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Female Disruptors: Aamie Gillam-Spurrell On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Jason Sheppard

Putting yourself out on the Internet can be a very scary thing. And it comes with judgment from others. It shouldn’t matter what people say about you, as long as you’re happy with yourself at the end of each day. Being a person who I’m proud of is most important to me.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aamie Gillam-Spurrell.

Aamie Gillam-Spurrell may now spend her days with a large stuffed Grogu (Baby Yoda) atop her gaming chair as she broadcasts over the streaming service Twitch, but over the course of her career, she’s worn many hats in the professional arena. For nearly a decade, Gillam-Spurrel worked in television and radio for NTV and OZFM, both a part of the Newfoundland Broadcasting Company.

Gillam-Spurrell’s background in media prepared her well when it comes to engaging with the public, a trait that comes as easily to her as now navigating a war zone in Call of Duty. When she left broadcasting, she created her very successful photography company, Aamie Gillam Photography, which she operates along with her husband, Jim.

In early 2020, Gillam-Spurrell returned to her love of video games, initially to pass the time while waiting for the COVID-19 lockdown to be lifted. What then started out as a hobby has now turned into a full-time career for her. Gillam-Spurrell is the host of her very popular Twitch channel ‘Killem Gillam’ and in November 2021 was hired as the first female gamer from her home province by Rock Solid Gaming of Esports to be a part of their gaming team — and if she has anything to say about it, she will be the first female of many.

For this enthusiastic and insightful interview, Gillam-Spurrell spoke to me from her stream room (a cross between Lex Luthor’s underground lair and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse) while her fellow streamers from the ‘Killem Krew’ watched on. A first for me, but will no doubt be one of many to come for this female disruptor.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I started playing video games at a very young age, like most people who grew up in the 90s. I was born in the 80s, but I grew up in the 90s and playing video games was what we did as kids using the Nintendo NES and Sega systems. But then I turned into more of a professional woman, I guess you could say, with a business as a photographer. I worked in television and radio for a decade as well.

I had little time for video games and they weren’t even on my radar until 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Once that forced my photography business to nearly close, I had to find things to do with my time. One of those things was I played video games. Little did I know the pandemic would change my life because I never would have gone down this career path as a full-time streamer and video gamer. I am still a professional photographer for weddings but as a partial living. My main nine to five is now playing video games and streaming on the platform called Twitch.

Now to backtrack, In May 2020, my husband, Jim and I went to Walmart to get some brown sugar because we were baking and PS4’s were on sale. Jim said, ‘well, why don’t you grab one, and you can play games again. You haven’t played games in a long time.’ And we did! I started playing with my husband’s friends online and soon enough, I started making friends doing this. Then two girlfriends I made in Texas inspired me to stream. I had never heard about Twitch, streaming or anything like that. That was such a far-off concept for me. However, they told me that because of my background in media, it would be perfect for me. I opened my Twitch account on July 3, which was my very first day streaming. Less than a month later, I was an affiliate on Twitch, which means I could make money on the platform. Now, As of January 1, I’m a full-time streamer. And just two months ago I was scouted out and signed by an Esports team, Rock Solid Gaming.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I’m the first female from my province of Newfoundland and Labrador to join an Esports team, and I didn’t know until I joined that the percentage of female gamers that are a part of their teams is very low. There’s a misconception that there are not a lot of female gamers, but in fact, about half of the gamers are female. When we get into Esports, it’s only 5% that are female, and that blew me away. I didn’t know there was such a gap in the margin. The job that I’ve created for myself, is to disrupt that industry. Whether it is that teams aren’t asking females to join, or whether it’s that females are unaware that they can or should join, it doesn’t matter to me, what the reasoning is. All that matters is that we encourage Esports and members to join and be part of it. Esports and RSG have already reached out to another female gamer from our province in joining, and that means the world to me because then I won’t be the only one on our team. I’m hoping when people see this interview, or other interviews I’ve done, it will inspire them to get involved and even join themselves or encourage their wives, partners, friends to become part of Esports teams. And it’s not because girls aren’t good enough, because girls are great at gaming.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Wow, this is good. My chat group is going to love this. I left my stream running after the community had spoiled me, and I ran into another streamer and started to happy-pride/ugly cry. I forgot to end the stream, and I didn’t learn from this because I did it again after sub-a-thon which is where my community dictates how long I stream by subscribing or gifting subs or bitties (streaming donations) — and I just have to mention they helped raise $1,000 towards a new PC in one stream for me; they maxed me out for my full time! For 13 hours I streamed. I was so overwhelmed with all the support that I forgot to hit the ‘end stream’ button. I sat there for a minute and ugly cried in front of everyone. It showed my community how much all this love and support meant to me, but it was also very embarrassing. And I hope that I’ve learned from those two times now, to hit the ‘end stream’ button. But that community means the most to me. So even if I forget to hit the stop streaming button, they’re only going to see me smiling so hard, because every stream is just better than the last. And they always show their support.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I love that question because I love to talk about people who have helped me become who I am today. And there are many people who have mentored me. I could go back as far as my parents. They’ve helped me so much in becoming the person I am. And when I worked in television, a very good friend of mine, Danielle Butt (host of OZFM’s popular Jigs & Reels radio show), always told me, ‘never care about what others say, just be yourself,’ and she’s still one of my best friends today and supports me so much. Toni-Marie Wiseman (anchor of NTV’s First Edition) had a tremendous impact on my life. When I worked in television, people used to compare me a lot to her, and those are big shoes to fill. I know you’ve met her, and everyone reading this from Newfoundland knows who she is. It means a lot to me that she took the time to help me when I worked on television and radio.

