December 10, 2015

You’ve heard the stories: the famous actor who was discovered at a bank. The ingenue who impressed a modeling scout at a pizza parlor.

But that was then. The Internet is now.

YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat are the new places where ambitious, would-be celebs get their start. Right from the beginning, stars are being forged in the crucible of the Internet, judged by clicks, views, and shares.

“I think it’s pretty hard to now become a celebrity by accident,” says Allison Stern. She’s co-founder of Tubular Labs, which gathers data on the growing landscape of online videos. “There’s a lot of legwork that goes into building a [YouTube] channel and building an audience and building fame.”

Andrew Wallenstein follows the entertainment business from his perch as co-editor-in-chief of Variety. He says these online outlets let aspiring stars bypass Hollywood gatekeepers.

“Anyone with enough talent and enough diligence and a sense of the marketplace can get on a platform like YouTube and amass a very sizable audience.”

And sometimes make a lot of money. Variety reported that YouTube’s top grossing video-maker earned $12 million last year. He’s a Swedish guy named Felix Kjellberg whose videos of himself playing video gameshave been watched 10 billion times.

And the Internet isn’t just changing how people become famous. It’s transforming what it means to be a celebrity.

“At its core, what makes a YouTube star successful is the connection they have with their audience,” Allison Stern says. “You’ll hear a lot of fans say that they think of these YouTube personalities as older sisters or friends next door... It’s less about this divide between someone and a celebrity up on a pedestal.”

By the time you’ve finished this sentence, nearly 100 videos will have been uploaded online. They’re 21st century celebrities: Russian daredevils, pop violinists, and makeup experts.

If you want to join them, you don’t necessarily have to make it in Hollywood. But you do have to make it online.

Culture, Allison Stern, Celebrity, Tubular, Andrew Wallenstein

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