Photo: Marta Szczeniak/WENN.com
Hollywood is changing and you can thank the internet for it. Blogs, Twitter feeds, YouTube Channels, E-Books and fan fiction have all become legitimate means of gaining entry into the entertainment industry. Don't believe us? Here are 15 celebrities who first gained notoriety thanks to their internet endeavors.
Following the attempted rape of his sister at their Huntsville, Alabama housing project, Antoine Dodson gave a spirited television interview describing the event. Clips from the interview were later auto-tuned into a music video by The Gregory Brothers and thus the “Bed Intruder Song” was born. The clip became an instant viral sensation and hit single. Dodson has capitalized on the success by merchandising “Bed Intruder Song”, performing the track at the BET Hip-Hop Awards, and parlaying his fame into a reality TV pilot.
Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner set the record for YouTube live streams by performing the highest skydive ever recorded. With Red Bull as his sponsor, Baumgartner jumped from a helium balloon in the earth’s stratosphere. In the process he set world records for performing a manned balloon flight and parachute jump at the highest altitude while also establishing the greatest free fall velocity (breaking the sound barrier outside of a vehicle). Since accomplishing this feat, Baumgartner has been the subject of documentaries, countless news stories, and has promoted his own line of casual wear clothing.
Austin, Texas based entrepreneur Harry Knowles started Aint It Cool News in 1996. The venture would be among the first major movie fan websites on the internet, dishing out major Hollywood scoops while offering an open forum for cinema discussion. The ongoing success of Aint It Cool News has made Knowles one of the most high-profile film critics and Hollywood insiders in the world.
While still in high school, Lucas Cruikshank created a YouTube sensation. Fred Figglehorn is the squeaky voice, socially awkward teen protagonist of Cruikshank’s Fred channel. The popularity of the character and Cruikshank's performance him helped pull in over a million subscribers within just a year. The character has since starred in three feature length movies, episodes of Nickelodeon’s iCarly, and appeared in the 2009 Teen Choice Awards. Cruikshank has gone on to create a separate character for Nickelodeon with his latest series Marvin Marvin.
Mail Order Comedy
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Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, Anders Holm and Kyle Newacheck (not pictured) make up the
comedy team that is Mail Order Comedy. The comedy group rose to notoriety through their live sketch shows and YouTube channel. After gaining success through the MySpace series “Special Delivery” and their gangster rap music video spoof “Wizards Never Die,” the MOC created the Comedy Central series Workaholics. The critically acclaimed show has become a staple for the network and is now enjoying its third season.
Rebecca Black experienced a career explosion in 2010 when the video for her single “Friday” went viral, becoming the most talked about topic on Twitter. The auto-tuned song and video were paid for by Black’s mother and developed by the vanity-based record label ARK Music Factory. You can sort of tell—the video became notorious for its “so-bad-its good” lyrics and singing. Despite catching the ire of a multitude of YouTube users, "Friday" brought Black into the mainstream music fold. It was covered quite famously on Glee, got the singer signed to DB Entertainment, and scored her an appearance in the Katy Perry video “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).”
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Comedian, actor, and writer Lisa Donovan created her LisaNova YouTube channel in 2006. The popularity of the channel landed Donovan a starring role on Mad TV the same year. This marked her as the first YouTube personality to successfully cross over into mainstream Hollywood. After appearing in only four episodes that season, she departed and returned to producing web videos. Donovan has founded Zappin Productions and co-founded YouTube’s character development oriented Maker Studios.
Photo: Marta Szczeniak/WENN.com
South Korean rapper/singer Psy became an unexpected global superstar last year. The song "Gangnam Style" (from his sixth album, Psy 6) and its video were embraced stateside, quickly ascending YouTube and iTunes video charts. Soon Psy was performing on everything from Saturday Night Live to The Today Show. On November 24th 2012 the video became the most viewed work in the history of YouTube.
Perez Hilton (real name Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr.) began his celebrity blog as a hobby in 2005. The site hybridized celebrity news by filtering its gossip through Hilton's comedic (if sometimes scathing) lens. Within six months of its inception, Hilton’s blog was declared the internet's “Most Hated Blog” by the ET spinoff The Insider. In 2009 the site was ranked as the 143rd most trafficked website by American internet users according to a report from Alexa.
A Columbus Dispatch videographer discovered Ted Williams in January 2011. The homeless man was standing next to traffic holding a cardboard sign advertising his skills as a voice-over artist, offering them in exchange for donations. His video interview went live on the newspaper’s website and was soon reposted on YouTube. From there a veritable army of social media users responded, offering Williams money and job offers. A media swarm followed as Williams became the subject of interviews on The Early Show and Today. That same month Williams was hired by MSNBC to provide his services for their network. A reality show based around Williams called A Second Chance At Life soon followed along with a series of inspirational books.
Jessica Lee Rose
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Jessica Lee Rose is a New Zealand actress better known to the internet as lonelygirl15. The actress appeared on a YouTube channel of the same name as a fictitious, home schooled American teenager. As the show grew, the mystery of the character’s identity caused a Los Angeles Times expose of the series, thus putting Rose into the media spotlight. Lonelygirl15 ended in 2007 and Rose has gone on to starring roles on ABCFamily’s Greek, Sy-Fy’s Ghostown, and several other web series.
Carly Rae Jepsen
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Carly Rae Jepsen's combined presence on MySpace and Canadian Idol helped gain her a following in her home country of Canada. This led to her single, “Call Me Maybe,” gaining mainstream Canadian radio play. The song was heard by pop sensations Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, who took to Twitter to praise the single. Soon Jepsen was signed to Scooter Braun’s Schoolboy Records and Interscope. In 2010 “Call Me Maybe” became a number one hit, a breakout worldwide radio success and the subject of countless internet memes.
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E.L. James (a pseudonym for writer Erika Mitchell) authored the best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. The British writer actually began the sensual series as Twilight fanfiction written under the pen name “Snowqueen's Icedragon." Originally titled Master of the Universe, the text received unwanted opposition from Twilight fans thanks to the sex-ual nature of the material. James soon rewrote it in three parts, redubbing the character names, and self-published the first part as an e-book titled Fifty Shades of Grey. It has since become literary sensation and is currently being developed into feature length film.
Berkely, California based sketch trio The Lonely Island began performing comedy during junior high school. Comprised of Andy Samburg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer, the trio parlayed their skills into a series of internet shorts and television pilots. Their work eventually landed them writing jobs on the 2005 MTV Movie Awards. This caught the attention of Lorne Michaels, who would hire them on to the staff Saturday Night Live the same year (Samburg as a cast member; Taccone and Shaffer as writers). The trio would be largely responsible for the success of the SNL digital shorts, which spawned such viral sensations as “Lazy Sunday” and “D*** In A Box” (the latter of which won them an Emmy). The group have gone on to separate success as writers, actors, and directors, but have remained a comedy/musical group with two successful albums to date (and a third pending).
Before she was an Academy Award winning screenwriter, Diablo Cody (real name Brooke Busey) was a prolific blogger. She created the parody blog The Red Secretary, which chronicled Cody’s real life clerical exploits through the comedic perspective on an English challenged Eastern Bloc immigrant. Later Cody would create “The vajayjay Ranch,” a blog that chronicled her career as a sensual dancer. The popularity of the blog would earn her an agent and book deal. Candy Girl: A Year In The Life of an Unlikely Stripper began her contract with Gotham Books. Shortly after its release, Cody would write Juno, which would go on to earn her an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.