Flashing forward to being a streamer and being in this industry, I’m going to be 100% honest, and I’m not just saying this because they’re listening right now, while I’m streaming live, but my community and my moderators are a huge influence on me. They’ve made a rather large impact actually, seeing them all work so hard for their goals while spending time in my channel and helping me reach mine pushes me even harder. I’ve also been influenced by some partner streamers, like Chlooeeeexo, BriarFire_, and Sweeetails, those are some I love to watch because they’re amazing, strong women in the streaming world, and they work so hard to get where they are on this platform. Briar and Chlooeeee are both large partnered streamers on this platform, have both chosen to write to me in the past and that means they’ve trusted me with their communities and brought their communities into my stream, which affects me not only at the moment but in the future as well. It means a lot when people trust me with their communities.

And then, of course, there are so many photographers out there who have impacted me over the years as well.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Absolutely. Sometimes shaking things up is just what the industry needs. Often, things become a certain way because of repetition of the past and because of no one breaking the mould. A lot of times, an industry can become stale if it’s not broken. Other times, ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken’ stands true. And being disruptive can have a negative impact if things don’t need to be fixed.

For me, becoming the first female from my province to join an Esports team has helped me have a platform to shake things up from where I believe I will create positive disruption. As I mentioned already, having only 5% of Esports team members female, those margins are so drastic, and we need to change them. Noticing this has inspired me to do my part to shake up the industry and encourage women in gaming to consider Esports as an option for them. There are a lot of women out there who are amazing at playing video games, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t have a seat at the desk with the controller in hand.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to shake that up. It’s going to be a positive disruption instead of a negative, and it’s going to change things a lot. And not just by me, but I hope that every single person who is inspired by me shaking things up will also shake things up. The more people that get involved in this, the more people that learn about this, when people are in my channel, and I mentioned to them this 5% statistic, a lot of them did not know. A lot of them did not know that this is the way it is. So talking about it alone is causing a shake-up, and a disruption to the industry, which I’m happy with. But it’s not enough for me to want to change that percentage and increase that 5%.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

So I asked my community on Discord for one of these because I wanted to see what they would say and the two I’m giving from myself and the words of advice they gave me is “community is everything” and I couldn’t agree more with that. Becoming a streamer and becoming a community leader are two different things. I’m happy to say I feel like I’ve been fine-tuning both. While I’ve been a streamer for two years this coming July, I’ve only been growing my community the Killem Krew for about five months. We are a supportive group of people, some of which are also fellow streamers. Others are just viewers. Being a streamer means streaming on a platform for viewers. Being a community leader means you have a community that respects you and encourages you to be the best that you can be. And they’re not doing that for me, they’re doing that for the entire crew, which is amazing.

Our Discord crew now has 250+ members, and we’re growing daily, supporting each other. And they’ve been supporting my goals as well. We become a large group of friends, like a family. I talk to them daily; they poke fun at me, and I love that they poke fun at me for being late to a stream. They’ve even made memes about me being late to stream. And it’s pretty cool. I have to mention Chlooeeee, who just dropped into my stream. I mentioned you in this interview, girl because you’re awesome! So, they do poke fun at me and I freaking love that. I like to read every single message, and we’ve become an enormous group of friends, and I couldn’t be happier about it. They show up 24 hours early before my stream sometimes and hype up the chat before I’ve even gone live. It’s like having 250+ friends from all over the world waiting to support me daily, and you can’t ask for anything better than that.

One of my personal quotes is, “what you think of yourself is much more important than what others think of you; as long as you’re proud of the person you are at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what others say.” That’s something that I’ve been told by my parents my entire life. Growing up, I was bullied a lot. And my parents would always remind me of that statement. It’s held true throughout my personal and professional life as an adult and I couldn’t agree with it more. With the world of streaming, putting yourself out on the Internet can be a very scary thing. And it comes with judgment from others. It shouldn’t matter what people say about you, as long as you’re happy with yourself at the end of each day. Being a person who I’m proud of is most important to me. And I feel like that reflects on those around me and it even encourages them to feel the same way about themselves.

