Over time, memes have made some people famous for a hot minute, while others were already famous before it. But in our hearts, these memes below have stood the test of time and still serve their purposes on the internet.
But, there is one burning question that came to mind: Where are these people who shot to digital fame now?
1. Success Kid
The story of the Success Kid likely begins with Laney Griner uploading a picture of her son Sammy eating sand to Flickr in 2007, thereby possibly becoming the first global meme to gain recognition (and perhaps thus, the greatest).
As Laney saw it, the meme’s original caption was “I Hate Sandcastles” but she disliked it because it made her child look cruel. Sammy still feels embarrassed by the association with “Success Kid,” regardless of how the caption was received – which we think is fine, but we still use Success Kid to this day.
2. Burn Baby Burn
Despite living in troubling times, one of the most popular memes still holds relevance today. And we were really surprised to learn that there is not much of a backstory to this meme – despite so many stories that have leaked since it first made rounds on the internet.
On February 6, 2004, Dave Roth accidentally snapped a picture of his daughter, Zoe, during a firefighter training drill two blocks from his house, capturing a devilish smile that fit so well against the burning house. As Zoe mentioned, she would have loved it if the meme made it easier for her to pay for college, but ultimately she wants people to get to know her better before assuming anything.
3. Not Impressed, To Say The Least
This meme is still popular today because it’s a great way to express your disgust or annoyance in a variety of situations. We cannot think about the number of times we’ve used this GIF in a chat because it would be impossible to count – it just works so well.
“Lily’s Disneyland Surprise… AGAIN” is a YouTube video that shows two sisters reacting to the news of a Disneyland trip on the way to school. Clearly, Lily is delighted, but Chloe isn’t so sure and that expression says it all.
4. Well, I Don’t Know!
What do you remember about this kid? During the 2010 season of Good Luck Charlie on Disney Channel, Mia Talerico played Charlotte “Charlie” Duncan. This is yet another meme that lives in our heads rent-free and comes in handy when you basically just have nothing more to say.
They filmed the series from 2010 to 2014 when Mia was just 11 months old. Since she has over 1 million followers on Instagram, and it is unlikely many of them had watched the show, this meme – often used as a synonym for “I don’t know” – has made Mia famous.
5. So Doge, Very Talent
Memes that feature animals have become very popular, especially those that include dogs – because who doesn’t like dogs? Is there anyone that does not like dogs? Surely dogs are better than people. Atsuko Sato, a Japanese kindergarten teacher, posted several pictures to her personal blog back in 2010 of her adopted Shiba Inu dog Kabosu, whom she just adopted from a rescue center.
She managed to capture Kabosu on the couch with paws folded and a quizzical look on his face with just one shot-creating the first ‘doge’ meme. We admire that legendary picture – but frankly, we think the one of him smiling on the right is all that we need. We still love Kabosu and we always will.
6. The Over-Enthusiastic Girlfriend
There is one drawback to memes (even though there are many): people take them literally. Laina Morris was deemed a stalker girlfriend due to her overactive intensity. Originally from Colorado, Laina Morris is a YouTuber who performs a parody version of Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” complete with personalized lyrics and this is where it all unraveled rather quickly.
People often interpret memes literally, so they are not respected. It would suggest that Laina Morris is viewed as a stalker or extremely intense girlfriend, in this instance. As it remains, she had to learn the hard way that the internet is a merciless place, and at some point, she feared for her life when people just showed up at her place of work to get a good look at her.
7. The Running Man
Have you ever seen a picture of yourself running? It’s cringeworthy. And while we may believe no one looks good when they’re trying to run, except for this guy – Zeddie Smith. In 2012, Smith was participating in the Cooper River Bridge Run when the picture was taken.
Despite the Internet’s sometimes vicious nature and how jokes can be bent in the wrong direction, Smith feels honored to be included in a joke that is good fun. However, the jokes are generally positive. People seem to be talking about it a lot. Getting spread across the Internet is, we guess, the most flattering way to do it.
8. Clenching For Dear Life
As one of the most creative original meme captions, the image of the young man with veins sprouting from his head is now the meme of choice for people who want to keep their anger in check. As a matter of fact, the ‘cute girl’ is typically cropped altogether from the picture.
Mike McGee, the man behind the meme, says he regrets not copyrighting the image right away because he could have “made a lot of money.”
9. Grumpy Cat
The picture of a particularly grumpy cat, originally posted to Reddit in late September 2012, is one of the most famous animal memes on the internet (certainly the one with a cat).
Besides sponsors, books, merchandise deals – and even a video game for grumpy cats – the cat, Tardar Sauce, had an interesting name. Tardar Sauce, who was only seven years old at the time, passed away in 2019. The internet still mourns.
