While the media maintains a watchful eye of those celebrities that are famous for something, be it entertainment, fashion or sports, they also give credence to promoting the fame of other, less worthy candidates, famous for being rich, or famous for being famous. A few socialites come to mind. While the immense glare of the media and the incessant proliferation of the cult of celebrity is a touchy subject, these famous people know what they are getting into, signing up for the potentially negative aspects of fame when they took that movie role, signed that record deal, or spent a lot of mommy and daddy’s money.
There are other types of celebrities as well, the regular folk who are simply in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time. The media latches onto these accidental celebrities just at tightly as a movie star, but for a fraction of the time. For their part, the ten accidental celebrities on this list both either took their 5 minutes of fame in stride, ignored it, or in some cases attempted to prolong it to little avail. Here are ten people who got famous by accident, and most often for no good reason at all.
10 Lydia Callis
Sign language isn’t something one would really expect to find themselves inadvertently becoming famous for, but when Lydia Callis was tasked with signing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s speech in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, her animated signing caught the attention of more than just worried residents. Though Lydia disliked the attention her signing brought her, stating her job was to “interpret the news, not make it,” that didn’t stop images of her facial expressions making the rounds on the Internet through Tumblr and Twitter. Callis was also parodied on Saturday Night Live, a one-time high honor. To her credit, Lydia Callis has used her more visible profile to advocate for the deaf via the New York Public Library.
9 Paul Vasquez
Has a rainbow ever made you cry? If so, you’re not alone. Back in 2010 Paul Vasquez was in Yosemite National Park when he took a video of a double rainbow. Vasquez was so moved by the rainbows that he was brought to tears. Later, he posted the video on YouTube as the user Hungrybear9562, where not many paid it much notice. That is until late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel Tweeted the video, after an intrepid staffer of his saw it. From there the video took off virally, and Paul Vasquez, former truck driver and firefighter, was contacted by Microsoft, who used his double rainbow video in promotional material for the Windows Live Photo Gallery application.
Ok, while not necessarily a human that became famous by accident, when your face becomes stamped on a coin because of an Internet meme, you belong on this list. Known as Doge, Kabosu is an eight-year-old Shiba Inu rescue dog living in Japan. The dog’s owner is teacher Atsuko Sato who writes a widely read blog about her pets. Unbeknownst to her, one of her photos of Kabosu was lifted from the site and turned into a meme. The meme was simple, and in reality, kind of absurd, superimposing grammatically incorrect, broken English over top of pictures of the dog.
Like most things that blow up online, it was simple, crazy, and wildly successful. What’s even crazier? When the Jamaican bobsled team couldn’t raise enough money to travel to Russia for the Sochi Olympics, a group of supporters launched DogeCoin, a Bitcoin-inspired online currency. The memes showcasing Doge bobsledding are priceless, but the $25,000 DogeCoin raised for the Jamaican bobsled team was all cold hard cash, securing Doge, the Internet meme’s legacy beyond mere pop culture.
7 Sammy Griner
Have you ever seen the meme of the kid at the beach with his fist clenched, full of sand, looking like he just conquered the world, or at the very least, a sandcastle? Well, that’s Sam Griner in a photo his mother took of him when he was just 11 months old. His mother posted the photo to her Flickr page, and for two years nothing happened. Until one day, when the photo showed up on the net with a crying child superimposed behind Griner. The caption “I hate sandcastles” was brilliant. Over time, the meme morphed and Griner became known as “Success Kid” his fist pump and look of determination inspiring many memes about success, strength and determination. The meme was so successful that it ultimately afforded Sam Griner the opportunity to star in commercials for both Virgin Media and Vitamin water. Not bad for a kid caught by his mother trying to eat sand.
6 Balpreet Kaur
Balpreet Kaur unknowingly had her photograph taken while waiting in line at a coffee shop. Whomever snapped the photo clearly felt the need to be some sort of investigative reporter, posting the photo to Reddit and stating “I’m not sure what to make of this,” alluding to the gender neutral looks of Kaur. At the crux of the confusion was the fact that Kaur did indeed have some facial hair, but still, who cares? Is that something noteworthy enough to post on the Internet? Oh, right… to many it probably is. Anyway, Kaur it turns out, is indeed a woman, but that didn’t really catch on until after she suffered some heavy bullying online, and finally decided to address the photo herself. By explaining her religion, her knowledge that her gender is often confused, and that in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter, nor does she care how others view her, Balpreet Kaur, whose gender neutral appearance went viral, turned the tables on those teasing her, and actually gained the respect of many Reddit users with her tactful response. She later told a U.K. newspaper:
“I am well aware of how I am perceived by others: is she a man? A bearded woman? Transgendered? These perceptions find their roots both in simple curiosity and ignorance of the sheer diversity of the human race. I cannot stop people from forming convoluted first impressions based on what I look like, but I can stop them from turning that ignorance into misplaced assumptions or even hatred. This is why, having been alerted to the posting of the photo, I replied in the thread, and engaged with the posters discussing my appearance. What I learned from this experience is that building bridges between people isn’t really that hard: an honest conversation, a simple exchange of meaningful words that make up our lives, can change people’s opinions and change the world for the better – one step at a time.”
