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From the labor room to the FaZe 5 Top 20: Meet Super Animator, Cannaestia

Patience is an underlying theme of the FaZe 5 Recruitment Challenge. What’s considered a virtue by many has been a pivotal and inevitable part of each hopeful’s journey to join FaZe—especially now, as we await the announcement of the top 20. Over 200,000 unique individuals started this ambitious journey with the same goal in mind: joining FaZe. Each of these unique journeys were at a crossroads for three weeks as they waited to find out whether or not they would be advancing to the next stage—most did so anxiously, their restless minds pondering one question:

When?

On October 23, this question was answered after what surely felt like an eternity of wild, curious, and uneasy emotions.

For 35-year-old top 100 prospect Jen Kellam, better known as Cannaestia, this wait was full of these complex feelings and more. Anxiousness and uncertainty of the unknown abounded as she ushered in the next phase of her life with the premature birth of her newborn baby.

From the labor room to the FaZe 5 Top 100. This is Cannaestia’s story.

Cannaestia

*Editor’s note- congratulations to Cannaestia for making it into the Top 20! To see the full list of the Top 20 competitors in the RC, click here.

Animation, Creation, Innovation: The Origins of Cannaestia

My son daughter. The day you were born the very mountains of North Carolina whispered the name…. Cannaestia. – World of Warcraft (kinda)

That’s not exactly how the quote went… nonetheless, it is an appropriate declaration of the ascent of gamer, innovator, and animator Cannaestia.

Growing up in the Tar Heel State of North Carolina, Kellam spent much of her early childhood raised by her aunt and grandmother. An active youth, she participated heavily by doing gymnastics, playing the piano and viola, and being an active member of the ROTC program in high school. She eventually had a two-year stint in the Navy, which was cut short after a medical discharge via a broken arch in her foot.

Kellam was immersed into gaming well before she started bringing-to-life the most played game of 2020. At the tender age of 3, she was introduced by her great grandmother to classic games such as Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt on the original Nintendo, which she recalls being “extremely addicted to.” Her dad also was (and still is!) an avid gamer, to the point where she amusingly recalls “being late to school occasionally because he couldn’t get off of his computer and stop playing Doom.” In 2004, Kellam picked up World of Warcraft and explored the realms of the game for the next 13 years before creating content with games such as Overwatch, PUBG, Valorant, and most notably, Fortnite.  

It was around this time that the name Cannaestia was created via the game’s random name generator, and the rest is history. This destined name inherited through Blizzard Entertainment would go on to captivate the YouTube and gaming communities through animation, creation, and innovation en route to over 880,000 subscribers, 185 million views, and a spot in the FaZe 5 top 100.

This image, as well as all subsequent images featured in this article, courtesy of Jen Kellam\Cannaestia

Cannaestia started as a streamer making funny, shenanigan-filled, “randumbOverwatch content in 2016. It was around this time that she met her partner—popular YouTuber OutfoxedGaming—who convinced her to quit her job and do content creation full time. After switching primarily to Fortnite (code ‘CANNAFN’ in the item shop btw,) she became known for bringing life and personalities to the character skins with her unique, humorous, and entertaining short film animations. Each animation begins as an idea in SFM Workshop with a select cast of skins and a script. This script is then animated before going into sound effects and editing and rendering—a process that, according to Kellam, can take anywhere from two weeks to a month to complete on average, depending on how intricate the animation.

Her innovative genius has spawned the creation of her wildly successful series of animations based on the Fortnite Battle Bus. The series has become a trademark feature on the animator’s channel with over 30 installments, each with millions of views.

“At the time I created [the series] nobody was creating content on the Battle Bus itself,” she says. “A lot of people gravitated towards it because it gave these skins character, backstories, and personalities. It was fun for people to see the characters interact with each other.”

Kellam credits her fascination with Pixar and Marvel films as inspiration for creating animations. Iconic Marvel characters such as Deadpool, Wolverine, Spiderman, Venom, and many more have been featured in her work as character skins. As accomplished as she’s been thus far, it’s still only been two years since she got into animations at the age of 33—a testament to her ability to create compelling, entertaining content.

