Viral Video Stars: Then and Now
They used to say there are no second acts in American life. Thanks to the Internet, though, these days once-famous folks never really go away.
That's especially true of those who came into the public consciousness because of the internet. Sure their view counts stagnate after a while, but most of the viral video stars of yore stick around on YouTube and social media. See what the some of the biggest internet stars of the past decade are up to today below. (Check out the original videos below for an extra dose of nostalgia.)
Then: Who could forget 'Numa Numa Guy' Gary Brolsma, who lip synched the lyrics and threw his hands in the air to the beat of Moldovan pop band O-Zone’s song 'Dragostea Din Tei'? Since the video went viral in 2004, it’s garnered roughly 100 million views.
Now: While Brolsma initially shied away from the attention the video brought him, by 2006 he had embraced it. He began producing more videos, including different variations of the Numa Numa song and even collaborated with some of the folks from lonelygirl15 (see below). These days he is making his own music, both with his band Nonetheless and as a solo artist.
Then: In 2006, the internet was charmed by the angst-ridden musings of home schooled teen Bree, who posted YouTube videos as lonelygirl15. At the zenith of the channel's popularity an investigation revealed Bree was actually an actress named Jessica Lee Rose and the Web lost a little bit more of its innocence
Now: Rose quickly transitioned to less stealthy acting jobs, landing a recurring role on the ABC Family show ’Greek.’ She most recently starred in the comedy ‘Casting Couch.’
Then: In the summer of 2007 the song ‘Chocolate Rain’ by Tay Zonday was probably stuck in your head. While the lyrics of the tune seemed to making some sort of important societal commentary, it was Zonday's (born Adam Nyerere Bahner) extremely deep voice and unique, baby-faced appearance that made the song and video such a viral hit.
Now: Zonday has had a fairly successful post-'Chocolate Rain' career, appearing in ads for Firefox and Vizio. He also continues to use his distinctive pipes to make music videos and scored a fairly big viral in 2012 with his cover of the Carly Rae Jepsen hit ’Call Me Maybe.'
Then: In 2007, Amber Lee Ettinger rocked the political world as the Obama Girl, who sung the praises of then presidential candidate Barack Obama while wearing a bikini.
Now: Ettinger made some news in the run up to the 2012 election by saying she wasn’t sure if she was going to vote for the guy she once had a “crush” on this time around. The model/actress has appeared in music videos and in FHM, Maxim and Elle. She posts occasional videos to her YouTube channel and the Barely Political channel. In 2012, she also competed on the Howie Mandel show 'Take It All.'
Then: You surely remember Chris Crocker’s impassioned plea to "leave Britney alone” after many were criticizing Spears' comeback performance at the 2007 MTV Music Video Awards. The video, which was posted on his MySpace page (this was 2007, remember) quickly garnered millions of views and made Crocker an instant internet star.
Now: ‘Me at the Zoo,’ a documentary about Crocker's viral fame, aired on HBO in 2012. Like Britney, Crocker is pursuing a singing career. You can check out his latest videos on his YouTube channel.
Then: After a 2008 trip to the dentist a seven-year-old named David remained in an anesthesia haze. On the car ride home, his dad recorded his hilariously drugged up musing, such as "Is this real life?" The video has since scored well over 100 million views on YouTube.
Now: David is still cranking out YouTube videos on his David After Dentist channel, including one last year where the now 12-year-old did the Harlem Shake.
Then: Caitlin Upton didn’t set out to be a viral video star. But the Miss South Carolina Teen contestant's rambling word-salad of an answer to a question about geography at the 2008 Miss Teen USA competition certainly made her one.
Now: Upton’s disastrous answer has actually been pretty good for her career. Her infamy resulted in a modeling contract with Donald Trump and a 2010 appearance on ‘The Amazing Race.’ These days, Upton makes fun of her ditzy reputation as host the YouTube show ‘Learning Stuff With Caite Upton.' She also appeared in the 2013 movie 'Neron.'
Then: In 2010, Huntsville, Alabama resident Antoine Dodson gave a rather descriptive interview about an attempted home invasion at his sister’s house. The video quickly went viral. Then when the Gregory Brothers gave the interview an Autotune remix it became an even bigger internet hit. In fact, the ‘Bed Intruder Song’ managed to snag a spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over 250,000 copies on iTunes.
Now: Dodson keeps up with his fans on Facebook and Twitter. In 2011, he shot a pilot for a reality show that followed him and his family as they moved from Alabama to Los Angeles. That same year he was also arrested for possession of marijuana, as well as violating Huntsville's noise ordinance, in another unrelated incident. In 2013, he also announced he was giving up homosexuality and that he hoped to have a wife and family.
Then: In January of 2011, the internet met Ted Williams, aka ‘The Golden Voiced Bum,’ thanks to a Columbus Dispatch video report. Williams, a former radio DJ with the classic voice for the medium, had been rendered a homeless panhandler thanks to years of drug and alcohol abuse, but had recently got sober.
Now: Williams’s new found fame proved to be a challenge to his sobriety. But after he got that under control once again the father of nine started getting voice over work, including a Kraft Mac and Cheese YouTube ad campaign. In 2012, he authored the book 'Golden Voice: How Faith, Hard Work, and Humility Brought Me from the Streets to Salvation.'
Then: Proving once again that on the internet bad can be good, 'Friday,' 13-year-old Rebecca Black’s excruciating ode to everybody’s favorite day of the week, took the internet by storm in February of 2011. Although the most common reaction to the tune was to strike YouTube’s dislike button, the song everybody loved to hate became so popular it actually charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and scored Black numerous media appearances.
Now: Black continues to crank out songs on her YouTube channel. While it would be a stretch to say that they are any good, she has gotten better since the days of ‘Friday.’ And since she still is only a teenager, there’s always a chance Black will eventually be recognized for the right reasons.