I love memes of all kinds. No matter how much time I spend looking at them, it’s always strange for me to remember that there’s a real person behind the meme. In my head, I know they’re real people and that they just happened to have had their picture taken at an inopportune (or opportune) time, and that was later turned into a meme. But for some reason, I just imagine them as only existing in that picture for memes. It’s probably because that’s the only place where I ever see them, so that’s how they’ll look forever.
The stars of these memes are real people and some of them totally embrace the meme they’re famous for, while others aren’t such big fans of their infamy. Keep reading to see where 15 of the people behind famous memes are now!
15. Success Kid
In 2007, Sammy Griner was 11 months old and was enjoying some time on the beach. His mother, Laney, took a picture of him with a fistful of sand and posted it to her Flickr account. A few years later, the image went viral and became the ‘Success Kid’ meme. People would put their small successes in life over the picture to accompany the toddler’s proud expression. The memes say things like, “Thought it was Thursday… Realized it’s Friday.”
Now, it’s been 10 years and ‘Success Kid’ is all grown up and as cute as ever! Two years ago Sam’s father underwent a kidney transplant, and the family used the ‘Success Kid’ meme for good. The family used the meme to garner support and donations for the surgery. Way to use your meme fame for a good cause, Sam!
14. Bad Luck Brian
Bad Luck Brian is forever known on the Internet for his yearbook photo. Since it was first posted online in 2012, there have been countless memes using his face as a kid who does his best, but things always turn out horribly for him. The memes are always captioned with things like, “Spends all night studying… Falls asleep during exam.”
In real life, Bad Luck Brian’s name is Kyle Craven. His picture became a meme after his friend posted his picture on the Internet and, well, the people of the web did the rest for him. Kyle says that the goofy, awkward look he had in the photo was on purpose because he wanted the picture to look bad. And it’s a good thing he did, because the picture has spawned some hilarious memes. Since the meme took off, he made YouTube videos for a while and embraced his “bad luck” in a hilarious way.
13. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy
Who looks good while they’re running? I know some people love to run, but it’s hard to imagine anyone who looks good while they’re out for a run. I always get red, sweaty, and angry looking because running is just plain terrible. I thought that’s how everyone was. In 2012, though, the Internet proved me wrong. While taking photos of runners in the 2012 Cooper River Bridge Run, Will King snapped one of someone who the Internet grew to love immediately.
The picture was turned into a meme as soon as people on Flickr, and it found the shot of him smiling at the camera as he ran and he was dubbed “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.” Unlike Bad Luck Brian, all the memes featured him doing something and it having a great outcome. Five years later, he lives in New York and has a pretty normal life. Hopefully he’s still running marathons!
Okay, that’s not really Chloe nowadays, but this meme was too hilarious not to share. Since the video of Chloe and her sister being told they were going to Disneyland went viral, Chloe hasn’t changed much. The video has been viewed over 18 million times just on their YouTube channel alone and Chloe’s unimpressed face has become a reaction GIF staple for people on social media. It’s hard not to use it whenever you just need to let someone know you’re judging them for what they’re doing.
Chloe and Lily’s parents still upload videos to YouTube and totally embrace Chloe’s legacy as a meme. They even repost the funniest memes of Chloe onto their Instagram, like this one! Hopefully she enjoyed her trip to Disneyland with her family more than she looked like she was going to.
11. Damn, Daniel
Daniel Lara is a prime example of people becoming memes for just about anything. Josh Holz, Daniel’s friend, did nothing but do a quick pan of Daniel’s outfits each day to post on Snapchat. At one point in the compilation video of snaps that was uploaded, he became so impressed with his 14-year-old friend’s shoe choice that he just had to comment on it and said, “Damn, Daniel! Back at it again with the white Vans!” And just like that, a meme was born. Although it was relatively short lived, it was still all over the place for a while. He got (and then donated to a hospital) a lifetime supply of Vans, got to go to the 2016 MTV Movie Awards, the 2016 YouTube Rewind video, and was on an episode of Ellen.
Since he’s faded from the Internet’s collective memory as a meme, Daniel says he’s still a regular teenager. He’s still on the swim team and stayed in high school like anyone else his age. Damn, Daniel! Back at it again with the good choices.
10. Ermahgerd Girl
Luckily for me, all of my awkward childhood photos are hidden far, far away from the Internet where they’ll never see the light of a scanner. Other people aren’t so lucky. Maggie Goldenberger was significantly less lucky because one of her embarrassing photos from when she was around 11 was resurrected, posted online, and will live on forever in Internet history as a meme. The original just had the picture with the large, blocky font common among memes like this that said, “ERMAHGERD GERSBERMS.”
The user who posted it on Reddit originally said he randomly found it on Facebook in someone’s public photos and didn’t know the person in it. Goldenberger is a nurse in Phoenix now and says that it’s bizarre to be a meme. As strange as she finds them, R.L. Stine ( the author) has a much harsher response. He says he doesn’t get them and that people just send him the meme all day on Twitter.
9. Alex From Target
Most memes are born by someone doing something funny or a particularly amusing picture of them being posted online. Others? Not so much. Some other memes come from people just posting a regular picture of a person online and then, for no reason, it goes viral. The Internet is a strange place and it’s impossible to tell what’s going to become popular on the web.
Alex Lee, more famously known as “Alex From Target,” became famous because a girl went into the Target he was working at and posted a picture of him on Twitter while she was going through his checkout lane. He became an overnight Internet sensation for no reason at all. He went on to make Vines for a while, has over 1.6 million followers on Instagram, and no longer works at Target. Oh, how times change.
