Fame is a fickle thing. For proof, just ask the people behind top viral videos. Back in the early 2000s, before YouTube and social media were a thing, the public discovered a new kind of celebrity: meme and viral video stars. Their work might have been homemade, but there was something that made them relatable to millions of viewers. Who hasn't belted out their favorite song alone in their room, or messed up while attempting to show off in front of friends?
But where are viral video stars now? Are they still making videos and chasing fame, or has their spotlight shut off for good? YouTube racked up millions of views and made unknowns like Tay Zonday, Rebecca Black, and PSY household names. But what happened to past viral stars isn't always positive. For some, the road to lasting success has been paved with gold, but for others, it’s been a treacherous journey marked by hard-won lessons.
PSY was a successful singer, rapper, and entertainer in his native country of South Korea, but it wasn’t until his song "Gangnam Style" was posted on YouTube in 2012 that he became a worldwide sensation. The video - a musical homage to a Beverly Hills-type neighborhood in Seoul - holds the record for the most watched video YouTube video of all time. His follow-up videos have racked up millions of views, but none have reached "Gangnam Style" heights.
PSY became the first Asian artist to receive a Diamond Play Button from YouTube, meaning he has over 10 million subscribers to his channel. The musician continues to perform and record music.
Birthplace: Seoul, South Korea, Gangnam District
Credits: This Is the End, My Sassy Girl, The Nut Job, Rewind YouTube Style 2012
Having your song labeled "the worst of all time" is hard for any budding singer to take, much less a 13-year-old girl. But that’s exactly what happened to Rebecca Black after she posted her ode to the weekend, "Friday," on YouTube in 2011. The overly Auto-Tuned ditty snagged millions of views, and almost as much mockery. Black didn't let the naysayers stop her - she posted a few more videos and performed some shows before stepping away from the spotlight to enjoy her high school years.
Today, Black has moved to Los Angeles to resume a career as a singer. She's working with a team of top producers, writers, and musicians to guide her. Black has released a few singles (all without the aid of Auto-Tune) and is crafting a full-length album to be released sometime in the near future.
Birthplace: Irvine, California, United States of America
Credits: Legend of a Rabbit
In 2007, Tay Zonday, a young man with a fathoms-deep voice, posted the original song "Chocolate Rain" to YouTube. The song has been viewed hundreds of millions of times since. Zonday (whose real name is Adam Bahner) told the Minneapolis Star Tribune he had put the video up "as an experiment," and was as surprised as anyone when it took off.
Zonday currently lives in Los Angeles, and works as a musician, actor, and voice-over artist. His one regret about Internet stardom? Giving "Chocolate Rain" away as a free download. "If I had made smarter business choices when it was hot that would have been good, but I didn't know," he admitted.
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America
Credits: Hamlet A.D.D., Streetfighter Music Video
"Numa Numa" might be the world’s first viral video. In 2003 - before YouTube even existed - New Jersey web designer Gary Brolsma hit record on his webcam and lip-synced to the Moldovan pop classic "Dragostea Din Tei" by O-Zone. The video catapulted Brolsma to stardom, and appeared everywhere, from Good Morning America to The Tonight Show.
But Brolsma says he prefers a quiet life. Outside of a 2008 appearance in Weezer’s "Pork And Beans" video, Broslma has stayed mostly under the radar. However, he's working on an album of original material.
Birthplace: Saddle Brook, New Jersey, United States of America