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Features

The World's Most Iconic Scammer is Here

Sep 21, 2017
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Joanne the Scammer

Feature

Meet Branden Miller, the comedian behind Joanne the Scammer–one of the Instagram’s most-prized icons. Scamming everyone from Rihanna to Katy Perry, you can find Joanne trotting around the globe with her infamous blonde wig, signature fur coat, and iPhone in tow.  


Interview: The Man Behind The Scam

One-part comedian, one-part social media star, Branden Miller has developed Joanne the Scammer into one of the most influential personalities on social media. She’s scammed her way into everything from the Fenty Beauty release party to hanging out with Solange at Coachella, and she shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. And although Joanne has quite the glamorous life, Branden prefers things quieter in Florida’s Daytona Beach, where a typical day for him is “pretty boring.” His usual day? “I walk my dogs, I play Grand Theft Auto, I like to cook, I smoke, I go shopping, and that’s about it.”

Digging into the dichotomy that is Branden and Joanne, we chat with Branden about everything from the origins of Joanne the Scammer to his upcoming duet with Teyana Taylor to what it really means to be a scammer.

Can you tell me a little bit about the birth of Joanne the Scammer and how you came up with the character?

I was playing a character named Miss Prada first and people were telling me that it was wrong–they said I couldn’t play that character anymore because it was transphobic and stuff like that. So I just kind of altered it in a way and changed it.

When you decided to evolve Miss Prada into Joanne the Scammer, what was that process like?

I change the character over through Instagram. I was Miss Prada and then I was this version of Miss Prada that was a “pimp rapper” or whatever. So I would put on this coat and I would rap and all this stuff. Then, through rapping, I discovered scamming and lying and all of these things rappers talked about. After that it just somehow slowly converted into Joanne the Scammer.

Your Instagram account has over 2 million followers! Was there a big moment where your following skyrocketed?

I got shouted out by Blac Chyna and Amber Rose, and then a couple other celebrities caught attention. Then I just kind of went with it and everything started pouring in after that.

 

I got shouted out by Blac Chyna and Amber Rose, and then a couple other celebrities caught attention. Then I just kind of went with it and everything started pouring in after that.

That’s amazing. So, you’re also  working on an album. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

Yeah, you know what, I have a song with Teyana Taylor…

[Gasps] No you don’t! 

Yeah, I do, it’s so great! But yeah, I’m still working on something musically for Joanne.

Let’s talk a bit more about your origins in comedy. How long have you been doing it?

Oh my god, I’ve been playing with comedy for like 10 years. I’ve always made people laugh. I find that I’m funnier naturally than when I have to be. So it’s a bit confusing sometimes and frustrating–but yeah I’ve always been an entertainer.

Why do you think it was confusing or frustrating at times? 

Well because when Joanne first blew up, I found that it was so organic and that’s why it was so funny to so many people. But I think that when anything becomes a job, it takes away a certain element of being natural. Things can feel produced and unnatural.

Do you have other characters too that you’re developing? 

No, no, I just do Joanne. I think i would step over into schizophrenia if I played any more.

Is being Joanne the Scammer your full-time job? 

Yes! I’ve officially made it a job–and that was my goal. I said if I was going to do it, I wasn’t going to half-ass do it, and I needed to work from it. So I did that and I’ve been living pretty well, actually.

 

 

I said if I was going to do it, I wasn’t going to half-ass do it, and I needed to work from it. So I did that and I’ve been living pretty well, actually.

I saw that you were recently at fashion week with Katy Perry. You were at Coachella with Solange. You were at Fenty Beauty with Rihanna. How does that make you feel?

It’s crazy.

Has there been one moment that’s really stood out to you that felt kind of surreal?

Yeah, when I met Rihanna. I was like borderline in tears. Only because she was so beautiful—like up close. It was that moment. That moment for me was a lot.

Do we all need to buy Fenty Beauty? Is it amazing? 

Oh yeah! I’m not just saying that because I worked with them, but it’s so glamorous. I was trying Kat Von D and MAC–you know MAC is so cakey and fucking theatre-style makeup, but this is just very soft. I wouldn’t say it’s a transformative beauty, it’s moreso to enhance it. It subtle, but really glamorous. And her highlighters are so pigmented–they are fucking to die for.

I want a yellow Fenty Beauty highlighter now! As far as beauty and clothes, are you working with a lot of brands? 

It’s not a big part, no. I have worked with brands, but I don’t really. Because when you do that, well for me, you kind of lose your following because they get what you’re doing. People nowadays are not dumb. For me it’s worked really well because I play “the scammer” so anything I do I can make it funny; I can bring it to my world. But still at the end of the day I find that when you work with brands, it kind of diminishes your brand in a way. So I’m trying to focus on my own and that’s my goal.

I find that when you work with brands, it kind of diminishes your brand in a way. So I’m trying to focus on my own and that’s my goal.

One of my favorite things is when Joanne says, “This is my caucasian home,” or “This is my caucasian this.” That tagline is hilarious. Did you have that phrase from the beginning?

Oh my god, yes! I was always saying “iconic” and “caucasian.” Everything I’ve said as Joanne, I’ve been saying that for years. When I started saying it [as Joanne], everyone thought it was so funny, but to me it was natural.

Speaking of “caucasity,” you’re black and Puerto Rican, but you’ve said that growing up you thought that you were white.

Yeah, I did.

Can you tell me a little bit more about that experience and what that was like?

My mom is white. My dad was white, but he always tanned, so his skin was browned. They had two real kids and then they adopted two others–me and my sister. They never told me that I was adopted. No one spoke about it. So I was just thought I was white. And then, I found I wasn’t, so everything changed.

My mom is white. My dad was white, but he always tanned, so his skin was browned. They had two real kids and then they adopted two others--me and my sister. They never told me that I was adopted. No one spoke about it. So I was just thought I was white. And then, I found I wasn’t, so everything changed.

Wow, that’s crazy. You found out around 17, that must’ve been tough. 

It was pretty crazy. I was mystified. I thought it was a joke. I thought when they told me that I wasn’t white, it was a joke. I was like, “Oh wow.” I don’t know. It was just so many layers of lies and bullshit.

I can’t imagine. So at the end of the day, what is your dream for Joanne? 

Dream for Joanne? You know, I’m actually in the middle of it.

One last question: In your words, what does it mean to be a scammer? 

To get what you want–by all means, free of charge. And be really good at it.


Joanne's Greatest Scams

We found the times Joanne scammed us all!

1. That time she scammed her way onto a magazine cover

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2. That time she scammed her way onto our phones with Scamojis.

3. That time she scammed her way into Coachella and hung out with Solange.

4. That time she scammed the Oscars

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5. That time she stole Kylie Jenner’s identity.

6. That time she literally set up a scam to steal Queen B’s identity.

For more on Joanne the Scammer, follow her on Instagram + Twitter.