We are a celebrity obsessed culture. There’s no denying that. But here’s the thing about celebrities (even though we Indians have a tough time grasping this concept) – NOT all of them are filmstars.
Thanks to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, etc. we also have celebrities of the virtual world. And some of them are pretty huge in the international scene. According to a survey by Variety magazine on 1,500 American teens, the cultural figures they cited most influential were not Leonardo DiCaprio or Jennifer Lawrence, but YouTube celebrities.
So, here are some of the most famous celebrities of the virtual world, not in any particular order.
1. Laina Morris AKA Overly Attached Girlfriend
Laina Morris, was just another YouTuber until one day Justin Bieber challenged the online community to come up with a “Girlfriend” counterpart to his hit “song”, “Boyfriend”. Laina came up with this parody fan video and it went viral. Thus, the Overly Attached Girlfriend meme was born.
2. DoctorKC – Sings his heart out every single time
Anytime someone berates me for my lack of vocal talent, I show them DoctorKC’s YouTube channel . Doctor K Chaudhry uploads karaoke videos shot in his living room and he does it more frequently than a music channel. Agreed, he’s not the best singer in the block, but day in and day out he uploads covers of western (as well as Indian) hits and most importantly, he sings from his heart. You can see his rendition on James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful here.
Even our filmstars are amazed by DoctorKC.
3. Wilbur Sargunaraj – Teaching foreigners how to potty like Indians among other things
Wilbur Sargunaraj is perhaps India’s first YouTube sensation, with over 3.1 million views on his YouTube channel. Although he’s known as a performance artist and occasional human rights activist, he broke into the viral scene with his video showing Westerners how to use the Indian latrine. (somewhere, a career counselor just resigned from his job)
4. Walk Off The Earth – Famous for playing a Gotye cover on one guitar
Canadian rock band Walk Off The Earth has attained worldwide fame thanks to their really creative low-budget music videos, most of which are covers of other artists. Although the group was formed in 2006, they gained recognition for covering the Gotye song ‘Somebody that I used to know’ in early 2012 where all members were playing the one guitar.
5. PSY – KPOP star who turned into an international sensation. Thanks to ONE SONG.
You know you’ve done something amazing when US President Barack Obama uses your song to talk about how the world is going through a Korean wave. Yep, that actually happened. ‘ Gangnam Style ‘ is one of those songs that everyone knows about.
And it’s not just the song – the world also went crazy over PSY’s dance moves. Remember Chris Gayle doing his version of it?
6. Rebecca Black – Sang ‘Friday’.
Yes, hate me for including this, but you cannot deny that the world will never forget Rebecca Black and her song Friday . But let’s accept it. We created her with our love for the ridiculous. But what’s actually praiseworthy is how she came up with a sarcastic follow-up video explaining how ‘Friday’ was a deep song full of metaphors. Full points for effort, Ms. Black.
And the ‘like’ bar resembles a light-saber.
7. Biswa Kalyan Rath and Kanan Gill – Comedians who review desi movies.
The idea of viral online content hasn’t been around for too long in India, but boy did we catch on fast. One of the best examples is ‘ Pretentious Movie Reviews ‘, the brainchild of Kanan Gill and Biswa Kalyan Rath, two stand-up comedians who got together and decided to make a video. Ours is a generation that grew up on some seriously shitty films and these guys tapped it perfectly.
8. Lindsey Stirling – Violinist, dancer, performance artist.
Since 2007, Stirling has been running her YouTube channel where she puts up her choreographed musical performances that range from original compositions to cover versions of other artists and soundtracks. What sets her apart from most other performers is her showmanship, her collaborations with other new YouTube acts and her appeal towards the fantasy and video-game fans. I mean, here’s a violin player-cum-dancer who does cover versions of Lord of the Rings, Halo, Skyrim soundtracks. What’s not to like?