“I just woke up one day and wanted to do something different.”

From the Labor Room to the FaZe 5 Top 100

The journey towards stage 2 of the FaZe 5 Recruitment Challenge was a long one for all.  Tense feelings of anxiety and nervousness were firmly attached to the synapses of the thousands participating, and each passing day without update brought more and more tension. No one knew when these emotions could finally be put to rest.

For Cannaestia, much of the three weeks waiting for the top 100 announcement was spent in and out of the hospital. Her newborn baby was experiencing his own long journey in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)— an intensive care unit specializing in the care of ill or premature newborn infants.

“Occasionally when there was some down time, I would get a little anxious about {the top 100 reveal} cause I really wanted to know, “she says. “There was a lot of times where my full focus was on everything that was happening with my child—there was so much going on at that time… There was definitely a lot on my plate that three weeks, anxiety-inducing wise.”

On October 4, Kellam’s newborn was brought into this world prematurely via emergency C-section after becoming unresponsive and suffering fetal distress in the womb. Born with serious breathing issues, he was airlifted to another hospital, where he began having seizures due to brain hemorrhaging. His liver and heart were also failing due to the amount of fluids built up in his body.

Although a lot of short- and long-term medical assistance is in order, on October 18—after a two-week long battle—Cannaestia’s greatest creation to date was finally able to come home, a precious baby boy named Ayden.

One week later—On October 23—Cannaestia joined the ranks of the top 100 in what she described as a “surreal” moment.

“Up until the announcement it was high anticipation for me,” she says. “As soon as I saw {my name revealed} I feel like my heart kind of fell out on the floor with excitement. Top 100 out of 200,000 submissions is pretty insane.”

One of the attractions of this year’s FaZe 5 Recruitment Challenge is that it’s an all-inclusive melting pot of not only gamers, but diverse content creators with varying talents and personalities— streamers, artists, musicians, beatboxers, trickshotters, videographers, and animators such as Cannaestia. People from all across the globe and varying stages of life threw their name in for contention— kids, adults, teens, parents, even two sets of twins, a 6-year-old Warzone prodigy, and the world’s oldest Fortnite pro at 50 years old.

“What I think is really neat about it is that It’s brought a bunch of people together who like creating content. Regardless of whether you win or not you’ve opened up doors to more networking and made more friendships through the competition that you probably would not have had prior,” she says.

To put it simply: this year’s FaZe 5 is nothing like the two others back in 2013 and 2014. We started with an astonishing 200,000+ applicants, which is more people than applicants to both UCLA and UC San Diego in 2019 combined. With so many amazing options to choose from, FaZe managed to narrow it down to a wonderful list of 100 to represent the challenge in stage 2, and they did not disappoint. Each of these individuals has more than impressed, pushing past the limits of their content creation to complete each challenge FaZe has thrown at them.

When asked why she should be one of the next members of FaZe, Cannaestia had this to say:

“I think that I offer a very unique skill set for them. I really don’t believe that I deserve it above anybody else… There’s so many talented people in the top 100 {and} I think every single one of them deserves it just as much as I do. But I do believe that I do offer them a very unique skill set that can be valuable to them.”

As Cannaestia continues to impress and progress through the competition, her gameplan is simple: “Be who I am and do what I love to do.”

A winning formula that has worked out pretty well for the new mother thus far.

To Get this Battle Bus on the Move:

2020 has been an unpredictable year, whether because of a worldwide pandemic, social and political tension at an all-time high, or even the arrival of a newborn three-and-a-half weeks earlier than expected. This year has also forced us to exercise uncomfortable amounts of patience at times, whether waiting on a stimulus check, oddly delayed election results, or the FaZe 5 top 100 announcement.

One thing that is predictable though is the unwavering support offered to Cannaestia from her family, her awesome following, and us here at Stropse. All this, as well as the newfound motivation from baby Ayden, will perhaps propel her dreams of joining FaZe into reality.

#FaZeCannaestia.

Check out each of Cannaestia’s top 100 submissions below.

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