In the world of internet fame and superstardom Cameron Dallas is the epicenter and his fans, currently 3 million of them on Twitter, are the gigantic force who are pushing him into the mainstream. Dallas is an enigmatic hybrid of a celebrity. Ten years ago Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie burst into pop culture by playing cartoonish versions of themselves on The Simple Life. They were two of the first people in the 21st century to become famous for being famous. And as a result they opened the floodgates for the future stars of today who are currently making millions off of being themselves and, generally, being hot.
What is Cameron Dallas’s talent you might ask? He’s not an actor or a singer. He doesn’t write for anything. He barely even makes YouTube videos. So, what is it exactly that has caused this 19 year old to become so popular? The answer: Excellent branding and the help of a cultural phenomenon known as Magcon.
Dallas began touring with Magcon, short for Meet and Greet Convention, in August of 2013 and by January of this year he was starting to make waves. Magcon itself was a bizarre and at times very unorganized festival of internet talent. Viners, as they are known, made up the roster and the shows were generally an explosion of hormones and sexuality. Girls would pay $150 for unlimited access with the boys for 8 hours. Hugs would be given, crying would ensue and a makeshift boyband was formed. Fellow tourmate Shawn Mendes even wrote a song about the possessiveness girls and the gays feel about Dallas which he performed, with all of the boys sitting around him indian style:
And really, it’s teen girls who Dallas owes all of his success too. Teenage girls are what drives pop culture and the entertainment industry. Contrary to what men in Hollywood would like you to believe, boys do not influence pop culture; girls do. Gawker writer Danya Evans commented on this when discussing her wonderfully insightful essay on Magcon (highly interesting and I encourage all of you to read it), “Teenage girls are often not given enough credit for how they shift and change popular culture. They are remarkably powerful and they’re the most fun to engage with/watch/learn from.” Cute boys like Dallas reap the benefit of extremely vocal and passionate girls who will do anything to make their favorite celebrity more popular. Dallas was certainly helped along by the rabid and almost cult-like following of Magcon. Yet there is almost something to be said for the way Dallas brands himself, and this is perhaps where he is the smartest.
Dallas’s Instagram page is a carefully curated scope into the life of an All-American boy. His washboard abs are the focus point of many of his posts, as are his sunkissed skin and fluffy bed head. There’s really nothing discernibly more striking or different about Dallas than the boy you might sit next to in Algebra class, but that is inherently where the appeal lies. Dallas looks normal and he acts normal. He treats his fans as his friends, or more accurately like his girlfriends, and he has let his fans into nearly every aspect of his life. Like Hilton and Richie before him, Dallas understands the importance of over-sharing. (There is no such thing in celebrity) Him being Cameron Dallas is what got him famous so his life is open to the fans. Whereas Hollywood was built on mystery, Dallas and multiple other internet celebrities have found the most success in leaving nothing uncensored.
Dallas says his relationship with his fans is built on honesty. When Dallas lost to YouTube star Tyler Oakley at the Teen Choice Awards, he and his fans went ballistic over an alleged “rigging” of votes. Why did Dallas feel the need to share this information with all of his followers? Because he claimed he felt he should be truthful with his fans about the “shady” activities of the TCA’s. It’s this unhinged candidness that is strengthening his popularity, but could also become a potential downfall. (Rule number 1 in mainstream success: never shit talk the award show who invited you and gave you an award when no one else would)
Even though the Teen Choice Awards recognizes the importance of online popularity, it seems teen magazines and the general public have not. Pick up any magazine in the teen section of a bookstore and you’ll notice no one from YouTube or Vine is gracing the cover. A notable exception is Shawn Mendes, who not coincidentally, only became featured when he signed a record deal. So what is with the resistance? Following celebrities like Dallas gives an instant look into teenage culture. They are at the forefront of what is popular and trending for teens because they ARE teens. They are also incredibly lucky and (possibly) undeserving to be in the position they find themselves in; which could account for the anger many receive when pushed into pop culture.
I feel looking at YouTubers or Viners as illegitimate celebrities is an oversight. Whether we like it or not, they are popular. Teens are dropping big money to meet and be acknowledged by these boys. This is an entirely new brand of celebrity, but the culture of it is no different from going to a Backstreet Boys or Monkees concert when you were younger. There are many we shouldn’t give a spotlight to (I won’t name names but you can guess), but I don’t think Dallas is one of them. He’s harmless and if anything he represents everything about our culture that will make looking back at 2014 so interesting.
So what is it about Dallas that makes him the current king of teens? Perhaps Dallas encapsulates everything a specific demographic of teen girls and gay boys dream about when imagining a boyfriend. And in a strange way, becoming a fan of Dallas is a safer way of harboring a high school crush on your class’s basketball star. You can know everything about him without ever truly having to interact with him. Dallas following you on Twitter is essentially the same rush as you feel when your school’s heartthrob smiles at you in the hall one day. Only Dallas is aware of this and exploits it every chance he gets. He’s the teen dream, and the most datable boy to anyone under 20. It just so happens he has 3 million fans vying for that one date.
All pictures are courtesy of Cameron Dallas’s Instagram which you can follow here.