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Celebrity and fame once seemed out of reach to the average person. Talent and television were some of the very stringent conditions that launched a person to stardom. But in 2022, the rise of social media has democratized the idea of celebrity. Now anyone with a phone and social media account has a platform, and an opportunity to make a name for themselves. This New Media is seen scattered in the campaign ads as fresh faces for clothing lines and sponsored endorsements: Addison Rae for American Eagle, Emma Chamberlain for Pacsun, Charlie & Dixie D’Amelio for Hollister, and so on and so on. Influencers using their followers and platforms to build a tangible business is not a new phenomenon, but influencers using their numbers to cultivate a new celebrity niche is captivating. This influx leaves Traditional Media in for a reckoning.
James Charles: The Catalyst
In 2019 beauty influencer James Charles attended the 71st Met Gala. The theme for that year was Camp: Notes on Fashion, and the guest list was nothing short of spectacular. The attendees ranged from jaw-dropping supermodels such as sisters Gigi Hadid and Bella Hadid, the Kardashian Clan, pop legend Lady Gaga, and many other A-list celebrities.
James Charles arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art styled by the controversial Alexander Wang wearing a bandana tied tightly around his neck and a see-through top held together by a delicate weaving of safety pins. James Charles gushed over his first invite on Instagram, captioning the post “my first met gala 🥺 thank you so much @youtube for inviting me and @alexanderwangny for dressing me! 💕 being invited to such an important event like the ball is such an honor and a step forward in the right direction for influencer representation in the media and I am so excited to be a catalyst. video coming tomorrow!” And so began the storm on the internet.
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Various articles and fans commented on the conceited nature they saw in influencers in general, leaving James Charles as a convenient scapegoat. After the self-proclaiming post deeming himself the “catalyst” for influencer representation, Twitter users logged on. Some were angered as Charles seemingly likened influencers to “some marginalized group” and said, “get the f*ck outta here you trash...”
There began to differentiate the clear boundary between traditional and acceptable celebrities such as the Britneys and the Gagas from the new-found personalities with millions of followers. This is indicative of what the public is willing to swallow when it comes to the celebrity world. The rise of new media is met with indignation, scoffing, and cold shoulders.
YouTuber to Met Gala Host
However, hostility is not the only thing hurled at influencers. Personalities such as Liza Koshy and Emma Chamberlain found themselves in exciting new positions as hosts for the Met Gala for the last 4 years. In 2018 Liza Koshy attended her first Met. She wore a sheer black dress and interviewed entering celebrities at the gala. She exchanged niceties and witty repartee with celebs such as Cardi B, Bella Hadid, Kylie Jenner, and many more, all neatly documented on Vogue’s YouTube channel. That’s right, Vogue has a YouTube channel.
This is significant to note as it indicates well-respected and old-money conglomerates, such as Vogue, have eyes on the influencers themselves. They are looking for ways to modernize their reach, and what better way than YouTube’s current favorite star? Vogue recognizes the transition that is happening within this new generation: social media is the key to their hearts and eyes.
Louis Vuitton followed in the footsteps of Vogue, and in 2019 YouTube sensation Emma Chamberlain was invited to fashion week under their name. This was jaw-dropping, as it was the first time an influencer with YouTube roots was put in the spotlight in such a glaring way.
But nothing comes without its critics, and like James Charles, Chamberlain attracted her fair share of criticism. Clevver News covered the matter saying Chamberlain was being “dragged” for attending high-end fashion shows. Many fans tweeted their confusion and aversion to seeing Emma Chamberlain sit in at such exclusive events. One fan tweeted, “I CAN’T believe emma chamberlain got to go to fashion week AGAIN and for what???” remarking on the fact that she is simply just an internet girl with a “caffeine addiction” and “dusty content” despite garnering over 12 million followers on a single platform.
Read more about how mega influencer Chamberlain turned her caffeine addiction into a thriving business here.
2021: Influx of Influencers at the MET
In 2021 Emma Chamberlain climbed her way to hosting the 73rd Met Gala. Like Liza Koshy in the previous years, Chamberlain was now YouTube’s favorite creator. Wearing Louis Vuitton, Emma Chamberlain greeted celebrities and was even fawned over by supermodel Kendall Jenner. But Emma Chamberlain’s attendance was the least of the 73rd Met Gala controversy. The real contention surrounded the possible invites to TikTokers
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TikTokers at the MET
The 73rd Met was met with much controversy surrounding the guest list and attendees. The rumors circulated and stirred the idea of TikTokers getting an invite. The rumors only snowballed when several graphics of a fake seating chart of the Met Gala including influencer names of Addison Rae, Dixie D’Amelio, and Jeffree Star circulated around the internet.
From then, the jokes began. Users began likening Addison Rae to simply a waitress waiting on Lady Gaga. The tweet went viral, and Addison Rae cleverly replied, “I would do anything for u @ladygaga”. But it didn’t just end there. On April 27, a Twitter user garnered over 200,000 likes with her tweet reading, “The met gala lost its class right when they started inviting influencers and tiktokers.” ridiculing Met Gala’s decision to succumb to the influencers’ clout and adding them to the seemingly coveted guest list.
When the date of the Met Gala came, influencers did make an appearance. Addison Rae showed up true to rumors and adorned a vintage Tom Ford for Gucci gown. Dixie D’Amelio, a TikTok star turned music artist, had previously been in Valentino campaigns. She sported a Valentino ostrich hat at her Met Gala debut.
Awestruck by her rise to fame? Read more about Charli D’Amelio’s raging success on and off social media here.
From Valentino to Louis Vuitton one thing is clear: followers on Instagram and TikTok can be turned into genuine gracing of covers and walks on exclusive red carpets, side by side with A-list celebs. Highly regarded fashion names are recognizing the power of this new generation of celebrities. When reaching out to collaborate with the Addison Raes and James Charles of the influencer world, what they are really doing is tapping into their respective demographic to tune into the high-end fashion world. Magazines and MTV commercials are of the 90s, Instagram posts and Vogue YouTube videos are the way to this generation.
TikTokers were met with disdain and eye rolls from the beginning of their rise in the influencer world. The platform has shot many influencers into stardom, Addison Rae and Charlie and Dixie D’Amelio are now commonly known names. On April 9, Charlie and Dixie D’Amelio both appeared at the 2022 Kids Choice Awards and received awards in their nominated category. Addison Rae graced the red carpet of the 64th Grammys with boyfriend Omer Fedi. This did not come without controversy and backlash of its own. The idea of celebrity is changing as brands and award shows alter their principle with the changing times. This strikes the beginning of a noteworthy reorientation of what “celebrity” and “fame” are.