5 Mark Brown
Ever seen a man dance with a raccoon? If you’ve viewed or followed YouTube videos posted by Mark Brown, AKA Swampmusic12, then of course you have. If not, you’re definitely missing out. A self-professed hillbilly, the overall wearing, bearded Brown and his pet raccoon Rebekah do a little strut on the porch, with Rebekah clinging to his leg at one point. The whole thing is quite ludicrous, but somewhat endearing in a way. The video became so popular that Swampmusic12 posted a few more, including a shower scene with the raccoon. Sadly, as is often the case, with fame comes misfortune, and Mark Brown’s YouTube videos brought the pet raccoons to the attention of the state of Tennessee, who seized the raccoons deeming them not fit as pets.
4 Carly Phillips
Known as the “Sheltering Suburban Mom,” the face behind this meme actually belongs to a professional, New York Time's best-selling romance novelist. Somehow, someone thought it would be funny to take the picture of the admittedly wholesome, suburban-looking mom and add captions to them. Captions like “Lets kids watch PG-13 movies… when they’re 17” go along with other, more controversial captions involving race, religion and sexuality. Clearly modelled, whether on purpose or not, after Sarah Palin, some of the “Sheltering Suburban Mom” memes are actually quite brilliant. To her credit, the novelist, who already had her own public persona prior to the memes, has taken it in good humor, though there’s no mention of them on her website or bio.
3 Zeddie Little
Everyone’s dream man apparently, Zeddie Little is the face of the “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy” RPG for short. Taken at a marathon in South Carolina, Little was among the random runners caught in a flurry of photos taken at the event. Once the photos were uploaded to, where else, Reddit, attention began to focus on Little, with his good looks and endearing smile. Needless to say, the Internet was smitten. When RPG uses soap, the soap gets cleaner. Hell, even after he walks into a lesbian bar, PRG gets laid. Ridiculous, but funny, Chuck Norris style. Not only were memes created out of the original photo, RPG was actually photoshopped into numerous other photos as well to “make them classier.” To his credit, Zeddie Little kept a low profile, even though he’s allegedly been propositioned on his multiple (fake) social media accounts.
2 Alex from Target
How bizarre is the world we live in when a picture of a random Target employee becomes a Twitter trend? But that’s precisely what happened last month to “Alex from Target.” Apparently a customer took a photo of the young man (a consummate employee), and posted it to her Twitter account. It spread and soon others were asking everyone to re-tweet the pic because “everyone needs Alex from Target…” Within 12 hours of the initial tweet, a Twitter account linked to “Alex from Target” accumulated almost 300,000 followers, and in the days that followed the hashtag #alexfromtarget was tweeted over 800,000 times. News outlets reported on the 16-year-old cashier from Texas, and he even made an appearance on the Ellen show, a video which itself has over 3 million views on YouTube. Alex seemed stunned by the newfound fame, and rightfully so.
1 Antoine Dodson
Nothing like a near violent and tragic situation to turn someone into a celebrity, but that’s what happened with Antoine Dodson. After an intruder tried breaking into his sister's window at their family home in Alabama with the intention of assaulting her, the near attack was thwarted and in the aftermath Dodson was interviewed by a local news station. It was during that interview where Dodson uttered the lines: “He’s climbin’ in your windows, he’s snatchin’ your people up, tryin’ to rape ‘em. So y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband cause they’re rapin’ everybody out here,” in his inimitably flamboyant way.
The attention Dodson received from the exuberant interview was almost immediate, with clips of the interview blowing up YouTube, spawning the “Bed Intruder Song,” which has sold thousands of copies on iTunes, an appearance on Tosh.O, and even his own brand of t-shirts. Though the dust has settled on Dodson's fame in the past few years, he announced last year he was now a Hebrew Israelite, and no longer a homosexual, rather wanting a wife and child.