10. Bad Luck Brian
In the case of Bad Luck Brian, this style of meme is known as a macro style. What is a macro style? The first thing to note is that this guy isn’t called Brian – he’s named Kyle Craven.
There was a picture of Kyle taken in 2012 (although the principal insisted he retake the official picture), that has since gone on to become an image macro meme. An image macro meme is a piece of digital media that is overlaid with text. These days you can see his face next to all kinds of dark humor.
In some ways, we are bothered by the way memes make fun of the English language. Surely there will come a time when “ermahgerd” – the rhotacized form of “oh my god” – will be entered into the dictionary. Meanwhile, we are eye-rolling ourselves into another dimension at the thought of that.
This meme originated in 2012, when Maggie Goldennerger was in fourth or fifth grade, holding a book in her hand. “Just a book owner’s smile…” the post said. She is holding the books ironically or is really interested in the Goosebumps series, but we can’t tell if she was playing dress-up at the time.
12. The Problematic Meme
Numerous memes have featured images of the Italian actress Silvia Bottini crying with accompanying captions (such as, ‘Someone on the internet disagrees with me’). Despite appearing in numerous TV and theater shows, Bottini is actually a serious actress.
The term ‘first-world problem’ is often used to describe everyday frustrations that are not major problems on their own but do represent daily frustrations to people around the world.
13. Stylin’ It
“No matter what I do, I have no regrets in my life. Despite making mistakes, I do not regret anything. I wouldn’t go back to erase anything if I were to go back in time, because that is what makes me who I am.” Wise words for someone who, at the time, came across as fickle.
Blake Boston, also known as “Weezy B”, shared his views with the world. Originally taken by Boston’s mother and posted in 2011, the photo became a meme and way to describe someone who only cares about physical appearances.
We have here what has become a famous GIF meme, which originated from a live stream that was shot in 2013 when Drew Scanlon was a video producer at the popular gaming website Giant Bomb.
It was due to an unintentional faux-pas made by his editor-in-chief when playing Starbound, a two-dimensional adventure game when he was traveling to the United Kingdom. This can be observed during the team’s weekly “Unprofessional Fridays” shows. The remainder of the story can be called history as Gerstmann related, “I’ve been farming with my h*e.” How very thoughtful, right?
15. The Man Behind The Counter
‘Hipster Barista’ was first introduced to the world in 2011. The meme’s creator, Dustin Mattson (pictured), offered his opinion of the meme during an interview for Eater Atlanta.
“I am disappointed and discouraged by the amount of media exposure given to a spoof of the culinary industry and the profession of baristas. This demonstrates our disregard for specialty coffee and the people involved in it despite our laud for farm-to-table food, craft beer, cocktail mixology, and our respect for the world of craft beer and craft brewing.”
16. But… Wait!
In spite of the fact that this meme has gained immense popularity, there is very little information available about the subject of the picture that appears above. “Sudden Clarity Clarence” made its rounds until we really just wished for something else, but in essence, it still remains a classic.
There’s no real info here – just a few pictures of him online, it looks like he’s at a concert or some sort of big event and heard something unusual. At the very least, his expression will live on.
The Brazilian actress Renata Sorrah (the woman in the picture) perfectly captures the look on many of our faces when we are struggling to solve some seemingly ridiculous algebra equation – or when trying to figure out any other task that confronts us on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, the meme’s not the result of Julia being puzzled — it’s from a scene in the telenovela Senhora do Destino, which means ‘Her Own Destiny’ in Portuguese. Let’s hope it was Julia’s destiny to figure out whatever conundrum she faced.
18. I’m Smart Like That
This is another classic meme you’ve probably seen at least once. Kayode Ewumi is shown grinning and pointing to his temple in the meme while he plays the character Reece Simpson (a.k.a. “Roll Safe”) in the Hood Documentary web series. People usually caption the pictures with jokes about poor decision-making.
As for Ewumi, he is a rising star in Britain, so it may not be too long before he is recognized for something other than this meme (although, given the way social media works, this is unlikely).
19. The Pain Man
Don’t you find it funny how some innocent pictures can turn you into a viral sensation if you have the right face or look? No matter what the story behind this picture is, the internet got him.
In András Arató’s case, he posed for some stock photos, only to see his face become a meme for people trying to hide their pain. Arató did a good job of getting into social media, even starting groups to share more pictures of himself so that everyone can have a giggle at his expense. Golden…
20. The Aliens Did It
Yup, it’s your favorite conspiracy meme again. Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, the gentleman depicted in the pictures below is a Swiss-born writer, scientist, urologist, television presenter, and author. It is no secret that he is a big fan of aliens. His appearance on Ancient Aliens was in fact the source of the meme’s inception since it was actually that show that generated the meme in the first place.
It goes without saying that Professor Tsoukalos is an ardent skeptic of the ancient astronaut pseudo-archaeological theory. During his interview with Mashable about his meme, he said: “I think it is an honor to have been adopted by the interwebz, worldwide.”
