been a sexual person and I've been sexually open throughout my whole life. This is something I wanted to do and I like doing it."

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