Ericka Bozeman, known as BigBossBoze on Twitch, helped to herald in a new genre on the streaming platform with her big, boisterous personality and penchant for murder and intrigue that keeps viewers tuning in for a dose of true crime.
"I started the true crime thing for a couple of reasons. First, nobody on Twitch was doing it, which was mind-blowing to me at the time…[but] the main reason I am so fascinated by true crime is because a lot of violent crime also comes from unprocessed trauma," she said in a phone interview with Ach5.
A fan favorite of the Smosh universe, Bozeman took a hiatus from content creator after Smosh's parent company, Defy Media, abruptly shut down in 2018.
She began a successful career in digital marketing with Live Nation, and eventually returned to the world of content creation with her new true-crime streams on Twitch. She's enjoyed immediate success on her fast-growing Twitch brand, due to her ingenuity and marketing finesse.
Name: Ericka "Boze" Bozeman
From: Born in a small town in southern Virginia of only 8,000, Bozeman grew up as an isolated latchkey kid in a single-parent, multi-generation household to a mother who worked as a local journalist.
Random delight: Bozeman started her Twitch career as a League of Legends streamer, where she cultivated a "toxic community" based around her brash playstyle. She has since shed that image and created a brand new, dedicated community of supporters.
Key quote or motto to live by: "Your work should involve service."
Setting the Tone
A latchkey kid of the late '90s and early 2000s, Bozeman was a self-proclaimed social outcast who found herself in the throes of internet culture at an early age.
While other kids were outside playing tag, she was huddled in front of her family computer, bathed in the dim light of an outdated LED monitor, learning web design and basic coding as a fourth-grader.
She was a lonesome kid glued to her computer; an original digital native. She spent her afternoons and nights in a virtual dreamscape—an outlet for the trauma she experienced in a town too small for her brilliance.
"I didn't have to work on my trauma because I had the internet as an escape, I could be a new person, I could learn new skills, I could cope differently, I could distract myself," she said.
"I think sometimes with trauma we have self-fulfilling prophecies, and I think I made myself an outcast through my teenage years, and even now I'm still kind of an outcast."
Loneliness was a theme in Bozeman's young life as she battled with Complex PTSD due to religious trauma, compounded by feeling like an outcast in a racially codified "backwoods" town.
Her escape into digital silos served as not only a safe space, but also a coping mechanism. Molding to online communities during adolescence was critical to who she would become.
Her entrepreneurial spirit would lead her to flipping domains at the age of 13 and selling them on MySpace, into eventually creating her first business as a 17-year-old, selling flyers to club promoters and entering the world of digital marketing.
True Crime Story
Her innovative spirit would lead her to see a hole in the market. As streaming was growing in popularity, so was the true-crime genre. Yet, there were no prominent true-crime streamers.
As a marketing maven does when she notices an untapped market, Bozeman seized it. In September 2020, she did a full month of true crime, and her viewership exploded.
Her series was a hit. Now, she works with a team that includes a community manager, assistant, production assistants, and volunteers from her community.
They help her produce her weekly show within Twitch's terms of service, so she can enjoy a seamless stream with her community.
"I didn't have to work on my trauma because I had the internet as an escape, I could be a new person, I could learn new skills, I could cope differently, I could distract myself."
That includes paying licensing fees for the videos she reacts to on her channel. She inspired an entire genre of new streamers trying to capture lightning in a bottle twice.
When it comes to the true-crime community on Twitch, she sees it as an opportunity to uplift a brand new category on the site most well-known for gaming streams.
Contrary to the explosion of political streamers, which she saw as cannibalistic, Bozeman wants to build community with her fellow crime-obsessed compatriots.
"It's inevitable that more people are going to adapt and do something if it's working, and I would just rather make them allies than competition," she said.
She wants a true crime empire; a 360-degree business venture cornering every part of the market. "I'm launching a crime podcast, True Crime merch store, and above all, I'm really excited about my first docuseries on YouTube," she said. "Put me on Discovery ID, let's go."
Through all the success, she said she never forgot where she came from and what got her here. She wants to pay it forward, and her new-found spirituality has helped guide her.
"For me, my service is entertaining people. It's educating people. It's making people happy," she said. "That's what I'm here to do as a content creator. I'm here to serve you, not myself."