21. Famously Fashionable
One more famous meme that gained popularity for its versatility (as if we were talking about a jacket or sweater – are memes now on par with fashion?) first arose in 2015. This GIF meme, however, came from a 2009 rap match between Jesse James and Conceited hosted by the Ultimate Rap League.
When James stumbled over a word, Conceited made the notorious face. Reggie Sergile, commonly known as Conceited is an American battle rapper from Brooklyn, New York City best known for his recurring role on the MTV program Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘n Out.
22. The Perfect Pose
Upon seeing Kalin Elisa trying in vain to commit the perfect pose for a new Instagram picture, the phrase ‘squinting woman’ emerged as one of the newer memes out there.
“My purpose in life is to bring a smile to as many faces as possible before I leave this earth before I die. That was Elisa’s interpretation of the meme on Twitter (where she has 28,000 followers). This has been a treat for my soul!”
23. Dance With Me
Oh, Vine. We miss your face. Did you know that there’s a social network short-form video sharing service where people could share looped video clips? Kidding. We’re sure you remember Vine. Anyway, that’s where Lil TerRio got a lot of attention for his dance videos.
His popularity shot through the roof and kids who looked like him went viral too. In addition to his huge Instagram following (872k followers), Lil TerRio runs anti-bullying campaigns and tries to live a healthier life. Good for him, we say.
24. Sassy Since Birth
Here’s an example of a meme of someone already famous – in this case, rapper Cardi B from 2018. When this meme hit the web in 2018, we were already fans and this cute picture of the singer as a five-year-old with her hand on her hip and a slight smile went viral, creating an instant meme.
As soon as the meme was put up on the Internet, it seemed that people started using it as an example of the kid who repeats what adults tell her as well as the one who insists on being included in the fun. But, in this case, there was not a single thing that would stop the force of nature that is Cardi B.
25. Dude… What?
The moment you type ‘Nick Young’ into the Google search bar, the word ‘meme’ is automatically added at the end of the sentence. Even though he has won an NBA championship and played in the best basketball league in the world for over a decade, some people honestly do not realize who this man is.
Unfortunately, most people only recognize him by the confused look on his face in that gif. It appears that Young’s professional basketball career is over, as he last played with the Denver Nuggets in 2018 and it does not appear that he will return to the NBA.
26. A Meme, But Make It Fashion
As a result of his mugshot going viral in 2014, Jodie Meeks became a worldwide sensation. During the course of his trial, Meeks was found guilty of federal charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and grand theft. Total jail bae vibes.
After getting out of prison, he began modeling, working with household names like Tommy Hilfiger, and strutting the runway at New York Fashion Week. According to reports, his net worth is $5 million. What a life and what luck to have such good looks. Talk about the fickleness of the fashion industry, yeah?
27. Here For The Experience
The following is the story of the origin of a meme with a unique twist. An IKEA store in Toronto, Canada, featured a Japanese snow macaque monkey wearing a shearling coat. This photograph, taken by Twitter user Bronwyn Iler Page, was tweeted in 2012.
He wandered the store for an hour before he was rescued and taken to England’s Story Book Farm Monkey Sanctuary. Now named Darwin, the monkey spends his days playing with Curious George at the sanctuary. Besties for life!
28. In The News Today
Antoine Dodson is the guy behind this meme that has a more serious origin. In 2010, after he spoke to local news concerning an intruder in his Huntsville, Alabama home, Antoine Dodson became a meme, but despite the dangerous hook, the internet got hold of this gem and the rest is internet history.
Dodson made a YouTube channel and website to cash in on his fame after his interview went viral. He’s now trying to launch a music career on Instagram and interacting with his fans daily. Not bad.
29. Bhad Bhabie
We have a lot to say about this girl, but we’ll leave it for another time. Danielle Bregoli became an internet sensation after appearing on an episode of The Dr. Phil Show challenged the audience to “Catch me outside” in an accent that left many people questioning her authenticity and background.
To the rest of the world, it sounded more like “Cash me outside, how bow dah?” – and of course, a meme and a tagline were born. With a record deal with Atlantic Records and her debut single on the Hot 100, Bregoli has launched a music career and become a gold-selling rapper. Next, please.
30. The Art Of Expression
Having garnered fame through his appearances in videos uploaded by Vine star Nick Mastodon, Gavin shot to fame as another child viral star made famous by the now-defunct social media app Vine. The world couldn’t get enough.
Gavin’s wide range of facial expressions and reactions makes him extremely popular as a reaction picture, which expresses disbelief, doubt, and confusion thanks to his wide variety of facial expressions. In the online community, there is a running joke that Gavin has been labeled as the Internet’s child, as those of us on social media have observed him grow up through the years.