IRL= In Real Life
Fame has become more accessible than ever, because there is this new way to attain it sitting in our back pockets. As it turns out, social media can actually be used for more than just showing off pictures of your baby, your half eaten donut or your latte that has a cool looking design in the foam. There are plenty of people who are using different social media platforms in such a way, that they’ve created actual fan bases for themselves.
Just because social media stardom is a new, more attainable route to fame and fortune, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to accomplish. It is also even more difficult to translate that fame from a niche social media audience (no matter how large) to an even bigger, more universal one, using mainstream media (i.e. television or radio). How does an average, everyday person go from just being a well-known Twitter handle to becoming a household name? These stars have proven that it’s possible.
Twitter may not have been created to cultivate comedians and writers, but it’s done a great job of it nonetheless. One of the most notable comedy writers, who found success on Twitter, is Justin Halpern. His personal account has a nearly 30k followers–not exactly superstar status, but certainly far more than most of us could dream of. But don’t write him off as a nobody; surely you’ve heard of @ShitMyDadSays, the Twitter account he created in 2009 to document all the absurd things that came out of his father’s mouth.
Although the account itself has been defunct since June 2014, it still boasts 2.95 million followers. Justin was able to turn the @ShitMyDadSays Twitter feed into a full-length book, Sh*t My Dad Says, which sat at #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list for six weeks after its release.
In 2011, the book was adapted into a sitcom starring William Shatner, called $#*! My Dad Says (pronounced as “Bleep My Dad Says”– this is prime time television, after all). Despite winning the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Comedy that year, CBS announced the show had been cancelled after just 18 episodes.
Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
Vine star, Shawn Mendes
Vine is a video-sharing platform with a catch–the videos can only be six seconds long. Sounds silly, right? It’s not. In fact, it’s become almost a type of art form for its users. Many of them use it to create short comedy sketches, stop-motion animation, or miniature music performances.
Since its launch in 2013, Vine has churned out a ridiculous number of social media sensations many of whom have found fame outside of the confines of the platform. One of these superstars is Shawn Mendes.
This kid might just be the second coming of Justin Bieber–he’s young, fresh-faced and has the vocal chords of an angel. He made his way onto the music scene much like Mr. Bieber–via self-made videos on the Internet. While his videos may only be six seconds each, that’s all he needs to showcase his incredible talent. He signed a record deal in 2014 and his newest single, “Stitches” has become a smash hit, charting at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.
His Vine page currently has 4.4 million followers.
YouTube personality, Jenna Mourey AKA Jenna Marbles
YouTube has a unique power that other younger platforms haven’t been able to obtain just yet; it’s become a source of mainstream media in its own way. YouTube stars have managers and make money from their videos, just like any television star. They also possess creative freedom, because they’re technically self-employed. The platform even has its own music awards show.
With that being said, if you haven’t heard of Jenna Marbles, please remove yourself from whatever rock you’ve been living under for the past 6 years, and watch this. Now.
Done? Okay, so as you may have noticed, her channel has over 15 million subscribers. In case you need some kind of comparison; her fan base is larger than the current population of London, England. Her videos are a highly shareable variety of comedy and social commentary, heavily laden with curse words and puppy cameos. Her YouTube persona–which seems overwhelmingly genuine, rather than manufactured for the sake of the Internet–is unique yet relatable, and completely uncensored. Jenna makes approximately $4.3 million a year from her YouTube channel, which is the top channel operated by a woman on the platform.
Jenna recently released a brand of dog toys, named for her two lovable pooches, Kermie Worm and Mr. Marbles. In October 2015, she even became immortalized as a wax figure at Madame Tussauds New York.
While some of these stars may not have found their fame without the existence of social media, that doesn’t make them any less culturally relevant–or any less talented for that matter. What they all have in common is staying power. There are people who go viral, but are forgotten by the next week (cough, Rebecca Black, cough). What turns a social media star into a genuine celebrity is their ability to stay relevant for an extended period of time. There are tons of one hit wonders out there, but being able to build your audience and captivate them over and over again is the real challenge.