Lifecycles of the Internet Famous

Thumb strain. Twitter pile-ons. That pair of boots you clicked on two months ago which appear to be stalking you. All in all, there’s plenty of reasons to hate the internet. But every so often it throws us something so special that the trolls down tools. So special that Tim-Berners Lee shouts “THAT’S why I invented this!” from his mansion made entirely of cables.

This week, that something was a someone – and that someone was Fiji Water Girl. Turning the Golden Globes red carpet into her very own Vogue cover, hydration-toting “brand ambassador”* Kelleth Cuthbert staged a photobombing session to rival only the Queen of Photobombing – AKA The Actual Queen – stealing the limelight from Jamie Lee Curtis, that bloke from Bodyguard and daytime TV detective Monk.

In the age of competitive selfie taking and ~personal brand~, Kelleth is the definition of a celebrity for our times. In our own way, we are all Fiji Water Girl. Je Suis #FijiWaterGirl, if you will. But what about times gone by? Hazy days of yore like 2007, when we all collectively lost our mind over a child with the voice of a man singing about a hideous plumbing accident? Did that say anything about society?

The answer, dear reader, is that of course it did. And in true MotherZine style we’re here to give you a listicle-based look at some of the most notable internet celebrities, and the – highly hypothetical – reasoning behind their rise. Think of it as a sociology textbook come teenage personality quiz. But marginally less scientific. Or fun.


2007: Chris Crocker, AKA “Leave Britney Alone”


Who? Turns out 2007 was a big year for the viral celebrity. But in a sea of turtles and fist-pumping children, there could only – in “social media engagement” terms, at least – be one star. And that star was imploring us to please, right now, leave Britney alone. We were, after all, lucky she even performed for us b*stards.

Why? There’s two (winding, pothole riddled) avenues of thought with this one. Maybe Chris’ post-MTV Music Awards rant hit because trolling was on the rise, and users had had enough. Whilst completely fabricated, the video was, after all, one of the first to “clap back” at online commenters in an unashamedly bold** way. Or, more likely, maybe the internet just loves drama. And Britney.


2011: Rebecca Black AKA “That Friday Girl”

Who? R-B. Rebecca Black, of course. Cruising into our hearts – and heads, over and over and over again – in the back seat, and front seat, of a convertible in front of a green screen. But which seat should we take in the question of why Rebecca’s ode to Friday had such an impact?

Why? Funded entirely by her parents and produced by self-proclaimed “music factory” ARK, Black’s weekend warble hit at just the right time, perfectly distilling the rise of the self-funded celebrity into a clip-art laden 3 minutes and 47 seconds. Not to mention that, in an internet filled with debate, there’s we can all collectively, and perpetually, look forward to – and that thing is the weekend.


2014: Sweet Brown AKA Kimberley Wilkins AKA “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That Lady”

Who? If folklore is to be believed; from the ashes of fire, a phoenix shall rise. In 2014, that fire was in an apartment block in Oklahoma. And the phoenix was displaced resident Sweet Brown, who was only getting up to get a cold pop.

Why? S.B.’s autotune remix wasn’t the only thing to sell out in 2014. It was also the year that messaging app Whatsapp was bought by Facebook, beginning its meteoric rise. And with so many notifications about Sandra’s hen do and your mum’s latest watercolour, do any of us really have “time for that”? TL;DR: Sweet Brown’s declaration – arguably – captured the mood of an impatient world.

2016: Jeremy Meeks AKA “Hot Felon”

Who? The piercing eyes (and face/neck) of Jeremy Meeks, proud owner of a string of criminal offences and one sexy mugshot, which went viral following his gang sweep arrest by California police.

Why? Those who like to a) question the criminal justice system and b) wildly hypothesise could argue that the furore of online support for Jeremy came from a place of collective exhaustion with authority. The truth is more likely that the internet is a bit shallow. Either way, your mum was wrong. Looks WILL get you everywhere – or more specifically, land you a modelling deal and (semi) celebrity other half.

* That’s “promo girl” to the uninitiated.

** Read: tearful and shouty.