Then And Now: Our Favorite Internet Memes
1 Then: Disaster Girl
The Disaster Girl meme started in November 2007. The photo of a smiling little girl in front of a burning house may look sinister, but the story behind the photograph is innocent. Zoe Roth was just 4 when her father, Dave Roth, took the picture.
According to Know Your Meme, the family watched the local fire department during a training exercise from across the street when Roth snapped a photo of Zoe. In November 2007, Roth entered the pic in a JPG Magazine “Emotion Capture” photo contest and titled it “Firestarter”. It won first prize, and the rest is history.
Now: She’s All Grown Up
These days, Zoe Roth is 20 years old and can still find the humor in her famous picture. She often posts references on Instagram about the meme that made her famous. Roth shared a pic of her sitting next to a bonfire with the same expression on her face, along with the caption “In my element (get it).”
Her Instagram reflects the life of a normal college-aged girl as she often posts vacation pics with her friends. She never sold the rights to the famous image and doesn’t want to be known for the meme alone. “I ultimately want people to know me for me,” she told Refinery 29.
2 Then: Side-eyeing Chloe
Side-eyeing Chloe became an Internet sensation in 2013 when the YouTuber KAftC uploaded a video titled “Lily’s Disneyland Surprise… AGAIN,” which featured two sisters being surprised with a trip to Disneyland by their parents. Chloe and Lily Clem became viral sensations when their mom recorded their reactions.
Lily broke into happy tears while Chloe had a confused look on her face. According to Know Your Meme, a Tumblr user posted a screenshot of Chloe’s reaction with the caption, “could u f**king not”, racking up over 120,000 notes in two weeks. Buzzfeed picked up the parody and the “Side-eyeing Chloe” meme was born.
Now: She’s Cute As Ever
These days, “Side-eyeing Chloe” is a 10-year-old girl who is living her best life since becoming a viral star. She has an Instagram account with an impressive 628k followers. Clem recently posted a pic of her mimicking her famous side-eye glance while wearing Minnie Mouse ears. She captioned the photo, “Is #Disneyland open yet!?”
Chloe had a moment of fame when she traveled to Brazil with her family as part of an advertising campaign by the search engine Google. She even visited their headquarters and autographed a picture of her now-famous unimpressed look.
3 Then: I Don’t Know Girl
Mia Talerico was just 10 months when she was cast as Charlie Duncan in the family television show Good Luck Charlie. Little did she know that she would not only be famous for her role in the series, but she would also become a viral meme.
Fans of the show captured a screenshot of the little girl looking confused while wearing a bright pink jacket. The image of the adorable tot became the basis of the “I don’t know girl” meme. Social media jumped on the pic and continue to create new memes out of Talerico’s unforgettable expression.
Now: She’s A Successful Actress
Get ready to feel old. Mia Talerico is now 11 years old and continues to work in the entertainment industry. She managed to work after Good luck Charlie wrapped up and is currently featured in the series Mani.
Talerico hasn’t discussed publicly how she feels about being the subject of the famous meme, but that’s probably because she’s so busy with her acting career. Although she is very active on Instagram and has 1.2 million followers. She posts pics of her enjoying everyday things like playing with her dog. It seems like she hasn’t let fame go to her head.
4 Then: Roll Safe Meme
The “Roll Safe” meme took social media by storm in 2016 and features a man pointing at his temple like he had a brilliant idea. According to Know Your Meme, the man in the image is actor Kayode Ewumi, who played the character Reece Simpson (also known as “Roll Safe”) in the web series Hood Documentary.
The meme surfaced on Twitter in 2017, and the pic is often captioned with jokes that show poor judgment. Social media picked up the meme and Ewumi found himself a viral sensation. The meme has remained relevant over the years.
Now: He’s A Screenwriter And Actor
Kayode Ewumi has moved on from the Hood Documentary that made him a meme. The actor has remained busy over the years and currently stars as Kazem in the series Enterprice. He splits his time being a screenwriter as well. So, how does he feel about finding fame on the Internet?
According to Digital Spy, Ewumi is indifferent about the meme that took over everyone’s timeline. “I don’t pay any attention to it. It doesn’t annoy me. The meme is not why I like to write scripts. I’m indifferent to it,” he said.
5 Then: Ermahgerd Girl
Maggie Goldenberger is the girl behind the “Ermahgerd” meme. The viral photo shows her with hair in pigtails, her mouth open with excitement, while she presents three books from the Goosebumps series. The meme surfaced in 2012, and Goldenberger has been a good sport about all the attention.
“I was in like sixth grade [year seven] maybe, and I’d always dress up and take photos with my friends,” she told New Statesman. “I don’t feel that offended by it [becoming a meme] or feel that embarrassed by it, because I was just messing around.”
Now: She’s A Registered Nurse
Not only did Maggie Goldenberger find Internet fame with the “Ermahgerd” meme, but she also became a celebrated nurse at Banner Estrella Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. She’s so successful at her career that the Daisy Foundation, which recognizes extraordinary nurses, gave her the Daisy Award.
