Online celebrity isn’t as easy as it looks. Social media stars are often low key workaholics and a lot savvier about digital marketing than all the cash-for-clicks selfies would suggest. Or, maybe that’s just what they want you to think.
Regardless, the online fame-game is fleeting. Likes and follows also don’t automatically assure access to solid TV and movie roles, which is often necessary to keep the influence going once your core fans start adulting. Just because you mastered one platform doesn’t mean you’ll find success on the next big thing. Anyone remember Vine? Sure, the platform birthed some crossover success stories, like King Bach, who landed dozens of legit acting credits after the micro-vlogging site went under. But those are exceptions that prove the rule. Social media celebrities must evolve from the primordial influencer stew from whence they spawned, or they will become extinct. Let’s take a look at a few who are just one mass unfollow away from becoming the latter.
Is anyone chasing Cameron Dallas anymore?
In 2012, Cameron Dallas was a star on the rise. Vine was the new social media hotness and annoying your parents with 6-second pranks was all the rage. Dallas even broadened his appeal just as the app officially shuttered in 2017 by securing lucrative modeling gigs with both Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana. He was also doing all the movie-star-in-the-making rounds at Los Angeles and Manhattan media events.
But that’s where the new kid hit a skid. Dallas’ exactly on-brand feature film debut was the 2014 prank-themed film Expelled, which got a dismal audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes (with only three critics bothering to weigh in). That might have been fine. First films are tough. But next came Chasing Cameron Dallas, his lowly-rated eponymous 2016 Netflix reality series that was canceled after just one season.
Professional troubles belied personal struggles as Dallas was arrested for assault in January 2019. The former Vine star claimed self-defense and even shared his moody mugshot on Twitter. Eight months later, he revealed (via Instagram) a harrowing two-and-a-half year battle with “addiction, anxiety, depression,” and “family trauma” that included a stint in rehab. Dallas has since opened up about his vices, rebranding himself as a confessional and extremely auto-tuned crooner in a series of slick-looking music videos that have not exactly taken off. The size of his Instagram reach (over 21.5 million followers, as of this writing) makes this mismatch somewhat puzzling. We leave it to you, dear reader, to judge exactly why.
Woah Vicky's career has been more like No, Vicki
Woah Vicky realized sometime in 2017 that instant-Instagram fame was there for the trolling if you could just troll other trolls hard enough. If you’re not familiar with Vick’s schtick, she’s the white girl who took a DNA test to prove she’s 100% not that b***h. With her cultural-appropriate-for-clicks scheme in the works, she collaborated in a pair of faux fights with another infamous appropriator, Cash Me Outside Girl, AKA, Bhad Bhabie. And while she seemingly won at least one of the on-camera kerfuffles, she lost the war.
Unfortunately for Woah, whereas her fremesis Bad Bhabie was able to turn her Dr. Phil assist into an unsettlingly effective rap career, Vicky’s fans are not buying it. Literally. In spite of her over one million YouTube bots, er— subscribers, only one of her Woah-ful singles has cracked even a million plays as of this writing. Perhaps the most telling indicator that this aspiring celeb’s career hasn’t even taken a legitimate first step? She cites a free Gmail account to book her for gigs, instead of, you know, an agent or any kind of management. Inquire within, if you’re interested. Hopefully you don’t land in that spam folder.
Nash Grier: 'Stay-at-home-dad'
Let’s keep plucking from the long-dead Vine. Nash Grier turned his piercing eyes and boy-next-door good looks into some great gigs after his home platform wilted, including a 2019 appearance on the runway for Dolce & Gabbana alongside buddy and fellow micro-vlog star Cameron Dallas. But 15 minutes of fame goes fast, even in six-second increments. Like Dallas, Nash’s move to the small screen hit one minor snag: acting is actually really hard, even if you’re kinda good. Grier headlined a single season of a thriller series called The Deleted. The show appears unaffiliated with any actual TV network and was quickly, well… deleted. He also starred alongside Bella Thorne in 2017’s You Get Me which has a worse audience score than infamous bombs like Showgirls.
As of this writing, Grier’s Instagram bio now reads “stay at home dad,” which clearly could be tongue-in-cheek. But he is definitely utilizing the platform to share endless snaps of his son Malakai Giavasis-Grier, who was born in September 2019. The prankster may have traded in his juvenile antics to become a daddy-lifestyle vlogger, but it appears fans just aren’t as interested in his handy gardening tips and they were in his hot-boy hijinks. However, maybe a guy who can afford to be a stay-at-home parent at age 22 knows something the rest of us don’t?
Cody Simpson's poetry sounds deep
YouTube-famous Cody Simpson might be Hollywood’s most inexplicably lucky loverboy — after legendary Tinseltown lothario David Spade at least. The singing star turned his penchant for cutesy covers of corny songs into a whirlwind romance with supermodel Gigi Hadid that ended in 2015 and peaked in his sexually suggestive music video for “Surfboard.” Better singers would eventually steal Hadid’s huge eyes, but Simpson remained undaunted and eventually replaced Liam Hemsworth as the apple of Miley Cyrus’ wandering eye. Aussie on Aussie crime — you hate to see it. Meanwhile, Cyrus and Simpson publicly flexed their Corona-romance in 2020 proving that couples who thirst trap together, stay together.
