It’s 2015. Digital celebrities are the new celebrity and no one is a better representation for them than Cameron Dallas: the golden boy of the moment. Perhaps in the same way Kim Kardashian is pushing the selfie movement, Cameron is creating a brand for the new teen idol.
In the last six months, Cameron Dallas has grown from someone who exists solely on the internet to a legitimate celebrity and actor. In December of 2014 he starred in his first film Expelled, which debuted at number one on iTunes and sold out a number of limited screenings across America. A few months later, he was releasing a debut single which also rose to the top 10 on iTunes and began hosting his own radio show on iHeart Radio. Cameron didn’t forget about YouTube, either: In April he began #20DaysOfDallas where he released a new video every day. Nearly every video broke one million views.
Cameron is, of course, a new kind of celebrity. If you’re over 22 you probably have no idea who he is. If you are a teenager, odds are you very enamored with him. But here’s the deal: to understand pop culture for this generation you have to understand Cameron Dallas. Like most boys under 21 (Dallas is 20), Cameron is at times offensive, immature and inarticulate. His initial celebrity was less a result of his hustle and more a direct attribution to the movement of his fanbase. These fans bought tickets to meet him at Magcon, followed him on Twitter, sold out his first edition of merchandise and blew up Tumblr with a self-created fandom. Through Magcon, Cameron found himself a “boy band” model that he could us to catapult into a heartthrob.
For a while it looked like Nash Grier might be the one breakout star from Magcon. Nash had all of the controversy, frenzied fans and brash attitude to make him at the very least infamous, but then Cameron became known as more than “Nash’s best friend.” Cameron became his own entity of fame. And that’s where we are now.
If you’ve been following Baewatch for the better part of a year, you might recall a time when I questioned why internet celebrities like Cameron weren’t being picked up by teen magazines. Go find one now. You’re guaranteed to find him or Shawn Mendes, a fellow Magcon star, on the cover. Cameron has done what many, many “viral sensations” before him have not been able to: he’s infiltrated the mainstream.
Sure, there are many other celebrities who could have had this honor: Alfie Deyes, Caspar Lee, Tyler Oakley (I vomit a little writing that), Connor Franta, or Kain Lawley. But something is going right with Cameron: perhaps it’s the “everyboy” charm. Perhaps it’s the ridiculously personal relationship he’s formed with his fans that make them more like warriors for him than fans. Or perhaps it’s genius marketing on his part.
Very few other YouTubers can boast the success Cameron has had this year, and love him or hate him, we can’t deny that he’s having the year. Cameron’s currently on movie #2 with Fullscreen Feature’s The Outfield. His rap music is about as confusing as it should be, but it’s also quite enjoyable to listen to. The numbers also don’t lie: As this story goes to press Cameron is just shy of 5 million followers on Twitter. On Instagram the numbers are even higher: 6.78 million. To put this into perspective, that is one million more than Lady Gaga has.
So, here’s my take: Cameron is the It boy of the moment. No one better represents teenagers’ self-absorption and their heavily curated self-documentation better than Cameron Dallas. When you look back at the beginning of social media celebrities fifteen years later, please take a look at Cameron Dallas. While many YouTubers have became “internet famous” and stayed there, Cameron is the one breaking out. There are plenty of others who are beginning to do this too, of course. Today at Target I found Alfie Deye’s “Pointless Book” shelved next to Zoella’s ghost-written novel “Online Girl.” But perhaps what Cameron is doing best is not marketing himself as an internet celebrity; his brand is not built on his Vines or YouTube videos. His brand is built on himself. His brand is his celebrity. In five years, there probably won’t even be a distinction between YouTubers and Disney stars. When that happens, you can thank Cameron. The impact of Cameron probably won’t be felt for a few years, but give it time. It’s there and it’s beginning. Cameron Dallas’s initial appeal, like many YouTubers before him, was that he was just like us. Who better to be this new generation’s teen dream than one of us?