Now, I’m not sure if maybe this is a known quote out there, and I apologize if it is because I’ve been stealing it my whole life and saying it’s my quote. But it’s “In a world where you can choose to be any flavour, why choose to be salty when you can be sweet”, this is something that I say a lot, and you’ll find it in my Twitch bio. This quote goes hand in hand with the last one I mentioned. Today, we can be any type of person we choose to be, and I choose to be sweet and let nothing get to me. I choose to be sweet and let nothing get in the way of me being a nice person. There’s way too much negativity in the world, so why should I add to that? I like to be the type of person who others can depend on for positive interaction whether it means that they come to my stream to meet me, chat with me in Discord, or follow me on social media and see my posts. I never get “salty” meaning I never get angry or mean with another person unless, of course, you kill me in Call of Duty {laughs}. Not going to lie, you might get a little bit of salt if you kill me in Call of Duty, but otherwise, I like to keep everything fun and happy. I always say, “keep happy, keep classy.” That’s what life’s all about. And be kind to one another. In a world where you can choose the best flavour, be sweet, don’t be salty.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

So shaking things up in the future, I want to keep doing what I’m doing. I want to give as much back to my community as possible. And I want to grow. I love growing every day having more people join the community and having more people be part of the Killem Krew. I love to watch people hit their goals. And I think that’s what makes the crew so genuine and unique, I love to see other people grow as well. I want to keep having people learn about women in Esports and pushing people to be better.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I think that comes with the territory of gaming and stereotypes. A lot of times before you even play a game, if you have a name that people think might be a female, right away, you’re already being bullied. The only thing with Esports is that you are looked at as more of a professional gamer because you are competing competitively. So thankfully, I have that going for me as a member. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t get bullied for being a female in gaming. And I do believe that’s something that our male counterparts don’t have to see as — that battle of just trying to have fun in this gaming world. We have those stereotypes that we have to stand up against every day, and that can be hard. But I think we’re changing it. I like to think that I’m helping to change that. But definitely, just the stereotypes of being a woman and that whole ‘get back to the kitchen make me a sandwich’ thing, how many times have I heard that, when loading up for a game, and yet I end up having more kills than the guy who said it. You just have to stand up against those stereotypes and give it your all and show them that we deserve to be where we are, and we deserve to play.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I’m going to be 100 percent honest, and most people reading this, most of my chat right now, will know what I’m talking about when I say The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I read that book 12 years ago, and it changed my life. When I realized we control our life, we control our outcomes; we control everything that we do, that book changed my entire life. How I look at situations, how I alter my thinking, everything changed from that book. And I’ve held that my entire life. I still read that book every now and again. I’ll go back and read it when I need that little inspiration in my life. But having that idea that no matter what you can think about it, you can dream it, you can live it. And that’s my life, in a nutshell. Everything I have ever wanted to succeed out in life, I have succeeded in. And it’s not because other people have always helped me, although I have a lot of amazing help in my life. It’s because I don’t give up. And I just keep trying. And it was that book that made me realize that the secret to life is just wanting it and pushing yourself hard enough to get it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Oh, that’s a loaded question. I love it. Um, let’s see, if I can inspire any movement at all, it would be to always believe in yourself. Because I find not enough people in the world believe in themselves, and if they believed in themselves as much as others did, they would get so much farther in life and reach all of their goals. I believe in pushing for what you want in life and if you push hard enough, you’ll get there. I like to think that I do that for people. Furthermore, I have many people reach out to me and tell me they stream or got back into streaming because of me. And that’s great. I’ve had people do that in the photography world as well, and I love that. But for me, it’s being that positive influence. I think if everybody just pushed that little bit harder to be the best person they can be, the world would be a better place. I know that sounds corny, but it is the truth.

Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Okay, my life lesson quote is, ‘half the battle is trying, the other half is trying harder.’ I’m not even sure if that’s a real quote, but it’s something I’ve said most of my life. I feel trying something is the first step, but when it gets too hard, most people backburn it, or maybe even try something different. I rarely fail at what I push for, not because it’s easy, but because I don’t give up. I just keep trying harder. And I guess some people might say, that’s a good thing, but it can also be a stubborn thing about me, but I just don’t give up. Goals are like destinations, and we have to push ourselves to get to them. This is going to sound corny, but if we run out of gas, you just fill up and go again. Sure, different routes can happen. But I never give up pushing for that final destination. And whether it was wanting to pursue working in television and radio, which I did, becoming a successful business owner, becoming a voice actor and Esports Twitch streamer, which I did, trying harder is what got me there. It was always about never giving up. As I say, half the battle is trying, and the other half is trying harder.

How can our readers follow you online?

If readers want to make a direct impact, they can follow me on my Twitch which is www.twitch.tv/killem_gillam. Aimee Gillam is the name but Killem is the game! So that’s what we went with over here on Twitch-land. They can also find me on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Hover. We love Hover around here. It’s a new platform for streamers. People can interact with me however they like if they drop into chat and say hi, I’ll be sure to say hi back.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thank you so much, I really appreciated this.

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