Patia Borja is anything but reserved.
She starts her day by posting ironic Facebook statuses and Twitter screenshots that get her 230,000 followers hot and bothered hours before the morning commuter rush in Manhattan. What else could you expect from a Cancer star sign? It’s all in a day’s work – whether it be posting about unfaithful men, hot breath, or raggedy lace-front wigs. Nothing is off limits once you step inside of Borja’s self-named meme empire.
The 28-year-old Florida-born Borja is the namesake behind one of Instagram’s most racy humour accounts: @PatiasFantasyWorld. Along with her friends River Moon, Laina Berry, and Allan Stoops, Borja and her crew tackle New York’s underbelly with quick wits and even quicker posting fingers. If you’re in the city or somewhat online, you’ve undoubtedly heard about about it.
The trio’s minds speak to the shared Black experience in a time where our political systems teeter on crumbling into full-blown fascism. The Fantasy is more than just a meme though, it’s a community made for and by Black creators. This summer, Borja compiled a masterlist of resources aimed at her White and non-Black POC followers in the wake of Anti-racism sentiment flooding social media. Adorned with an My Melody Sanrio character, of course.
Borja’s once-quiet finsta account has blossomed into the internet’s most hotly-debated battleground. Check the comments, we dare you.
CR: What were those 5 sleepless nights like when you were finishing the PFW guide?
PB: They were rough. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I barely ate. I wanted to complete the database in three days because I wanted so much information to be distributed right away. I was so tired. I still am. But what pushed me then and what keeps pushing me now is thinking about the resilience of Black women across the world.
CR: How did you find the rest of the Fantasy World Crew, like River and Laina?
PB: They’re my best friends and 100% of our interests plus the things we stand for are aligned in a beautiful way.
CR: If you could only follow one account on Instagram, what would it be?
PB: Laina’s finsta account.
CR: I know you’re a big reader – what have you been reading this week/year/month? What should everyone be reading?
PB: I loooooooooove reading anything and everything related to Black people and Black history. They don’t teach that shit in schools and you have to know history in order to work on creating change. I tell everyone to read Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo.” It’s about one of the last known survivors of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
CR: Of all the people who self-isolated in their homes in 2020, you may have a special talent for it, as someone who is disturbingly good at navigating the internet. What has changed the most for you this year?
PB: Having my platform grow because of the memes and the database is cool because that information helps people who need it, but having so many eyes on me is a weird feeling this year. Visibility is scary. I’m less personal online because I know how people analyze everything they see online. I’m always hearing some fake tea about myself. Or hearing about people claiming to know me but my only memory of them is like, them being a bitch to me before I “blew” up. A lot of people who weren’t fucking with me before became reallllllll nice to me once I launched that database. I wish I could live under a rock sometimes.
CR: How has Pocari been adapting to her mom becoming so recognizable throughout NY?
PB: She loooooooooooves the attention. Kinda feels like she’s clout chasing me though? If we’re out together and she’s in the Telfar or Louie, she steals the show.
CR: This is going to make us sound so old, and you’ve touched on this in other interviews, but at what age did you become so attuned to expressing yourself in such a direct way online? Has this always been the primary tool of catharsis? Is it cathartic? Is it horrible? Is it both??
PB: I grew up when the internet was popping off which was also when I started staying home alone after school while my mom worked like three jobs. It was boring back then though. I was teaching myself how to code for hours a day and reading government “conspiracy theories,” accessing the Dark Web, and shit on 4chan. In retrospect, being a little Black girl on 4chan is probably what shaped my crass sense of humour. Anyway. I’m direct online because I’m direct in person. People forget that the internet is representative of “real life.” Real people are behind usernames on social media. If you’re afraid to say something online, you’re most likely afraid to say it in person for fear of judgement from your friends, family, colleagues, coworkers, etc. I know I’m not wrong on this because if people were as direct as they think they are in person, then half the bullshit in the world wouldn’t be happening in 2020. I’m not afraid. It’s cathartic I guess.
CR: Who are your role models?
PB: My mom is my role model. I always cry when I think about how she’s such a rare gift to this world. She is the definition of compassionate. She’s independent, intelligent, focused, and she always stands up for what is right. When I was a kid, we were at Big Lots and this man kept yelling at his wife for whatever reason. Next thing I know, I’m holding our cart watching my 4’11 Filipino mom walk up this Paul Bunyon looking ass guy and starts going off on him for speaking inappropriately to a woman. They were going back and forth but my mom has a way with words and she didn’t back down until the guy started crying. She came back to me and didn’t say much to me about what had just happened and we just went on about our shopping trip. My mom leads by example. She has no issue calling people out in public, at work, or within her own personal relationships. Being a good person comes so effortlessly to my mom because she’s able to be sympathetic and empathetic at all times.
CR: You straddle so many different subjects and intersections as a figure – memes, fashion, politics, sexual liberation. How are these interconnected for you?
PB: Black culture is at the forefront of almost everything in America therefore it makes sense all my interests are extremely interconnected. I grew up watching CNN, BET Uncut, The Chappelle Show, Girlfriends, and Martin. They wear Gaultier in Girlfriends. My favourite Dave Chapelle skit is Clayton Bigsby – the Black White Supremacist.
In the words of Flo Milli, “I just do me.”
PHOTOGRAPHS NATALIA MANTINI
FASHION BECKY AKINYODE
SET DESIGN MEGAN KIANTOS
HAIR LATISHA CHONG
MAKEUP RAISA FLOWERS
PRODUCTION ARIELLA STARKMAN & SHAT JOHNSONEND
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