These People Found Fame as Memes, But Where Are They Now
Ah, memes. Philosophy in a photo, some say — and for many of us, an addiction! Certain faces have been dominating the web for a period of time, but who really knows their stories? Surely the memeology has some grain of truth!
So, how did these people and their memes shoot to fame? And where in the world are they now?
From Bad Luck Brian to Scumbag Steve - let's find out what our favorite memes have been up to!
Viral Bella Donna
First world problems was a piece of internet art that really tickled the crowd, back in early the 2000s. Maybe there was an itch there to scratch! How many times have friends and family complained about the silliest of things, while losing all perspective?
Enter, Silvia Bottini. It's not well recognized, but that sobbing, sorrowful face is actually a working Italian actress. Ungrateful woes were just so much funnier, thanks to this gal! She's never quite addressed her unexpected international stardom, instead focusing on her real job. And her Instagram is always full of smiling pictures, in contrast!
Meme Update: Trying to Hold in a Fart
Free farting is a hot topic these days! There might be a few weirdos showing off out of control flatulence, but that's rare — so rare that the Trying To Hold In A Fart meme was relatable to millions, instantly!
Michael McGee is the polite boy that made the meme all it was, though the real story is different when he tells it. He claims he just wanted to show his friend's forehead veins popping out, but some still have their doubts! Either way, he's in his early 20's now trying to live a perfectly normal life. Let him be, people!
Meme Update: Grumpy Cat
Grumpy Cat is probably the most recognizable feline in the universe, besides Garfield. Most agree she was the contemporary update the world needed, cat-wise. What is Grumps up to these days, besides being unhappy about anything and everything?
Well, not much after a book deal and a popular Instagram page. That's because Grumpy died! Yes, people. Grumpy has passed away, as of May 2019. Seven years rather than nine lives were destiny in the end — but the memes will live forever!
Meme Update: Overly Attached Girlfriend
And who could forget this excited gal? Many may not know that this meme came from a parody video of Justin Bieber's song, "Boyfriend." Youtuber Laina Morris probably wanted to be remembered for her comedy creation, but it seems a screenshot really took on a life of its own!
Quickly, Laina built a successful YouTube and Twitter following. But like many young people who put themselves out on social media, she decided to take a break and focus on her mental health more recently. Not a bad idea, in general!
Meme Update: Scumbag Steve
Who would want to wake up one day and find out that the world had branded them 'Scumbag Steve'? Very few people, that's for sure. One guy had no choice, sadly!
In the real world, he goes by Blake. Originally just a joke photo at his grandma's house, he couldn't have imagined trolls would run with it like they did. But run, run, run — they did indeed. Today his Twitter bio reads: "I'm Blake Boston from Boston, aka the OG meme Scumbag Steve, father of 2 boys." Let the man live, people!
Meme Update: Gavin the Child
Tiny human Gavin entertained the internet community, and endlessly. He's still floating around today! His confused, doubtful expression was the perfect background for a whole host of questioning memes. But the real question is, where is he now?
Gavin Thomas is his real name, revealed. These days, the tiny Mr. Thomas has lost a few teeth. He also hangs out on Instagram and Twitter, but does he post? Does his mom post? Seems like the type of situation the Gavin meme was made for in the first place!
Meme Update: McKayla Is Not Impressed
Gymnast McKayla Maroney won a silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012. But was she satisfied, just short of gold? It appears not. Her micro-expression reveals the truth, and became the meme seen 'round the world! Even President Obama loved "McKayla is not impressed", as the internet termed the photo.
Since her funny moments, though, the Olympian has been involved in a rather serious matter. She was the first to accuse USA Gymnastics doc Larry Nassar, who ultimately went to prison for 175 years! Good deed done, McKayla is now trying out something lighter: In 2020, the athlete revealed a musical side. She released her first single, "Wake Up Call". McKayla may not be impressed, but she is impressive!
Meme Update: Doge The Dog
Who's a good boy? Well, one 'doge' was such a good boy that he became the meme du jour for millions. As it turns out, he was actually just a puppy when he found worldwide fame. Who knew?
