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22 Of The Internet’s Favorite Meme Stars, Then and Now

Mark Andrew

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What would the internet be like without memes? It would definitely be plain boring! We sure love our memes and we share them all the time to spread a bit of humor on our social media feeds.

One thing we need to keep in mind, however, is that behind these many hilarious and iconic memes are real people (and animals) who live real lives. Plus the stories behind their viral pictures are actually quite interesting.

Check out the compilation below and see how our favorite meme stars look like now several years after gaining fame online.

#1 Success Kid (Sam Griner)

This meme from 2007 features Sam Griner who was, apparently, attempting to eat sand. His mom Laney Griner initially posted the photo on Flickr. Initially, a meme maker reposted the photo with the caption “I Hate Sandcastles,” which wasn’t accurate, according to Laney, because Sam does love sandcastles.

The picture eventually gained fame as the “Success Kid” and has since appeared in different ads, shirts, and even as screensavers on the Xbox.

#2 Grumpy Cat (Tardar Sauce)

Yes, Grumpy Cat’s real name is actually that – Tardar Sauce. The cat went viral after her Reddit photo made rounds online back in 2012. Her official account on Instagram has more than 2 million followers. Unfortunately, the famous cat died in 2019.

#3 Doge (Kabosu)

Now 15 years old, Kabuso’s 2010 picture went viral in 2013 as it spawned numerous funny memes. People just absolutely love her funny facial expression!

#4 Disaster Girl (Zoe Roth)

Dave Roth, Zoe’s father, took the photo in iconic 2004. Three years later, he entered the picture into a photography contest – and he won!

#5 Blinking White Guy (Drew Scanlon)

The GIF traces its origin from a 2013 livestream featuring Giant Bomb video producer Drew Scanlon as he watched editor-in-chief Jeff Gertsmann play the game Starbound. His facial expression was captured and the rest, as they say, is history.

#6 Side-Eyeing Chloe (Chloe)

When their parents surprised them with the news about an upcoming Disneyland trip in 2013, sisters Lily and Chloe had different reactions. The former broke into tears of joy while the latter, well, she had a face that looked perfect for memes. Everything was recorded on camera and it didn’t take long before Chloe became an inspiration for countless of memes.

#7 Bad Luck Brian (Kyle Craven)

Ian Davies first uploaded the yearbook picture of Kyle, his friend, on Reddit back in January 2012. He captioned it with “Takes driving test .?.?. gets first DUI.”

#8 Harold Hiding The Pain (András Arató)

Everybody loves Harold!

Known as András Arató in real life, the stock photography model’s picture was taken in 2011.

Fast forward to 2018, he delivered a TedTalk in Ukraine, sharing how it’s like to be a “meme-hero.”

#9 Roll Safe (Kayode Ewumi)

Actor Kayode Ewumi appeared in a mini-documentary for BBC Three in 2016. While portraying a character, he pointed to his head and smiled. The image eventually went viral online.

#10 Trying To Hold A Fart Next To A Cute Girl In Class (Michael McGee)

According to Michael McGee, his friend – who goes by the handle aaduk_ala on Reddit – uploaded his picture online in 2014.

“He wanted to make a funny Twitter caption and told me to make the face. He posted it and like two or three months after he posted it, it took off,” he shared.

#11 Confused Nick Young (Nick Young)

NBA fans would, of course, easily recognize Nick Young. The iconic meme is from a 2014 YouTube series called “Thru The Lens.” His mother said he was a “clown” growing up and this was how he reacted.

#12 Ridiculously Photogenic Guy (Zeddie Smith)

This one was taken in 2012 during the Cooper River Bridge Run. A guy named Will King took the photo and shared it on Reddit where it later received more than 40,000 upvotes.

#13 First World Problems (Silvia Bottini)

Aside from being a popular meme, Silvia Bottini is actually an award-winning actress in Italy.

#14 Aliens Are To Blame For Everything (Giorgio Tsoukalos)

Audiences usually know Giorgio Tsoukalos for appearing in the “Ancient Aliens” television show. He’s also a writer, TV presenter, producer, and ufologist.

#15 Overly Attached Girlfriend (Laina Morris)

In 2012, YouTuber Laina Morris made a parody video of a Justin Bieber song entitled “Boyfriend.” Morris’ face later became a meme and according to her, it was a terrible experience as people started invading her privacy. Some went as far as finding her personal Facebook account while others even tried getting access to her school records. She decided to quit YouTube for good in 2019.

#16 Good Luck Charlie (Mia Talerico)

This one is from “Good Luck Charlie,” a show on Disney Channel.

#17 Ermahgerd (Maggie Goldenberger)

First uploaded online in March 2012, the original photo was captioned “Just a book owners smile…” It featured then 11-year-old Maggie holding up her copies of Goosebumps.

#18 Scumbag Steve (Blake Boston)

Go look up Beantown Mafia’s cover for their album “Ma Gangsta” and you’ll see this guy’s image. First posted in 2011, the photo features Blake Boston aka Weezy B.

#19 Sweating Jordan Peele (Jordan Peele)

This one is from season 3 of the show “Key and Peele” where actor Jordan Peele’s character was shown sweating heavily as his girlfriend started asking him about his internet habits.

#20 A Schoolboy In A Swamp (Igor Nazarov)

Originally an entry for a photo contest looking for the strangest images, this picture showing Russian teen Igor Nazarov instead became a meme in 2016.

#21 Dramatic Dmitry (Vladimir Brest)

The meme is taken from Vladimir Brest’ 2011 album Paranoia.

“I myself am generally positive. However, I want my songs to be attached to these memes. It is also bad that most of the pictures are obscene. All this is seen by children. I don’t want to be a person guilty of degradation and corruption of the young generation,” he said in an interview.

#22 Hipster Barista (Dustin Mattson)

Last but not the least, we have the 2011 meme Hipster Barista – or Dustin Mattson in real life.

“I got this tattoo for my love of coffee, I got this one because it’s ironic,” he shared. “I do find it discouraging and disappointing that there was so much exposure brought to an attempt at making a joke of a culinary industry and the professional barista. To me, it’s very telling on how we laud farm-to-table food, craft beer, cocktail mixology, but it’s ok to have no respect for the specialty coffee world and the people who are committed to it.”

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