When Myleeza Mingo first watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians as teenager in a small town in Louisiana, she didn’t see the show as a sign of the impending fall of Western civilization, or 22-minute chiaroscuro of the vapid nature of celebrity. She saw three stylish sisters, whose humor and charisma made the show incredibly watchable. But it was the ridicule of and negatively toward Kim after her breakup with Kris Humphries that turned Mingo from casual admirer to a true stan, ready to defend Kim against her haters.
The use of the term “stan” to mean superfan comes from the Eminen song “Stan”, about a fan so passionate he becomes homicidally deranged. Now the term is used to describe online superfans who are so ardent they devote their entire online existence to the celebrity or artist they stan for.
Typically, stans support female musicians like Beyoncé or Britney Spears — the kind of female solo artists who attract slavish devotion. Some of these tribes have their own names: the Beyhive, Arianators, (Lady Gaga’s) Little Monsters, Swifties, (Rihanna’s) Navy. On Twitter, you can easily identify a stan because they’ll likely have a photo of their idol as their avatar, and often use a fake name that incorporates the singer’s name — for example, if I were @KatieSpears, you’d know I was a Britney stan. True stans carry the flag for their diva, and will ruthlessly fight for them. (A recent Twitter thread by a Beyoncé stan laid out a brutal and hilarious evisceration of all current pop divas, ending commentary for each with “She doesn’t have the range.”)
All this devotion sometimes leads stans into sometimes extremely boring waters. Music stans are obsessed with statistics about album sales and metrics, flaming rival stans with facts — otherwise known as “receipts” — about how, say, Selena’s album sold more units in the first week than Demi's, thereby proving Demi is a “flop.” Recently, a Change.org petition launched by an Arianator demanded that Metacritic, a site that averages critic’s reviews into a numerical score, remove a lukewarm review of Ariana Grande’s recent album on Rolling Stone based on a detailed, point-by-point explanation of how the review did not fully examine the brilliance of Grande’s voice.
While the classic stan is a female pop-diva fan, there are also stans of other celebrities — like Kim Kardashian. And Mingo, aka @MyleezaKardash, considers herself the number one Kim stan of all time.
Right now, Mingo is facing a new chapter in her life — she just graduated college — and so she’s considering retiring from the stan lifestyle. But can a true stan ever give it up? I talked to Mingo on BuzzFeed’s Internet Explorer podcast to find out what happens when a stan retires.
I talked to Myleeza on BuzzFeed’s Internet Explorer podcast to find out what happens when a stan retires.
When Myingo tweeted that she was considering retiring, Kim manually retweeted her, begging her not to. “It was one of the saddest moments ever,” said Mingo about Kim’s tweet.
“I've been doing this since I was 14 years old,” she said. “It's something I love to do; it’s really become my hobby, so it's like giving up something you've been doing for almost 10 years and you realize it's time to hang it up. It's just a sad sad day. I grew up so fast — I'm about to be 22 in August and I have to be an adult.”
What’s exceptional about Mingo as a stan is that she has actually interacted with Kim, something most stans would die to do. Kim once replied to her on Twitter, and she actually recognized Mingo when she showed up to a perfume-signing event. The two struck up a friendship; Kim invited her to a Kanye concert and even visited her on her birthday.
For Mingo's recent college graduation, Kim sent an expensive gift. “I had tweeted asking if the Apple Watch was really worth it. I was a broke college student, and it was like $300,” Mingo said. “[Kim] DM'd me and said, ‘Hey, congratulations on graduating, I want to send you a gift.’ We get to my graduation, and I opened it up and it was this Apple Watch I had tweeted about. You can tell she's so connected and in tune with her fans — she knew I wanted it and was considering getting one, and she got it for me.”
As a true stan of a controversial celebrity, Mingo has done her fair share of fighting on Twitter, but she’s mostly stopped. “I've gotten so much better with it because Kim told me I could handle it,” she said. “I try to be more mature because I know I'm older than these people. But I used to argue with anyone who mentioned me, and I'd have arguments that lasted for days and days and days. When I see someone talking crazy, I try my best to ignore it. But yeah, there's times you argue all day with one person. You're just trying to prove your point … A true stan knows you can end up arguing all day.”
Mingo majored in public relations and business, and she knows that the sizable audience she's built on social media (26,000 Twitter followers and 21,000 on Instagram) is seen as an asset in those industries. If she goes through with her "retirement," she plans to keep those accounts active, but just switch over to less stan activity and have each of them function as more of a personal account. However, she’s unsure if she’ll keep the @MyleezaKardash handle or switch it to her real name. People know her by her handle so well, classmates would even call her that; she even occasionally accidentally signs restaurant bills as “Kardash” instead of her real last name.
Still, she’s not sure she’s fully ready to break up with Kim. “I'm not 100% dead on it, but I think it's just the right thing to do. I'm 22, I'm getting ready to start my career, I just graduated college, and I just really think that it's time, even though I'm reluctant to give it up. I've had my fair share of years on Twitter cursing people out, all things a real stan does. But it's time to hang up my stan shoes.”
Katie Notopoulos is a senior editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Notopoulos writes about tech and internet culture is cohost of the Internet Explorer podcast.
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