In real life, his name is Kabosu. And he's all grown up, just being a pooch full time. Smells, treats, streets to explore — and he probably has no idea the world loves him so much. A good boy, now a big boy!
Meme Update: The Rent is Too Damn High Guy
Oh yes, the rent is too damn high! It truly is, and one man wasn't afraid to say so! Jimmy McMillian became a web sensation after a photo was posted of him during one of his classic, passionate speeches. Jim was running for Governor of NY! How did that work out for him, in the end?
Well, he didn't technically win. But did he win the meme war? Yes, indeed! These days, Jimmy is still an activist and a recognizable one at that. Maybe he will run again? Clearly, the rent is still too damn high!
Meme Update: Good Luck Charlie
The Good Luck Charlie meme was a great way to explain "I don't know." There are endless situations in the world that call for a little humility, even on the internet. The meme helped millions explain their doubts! Fans are curious: Who was the tiny gal in the photo, and where is she now?
All grown up, that's where! Child actress Mia Talerico was a face millions recognized from the Disney Channel series "Good Luck Charlie." Although she has moved on from that gig, she is pretty well known on social media now. Her Instagram account is 1.4 million followers strong, and growing!
Meme Update: Hide the Pain Herold
Hide the Pain Herald set the bar to challenge 'smizing' — attention Tyra Banks — with some seriously raw emotion hiding behind those internet eyes. What was he feeling, deep down? The web decided to project all kinds of ideas on his face, whether he wanted to be involved or not. Who and where is this sensitive soul, today?
Turns out old Harold is actually Andras Arato, a Hungarian man who loves social media himself! Since the meme, he had a TED Talk explaining the experience. What's more, he travels the world to meet fans and shoot ads. Not bad for retirement, Andras!
Meme Update: Conceited Reaction
Sometimes, there is just a need for a conceited reaction. Enter, the Conceited Reaction meme! Zoomed in to the frame of a hatted gentleman making a salty face, it had its utility for a time. It was the pout seen round the world, but where is he now?
As it turns out, this screenshot originated from a rap battle video way back in 2013. The original verbal spat occurred between Jesse James and a rapper actually named Conceited. Today, he is busy working with stars like Nick Cannon to establish a lasting career. But truthfully, his claim to fame will always be that meme!
Meme Update: Distracted Boyfriend
One man looks back to check out another gal, and his girlfriend disapproves. A tale as old as time! One of the most viral memes of 2017, all kinds of captions transformed the scene into a metaphor. After all the laughs, who are the three youngsters in the photo?
Generic stock photos models, that's who! The artist has been revealed, though: Photographer Antonio Guillem is the man behind the meme, accidentally. According to Antonio: “I never thought that one of my images would be this popular...we always have a really great work atmosphere and almost all the time one of the models was laughing while we were trying to take the picture." So was the internet, for at least a year!
Meme Update: Dramatic Dmitry
People who knew and loved the "Dramatic Dmitry" meme had their reasons. Sometimes, a little melodrama — or a lot — is just what a situation demands. Looking downward and releasing grains of sand in his hand, the despair was relatable. Who is this man of emotion?
The image actually comes from an album by Russian musician Vladimir Brest. He didn't like what became of his likeness: "I myself am generally positive...most of the pictures are obscene. All this is seen by children. I don’t want to be a person guilty of degradation and corruption of the young generation." Not a fan of meme culture, it seems!
Meme Update: Felon Bae
Um hell-o, who could forget the hot felon? Nobody, for sure — but people might not be aware of his ultra-lux post-meme career. Scouts legitimately thought this guy had a fashion future, and away he went!
Real name: Jeremy Meeks. Real job? International model! After things started to take off, bae left his wife and kids. Then, he hooked up with Topshop billionaire heiress Chloe Green! Now a dad yet again with a pretty good child support guarantee if times get rough, Jeremy is busy scowling at all kinds of cameras and riding yachts around the Mediterranean. Remember, crime doesn't pay!