Goldenberger was nominated by a patient who wrote, “Margaret exemplifies the true nature of a caring and giving person and is an asset to the Banner Health System. She is an example of what all healthcare individuals should emulate when a person is in their care.” Not bad for an Internet sensation.
6 Then: Ridiculously Photogenic Guy
Zeddie Little became the subject of a meme when he was photographed while running in the 2012 Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, South Carolina. The photographer, Will King, uploaded a series of photos from the event on Flickr and Facebook.
According to Know Your Meme, one of his followers labeled Little “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.” King entered the pic to /r/pics subreddit and received 40,000 up votes and the pic had 300,000 views. Soon after, the website Mashable featured the photo in a post, which sealed Little’s fate as a popular Internet meme.
Now: He Lives In New York
Zeddie Little now lives in New York. How does the “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy” feel about his sudden rise to fame? According to The Daily Mail, he opened up about the experience of becoming a meme when he was a guest on Good Morning America.
“I find the humor in all of it, it’s funny. I feel honored to be part of a joke that’s in good spirits because the Internet can be a little vicious,” he continued. “Jokes can get bent the wrong way, but these are for the most part positive. I guess it’s the most flattering way to get spread across the Internet.”
Then: Hipster Barista
Dustin Matteson swears that he only wore the scarf in the Hipster Barista meme once and that was to pose for a staff photo. In 2010, he accidentally became the poster child for snobby hipsters everywhere when his photo surfaced on Quickmeme. The meme took off from there.
He revealed how it all went down to Eater.com. “The scarf became a symbol of the hipster culture and pretension, but what’s funny is that I got that scarf as a gift from the owner of my company, as a Christmas present. I only wore it from time to time,” Matteson said.
Now: He’s A Coffee Boss
These days, Dustin Matteson is a self-proclaimed “coffee boss” at Octane Coffee in Atlanta, GA. He even has the credentials to back up his claim. According to New Statesman, he placed 5th at the Southeast Regional Barista Competition 2010 and 27th place at the US Barista Championship 2010.
Although, his life is surprisingly normal for being the subject of a famous meme. “My life, really, outside of like maybe a two-week stretch where that meme was very, very viral and there was a lot of online activity about it, mostly my life has been very much like normal, you know,” Matteson said.
8 Then: First World Problems
Silvia Bottini is the crying woman in the “First World Problems” meme. She didn’t set off to be an Internet star when she posed for the photograph. Her boyfriend at the time took the photo and for the purpose of posting it to stock photo websites. Instead, the pic appeared on Quickmeme in 2011.
The image of Bottini holding her forehead with a tear streaming down her cheek became the symbol of the complaints of privileged individuals. The meme became an instant sensation and still appears on social media today. Although, Bottini is not too happy about her sudden Internet fame.
Now: She’s A Model And Actress
You wouldn’t know it from looking at the “First World Problems” meme, but Silvia Bottini is a beautiful model and actress. She spoke with Cosmopolitan magazine about becoming a viral star and revealed that she’s not pleased with the meme that made her famous.
“The meme makes me uncomfortable,” she said. “People shouldn’t be able to put whatever sentence they want on my picture… My main frustration was that I didn’t have any control over it–there was nothing I could do to stop it.” Although, her notoriety landed her a part in a Spanish commercial for Domino’s Pizza.
9 Then: Success Kid
Sammy Griner was just 11 months old when his mother, Laney Griner, snapped a photo of him on the beach in 2007. The little guy accidentally got a bit of sand in his mouth and made a fist with a determined look on his face. According to Know Your Meme, Griner uploaded the photo on Flickr and Getty Images.
In 2008, the image popped up on MySpace, and “The Succes Kid” meme was born. To this day, people still post the image to social media and it also led the way to the “I hate sandcastles” meme.
Now: He’s A Budding Artist
Now Sammy Griner is 12 and lives in Florida with his family. He’s aware of his Internet fame, but feels like he’s just like any other kid, despite becoming a meme as a toddler. According to New Statesman, his favorite hobby is drawing, and he hopes to be an artist when he grows up.
“I want to be many things… well, it might be embarrassing, but I want to be a beatboxer when I grow up, an artist, erm, whichever,” he continued. “I mean, I’m already famous and stuff, as you can see, but I think I would rather be known for my art.”
10 Then: The Most Interesting Man In The World
“The Most Interesting Man in the World” meme originated from a Dos Equis beer commercial that featured the actor Jonathan Goldsmith. The ad campaign ran from 2006 to 2018 and portrayed Goldsmith as a well-traveled gentleman and is most known for the quote, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis,” and “Stay thirsty, my friends.”
The Internet jumped on the image and transformed Goldsmith into a hilarious meme that has lasted well-beyond the original commercial. It’s taken on a life of its own on social media and shows no signs of slowing down.
Now: He Moved On To Tequila
You may wonder what the most interesting man in the world is up to today. He’s no longer the face of Dos Equis as the beer company cut ties with Goldman to bring on a younger spokesperson. Don’t worry about Goldman, though. He moved on from beer and landed a new role as the face of tequila.
