17 People And A Cat: Social Media’s Biggest Breakout Celebrities

Grumpy Cat and Social Media Stars

Before Justin Bieber was a multi-platinum selling superstar he was a young kind hoping to break it big with YouTube videos. Before his show Sh@t My Dad Says was picked up by CBS, writer Justin Halpern was living with his dad and tweeting the funny things he said on a near daily basis.

Thanks to social media many of today’s biggest stars were discovered and catapulted to near instantaneous fame. From comedians and singers to models and everyday citizens, social media has become the maker of stars and well-known industry insiders.

Even some of the very founders of our favorite social networks have become mega-stars in their own rights.

Comedians Who Broke It Big On Social Media

ShitMyDadSays – Justin Halpern – Twitter

When Justin Halpern started his @ShitMyDadSays Twitter account he was just hoping to chronicle the everyday words of his own father. After the account racked up more than one million followers, the team at CBS Productions came knocking. In a very short period of time Sh@tMyDadSays was a TV show starting William Shatner. Sure the show only lasted one season, but it also led to a New York Times best seller from Halpern and his longtime writing partner Patrick Schumacker.

Bo Burnham – YouTube

Robert Pickering “Bo” Burnham posted his own brand of jokes and musical numbers to the popular video sharing website YouTube. In a very short period of time his YouTube videos took off and received more than 124 million views by January 2014. Thanks to his comedic chops Bo Burnham received a four record deal with Comedy Central Records, and released his debut EP, Bo Fo Sho in 2008. He also starred in the short lived series Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous and released his first book of poetry, Egghead: Or, You Can’t Survive on Ideas Alone, in 2013.

Lucas Cruikshank – Fred – YouTube

Lucas Cruikshank rose to YouTube fame when his fictional character Fred Figglehorn racked up tens of millions of YouTube views. The “6-year-old” character he plays eventually made his way to the big screen and the movie eventually spawned a sequel with Nickelodeon Films. Outside of Fred, Cruikshank hosts a still very much popular YouTube channel.  In a video released August 20, 2013, Lucas announced, “I’m gay. I feel so weird saying it on camera. But my family and friends have known for like three years. I just haven’t felt the need to announce it on the Internet.”

Singers Who Got Their Start On Social Media

Justin Bieber – YouTube – Twitter

Before Justin Bieber was the biggest name in music, he was a little kid posting videos to YouTube. Justin Bieber was discovered by talent agent Scooter Braun who introduced him to R&B sensation Usher. Bieber went from YouTube star to multi-platinum selling artist in just one year. His  seven-track album My World was released in November 2009, and was almost immediately certified platinum in the United States. While YouTube discovered Bieber, it is his 50.5 million Twitter followers who have helped him stay relevant in an ever changing musical landscape.

Colbie Caillat

Here’s a blast from the social media past. Colbie Caillat was turned down from American Idol not once, but two times. However, her positive attitude with the judges won over the masses. Soon after her appearances on American Idol her MySpace profile became a popular destination. Caillat would go on to become the number-one unsigned singer in her genre for four consecutive months. Caillat continues to enjoy success in her genre, touring with various acts and releasing albums on a regular basis. Sure we don’t recall much of the Myspace platform, but Caillat is still releasing songs that grace our radio airwaves and Spotify.

Carly Rae Jepsen

We can’t give YouTube all of the credit for Carly Rae Jepsen’s meteoric rise to fame, but the social network definitely played a massive part in our nations addiction to the song “Call Me Maybe.” Jepsen competed on Canadian Idol where she finished in third place. She would go on to independently release her album Tug of War. Three years after that release her song Call Me Maybe caught the eye of Justin Bieber, who signed her to his Schoolboy Records label. YouTube views have viewed the music video for the song 542,198,772 times (at the time of this post). If you manage to have your song played more than half a billion times on a social video platform, you are destined to gain some level of fame.

Greyson Chance

Ellen DeGeneres discovered Greyson Chance covering Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” on YouTube and then she launched a label for him. By May 11, 2013, Greyson Michael Chance had racked up more than 51 million YouTube views. His two subsequent original pieces “Stars” and “Broken Hearts” would go on to rack up more than 6 and 8 million views respectively. Often referred to as the next Justin Bieber, Chance has taken a more modest approach to his music and his fan base, while still very large, is not quite on par with Bieber.


Charmaine Clarice Relucio Pempengco, a Filipina singer, rose to popularity through YouTube. Her amazing voice caught the attention of none-other than Oprah Winfrey, who dubbed her the “most talented girl in the world.” Her debut album, with some magical Oprah support, would debut in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart. She even managed to land a character arc on the popular Fox TV series Glee.