8. Overly Attached Girlfriend
All Laina Morris wanted was to win a contest being hosted by Justin Bieber. The popstar challenged his fans to upload a cover of his song, Boyfriend, but make it into a version about them and call it Girlfriend. So, Laina did just that. Unfortunately, she didn’t win the contest for her genius entry, but she did win something better: a life of Internet fame as a meme. The song satirized a clingy girlfriend and detailed all the ways that Laina would stalk, harass, and annoy the subject of the song. Almost immediately after the video was uploaded, people screencapped a wide-eyed shot of her in the beginning and started making memes out of it.
Now, Laina is still making YouTube videos. She hasn’t completely gotten rid of her ‘Overly Attached Girlfriend’ persona, but her videos are more personal now and show off her real life outside of being a meme.
7. Hipster Barista
While some people embrace their meme and love the creativity people have with it, other people aren’t so excited about theirs. Dustin Mattson, the man behind the ‘Hipster Barista’ meme, isn’t so happy about his. In an interview with Eater Atlanta in 2011, he had some choice words about the meme. He said, “I do find it discouraging and disappointing that there was so much exposure brought to an attempt at making a joke of a culinary industry and the professional barista. To me, it’s very telling on how we laud farm-to-table food, craft beer, cocktail mixology, but it’s ok to have no respect for the specialty coffee world and the people who are committed to it.”
He also said that it just makes him want to work harder as a barista to really show people that specialty coffee is no laughing matter and that he and his coworkers are totally not the stereotypes they seem like in the meme.
6. Dating Site Murderer
Some people become memes when other people find a funny picture of them and share it online. Other people become a meme when they post a hilarious picture of themselves and people just run with it. It’s always great when people can have a sense of humor about themselves when they’ve been turned into a meme, whether it’s before they post the picture for people to laugh at or afterwards when the memes begin. The ‘dating site murderer’ meme began when Reddit user spawn02000 posted a menacing looking picture of himself to Reddit. He said he had put it on a dating site and he just couldn’t understand why no one was messaging him. The meme is always captioned with something that sounds scary, but ends up being sweet in a sudden twist, like, “They will never find your body… As attractive as I do.”
Spawn02000 posted a few updates with new pictures on Reddit after that, but in the most recent one, it looks like he found love! And three children who seem less than impressed with his Internet fame.
5. College Freshman
Griffin Kiritsy just thought he was posing for a stock photo in 2009 when a photographer for Reader’s Digest asked him to sit down with his headphones in and his cell phone out. It didn’t take long for the Internet to work its magic with the picture and turn him into a meme, though. The meme rose to fame on the Internet in 2011 when someone discovered the photo and posted it to the meme creating website Quickmeme. The meme features his picture with hilariously embarrassing college cliches. They say things like, “Goes to library to study… On Facebook the entire time.”
Kiritsy isn’t a huge fan of the meme and says that the worst part to him is that most of the memes don’t actually apply to him. Somehow, I don’t think the people who are making them care about that, though.
4. Sheltering Suburban Mom
‘The Sheltering Suburban Mom’ meme has been making its way around the Internet for years. It shows a woman with short hair and a fabulous matching tracksuit on a colorful background. The text that goes on the meme varies, but it’s usually something hypocritical that portrays her as a mom who is really out of touch with the rest of the world. The meme will often say things like, “Kid fails a test… Goes to yell at teacher.”
Carly Phillips, the woman in the picture who is a romance novelist when she’s not being used for the face of a meme, said that when she originally learned about the ‘Sheltering Suburban Mom,’ she was hurt. She didn’t understand what a meme was and was concerned that people were going to think she really felt those things. Luckily, a few Reddit users explained it to her and she said that once she finally understood, she didn’t mind them anymore and forgot about it.
3. Scumbag Steve
Scumbag Steve memes are always about a guy who is, well, a huge scumbag. They show a guy standing in a doorway with a jacket and a backwards hat on, saying things like, “Invites Steve to party… iPod stolen.” Sometimes, people will take Steve’s hat from the meme and put it on other people or items to make other memes.
Steve is actually named Blake Boston and the picture was taken by his mom over a decade ago! He said that at first, he was hurt by the memes and the reactions people had to them. He said he was getting all kinds of rude messages from people who called him names and harassed his family. Since then, he’s learned to take the meme a little less seriously and even rapped about being Scumbag Steve. At least he’s got a sense of humor about it now!
2. Good Guy Greg
‘Good Guy Greg’ is basically the exact opposite of Scumbag Steve in the meme world. Instead of being a total douche who does terrible things, Greg does nice things for other people. The meme shows a guy with a cigarette in his mouth smiling and says things like, “Sleeps on your couch… Makes breakfast,” or “Takes really good notes… Emails them to the entire class.”
Five years ago, a pair of Reddit users went to the subreddit /r/IAmA and said that they were commercial fishermen who just spent six weeks on a boat in Alaska. While that’s really cool and all, his real claim to Internet fame was that he was on the boat with the ‘Good Guy Greg.’ The picture he posted looked kind of like the guy from the meme, but some Reddit users are skeptical. This is the closest that anyone has ever come to identifying him, so most people accept it anyway.
1. Hot Convict
Some people get famous off their talent. Other people have a super attractive picture posted online and get offered a modeling contract. For that second category of people, it doesn’t even matter if the attractive photo is a mugshot: it’s still going to go viral and they’re still going to become famous and get to walk the runway once they’re out of jail. Thanks to the Internet, people can become famous for literally anything. Or in some people’s cases, they can become famous for nothing.
In 2014, Jeremy Meeks’ mugshot was posted online after he was arrested for gun possession and the Internet blew up. No one cared that he was a felon, he instantly became known as the ‘hot convict.’ People turned his mugshot into a meme with captions like, “Steals your heart… And purse, jewelry, and car.”
Now, he’s out of jail and he’s a professional model.
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