What The Kids In These Famous Memes Look Like Today

Pop Art icon Andy Warhol said that in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. And in some ways he was right. The internet has made the content more ephemeral than ever before, and today it is possible for someone in a single video or even a single photograph to be upvoted to the point of widespread fame for 24 hours or so, and then fade away from our collective memory before being replaced by the next hot piece of viral content. 

But despite the internet's limited attention span, some such stars have been living off the back of their meme stardom for years. In the age of the internet, the limelight can claim anyone at any time, including little kids, who, for the most part, have no idea of their newfound celebrity until they are much older. Some folks might understandably say that it's not a good idea to turn kids into internet stars before they can consent to being a celebrity. However, as the stories behind some of the world's best-loved memes show, oftentimes the kids at their center can go on to have a great start in life thanks to the profile their memedom has given them. And, the truth is, there's money in being a meme if you're willing to cash in. To prove it, here are some of the most recognizable child stars on the internet, how they rose to fame, and what they look like years after they first became famous.

Success Kid

Part of the appeal of some classic memes lies in their potential to be misinterpreted, to be taken from their original context and reinterpreted to take on a life of its own online. And that is certainly the case with "Success Kid," a photo of an infant on the beach who, we have found out from his family in later years, was joyfully eating a fistful of sand. Not that the original context exactly matters. In the eyes of internet users everywhere, that pose looks more like a supremely self-satisfied fist pump, and, as such, "Success Kid" has been used millions of times to illustrate the real or imagined wins of people the world over.

The photo itself dates from 2007 and is an image taken by mother Laney Griner of her son, Sammy. In 2015, years after Sammy had become an internet sensation, the family made the news by fronting a crowdfunding campaign to raise money so that Sammy's father, Justin, could receive a kidney transplant operation (per The Verge). Thanks in part to Sammy's fame as "Success Kid," the campaign gained traction and was ultimately successful.

Sammy is now a teenager, and is, of course, totally unrecognizable. In an interview with BuzzFeed, he described his life as a meme, stating, "It's weird to be famous as a baby."

The I Smell Like Beef girl

The genius of Vine — which only allowed videos of up to six seconds in length — was that viewers could find themselves plunging into a bizarre and unexpected scene made more hilarious by the lack of any explanation. This was certainly the case with the most popular Vine uploaded by the mother of Ava Ryan, who became a favorite on the platform in 2014 thanks to her strange repeat assertion that "I smell like beef," which she delivered in a disturbingly guttural tone. Little was heard from baby Ava after Vine disappeared, but she is now back and enjoying a brand-new following.

In a sign that times have truly changed on the internet over the course of the last decade, the girl who first became a cult sensation on Vine — which closed down in January 2017 — is now a star of the social media platform de jour, TikTok, where she has more than 800,000 followers and treats her audience to countless funny videos alongside her mother, Katie, who manages Ava's account on her behalf.

Ava has recently explained that her grandfather was cooking beef at the time and that she thought the clouds outside her window looked like beef, which explained her outburst, though, to be honest, hers is a classic Vine that doesn't need explaining even after all these years.

Popeyes Kid

The Vine today known as "Popeyes Kid" began, if we're honest, with an act of bullying. The footage, which was originally uploaded by user TheRealSnoopy, featured the man behind the camera heckling the kid in it and trying to get a reaction, which the kid valiantly resists. In an original video titled "Terio at Popeyes!" — which suggests a similarity between the then-anonymous boy and another internet star, Terrio — the man tells the boy: "Say Ooooh!" which is a reference to a Terrio song. Instead, he stands almost as still as a statue, clutching his drink, and gives his would-be tormentor nothing more than a moment's side-eye.

Little did he know, perhaps, quite how expressive that side-eye was — or that it would capture the imagination of the internet, leading him to be immortalized as a go-to gif to express a reaction to any awkward online moment. Years later, the "Popeyes Kid" has been revealed as Dieunerst Collin, who in 2021 won the state championship with the East Orange High School football team. Off the back of his success, Collin contacted Popeyes, revealing his identity and suggesting a sponsorship deal. The deal went through, and Collin then found himself both a champ and a constant presence on billboards across the country.


Perhaps you don't know him as Gavin, but there's a good chance you know his face, either from his original stardom on Vine, reposts of content featuring Gavin on YouTube and other platforms, and various mashups he has appeared in over the years.