Meme Update: Woman Yelling at a Cat
No one can forget this highly emotional spat, but why would they want to? It was internet perfect: The human half, an irate woman with an accusatory finger. The animal half, a remorseless cat. With endless captions, irreconcilable differences were never so laugh out loud!
But who are the respective halves of the disagreement? As it turns out, one character is actually cast member Taylor Armstrong from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Always a great source of drama, according to fans. The kitty is a real life pet named Smudge, with his own Instagram. According to his owner, he always wants a chair at dinner. And as the account documents over and over, he really hates salad!
Meme Update: The Most Interesting Man In The The World
The Dos Equis beer folks probably never had satirical ambitions, but that's just too bad. The super serious marketing team accidentally created the most interesting man in the world, no doubt. But who is he, behind the scenes and off the meme?
Why, it's actor Jonathan Goldsmith! The man with refined taste to spare still enjoys a good time, these days. After a long career in theater and television, he is enjoying retirement right. Fans suspect he whispered one thing to the cat-women spotted on his arms: "Stay Thirsty My Friends." Spotted in 2015 at the West Village Halloween parade, Jon still seems to be the life of the party!
Meme Update: Crying Piccolo Girl
March Madness is a crazy time for any school hoping to advance to the National Championship game. It can get pretty intense, even for the band! One piccolo player really seemed to succumb to the pressure in a snapshot that went viral into the meme hall of fame. Crying piccolo girl, poor thing!
Villanova University student Roxanne Chalifoux may have cried the first time she was on live TV, but she made a happier appearance on The Tonight Show. Can't win 'em all, but a real fan always stays true blue!
Meme Update: Success Kid
Success Kid was an early viral success, but a lot of time has passed! How have things been going for this tiny, growing meme icon?
It turns out that yes, he does have a name. He's Sammy Griner! At age one, many saw his face. But it's time for a major photo update — and a life update too! After raising money based on that web notoriety, the Griner family was afforded a very important procedure. Dad got a kidney transplant, and just in time! The internet saves the day, at least in this case.
Meme Update: Sweating Jordan Peele
Sweating Jordan Peele is the best version of Jordan Peele, say some. The internet meme was actually a shot from his old Comedy Central sketch show, Key and Peele. But the image had its laughs long after the actor and director left for new projects. Tense situations never go away in real life! What better theme for a lasting meme?
Now, a lot is happening for Mister Peele in his career. His 2017 horror film Get Out made major waves in the industry as a critical and box office smash hit. He has received Oscars nominations on multiple occasions, including for his role producing BlacKkKlansman. Without a doubt, Jordan has come a long way since his sweaty days!
Meme Update: Me Explaining
Easy to relate to this one, right? Sharing an authentic perspective sometimes means a few blank looks. Internet culture felt this meme was versatile. But fans secretly wondered what these two ladies were really talking about, in the first place. It looks intense!
As it turns out, they've never met. On the right is a scene taken from Little Women: Atlanta, a reality show on friends with dwarfism. It's Ms. Juicy Baby! Explaining every situation on the left is former Vine star Quen Blackwell. She's still around, but now prefers Twitter and Instagram. Quen admits she enjoys being a meme!
Meme Update: Sudden Clarity Clarence
Everyone strives for that perfect moment of enlightenment. It's not an everyday occurrence, but Sudden Clarity Clarence was a great way to communicate when those lightbulbs did go off! Everyone agrees that the guy had a face destined for memehood. But who is he off the web, and on the prowl?
As it turns out, nobody really knows! Apparently not eager to claim his online celebrity, Mr. clarity has been laying low so far. The mystery continues, and so does this shareable moment!
Meme Update: Confused Math Lady
Yes, this perplexed, searching face did it all. Anytime social media had a need to communicate confusion, there she was. But who was she in real life, and what was she contemplating so hard?
As it turns out, no math equations. The meme is really a screenshot from a Brazilian soap opera! Actress Renata Sorrah nailed her villanous role in Senhora do Destino, in the early 2000's. Now in her 70's, she 's had a long career in theater production and television. But she really only became internationally recognized when meme makers stole her image from the show. Obrigada, Renata!
