“Spilling the tea” is slang for giving an inside story, which differs slightly from gossip. Some say it started in Black drag culture in the 1990s. It was a phrase to encourage someone to share the juicy details of a story. A phrase popularized by RuPaul, the phrase, often written “spill the T,” refers to spilling the truth (T meaning truth). Others think it is even older than RuPaul’s use of the phrase, possibly derived from the centuries-old custom of sharing a cup of tea (and your secrets) with a close friend.
Either way, many believe that Sanders Kennedy may have been the first to spill the tea on YouTube. The channel posted a scathing story of a YouTuber who behaved terribly when the cameras were not rolling… and THAT is the key to spilling the tea. Or the T.
If you are considering starting your own tea channel, you will need to understand why people spill the tea and what the audience is looking for. Plus, you will want tips for finding and creating content as well as how to protect yourself from potential backlash. To show you the ropes, we will take a look at TeaSpill’s channel which has amassed a net worth over $1 million in just a few short years.
Spill the tea like TeaSpill
TeaSpill launched in 2017. She creates videos to expose drama queens at the helm of the YouTube beauty machine. She promises to keep her audience of over 1.6 million followers updated on all the silly beauty guru drama, of which there never seems to be a shortage.
With more than 130 billion views, she is definitely doing something right. “I make edits that probably involve mean girls” displays on her Twitter account, which has 262k followers. This statement emphasizes her no-holds-barred approach, which is really the only way to run a successful tea channel.
Most tea channels pride themselves on being more than just gossip. In one of TeaSpills earliest videos, she spills about the CEO and co-founder of a Canadian makeup company. Going rogue on the company’s social media channels, he supposedly canceled their entire marketing strategy in favor of being more personal. His methods were unprofessional and abrasive to many.
When he lashed back at consumers who posted negatively, he faced allegations of being racist. Interestingly, when TeaSpill dug in search of the truth, she found that the claim of racism was unfounded and misconstrued. However, she uncovered another reason for viewers to reconsider buying the products. It is critical to follow the actual truth, even if it is not the story you thought you were going to tell.
Press the hot buttons
While gossip often has a reputation for being untrue, as we mentioned, tea channels are out to expose the truth. To find topics or subjects that are best for your tea videos, it is essential to know what matters to your audience. Remember that most tea spilled is centered on popular YouTubers who seem to think fame places them above society’s rules and standards.
Hot button topics are things like hypocritical or controversial views on racism, the LGBTQ+ community, world events, politics or human rights. You may find they have been accused of unfair treatment of employees or unethical sourcing of materials for their products. Perhaps they trash-talked a competitor, or worse, their best friend. Even infractions like getting caught parking in a disabled parking space when they are are not qualified tells a lot about one’s character.
Gather the receipts
Whenever you find hot subject matter, you will need to gather the receipts. In the context of tea channels, a receipt means a copy of digital communication that serves as proof. This can be the subject’s own posts on their social media or a comment thread. It can even be an email or personal text message conversations. Anything that proves they really said (or did not say) whatever is rumored.
Often, by the time a story breaks, the original posts or emails have been deleted in an attempt to cover their tracks. Finding the followers who might have caught a screenshot can be tricky. As you network and follow their followers, you will learn who keeps the most receipts and might be willing to be a source for you.
Put your creative and editing skills to work
There are a few formats that tea videos follow. TeaSpill uses two main styles. One style is like an elaborate slideshow. The other style is similar but is narrated by (we assume) the creator. Throughout these videos, the viewer reads the story, with receipts and video clips cut in as needed, while music plays.
As with making any video, the music should match the rhythm of the story. It might be perky in the beginning and get more intense when the truth reveals itself. If it turns out that there is something sinister going on, use ominous music. It is okay to get a little cheesy with your music on a tea channel. Watch a few of TeaSpill’s videos and then find others (like Petty Paige and Here For The Tea) to search for a style you love.
From there, ensure that your videos are polished as well as entertaining by following some guidelines:
- Create a great intro with theme music
- Double-check your spelling and grammar
- Use titles and graphics to sass it up
- Mix in video clips whenever possible
- If you decide to narrate, use good audio
- Keep the length around 6-12 minutes
- Try to find the real, unbiased truth
- Be entertaining
- Remember to cross-post on other platforms
Don’t get yourself in hot water
If there is anything else to learn from TeaSpill, it is the importance of Fair Use disclaimers. And maybe that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
A few years ago, Manny Gutierrez, better known as Manny Mua on YouTube, accused TeaSpill of copyright infringement and made a complaint to YouTube. YouTube took the video down. The views it accumulated were deleted, and a strike was issued against TeaSpill (learn about YouTube’s copyright policies here). A follower created a petition on change.org to try to get YouTube to reverse the Strike under the protection of Fair Use. Amazingly, the petition worked, and YouTube reversed their decision, which is exceedingly rare.
If you are not familiar with the term, Fair Use is a copyrights exception stating that brief excerpts of copyright material may be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching and research. It is allowed without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.
TeaSpill wisely includes a Fair Use disclaimer prominently at the beginning of each video. It was also present in the video that Manny Mua filed a complaint against. We recommend this as a good practice for your own tea channel as protection from similar problems.
Beyond that, be loyal to your audience and they will be loyal to you. There are plenty of gossipy stories floating around that need the truth to be told so there is no need to exaggerate or manipulate anything. Doing that will just turn you into the next one someone else is spilling the tea about.