9. Felix Kjellberg – Makes $4 million a year for playing games.
One of YouTube’s most significant success stories is that of Felix Kjellberg, better known by his username ‘ PewDiePie ‘. This 25-year old Swedish guy just sits in front of his computer and plays video games while constantly commentating. Unlike other “Let’s Play” videos/channels on YouTube, PewDiePie’s motto is “sharing gaming moments on YouTube with my bros”. He’s famous for playing action and horror genre games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and its various mods and Skyrim . In 2013, his channel grew rapidly from 3.5 million to 19 million subscribers and this year, it surpassed RihannaVEVO to become the most viewed YouTube channel of all time. Also, he earns about $4 million from ad sales from his channel every year.
10. Sungha Jung – Prodigal guitar player.
If you’ve ever browsed guitar lessons on YouTube, chances are you’ve come across videos of a young Korean kid effortlessly playing fingerstyle guitar making all your efforts look like shit. That kid would be Sungha Jung, whose channel, jwcfree , has over 2.9 million subscribers. His rendition of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours was so well-received that the singer himself asked Sungha to perform on stage with him.
11. Boyce Avenue – From YouTube to Headlining Tours.
Brothers Alejandro, Daniel and Fabian Manzano formed the band Boyce Avenue in 2004 and they uploaded covers of a few contemporary classics like on their YouTube channel like Rihanna’s Umbrella and The Fray’s How to Save a Life . Their two channels have more than a billion views. Now, they’ve also released original material and are regularly touring North America, Europe and Asia.
12. Judith de los Santos – Video-game fan with a golden voice.
Judith de los Santos, who goes by the pseudonym ‘Malukah’, is a Mexican musician who’s also a huge fan of video-games. Her cover of The Dragonborn Comes from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim went viral soon after the game released in November 2011. On her channel, it has over 13 million views while there are about 9 million more views on the IGN channel. This led to her getting work in the video game industry where she was commissioned to provide vocals for music featured in games like Call of Duty: Black Ops II , The Banner Saga and The Elder Scrolls Online . She is also featured in a cameo role in The Elder Scrolls game as a bard.
13. Kyle Myers – Gun lover who pretends to be Russian.
Myers runs the channel FPSRussia , where he regularly displays firearms and explosives. It has more than 5 million subscribers but here’s the thing – the fan base is not entirely full of pro-gun lobbyists. People actually enjoy his channel because he engages in harmless fun, like shooting watermelons with a 12-gauge shotgun or destroying an XBOX with weapons . And he signs off every video with a thick accented “Have a nice day”.
14. Dane Boedigheimer – Creator of Annoying Orange.
Dane Boedigheimer used to be a production assistant in MTV’s Pimp My Ride . But then he decided to shoot a one-off video about a talking fruit and (I love the internet) it went viral. Yep, you heard that right. This is how Annoying Orange was born. With over 4 million subscribers now it’s a full-time comedy web-series and has spawned a merchandising line.
15. Tardar Sauce AKA Grumpy Cat.
Cats rule the internet. And one of the celebrities is Tardar Sauce, also known as ‘ Grumpy Cat ‘. The real reason behind Tardar Sauce’s permanent grumpy face is feline dwarfism. Her owner is Tabatha Bundesen who has taken time off her regular job to manage Grumpy Cat’s busy schedule. The wiki page on Grumpy Cat says “Photo sessions are only once a week, and handling by strangers is limited.”
16. Randall Munroe – Roboticist who created XKCD.
While he was working as a Independent Contracting Roboticist for NASA, Randall Munroe started XKCD – ” A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language”, with stick figure sketches. It was one of the first webcomics to be popular internationally. In 2006, when NASA did not renew his contract, he started working full-time on XKCD and now, he supports himself through the sale of XKCD related merchandise.
17. Chuck Testa – The Taxidermist who became a Meme.
Chuck Testa, owner of Ojai Valley Taxidermy in California, was the subject of a commercial by online entertainers Rhett & Link. The video feature people’s reactions to seeing wild animals in their neighbourhood followed by Testa making an appearance saying “Nope! It’s just Chuck Testa”, which then became a meme on sites like Reddit, Tumblr and Imgur. Something like this.
18. Sweet Brown – The “Ain’t nobody got time for that” lady.
Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins escaped from an apartment complex fire and was then interviewed on KFOR-TV where she gave an animated sound byte which, once exposed to the online crowd, soon spawned a viral auto-tune remix .