Meme Update: Side-Eye Chloe
Anyone in need of a little shade probably posted little Chloe at some point. Some might call her indispensable, in the meme world. Where is she these days?
It seems it was hard to impress the girl back in the day, but she might be warming up to the world now. Launching a joint Instagram account with her sis, both hope to launch a career online. Will anyone recognize Chloe, now that she is so grown up? More side-eye, the world says!
Meme Update: Successful Black Man
This sharply dressed fellow was the best way to make a good point, for a time. Ready to conquer the world of stereotypes, he always appeared with an amusing bait and switch phrase. Who was he, in reality?
Reddit got to investigating the matter after a user claimed to have spotted him in a college textbook. Evidence was posted from Brief Calculus: An Applied Approach 9th Edition. Then, the original photo was tracked down to a Shutterstock model photo shoot! From there, a friend found the thread and revealed that the fake businessman was an electrical engineer and bodybuilding competitor in Texas. Who could have guessed the end of that rabbit hole, seriously?
Meme Update: Bad Luck Brian
Oh yea, Bad Luck Brian never gets old! Except in real life, of course. The passage of time is unstoppable!
In real life, this viral sensation is named Kyle Craven. Fun fact: Today, he works in construction! Long since graduation, the meme master seems to be growing out of that awkward phase now. Always captured so beautifully in the American high school yearbook, most people get to move on from that look. But Kyle? Memed into eternity!
Meme Update: Disaster Girl
Disaster Girl was one of the creepier memes to hit the scene, most agree. No one complained at the time, of course: There's a purpose and a place for these things! Secrets implied by a child smiling near flames really hit the mark. Still, who was she?
Why, it was four year old Zoe Roth. These days, she has matured significantly. Zoe is in college! Time certainly flies when you're grinning in front of fires. She seems to be at it again on social media, too!
Meme Update: Ancient Aliens
The spooky and unexplained sure met their match in Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, host of Ancient Aliens. More often than people suspected, martians were out there meddling in earthly affairs. And it was absolutely meme-tastic!
Giorgio is actually a Swiss-born writer and television producer. But more importantly? He is a ufologist, which is exactly like it sounds. He studies UFO's, folks! His wild theories have been featured far ans wide on the cable program circuit. For a few years, he also worked as a bodybuilding promoter and directed the IFBB San Francisco Pro Grand Prix. A busy guy with many talents, for sure. But there's always time for the mysteries of space!
Meme Update: Salt Bae
Sassy and oh-so-salty, this mystery man's Instagram went viral when the world discovered his method of seasoning meat. Why so dramatic in the last step? Fans can only ask the real Nusret Gokce about his classic move!
Salt Bae actually owns 14 restaurants, all over the world. And as it turns out, that sprinkle has real meaning for the chef. He explained to fans: "Actually that move at the end [salting] came automatically. I did not do that to show off. It is just my signature. You can think of it a kind of final touch for a painting. It was a final touch to the meat; I was blessing the meat." Seems to be working: Nusret's net worth is now $60 million!
Meme Update: Hide Yo Kids, Hide Yo Wife
Antoine Dodson took the internet by storm in what might still be the wildest street crime interview, ever. The public really noticed a crazed bandit and rapist was on the loose! And soon after, people from all walks of life were spreading memes and singing along "Hide yo kids, hide yo wife" — the feel-good hit of the summer!
Where is Antoine, these days? After "Bed Intruder Song" went viral, tee-shirt and merch sales went through the roof. The sales helped the traumatized Dodson family, and Antoine had a few fun cameos on TV! Well done, internet.
Meme Update: Ridiculously Photogenic Guy
Not everyone imagines that running a marathon is an easy, light activity. It can seem downright intimidating to watch friends train and sweat with gruesome run-face. And who would want to be photographed during the ordeal?
As it turns out, this guy: Zeddie Little. No one really understands how this guy is so photogenic — and frankly, it's still a mystery — but the meme community capitalized. These days, Mr. smiles is just living life handsome and carefree. No surprises there!