Paulina Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky’s daughter might have landed a record contract, but it was because of her racy Twitter messages and photos. With 296,000 followers on Twitter, this rising star is not afraid to speak her mind and show off her toned body. Paulina Gretzky is mostly known for posting her photos after a night on the town. Those photos led to a Golf Digest cover (May 2014) and a recording contract that allowed her to release her song “Collecting Dust” on MTV’s now defunct reality TV show Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County.

Rebecca Black – YouTube

While many singers have gone on to national tours, platinum selling albums, and long careers, Rebecca Black is known for one thing, the worst song in the history of YouTube. Sure the hit “Friday” single is awful, with possibly the worst lyrics on YouTube, but it is also one of the most watched video of all time. At the time of this post “Friday” has 66,561,760 views. Admit it, when you hear Friday you can’t help but hum along under your breath.

Famous On Social Media For Their Looks

Kate Upton – YouTube

There are many gorgeous women on Twitter, but none more famous than Kate Upton. Upton first modeled for Garage and Dooney & Bourke, before signing with Guess and then appearing in the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. However, it was an April 2011 viral video of the bodacious blonde doing the Dougie at a Los Angeles Clippers game that skyrocketed her to uber super-model fame. She later appeared in another video in which she performed the Cat Daddy dance, that video also went viral. These days there are very few hours that go by in which we are not reporting on the models Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and various other social media posts.

Jenn Steltser – Instagram

Jen Selter is a very good looking female with an amazing booty. It is that body feature that has skyrocketed her to 2,958,245 Instagram followers. She is followed by pro athletes, and admired by millions. Videos like the Barstool Sports guys “working out” with her go viral regularly, and her butt keeps her rolling in cash and living the good life. Exploitation at it’s worse? Sure. BUTT she doesn’t seem to mind.

James Deen -Kickstarter (Believe It Or Not)

How do you build a successful career in pornographic flicks? If you are James Deen you capitalize on your non-standard porn looks and then you utilize crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to fund yourfeature length film. In 2009 James Deen was named “Male Performer of the Year” by Adult Video News, at 22-years-old he was the youngest actor to claim the top adult acting prize. Deen’s collaborations include work with popular NSFW site WoodRocket.com. He also hosts the popular web series James Deen Loves Food. In January 2013 James Deen used Kickstarter to fund a $100,000 steampunk film called “Cowboys & Engines.” The film by Bryn Pryor was funded in just 58 days. He has been described as the “Ryan Gosling” of porn.

Social Media Founders Who Are Only Popular Because Of Their Networks

Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook

Perhaps you have heard of Mark Zuckerberg. He invented the poke. Signed up more than 1.2 billion users for his social network, and then bought Instagram for $1 billion and WhatsApp for $19 billion. Now listed as one of the richest men in the world, Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most recognizable faces on the planet. Not bad for a Harvard dropout who once released a music discover algorithm for free, rather than selling out to Microsoft and other interested tech giants.

Tom Anderson – Myspace

Tom Anderson is the guy who forced himself into your life if you opened a Myspace account. He was ALWAYS friend number one on your Myspace account and he sold the company he helped found for more than $500 million. While he is often the butt of social media jokes these days, he is still a pioneer of the social media space, and for that we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. We got your back Tom, now how about accepting that Facebook request I sent you months ago — you know, return the favor from that time I was forced to accept your friendship. Nobody is more of a social media fame whore than the friend forcing Tom Anderson and we’re oddly okay with that.

Jack Dorsey / Biz Stone – Twitter

Admittedly you might not know Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone if you don’t follow social media closely. They invented this small micro-blogging service you might have heard of, I believe it’s called Twitter. On yeah, Jack Dorsey also founded payment platform Square, a program that allows anyone with a smartphone or tablet to easily accept credit card payments. Biz Stone also helped launch Xanga, Blogger, Odeo, The Obvious Corporation and Medium. In January 2014 he released the Jelly App from Jelly Industries. Honorable mentions at Twitter include Noah Glass and Dick Costolo, they simply lack the larger public exposure to put them in the byline.

The World’s Most Famous Social Feline

Grumpy Cat – Every Social Network Imaginable – Plus Meme’s Everywhere

Our feline friend Grumpy Cat graces the top of this post. Love or hate cats, it is impossible to deny the universal reach that the grumpy feline has had on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and just about every other social platform imaginable. Meme’s are social in their own right and there is none more famous than Grumpy Cat.

Dozens of other “famous people” have emerged from social media platforms. The famous people above simple stood out to our team because of their groundbreaking acknowledgements and their massive reach to the masses.

Do you have another favorite social media breakout star that we didn’t include? Leave us a comment.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.