He is now the spokesperson for Astral Tequila. Although, the old meme will never lose its charm. Goldman has continued to be the most interesting man in the world, long after the initial campaign ended.
11 Then: Overly Attached Girlfriend
The “Overly Attached Girlfriend” meme appeared in 2012 when YouTuber Laina Morris posted a video of herself parodying Justin Bieber’s song Boyfriend with personalized lyrics. She produced this video that went viral after Justin Bieber announced an online sing-off contest to promote his perfume “Girlfriend”.
However, Morris had little idea of the future popularity of her video, and it was a long road from the meme she created to her YouTube success. About the privacy issues she encountered, she says, “Strangers were finding my personal Facebook page and talking to my friends. They were finding where I worked and trying to access my college records”.
Now: Still A Popular YouTuber
After GOA became a viral meme, Laina Morris continued to post videos on her YouTube channel. In fact, she took over her character for another video that became popular where she parodied the song Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen. By the end of 2015, her channel had more than 1,285,312 subscribers and more than 144,885,832 views.
On July 24, 2019, however, Morris announced through a video that she would no longer be making videos and was therefore leaving YouTube. In it, she recounted the problems of depression and anxiety she was experiencing behind the camera.
12 Then: Vein Popping Guy
March 2, 2014. On Reddit, user aaduk_ala submits a photo titled “Trying to hold a fart next to a cute girl in class” on subreddit /r/funny. The Vein Popping Guy is Michael McGee, and never thought he would become so popular on the Web!. The photo was first posted on Twitter by one of McGee’s friends in 2013, but didn’t catch on at the time.
When asked if he regrets having shared this photo with millions of people and finally becoming one of the most popular memes, his answer is always the same: “My take on being ‘internet famous’ is cool and all. But I regret not copyrighting the picture right away because I could have made a lot of money there!”
Now: He’s Now A Retired Meme
In 2018, he gave an interview to Unilad to talk about the resounding success of his photo and all that resulted from it. He told them the story behind the photo and even demonstrated his ability to recreate his famous expression on demand.
Unfortunately, not much is known about what became of him, except that he would now be 22 years old and that he considers himself a “retired meme”.
13 Then: Grumpy Cat
From its real name Tardar Sauce, the cat known as Grumpy Cat became famous in 2012 when its owners shared photos of the animal on Reddit. His sourpuss expression, possibly due to some form of feline dwarfism, immediately went viral.
Grumpy Cat has become so popular that she has had the opportunity to make appearances on several television shows, including Good Morning America, CBS Evening News, American Idol, and The Bachelorette. She has also been the face of a Honey Nut Cheerios commercial and had her own movie, Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever!
Now: She Passed Away
The sad news was announced on May 14, 2019. At the age of only 7 years old, following complications arising from her urinary tract, the famous cat died. Her owners made the announcement on social medias, writing, “She passed away peacefully on the morning of Tuesday, May 14, at home in the arms of her mommy, Tabatha”.
Even if Grumpy Cat’s life has been too short, she can boast to be one of the only cats to have made millions of people around the world smile for many years.
14 Then: Blinking White Guy
In 2013, Drew Scanlon was producer of the streaming show Unprofessional Fridays, created by the video game website Giant Bomb. Every once in a while he would appear on the screen, and one day while his editor was playing a game called Starbound, he said “doing some farming with my hoe here”. That’s when Scanlon made his now famous facial expression.
The young man was far from suspecting what he had just created. In fact, he doesn’t even remember having that reaction. And for good reason, the meme went viral only 4 years later! It is therefore in spite of himself that he became THE official meme of “what the ****?”
Now: He Founded Cloth Map
Shortly after becoming an unwitting celebrity, Blinking White Guy left his job at Giant Bomb and founded Cloth Map, a video project that explores the world through games, bu showing, for example, how games can bring people together in different circumstances.
Scanlon never wanted to use its popular meme fame to fund his work. However, he finally gave in to the temptation to reach his goal of raising thousands of dollars to help people with multiple sclerosis. In a tweet where he shared his meme, he asked anyone who has ever experienced joy through his meme to consider making a donation to the National MS Society, adding, “It would mean a lot to me and to those I know affected by the disease.” As a result, in 2019, he was able to more than double his initial goal of $10,000!
15 Then: Confused Math Lady
No, the Confused Math Lady is not Julia Roberts! It is rather Renata Sorrah, a Brazilian actress who made a viral expression without her knowledge during an episode of the telenovela Senhora do Destino, released in 2004.
In the telenovela, at the moment when the actress performs her now famous reaction, her character is in prison, which explains very well her stressed, worried look. Although this happened in 2004, the meme only appeared in 2013 and went viral in 2016.
Now: She’s Still An Actress
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947 and began her acting career in 1969 after 3 years spent in Los Angeles as part of an exchange program in which she took dramatic arts classes.
Now 72 years old, she continues to perform regularly on television. Her most recent appearance was in the series Diário de um Confinado (Diary of a Confined) in 2020.