When someone goes viral, it can feel like we know them, as if that one video of them dancing their heart out or drooling in the backseat of their dad’s car completely defines who they are.
But any person in any meme can tell you: Memes are people, too. Even though they remain immortalized in the web, these people’s real lives continue. A handful of some of the most memorable meme subjects spoke with New York Magazine about how their five minutes in the Internet’s spotlight changed their life — for better or for worse.
1. Caite Upton: Miss South Carolina Teen USA
Back in 2007, Caite fumbled her way through a pageant question about education in America and became a viral sensation. She said that the video resulted in a lot of lost friends, she dealt with a horrifying amount of bullying, and was so upset by the constant taunting that she had suicidal thoughts. In the past few years, Caite dyed her hair dark and continues to pursue her dreams of being an actress: She’s appeared on MTV, Back9, and in over a dozen commercials.
2. Mahir Cagri: “I Kiss You”
Turkish journalist Mahir Cagri’s personal website (full of photos of him playing Ping-Pong and asking if anyone would like to be his girlfriend) went viral in 1999. This pre-YouTube fame resulted in Mahir suing Sacha Baron Cohen, believing that he was the inspiration for the comedian’s character, Borat. Now, Mahir is happily married, working on a documentary about his life, and still waiting for Sacha Baron Cohen’s karma to catch up.
3. Judson Laipply: “Evolution of Dance”
Back in 2006, Judson’s six minute comedy dance routine put him on the map, raking in over 200 million views. Jimmy Fallon is one of Judson’s biggest fans and regularly reenacts bits of the routine on his show. These days, Judson’s comedy dance career is still going strong – he gets paid to perform his famous moves and attributes the video to all of his success.
4. Harry and Charlie Davies-Carr: “Charlie Bit My Finger”
Who could forget the “ouch” heard ‘round the world? Back in 2007, Charlie bit his brother Harry’s finger and the Internet fell in love. The family still makes videos, earning money from sponsorships. Folks regularly approach Charlie, who’s now nine, asking for him to give them a nibble. Harry and his father are very protective, and said, “We have an unwritten rule. If someone asks to be bitten, Charlie gets to bite however hard he wants to.”
5. David DeVore Jr.: David After Dentist
Little David Jr. became the poster child for the modern existential crisis after the video of him, confused and rambling after coming out of a dentist drug haze, went epically viral. Now, at 15, he still gets loads of attention from his time in the limelight, but his dad, David Sr., handles all of his press. “You know, he’s a teenager now, so he’s very sensitive to attention to himself — he’s a little bit shy,” David Sr. shared. “Though there are times where, if it’s a celebrity and they want to engage with him — especially if it were Tim Tebow or somebody like that — I think he would want to pull out the card.”