An origin story perhaps unlike any before. Soleil “Ewok” Wheeler is a 14-year old streamer, who has gone from the life of a typical teenage girl to that of a gaming and esports personality who commands an audience of more than a quarter of a million people. From humble beginnings, Wheeler, who is deaf, has now become an inspiration to many women and girls and those with disabilities as she shows the world not only her video game prowess, but an uncanny understanding, passion, and work ethic that belies her young age. With a Forbes 30 under 30 selection and a Teen Vogue 21 under 21 nod under her belt in relationship to her gaming and business acumen, Wheeler has become an inspiration not only to her own age demographic, but one that transcends gender, race, and age.
Wheeler, who started streaming on Twitch in early 2018, says that she used to see an average of five viewers watching her play games such as Fortnite and Minecraft. However, as fate would have it, one very popular streamer, who recognized not only Wheeler’s talent in Fortnite but her charismatic personality, reached out —Tim “TimTheTatman” Betar.
“I started streaming in the Fall of 2018 and one day someone killed me in-game and stopped by my stream–he felt bad about it,” Wheeler said. “He had a friend get Timthetatman to notice me. At that time I was winning 20 solos a day. That impressed Tim and so he hosted me, [and] the rest was history.”
For some, the streaming grind is tough. Hours upon hours go by with very little growth. For Wheeler, she wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was part of a process. One in which she learned and grew as a person. Without that personal growth, she may not have been able to weather the rigors of becoming one of the most popular streamers on the planet.
“I am thankful that I just kept streaming for like six months with an average of five viewers and that I kept grinding for wins in Fortnite–it paid off,” Wheeler said.
After Wheeler’s interaction with Betar, the streaming world took notice. And so too did FaZe Clan’s Director of Talent Vera Salamone, who promptly signed Wheeler as the North American esports and gaming lifestyle company’s first female player.
“The first time I met Ewok she came to the FaZe house,” Salamone said. “She was teaching Temperrr, Kay, Jarvis, Blaze and I to sign. We were buzzing afterwards. She is a radiant, positive light and such a strong, brave person. She is not only a super competitive player, but she also cares deeply about others and is a force for good in the world. It’s such an honor to work with her and we are so proud she’s a member of the FaZe family.”
The girl who liked to draw, paint, and play sports, just like most other girls her age, found the limelight. And with the limelight so surely focused on her, she knows her life has changed forever.
What happens to a teenager with newfound fame? How does one this young navigate the precarious waters of being in the public eye? With a lot of help–from her parents.
“My parents are involved with my career, especially my Dad,” Wheeler said. “He checks on me often and gives me advice. My Mom sometimes comes in my stream to say hi to my viewers and asks how I am doing and stuff. I am grateful for both of my parents.”
Wheeler has surrounded herself with a host of people who either have experience in the esports entertainment space or those who can support her emotionally. A balance is very important, although this lesson wasn’t truly learned until the shutdown of Mixer, Microsoft’s streaming platform where Wheeler had signed an exclusive streaming deal.
“I think that the streaming/gaming world gave me access to a bigger network and I was able to make new friends along the way,” Wheeler said. ”I also reconnected with some old friends.. Given that some of my time is now for streaming/gaming, I still find new hobbies to enjoy such as skateboarding, writing, etc. Sometimes it’s hard to balance both the streaming and the ‘outside.’ Lately, I have been doing a lot of ‘outside’ which I discovered more of during my streaming hiatus between Mixer’s shutdown and my return to Twitch. I’m still doing a lot of that and trying to make more friends.”
On the business side of things, Wheeler believes she has a lot more to do. With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing most events to a screeching halt, she looks forward to a time where she can get out to events, meet more people, and grow her audience personally.
“I hope to continue to stream and do a variety of things like meeting people, going to events, even though I can sometimes be shy and introvert,” Wheeler said. “I find that I do need to socialize more and get out of my shell more often. With that being said, I hope to discover new things and develop more skills that would help me succeed in the future.”
Perhaps one of the most charming and heartwarming ideas professed by Wheeler is that even though the business side of the gaming streaming space is indeed fraught with perils and pitfalls, she sees it all as one big learning experience, for better or worse.
“Sometimes I just want to be a kid and do what I want, Wheeler said. “But sometimes, the things I want to do or say come with consequences, so I had to do some of these things differently. It’s like I gotta be mindful of others, what and who I represent, so I have to be more careful. In that sense, it is more stressful, but at the same time, that is how it works in the real world, you know, when I get older and have a job. So I know that all of this is training me and giving me tools for success.”
Ultimately, Wheeler has overcome things that have stopped hardened, business savvy adults in their tracks. Wheeler is adamant about showing girls and women what she has learned while being a role model. Again, while at times it gets hard and she struggles, she thinks about all those out there looking for a voice to lead them from a crowded room to success.
“Sometimes I need my fans’ support and I go out and support other female streamers,” Wheeler said. “Sometimes when they are going through hard times, I offer support and let them know I am there for them. Also, for example, I shared a traumatizing experience recently with the public in the hopes that it would spread awareness and wake up some people. I realize that I have a platform and a voice and I need to use that more for this type of stuff as an influencer.
She may not realize it just yet, but millions of girls and women all over the world already see Wheeler as an inspiration.
“The nice thing about being famous is that I have a platform, a bigger voice, and a larger fanbase,” she said. “I hope to use it for more good. Sometimes I just want to have my life back the way it was, but I guess it’s something I keep learning how to manage and grow. I think that all of this taught me more than if it didn’t happen to me, so I am grateful for this experience. I hope to continue this journey and see where it takes me.”
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