Professionally, however, Simpson has paused on releasing his conventionally average and oddly unpopular music for a new musical-poetry project called Prince Neptune. There’s a book of these licks apparently, available now, for anyone interested in “themes of freedom and the ocean with the wisdom of an old soul” — whatever that means. Of course, we’re no literary scholars over here, but a sample of Simpson’s prose doesn’t strike us as having mass appeal. “The closer we feel to death, The closer we are to life,” Miley Cyrus’ boyfriend writes, adding, “Suffocation for the sake of orgasm.” Uh, okay.
Is it already too late for Lilly Singh?
Lilly Singh rose to viral YouTube fame with her wildly condescending caricature of bigots in her breakout video “A Geography Class for Racist People.” It’s a stunningly smug four minutes as she chides straw-man dummies of the world with lines like, “India is all the way over here across the ocean, so, unfortunately, you won’t be able to drive your trailer there.” Yes, for this starlet with an estimated net worth of $16 million, the enemy is poor people living in homes on wheels.
Regardless, the video blew up though, 14 million views and counting, and Singh became the first bisexual woman of color to land a late-night talk show. Which sounds good. But NBC’s A Little Late with Lilly Singh debuted in September 2019 with all 96 episodes pre-recorded in a studio over a three month period. The result was not well-received, particularly from her fellow YouTubers, three of whom released a scathing takedown critique that deemed the whole enterprise a silly and stale cringe-fest. General audiences didn’t embrace Singh’s twist on late night either, rating the show 17% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 1.8 out of 10 on IMDb.
Want to peer deeper into the void? Teen Vogue even used Singh’s own fame-making identity-logic against her, dubbing her trademark schtick as problematic for being “indicative of non-Black people performing Blackness.” Humanities essays aside, cancellation appears imminent, metaphorical, or actual.
Are Logan Paul's parents just making him bring Jake along?
Jake Paul answers the question, what if the villain from Karate Kid was your best friend? Both Jake and elder bro Logan Paul rose to Vine-cum-Youtube fame by modeling clout-chasing and generally anti-social behavior for an army of admiring youth. The next move in the Youtube daily-vlogger playbook is releasing novelty hip-hop songs that inexplicably rack up hundreds of millions of views as actual musicians weep themselves to sleep.
Jake, however, called an audible with the 2018 launch of his now-defunct “Edfluence” online courses. The obvious grift came in the form of a, no joke, 74-video course about how to influence like Jake, that today resolves in a 404 page not found error. Apparently even Jake’s fanbase of credulous children could see you don’t get famous by sending your online idol mom’s credit card.
The younger Paul further diminished himself in 2019 by playing second fiddle to the also jocular (or perhaps more accurately jockular) Logan on the undercard of a DaZone network celebrity boxing match. Jake is actually kinda nice with them hands and scored a first-round knockout in his pro debut — against an awkward opponent nearly 5 inches shorter. The 6’1″ nearly 200 pound Paul, in true Cobra Kai style, has made a habit of beating up on undersized fellow influencers. But while Logan’s main event beef with KSI generated genuine buzz, twice, Jake’s participation feels a bit like a little brother just tagging along.
Amanda Cerny: Hot girl or comedian?
Amanda Cerny is another former Viner reframed by the explosion of genuine short-form creativity on TikTok. Revisit her content via this Try Not To Laugh montage, and it becomes increasingly apparent that her content was definitely repetitive, if not sometimes problematic. Or as writer Yasmin Ettobi wrote for Affinity, Cerny is among several influencers “responsible for the repeated exploitation and degradation of women through their videos.” It all begs the question: Was Cerny’s initial reputation as a comedian just hot-person privilege the whole time? Perhaps fittingly, she’s transitioned to filling her time as a lifestyle YouTuber who creates biblically long videos of herself trying on yoga pants.
However, Cerny isn’t totally devoid of second act attention. Aggregate site Inquisitr has turned her into a reliable source of clicks with one thirst trap headline after another. And another. It’s endless, really. Other than that, Cerny’s attempts at mainstream success have been thwarted, limited to cameos in a series of straight-to-streaming disasters like 2017’s Logan Paul led sex-romp and Airplane! ripoff, Airplane Mode, which was so utterly ignored it doesn’t even have a rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Cerny has, however, landed a speaking role in the sequel to former Disney starlet Bella Thorne’s bloody-good and well-received horror-comedy gem The Babysitter, so perhaps a violent death could be a good rebirth.
