Introducing Joanne Prada, Instagram Scammer… and Feminist?


Amateur comedians provide such a service on our various social network channels. They break up the monotony of news, selfies, and ads. They give us something to really look forward to online other than our own rising follower count. These personalities are able to amass large amounts of followers and even a few promotional deals to pad their bank accounts. And the recipe for success isn’t so complicated. For black comedians one surefire way to get likes and laughs is by throwing on a wig and giving followers your best “ratchet girl from the hood” impersonation, or cracking jokes about those girls. But Branden Miller, the man behind social media character Joanne Prada, chose a completely different route.

Popularly known as Joanne the Scammer, this character has a hilarious affinity for telling viewers about committing petty crimes of fraud and theft against unsuspecting victims. In the self-defining video that catapulted her to fame after capturing the attention of Blac Chyna, Joanne says: “Hey girl! I just wanted to let you girls know that I’m a real messy bitch. A liar, a scammer. I love robbery and fraud. I’m a messy bitch who lives for drama.” A couple of the techniques that set Joanne apart are her propensity to create a heightened intensity by staring into the camera, altering her tone, and utilizing different angles. For the most part, Branden has also nixed traditional African American vernacular in his creation of Joanne, utilizing a pseudo professional dialect laced with profanity and valley girl undertones. While he kept the trashy wig common amongst his instafunny peers, a beige fur coat is Joanne’s official uniform. With these tactics Branden established Joanne as woman who can blend into different settings in order to scam. In a recent interview with the Fader, Branden acknowledged that this set his character apart in the oversaturated market of social media personalities.

But something else that sets Joanne apart is the message that is sometimes sprinkled into her tales of embezzlement and extortion. Utilizing both tweets and videos on Instagram, often shares the sentiments of women’s empowerment in nuanced ways like refusing to be played by her shady boyfriends, scamming men for their money and resources, and a growing self-esteem. I couldn’t help but ask myself, is Joanne Prada not only scammer extraordinaire but a bit of a feminist as well?

As a feminist, I can admit that we are sometimes too quick to label someone or something “feminist.” But part of what it means to have feminist sensibilities is to find and/or create those little pockets where feminism exists as personal ambition, joy, and irony. It’s not just resistance and fighting all the time. You will deal. It’s not always perfectly packaged in the form of eloquent speeches at the UN, strategic campaigns with witty puns, or straightforward comedy from the likes of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — who actually get it wrong, a lot. There’s a reason why we screamed yaaaaaas when Beyoncé said, “Tonight I’m fucking up all your shit boy!” That line was one of those moments where women could be honest about the ugly emotions we feel at the hands of lovers that we’re never allowed to express. Joanne gets that.

Joanne Prada’s major selling point as a woke criminal is that she has clearly made room for the feelings that compel us to be petty and spiteful. Branden’s peers typically use relationships and the feelings that come along with them to shame black women. Skits with jokes about women being hoes, side chicks, crazy wives, overbearing girlfriends, and untrustworthy abound in the online comedy sphere. Joanne embodies some of those traits as part of her masterful ruses, but never in a way that is meant to shame or demoralize. Even though her extravagant “come ups” are the stuff lawless dreams are made of, she pulls them off as a woman who has been scorned and refuses to let it happen to her again.

As yet another man pretending to be a woman for shits and giggles, Branden Miller has opted for a softer touch, a decision that has brought him hosting gigs with the likes of Amber Rose. That’s a pretty big deal for an Instagram personality. Gender minstrelsy sometimes walks a thin line between offensive and spot on. But through Joanne the Scammer, Branden has proved that creativity and thoughtfulness — as opposed to riding the wave of ‘likes’ that everyone else is on — can change the game.