Written by Yasmin Aboelsaud
March 16, 2022
Over the course of several years, Celeste Anderson won $100,000, completed a degree with outstanding results, and overcame cervical cancer.
The 32-year-old’s biggest achievements may fit in one line, but her stories are enough to fill the pages of an entire book.
Celeste (aka itsBiiTTERSWEET) is a Filipino-Canadian whose name became synonymous with women in esports nationally.
Born in Manitoba, and raised in Orillia, Ontario, Celeste was first exposed to competitive gaming after attending a Fan Expo in Toronto back in 2006. The chance encounter landed her in second place, and organizers invited the then teenager to compete in their Lans. In 2008, she won her first major competition, and began her career in esports.
“At the time, I got heavily highlighted in Canada as the only woman to be competing at that level, and so I got a lot of coverage in that and realized I could make that into my career,” Celeste said.
Besides competition, she began getting sponsorships, and within two years she was attending four to five tournaments a year. But as we grew to learn, Celeste is a multi-tasker, and was also working a job at EB Games throughout those years.
Her life took a turn in 2012, when she landed an opportunity to be on a television show.
“That opportunity came from just being the gamer girl in Canada, but it also came because of my secondary skill,” she said. “I was heavily into speed cubing, which is solving Rubik’s Cube really fast in competitions.” Her Rubik’s Cube solving time? Just a little over 20 seconds.
After auditioning, she got the part on the show which was called “King of the Nerds,” and became the only Canadian among 11 “nerds”. The nerds came from different backgrounds, some were heavily into game boards, one was into comic books, but there was a NASA engineer, Celeste recalled.
The whole time, she thought the show was a small web show, “I didn’t think I would be on King of the Nerds on TBS in the States,” she laughed. “It was a super overwhelming process, and surreal.”
“I ended up winning the show, which I never thought would happen. At the time, I was just this super quiet girl that was still trying to navigate my gaming career. Even though I was 22, I was not really confident at all.”
Celeste loved reality shows, and she applied all her “Big Brother” and “Survivor” knowledge to win.
“Winning the show was my proudest moment,” she said, adding that living in the house was mentally stressful. “It was a voting process similar to Survivor where people vote for you to win, and I got voted in by people I respected, so I was really proud.”
“King of the Nerds” ended up airing in 2013, and as the show began to air, the network wanted to interview one person on Conan O’Brien’s show - which was also on TBS. It wasn’t known publicly at the time that she had one, but Celeste was chosen as to be interviewed by the famous late night host.
“They said that I was the overall relatable one,” she laughed, and acknowledged that she wasn’t as heavily involved in her passions as some of the other contestants. She was flown to Burbank, California, for the taping of the show. “That was probably the coolest experience of my life being on that type of national TV. And it was by pure accident that they choose me.”
Following the win, Celeste continued to compete in esports and decided to go back to college, before her life took yet another turn in 2020.
‘I was diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer.”
According to the Government of Canada, cervical cancer accounts for 2% of all new cancer cases in women, and most cervical cancer (67%) occurs in women aged 30-59.
Celeste’s case was caught really early, and it was during the COVID-19 pandemic. But she was able to get surgery to remove the cancer. She’s had check ups every six months since, and is happy to report that she’s been clear of cancer.
But, it was a challenging time in her life.
"It was really tough,” she said. “I was in the middle of college, and almost thought I wasn’t going to finish college.”
Her diagnosis came during the last three months of the last semester of her last year.
“I was working so hard at college to accomplish the goal I wanted to. So I ended up completing college after being told about the cancer, which was mentally really draining,” she said. “I just kept going and I ended up winning the dean’s academic award.”
Celeste graduated with the highest GPA in her program, and was the second in the entire college to have that high GPA.
“That was a huge accomplishment,” she said. “I had avoided school growing up, I went straight into gaming at the age of 17 and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But at the back of my mind, I always wanted to finish school and I pushed myself at 28 to go back to school
I worked so hard at school to get the grade I wanted to accomplish, and I did, so I was really proud.”
It was a five-week backpacking trip to Europe that led her to study Tourism Business Development.
“I wanted to step away from gaming at the time, I thought I was getting older and slower,” she laughed. But then, the world changed, COVID-19 hit. “So I went back to gaming, but now I work more behind the scenes as opposed to being a player.”
As for competing, Celeste continues to enter tournaments for women, and competes with three other women.
Her full-time gig at Northern Arena Productions gives her a lot of opportunities to work on esports related projects, and she said the industry has definitely grown.
“Esports has grown, but it’s also still in its infancy,” said Celeste.
“It’s not properly structured or regulated. There are still a lot of things that need to be fixed especially regarding the stigma behind women gamers. It still exists the same as it did 10 years ago.”
She added that she can see women are trying to get more involved with gaming. “It is intimidating and we have a lot of progression to do, but it can happen in the next five to 10 years.”
Celeste credits her friends and support network for how far she’s come.
“There was a small period of time that I wanted to give up on gaming, and there’s nothing bad about it,” she said, adding that during her cancer treatment, she leaned more on her friends than on gaming.
And for those starting out in the industry, Celeste said one of the most important things is to surround yourself with the right people, those who will support you.
“Don’t let the spotlight or the judgement intimidate you, just do you,” she said. “Have the right idea of where you want to be and what you want to accomplish. Make sure you set those goals and go after them appropriately.”
And who knows, you may end up the next Celeste Anderson.