Dear professional entertainer. It’s time to re-evaluate your career path, again, because your fame was just surpassed by another Internet star with millions of YouTube views, hundreds of thousands of Facebook fans, and he’s 15 years old.
On Oct. 10, Brendan Jordan was just another Las Vegas teenager at the opening of Downtown Summerlin.
Then KLAS-TV Channel 8’s Patranya Bhoolsuwan went live from the scene, Brendan photo-bombed behind her, voguing a fierce “over-it” face (sticking out compared to screaming kids around him), trying to live up to his idol Lady “Born This Way” Gaga, and this photo-bombing video went viral immediately.
That one thing he did landed Brendan on Lady Gaga’s Twitter page, the “Today” show’s site, Queen Latifah’s talk show and an American Apparel advertising deal.
Slate magazine noted how great it is our culture embraces a teen boy who feels completely free to be himself with his “wildly effeminate gesticulations and queenly” quick talking, in a piece headlined, “The Refreshing Queerness of Brendan Jordan.”
In ye old days (four years ago), a viral star might have negotiated for a traditional TV show, since that was the era when the heartless bores who still run CBS launched an entire show, “$#*! My Dad Says,” around a random dude’s Twitter account.
But now YouTube is bigger than CBS, so Brendan got his own YouTube show. He self-identifies as a “queen inside a boy.”
Over the weekend, Brendan was featured in Miley Cyrus’ Instagram campaign and Happy Hippie nonprofit to further normalize LGBTQ lives with the help of pop culture. I asked Brendan for an interview via Twitter but got no response.
Brendan’s YouTube channel is not presented like a traditional show, because tradition has no traction. In Brendan’s videos, he’s being fierce in short, one-person weekly videos, edited down to soundbite nubs. Some titles include “Drag Queen SLANG,” “No Makeup Mirror Challenge” and “5 ANNOYING THINGS STRAIGHT BOYS SAY TO GAY BOYS.”
It might seem as if it’s merely a teenager’s video channel. But that’s the sneakily sleek monetizing pattern of monologue videos on YouTube. YouTube promotes video monologists because they have observed pop culture to such an extent they have become charisma ninjas. YouTube makes money off them, and they make money off YouTube.
If you want to learn how to create a YouTube hit, study Brendan’s and other stars’ videos.
The formula: Release one video a week, three to six minutes each, by pointing a good camera at yourself at home, exhibit energy but curb your enthusiasm, no earnest smiling, think like an outsider, talk like an authority in a way others want to emulate because people obey authority, be pop-culture smart but don’t be book stupid, rebut haters explicitly or implicitly to add conflict to your self-pedestal, talk about one topic per video for many hours but use hard edits to cut the hours down to the four best minutes, then spread quiet lively music in the background, superimpose famous faces in the corners occasionally, if a video comes out badly don’t post it because that would be the greatest sin, and don’t respond to anyone in the awful comments. It helps if you fill a void. Brendan fills a culture vacancy no one else saw but should have: World’s top teen queen.
Adult entertainers, famous ones, sometimes complain to me that the Internet and reality shows are creating stars without talent. I disagree.
People like Brendan hone a populist talent I call “being a human being.”
If that sounds easy to you, I dare you to watch Brendan, charisma ninja, then honestly ask yourself if you have what it takes to be that gregarious on camera every week, possibly for the next 10 years, never failing the formula.
Kids today seem like naturals in front of the camera, since they take selfies all day, use phone screens for mirrors, and see freedom in talking about themselves where older people might think “narcissist.”
But kids have seen the light, camera and action. It’s better to be on YouTube than to work for YouTube; that is, politically and capitalistically, it’s better to be yourself for money than to be someone else’s idea of yourself to get their money.
The only thing we haven’t seen much yet is, what happens if your fans fade away. What’s going to commence in coming years when monologists’ shows fail to take off or get ‘canceled,’ so to speak? If your talent is being a human being, and no one cares, what then? Should we ask Snooki?
Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman. Find him on Twitter:@VegasAnonymous