In 2019, The Guardian published a long-form profile of Gavin — full name Gavin Thomas — who first rose to prominence via the Vine account of his uncle, Nick Mastodon, one of the platform's most prolific early users who realized that his nephew would be an ideal source of cute and funny content. After publishing his first Gavin videos in 2013, Mastodon quickly amassed a million followers, and it soon became obvious that his nephew's appeal was far from fleeting.

Gavin is now entering his teenage years, and while his toddlerish appeal has left him, his naturally comedic expressiveness still shines through and he retains a huge following on social media, especially on Instagram, where his account currently has 1.4 million followers and is curated by his mom, Kate. Per the same source, Gavin is especially popular in China, where he has appeared on television speaking Chinese for his millions of loyal fans.

Disaster Girl

It's very unusual for someone who is meme-famous to have dozens of iconic pieces of content that all become recognizable; most meme stars become internet-famous from one image or video clip alone. That is certainly the case with Disaster Girl, whose iconic smirk as she looks over her shoulder set against the backdrop of a raging housefire was the definition of a one-hit-wonder meme. She has become a favorite in meme mashups, with her dark smile being superimposed on top of famous historical disasters, such as the sinking of the Titanic.

According to Know Your Meme, Disaster Girl's real name is Zoe Roth, whose father, Dave, took the photo of his daughter in 2005 while they were watching a live drill undertaken by their local fire department in Mebane, North Carolina. Zoe was four years old when the picture was taken, but it was only in 2007 that it was uploaded as part of a photo competition for JPG Magazine, and her journey to meme greatness began.

Zoe is now in her early 20s, and after continuing to feature in her dad's content is now an avid poster in her own right, with over 20,000 followers on Instagram. And it appears the meme that made her famous has also set her up financially, selling for $500,000 after it became an NFT, per The Washington Post.

Bad Luck Brian

Bad Luck Brian is such a retro-looking meme that it is tempting to imagine that its original uploader stumbled across it in a high school yearbook and decided the world needed to see it. But in actual fact, the braces-wearing and well-combed sweater-vested star isn't from so far into the distant past as his outfit might suggest.

In fact, as he himself revealed during a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) session in 2012, the photo in question was taken in the late 2000s, and uploaded by the subject's best friend as a joke. Bad Luck Brian's real name is Kyle Craven, and he was reportedly in on the gag from the very beginning, purposefully purchasing a funny-looking sweater vest from a local thrift store to make sure his Picture Day photo was especially memorable.

In recent years, Craven resurfaced on the internet after a meeting with another meme legend, Doge, which was reported by numerous pop culture outlets including Lad Bible. They noted that Craven had made the most of his unwitting internet celebrity, and had even sold the NFT of the image for $37,000, which has become something of a trend among the stars of classic memes. When he's not cashing in on being Bad Luck Brian, Craven is the Vice President of an Ohio construction company that specializes in building churches.

The 'holding it in' guy

Michael McGee is best known to the internet for being perhaps to most intense-looking meme in history, with a vein-popping expression suggesting he is about to explode.

Speaking as part of Buzzfeed's "I Accidentally Became a Meme" YouTube series in 2021, Mathew Rosero, McGee's friend who took the 2013 photo, recalled that at the time the internet was buzzing with reaction memes captioned "that booty got me like," which he decided to join in with by taking a photo of McGee. McGee was known for being able to make the vein on his forehead pop out, and, willing to help Rosero get something trending, intentionally held his breath and tensed up to get in on the action. However, for many familiar with the meme the original meaning has been lost. Instead, Know Your Meme now lists McGee and Rosero's photo as "Trying to Hold a Fart Next to a Cute Girl in Class," the name it is also referred to by Buzzfeed. 

McGee is still recognizable, though now in his late 20s rocks hip silver frames absent from the photo for which he is best known.

Ermahgerd girl

It seems it's easier to become an internet sensation for something slightly embarrassing or strange rather than cool or debonair. Just as Maggie Goldenberger, the girl who has become closely associated with the word "ermahgerd!" after an image leaked online of her as a pigtail-wearing girl with braces who is exceedingly excited about a set of Goosebumps horror books that she has seemingly just been gifted.

Washingtonian Goldenberger only became aware of her internet celebrity in 2012, when she, then aged 23, was on vacation with her girlfriend in India and the Philippines and she began receiving messages from friends back home informing her that a photo of her from the distant past was circulating online. According to a Vanity Fair interview, Goldenberger's friends now take great delight in sharing her internet celebrity with other people for laughs, and often scroll through scores of the countless iterations of the meme in which Goldenberger stars. "I just can't believe this is my 15 minutes of fame — I was hoping it would come in another form. But I guess you have to take what you can get," she told the magazine.