Meme Update: Blinking Guy
Blinking Guy provided just the right amount of skepticism and comedic relief the internet needed for a time. But who is the man behind the flutter?
Why, it's human being Drew Scanlon! In a social media happy ending, he has used the oddity of his fame to launch an online career. And this time, a persona of his choosing! Now with a successful YouTube channel and Patreon supporters to match, this meme was positively life-changing. Nothing to blink at there!
Meme Update: Looking Curious Guy
Basketball fans will actually recognize this silly meme as a familiar player, but much of the world just got to know him as a curious-looking guy online. Who is he, really?
Why, it's Nick Young! He was already professional when this meme came out, too. In his free time since, he dated rapper Iggy Azalea, and even got engaged! As most people know by now, that marriage didn't happen in the end. But Nick isn't slowing down, much like his memes. They're still floating out there, and going strong!
Meme Update: Old El Paso Girl
Those Old El Paso commercials back in the day were pleasant. But who really thought they would resurface in the age of internet junk? Never say never, as Mia Agraviador learned.
As the original little girl pushing both hard and soft tacos, she probably thought she changed the world enough already. But no! People again asked, "Why not both?" With so much to express in a new era, this meme really did the trick. These days, Mia is in college. She might still be eating tacos and asking questions, but the context is a lot more academic!
Meme Update: Roll Safe Guy
An all-time crowd favorite, this casual internet philosopher has expressed all kinds of ideas he probably hates at this point. The memes are out of control! Who is he, in real life?
Kayode Ewumi is the man of the meme, and he actually has a British TV career now. Indeed, it was his personal social media channel where the famous screenshot was drawn from that led to a BBC program and a lead role, too! That led to a BAFTA award for Breakthrough Brit in 2016 and a TED Talk to share his story! Not bad, Roll Safe Guy. Not bad at all!
Meme Update: Ermahgerd Girl
People were rightly perplexed by this Goosebumps fan and her crazy meme. Ermahgerd, why this smile? It can't be real!
Maddie Goldenberger was photographed in the 90's with her favorite books, and somehow the evidence leaked online. Naturally, it went viral. These days, she is a nurse and a former college basketball player with a very charming smile! No one knows what happened in that vintage middle school moment, but the meme community formally thanks Maddie for all the fun at her expense!
Meme Update: Cash Me Outside Girl
As he so often does, Dr. Phil started a perfectly normal afternoon inquiring about a young guest's education issues. Her response to the chattering audience? "Cash me outside, how 'bout dat?"
It was the street fight challenge heard around the world, and Danielle Bregoli was the surprising delinquent. Where is she now, though? Shockingly, the teen was able to capitalize on just that appearance and start a rap career! Marketing herself as Bhad Bhabie, she released a number of real music videos soon after her meme fame reached fever pitch. Good luck, Dani!
Meme Update: Hipster Barista
Dustin Cole was the average hipster barista out there for a while. But one day an interviewer decided to photograph him. Crossing his arms in a black v-neck, a black scarf, black frames, and tats to the max, the picture really captured him in all his glory. Is it any surprise this became the barista of all barista memes?
It's not, is it? After his coffee-based infamy, Dustin ended up changing his look. Now he appears to be rocking plaid and a baseball cap on social media in a reverse Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, it seems. Very rugged, Dustin!
Meme Update: The IKEA Monkey
This stylish monkey was just hanging out at IKEA, and became a meme in no time. He even became a cute, little video game, probably unbeknownst to him. What is the real story behind the photo, and where is this little guy now?
In 2012, Ontario shoppers witnessed Darwin the Capuchin strolling around the furniture store in a tiny baby coat. Twitter went nuts, obviously. A meme was born! In real life, authorities weren't laughing as much. They took him away and fined the owner, since this was not a legal pet at the time. Today, he's monkeying around at the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Toronto. As he should be, probably!
Meme Update: Friend-Zone Johnny
Johnny boy, making all the classic mistakes. It seems this concept was all about the dreaded friend-zone, and that's one useful meme! After he brought flowers and a snack to wish a gal happy birthday, she posted this picture on social media. She thanked him for being a great friend, too! Oh no, Johnny.
