doja cat performance

Here’s why Doja Cat is considered controversial online, even to her fans.

Doja Cat on Thursday became the latest star to join the popular internet show “Hot Ones,” which features celebrities eating spicy chicken wings while answering questions. 

But her appearance — which was tied to her recent album, “Scarlet,” and touched on her evolution as an artist — comes after months of mounting controversy. Many of her fans (who refer to themselves as “Kittenz”) have called out the rapper for some of her recent actions, including when she openly mocked some of them.  

A representative for Doja Cat didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. She didn’t address any of the recent backlash during the show.

Here’s a look at why she has been so controversial online.  

Selfie with Sam Hyde shirt

Last week, Doja Cat posted, then deleted, a photo of herself wearing a shirt showing YouTuber Sam Hyde, who is known for his alt-right leanings.

She later re-uploaded a cropped selfie that hid the shirt design. The caption of the photo is a series of eye roll emojis. 

Hyde is an alt-right comedian known for his YouTube channel and his Adult Swim show, “Million Dollar Extreme: World Peace,” which was canceled after one season. The show was criticized because of its edgy sketches and his social media posts supporting alt-right conspiracy theories like Pizzagate, he said in a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Hyde also donated $5,000 to the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer in 2017 when the Southern Poverty Law Center sued it for organizing a harassment campaign against a Jewish woman, according to the Los Angeles Times. When the Times asked him why he donated the money, Hyde said, “You can say I want reporters to know I make more money than them.”

The photo featured on Doja Cat’s shirt depicted Hyde carrying a gun. The image has been used as a meme in response to multiple mass shootings over the years, with trolls claiming “Sam Hyde is the shooter.” After the 2017 Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting, memes of Hyde duped Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, who incorrectly said Hyde was the shooter.

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Doja Cat fans expressed disappointment at her posts. Some compared her recent behavior to that of Ye, whose fans denounced him this year after he praised Adolf Hitler and Nazis.

Doja Cat hasn’t publicly responded to the backlash against her shirt. 

Telling fans to ‘get a job’

In July, Doja Cat took to Meta’s Threads to tell fans to get off their phones and “get a job.” After a fan account asked for a preferred fan base nickname, she doubled down, writing, “Just delete the entire account and rethink everything.” She also denied a person’s request to say she loved her fans. “I don’t though because I don’t even know y’all,” she wrote.

After the heated exchanges with multiple fans, major presences in the “Kittenz” world, including the Twitter fan pages @DojaNews, @thekittensroom and @DojaHQs, signaled their discontent by deactivating their accounts. The fan account @dojacatbrazil announced an indefinite break this week.

Some behind the accounts who spoke to NBC News at the time said they had hoped she would issue some kind of an apology. 

Dating a controversial streamer 

Doja Cat was spotted kissing Twitch streamer and musician Jeffrey Cyrus, better known as J. Cyrus, in December. Fans criticized her affiliation with Cyrus, who has been accused of emotionally abusing and manipulating his female Twitch moderators.

Cyrus issued a now-deleted apology in 2020 acknowledging the accusations from his moderators, according to Rolling Stone. 

“There is no excuse nor justification for my actions. I was careless. I was greedy. I was ignorant. I was disrespectful. And I was completely in the wrong. In a position of power and trust, I gave into the temptations and attention of those who looked up to me,” he wrote. 

When fans called her out for her alleged relationship with Cyrus, Doja Cat wrote in an Instagram comment, which included profanities, that she doesn’t care what people think about her or her personal life.

She hasn’t addressed it further.

Participating in chatrooms some label as offensive

Doja Cat received backlash in May 2020 for allegedly frequenting chatrooms for incels, or “involuntary celibates,” and white supremacists. Videos of her participating in such rooms on the messaging app Tinychat began circulating on social media at the time. 

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The videos resulted in the trending hashtag #dojacatisoverparty on X. Fans accused her of laughing at racist jokes and appealing to incels in the chatrooms. 

Doja Cat said in a 2019 interview with Paper Magazine that she had a “religious obsession” with certain unnamed chatrooms as a teenager.

“People would pick on me and use horrible, horrible language, just the worst, and I just didn’t understand why people were so crazy on there,” she told the magazine. She added that she would join in on the fun by making “offensive jokes and do things sort of out of the box.”

After she was criticized for her time in the chatrooms, she apologized in a now-deleted Instagram post and said she never said anything racist in the calls.

“I’ve used public chat rooms to socialize since I was a child. I shouldn’t have been on some of those chat room sites, but I personally have never been involved in any racist conversations. I’m sorry to everyone that I offended,” she wrote in the now-deleted Instagram post, according to Complex. She added that she was proud to be a Black woman with South African heritage. 

Titled a song after a racial slur

In 2015, Doja Cat released a song with title that was a racial slur that originated on the message board of the extremist forum 4chan. 

The phrase came out of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014. It is derived from the phrase “didn’t do nothing,” and it is used to mock victims of police brutality, according to Know Your Meme. 

Doja Cat responded to criticism over her use of the word in an Instagram Live session in May 2020. She said she had heard the phrase the day she created the song. She said that members of a chatroom she was in had called her the phrase and that the song was an act to reclaim the slur used against her.

Daysia Tolentino

Daysia Tolentino is a culture and trends reporter for NBC News.