Scumbag Steve

It sounds like it can be pretty embarrassing to be a famous meme, and it is probably a good idea to take one's unusual celebrity with a healthy dose of humor. After all, few of those who have become internet famous as the subject of memes have been met with real animosity by users.

However, Blake Boston — better known on the internet as Scumbag Steve — has had a slightly different experience. As his name implies, Boston became an avatar for all that's wrong with male behavior after a photo of him posing in a backward cap started circulating on the internet in 2011. The photo was taken by Boston's mother, Susan, who reportedly had no idea what a commotion the picture would provoke. Speaking to the Mail Online, Susan claims she was "devastated" by her son's dubious celebrity status as a result of the photo, saying: "Can you imagine how I felt when my son came to me – some of the first pictures and responses were so cruel ... I cried at how he was being portrayed all over the world and that I was responsible for the picture. It made me physically sick."

Boston was just 16 when the photo was taken, and still a teenager by the time it became it a viral sensation. However, as the years have passed, the man known to the world as Scumbag Steve has come to embrace his fame, first with an attempt at a rap career, and, later, by cashing in on his meme status with public appearances and an NFT of the photo that made him an unwitting star. 

Charlie Bit My Finger

The internet has a sweet spot for anything cute, with cute kid content up there with footage of puppies and kittens as the kind of feel-good content that keeps users logging onto Instagram and TikTok over and over again. However, it was on YouTube that arguably the world's most famous baby video was found, after becoming a sensation after it was first uploaded back in 2007. That video, known simply as "Charlie Bit My Finger," shows a young boy, who is seated with his baby brother on his lap, intentionally putting his finger in the baby's mouth. The baby, of course, bites down, causing his brother to cry out in pain. The baby responds with a cute chuckle. By 2015, the video was closing in on nearly 1 billion YouTube views, and a profile in Time magazine showed the boys — whose full names are Charlie and Harry Davies-Carr — were happy to recreate the clip for the entertainment of their fans.

And, once again, the family behind the famous meme made the most of the NFT craze by minting a special NFT of the clip, which was put up for auction offering fans the chance to become what the listing described as the "sole owner of this lovable piece of internet history," according to The New York Times. In 2021, it sold for an eyewatering $760,999, after which the original video was removed from YouTube, though reuploads from other users are still viewable.

I'm in Me Mum's Car, Broom Broom

Sometimes there's no easy way to explain why a meme catches on, especially when there isn't a traditional joke to speak of. But no one can deny that the "I'm In Me Mum's Car, Broom Broom" meme, in which a British mother playfully berates her kid to "get out of me car," has ended up having long-lasting appeal for meme-hungry internet users since it was first uploaded to Vine in 2014. The 6-second clip has become a classic, with users remixing the clip to create their own spin on the meme and even in one case turning its dialogue into a banging house track.

The Vine's creator, Tristan Simmonds, took to Twitter shortly after the video blew up to announce that there would be no more content forthcoming from the channel due to online bullying. However, despite this, he has remained a constant presence on social media since first coming to prominence. In recent years, Simmonds has defied his online haters and shared the uplifting story of his transition. Fans have noted that Simmonds' mother, who features in the Vine, has shared her support of her son's journey.

Side Eyeing Chloe

"Side Eyeing Chloe" is arguably better known as a gif and reaction image than the original video, which first went viral back in 2013. In the clip, Chloe is seen in the backseat of her parents' car alongside her older sister, Lily. The two girls are given the news that all kids want to hear: that they're going to Disneyland. Lily reacts in the way you might expect, crying tears of joy and yelling with excitement.

But Chloe became a darling of the internet for her confused and concerned reaction to the news, expressed by a disapproving side-eye which, since then, has become one of the most shared and remixed memes in the history of the internet after first gaining traction on outlets like Buzzfeed and social media platforms such as Tumblr. The YouTube star has been the focus of several high-profile articles over the years, including one published in The Washington Post, when she was 10 years old, outlining how an NFT of the meme had recently sold to the Dubai-based record label 3F Music for the sum of $74,000. More accurately, it sold for $74,000 worth of the cryptocurrency Ethereum, with Chloe's mother Katie — who filmed the original video — telling the newspaper that though gifts including a horse and AirPods had been promised to the girls, the family was going to keep the funds in crypto for the time being.