An update showed Johnny with his arm around the girl in question, with a new caption: "jokes on you." Maybe his loveless meme fame ironically helped him in the end! Ladies do love a good meme. And a famous man!
Meme Update: Alex From Target
Alex Christopher LaBeouf is the name of the teen dream, this time. Distracted and learning the value of hard work at Target, he probably never thought girls were secretly photographing him. But how wrong he was!
These days, Alex is even more studly. He has grown into a rather muscular grown up man, triple the biceps fans knew and loved. He no longer works at Target, of course. With 8,000 followers on Instagram, a YouTube channel, and a small movie appearance in Coming Home, it seems like Mr. meme is conquering it all. Especially leg day, in fact!
Meme Update: Skateboarding Professor
Maybe some people actually had this wacky college professor in their life, but academia is usually dryer than this guy. What's his deal?
The man behind the meme: Professor Tom Winter just loved skateboarding all over campus, and he still does! The internet jokes at his expense do not seem to disturb him, either. It turns out that his goal was always to start a conversation on environmentalism and new forms of personal travel. Well done, Tom. People have certainly noticed now!
Meme Update: Squinting Woman
The lady who hunched over and squinted at something in the distance really helped out the internet with a meme gap. Hard to see? Difficult to understand? Squinting Woman saved the day, over and over!
Kalin Elisabeth was actually already an aspiring social media influencer in the middle of a photoshoot when this magical moment happened. The viral appropriation of her photo brought her the followers she wanted in the end, just not how she expected. Sometimes life is full of surprises! And memes, lots of memes.
Meme Update: Mr. Why You Always Lying?
Nick Fraser just wanted to increase his social media profile. Many people do, these days! To accomplish this goal, he hatched a plan to upload a cover of "Too Close" by Next. What he didn't expect was that his real boost would come from a new meme identity!
His viral video introduced people to the "lying" face, and he's been circulating ever since! These days, he tries to keep up with influencer activities, growing and growing with time. Making millions laugh as a work-from-home job sounds like it's worth the meme!
Meme Update: My Momma Said Girl
Cardi B is famous as it is, but people have been promoting her more than they know. My momma said so! Or maybe, the internet said so. Turns out that the little girl featured in the viral concept was the singer herself, long ago. Look closer, it's obvious!
With all that wisdom delivered via meme, some might ask — what does big Cardi do these days? For more information, the next step is simple. Turn on the radio, people!
Meme Update: "I am Once Again Asking" Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders here, once again asking for your financial support. In just one month of 2020, he raised $25 million! Because of the real campaign video, supporters paid attention. But the subsequent fill-in-the-blank meme took on a life of its own!
Despite all the secondary publicity, rival Joe Biden clinched the nomination. These days, Bernie is actively campaigning for his colleague, explaining: "The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. We must come together to defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president." Only one thing's for sure, at this point: That meme will live on, far beyond 2020!
Meme Update: Schrute Facts
Rainn Wilson was Dwight Schrute on The Office for years. But he will be Dwight Schrute forever, in the meme hall of fame! And that's exactly how he likes it, actually.
The actor played his own meme in a College Humor video, to fan delight. But he's been busy outside that box, with roles on Adventure Time and Backstrom, and a voice over in Smurfs: The Lost Village. Plus, he's married and managing his own digital media company, SoulPancake. And double plus, don't forget his autobiography. Check out The Bassoon King, quirky readers!
Meme Update: A Schoolboy In A Swamp
Termed ''A Schoolboy In A Swamp'', one Russian student got the attention of the internet, internationally. Dressed in a suit and studying at a desk submerged in plants and water, it was like no other classroom — before or since! Whatever happened to Igor Nazarov, the real occupant of that desk?
In 2016, Igor received a very special invitation. He was personally invited to the nation of Kyrgyzstan by its Culture Ministry when they found out the swamp meme was actually shot in their country. Igor's trip was crowd-funded to take the photoshoot in its famous swamps, and the clicks proved it was worth the 15,000 rubles cost. The government wanted to show him the rest, and they did!