Inside ‘Demon Time’: The Out-of-Work Women Stripping on Instagram for Celebs During the Pandemic
Women working in the retail, real-estate, and restaurant industries have taken to IG Live to make money during the shutdown by stripping for celebs like The Weeknd and Jake Paul.
Over the past five weeks, more than 26 million people have filed unemployment claims owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. And on Monday, White House senior economic adviser Kevin Hassett warned that the U.S. economy could contract to levels not seen since the Great Depression. With stay-at-home orders in place and millions of folks out of work, those in industries greatly affected by the coronavirus crisis—from retail to the restaurant sector, where an estimated 8 million jobs have been lost nationwide, or two out of every three restaurant jobs—are looking for new ways to earn money, given that many Americans have yet to receive their meager stimulus check from the federal government.
For Munni, a 23-year-old Manhattanite, things were looking particularly dire. She was laid off from both of her jobs—cashier at a bagel shop and hostess at a Japanese restaurant—in mid-March, and had just $60 to her name. “I was late on my rent and got laid off from my job a few days before the pandemic really hit New York,” she tells The Daily Beast. “It was really scary for me, and I was stressed out about how I would make ends meet.”
Then a friend told her about Demon Time, a roving virtual strip club on Instagram Live, where women could dance anonymously (in a ski mask, or by leaving their head out of the frame) for an online audience of thousands, including celebrities ranging from The Weeknd to Kevin Durant, and rake in thousands of dollars a night.
“I went on and got paid so much money,” says Munni. “The most I ever made was $6,000 in a week. I was able to pay off my bills, buy myself food, and get myself things that I needed. It was really a blessing. I know people have their judgments but it helped so much.”
Demon Time, also known as the Respectfully Justin Show, was the brainchild of Justin LaBoy, a 28-year-old social-media entrepreneur and strip-club connoisseur. First reported by The New York Times’ Taylor Lorenz, LaBoy was no stranger to amassing large social-media followings, having operated a number of popular meme pages on Instagram. On the night of March 12, he went on Instagram Live, beckoning his female followers to go Live with him. “The girls start going crazy,” he recalls, with a chuckle. “So I’m like, What is going on? I told them to let me post their Cash App so users can donate to them.”
Each show began with the same image: a Christmas glass of red wine and two bottles of Trader Joe’s water resting on a table, while Pop Smoke’s “Shake the Room” blared. Then, a dancer (usually masked) would appear and let it rip. LaBoy hyped them up, flashed their Cash App handle to the audience soliciting tips, and then moved on to the next performance. Each one lasted about eight minutes. The first “episode” of Demon Time attracted about 800 viewers. The next hit 5,000. “Then Shaq tuned in and it just blew up,” says LaBoy, with shows peaking at around 40,000 viewers.
“The Weeknd, Kevin Durant, Meek Mill, Drake, Lil Yachty, Yo Gotti, Diplo, Jake Paul, pretty much everyone became viewers,” he adds. The shows grew so big that Justin Dior Combs, the 26-year-old son of Diddy with 1.6 million Instagram followers, asked to co-host—and imitators abound. Magic City, the famous Atlanta strip club, began hosting its own virtual lap dances on Instagram Live, while the rapper Tory Lanez broadcast his own version of Demon Time, which he dubbed “Quarantine Radio,” to his 9.2 million IG followers. And when Instagram started cracking down, LaBoy created a number of burner accounts, moving the Instagram Live show from one to another as they got flagged and shut down. Eventually, they blocked his IP address and shut him down for good.
“We stop Live streams when we see violations of our policies, for example, if streams contain nudity. We also stopped a stream from Tory Lanez following violations of our policies,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
Instagram’s prudish policies aside, these pop-up virtual strip clubs have not only made stars of its hosts—with LaBoy landing a number of promo offers from brands like Ciroc, Patron, and Interscope, as well as a podcast gig with Baller Alert, and Tory Lanez reportedly being offered an MTV show for his Demon Time doppelganger—but the women performing as well.
Arielle, 24, was recently laid off from her job working as a customer-service representative at a department store in Atlanta when one of the Demon Time dancers reached out to her. “She made me less skeptical about everything. I didn’t think they were actually making money but she showed me a screenshot and I was shocked,” she says.
With a baby at home and no income, Arielle was out of options. So she created a new Instagram page for her dancing persona, and went for it. “Each time I went on there, I made over $1,500,” she says. “And on the fake page, I had a lot of people reach out to me for Skype, FaceTime, etc., so on top of the show I was making money the next day afterwards.”
She remembers being watched by Meek Mill, The Weeknd, and a number of NBA players, while the rapper Casanova and his wife were the first ones to send her a big tip, with each forking over $500. “The most I made one night was $5,000, and in total I’ve made $18,000 in three weeks. That’s a substantial amount. It’s surreal, to be honest,” she says. “I’ve been able to support my daughter and also my family members who’ve been affected by this. I would’ve never thought I’d have this amount of money just from showcasing myself on Instagram. I feel really blessed.”
Kyla’s job was also put on pause amid the COVID-19 crisis. “I’m a real-estate agent in Los Angeles and right now I’m not working, so I thought, Hmm maybe I should try this,” she says. “I made a fake page, put on a mask, and tried it. I’ve danced three times and made about $5,000, which is a lot of money—especially since I’m not working.”
Like Munni and Arielle, the 24-year-old Angeleno has seen a steady stream of income since her Demon Time experience thanks to the largesse of the “Demon Community.”
“Now, because of the platform and the Demon Community, I’m able to still make money. People are reaching out, signing up for my OnlyFans,” she says. “This NFL player wanted me to send a video of me dancing to him and wishing him ‘Happy Birthday,’ and he sent me $500. I’m not a dancer in real life, I guess I just… have a nice body? But I don’t know what I would do without this.”
“I’ve been making money on the side due to people recognizing me on Demon Time, which is another thing that’s helped me while the Lives aren’t happening,” adds Munni. “I was financially unstable due to having part-time jobs in the city. And everyone in New York City lives paycheck-to-paycheck. This has helped me become my own boss, in a way. I’ve never worked for myself before or set up my own hours. I’ve always wanted to do that. I couldn’t be happier.”