Jenna Marbles is right where she belongs
In 2010, Jenna M. Journey better known as Jenna Marbles was voted by everyone-you-know as the YouTube star most likely forwarded to your Hotmail account. Any negative thought you have about your own face, Marbles has an actually funny beauty tutorial for that. Any negative thought you have about Marbles, she will beat you to the punchline. Then you helplessly subscribe and tell someone you know to do the same.
As of this writing, Marbles is looking more like a lifestyle vlogger — probably because documenting what a dog got for her birthday is an infinite source of content on a decade-old channel. These days if Marbles gets mainstream media mentions she’s being described as “wholesome” or the subject of totally invented canine controversies. But unlike many of her peers, Marbles never made a big effort to crossover as a Hollywood starlet. She appeared in only one minor and poorly-reviewed, yet audience-approved film beyond her social media wheelhouse, an Adam Corrolla vehicle if you can believe that. But don’t sleep on J-Marbs, she still runs a solid YouTube fiefdom and knows how to turn a makeup tutorial into a hilarious trainwreck.
Faking cancer made Belle Gibson famous, then infamous
Belle Gibson might have innovated the worst thing you can do on social media: pretend to have cancer. According to her since-vanished Instagram presence (via The Australian), her body was riddled with various tumors and she even claimed to have “momentarily died on the operating table” during one of her multiple open-heart surgeries. Then, in 2014, the former social media star released a book called The Whole Pantry, based on her “wellness” app of the same name, putting in hardback her claims to have cured herself with a blend of “alternative remedies such as colonics and oxygen therapy.” Gibson even added a dash of anti-vax controversy, alleging she got her fake cancer from a literally life-saving anti-cancer vaccine which is, in reality, crucially important to women’s health.
Two journalists eventually uncovered her fraud in 2015. Gibson was also forced to pointedly admit, “No. None of it’s true,” when asked by The Australian Women’s Weekly (via Now To Love) if she “if she has, or has ever had cancer.” Australian courts hammered her with hundreds of thousands in fines for defrauding the public and fake charity donations. But all that somehow did not keep Gibson from her influencer-inspired jet-setting lifestyle. Aussie courts claim despite her outstanding public debt, the con-woman brazenly jaunted to Bali and Africa and spent $91,000 between 2017 and 2019, all while not paying the fines for her fraud. Apropos of nothing, do colonics and oxygen therapy cure narcissism, too?
Nicole Arbour's scandal-bait schtick wore thin
Nicole Arbour famously gorged on overnight YouTube fame via her 2015 viral video “Dear Fat People.” In the viral-for-all-the-wrong-reasons vid, she nonsensically chided the overeaters of the world with: “Plus sizes stands for plus heart disease, plus knee problems, plus diabetes.” At least one blogger managed to piece together a flimsy freedom of speech defense for Arbour, but most people thought she was just a very pretty, very skinny girl getting social media famous for fat-shaming those less fortunate. YouTube briefly removed the video (accidentally, the platform later claimed), but it got so much attention the ladies of The View invited her on and then surrounded her like five righteous vultures and picked apart the corpse of her “satire” defense for six minutes of live TV agony.
Post fat-shaming controversy Arbour positioned herself as an anti-media, hot-take chef, who tweets and deletes gems like, “I’m so sick of people mad at slavery.” And yet, Arbour documented her own battle with chronic disability, pain, and depression following a car accident. So, her pain is real, but that of other’s isn’t? In other words, Arbour wants it both ways, and as coronavirus began spreading throughout the US in 2020, she applied her manic monologue style to doubting the seriousness of the epidemic, declaring, among other controversial claims, “China is filthy.” Her Covid-19 takes have less than 100,000 views, as of this writing, with one of her top commenters perhaps perfectly summing up her present career status: “Oh hey, you’re still a thing?”
Can Tekashi 6ix9ine become the creator of snitch rap?
An entire listicle could be devoted to the various controversies and crimes of Troll doll hair-model and former Soundcloud rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine. As confusing as his story is, 6ix9ine is basically a foul-mouthed yard-gnome who got YouTube-famous by pretending to be a gangster, and then ironically, upon fraternizing with actual gang members in his viral video “Gummo,” became one. 6ix9ine was facing 32 years to life in the slammer for his post-fame crimes as an auditioning member of Brooklyn’s infamous Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods when he had a drastic change of heart.
Maybe the saddest fact of 6ix9ine’s short career is fans didn’t turn on him until he stopped attempting murders and started cooperating with prosecutors by testifying against his gangster pals in exchange for leniency. The tatted rapper tearfully lamented (via The New York Times) to a woman shot during the commission of his crimes, “I know I was wrong. I was weak. I was easily influenced. I can’t believe that was me. Again, your honor, there is no apology good enough.”
Prosecutors were impressed with the scope of his snitching and he only got two years. 6ix9ine then signed a $10 million record deal from behind bars and eventually walked out of federal custody four months shy of his already light term because of a Covid-19 outbreak at his facility. Sure, 6ix9ine skirted the law and secured a bag, but after being branded a snitch, it’s unlikely his hip-hop career will survive.
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