Vaudeville, theatre, variety shows, talent competition programs, Disney, Nickelodeon and YouTube. What do all of these seemingly unrelated things have in common? They’ve been the starting points and platforms that have manufactured some of the biggest stars of their day. From Mae West to Miley Cyrus, superstars have to start somewhere, and more often than not, a star just isn’t born out of nowhere. Their talent is discovered through another platform and then carefully refined to appeal to the masses – a celebrity boot camp if you will.
With the rise of social media, these platforms have usurped the last, great star-maker of our time – television – to cultivate and host some of today’s newest and burgeoning stars. And while Disney and Nickelodeon still have the ability to deliver a supernova every now and again today (hello, Ariana Grande), popular reality competition shows, which heralded some of the biggest musicians, comics and personalities of today, have faltered in recent years. Once a monolith at birthing superstars, American Idol hasn’t produced a household name since arguably Adam Lambert. That was 6 years ago. In its wake, YouTube and (hold your laughter) MySpace came into prominence and birthed stars like Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tyler Oakley, Colbie Calliat, Bo Burnham, Soulja Boy, Darren Criss, Grace Helbig and Charice to name a select, bright few.
We all know the dramatic fall from relevance MySpace suffered, but YouTube burned brighter than some of the stars it birthed. Sure, there are great success stories from the video platform, and there are dozens more popular YouTube personalities with huge followings, but YouTube hasn’t cultivated a true star outside of the site itself in quite sometime, and probably for good reason. It’s extremely difficult for a vlogger or personality to break free from that mold and find a broader, bigger space for them in pop culture. And with other social media channels competing for their attention, many stretch themselves too thin to ever rise to prominence from behind their computer screens.
Which brings us to Vine. The 6-second stop motion video app isn’t nearly as popular as YouTube, nor boasts a user base as large and rabid as Instagram. But upon closer inspection, it is doing one thing better these days than any of its rivals – catapulting prominent users to brand name status. Look at Sunny Mabrey, a hilarious Viner who has utilized Vine’s exposure to appear on a variety of TV shows, including Once Upon a Time, Reckless and Mad Men. Then you’ve got the emperor of Vine, King Bach, who has capitalized on that status to become a series regular on Adult Swim’s Black Jesus while showing up everywhere from The Mindy Project to House of Lies to commercials for the Truth campaign. There’s Nash Grier, who apparently is already a star in his own right according to Dancing with the Stars seeing as he’s a contest this season. And then you’ve got Shawn Mendes, a Canadian musician who started using Vine to showcase clips of his covers and has just earned his first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Stitches” this week.
Now, are any of these folks Bieber-caliber famous yet? No. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a good chunk of you had never heard of some of them. The fact remains, they’re working their way into the public consciousness slowly and meticulously, and they have Vine to thank for it. So what is it about Vine that allows it to create such a steady stream of potential stars for tomorrow more than any other platform out there today? Well, it’s built right into its DNA.
Think about it – Vine grants users only 6 seconds of content. There’s no room for error in 6 seconds; you either sink or you swim. Many people sink, but the people who do swim seem that much more interesting and curious because of that success. They’ve managed to dilute their talent, charisma, personality and skill into a video that lasts only six seconds, capturing the imagination and attention of millions of people. That in and of itself is an impressive feat. And don’t say that this is an ability that’s easy to conquer or replicate. A painful look through some legitimate celebrity Vine accounts from stars that have already earned their stripes proves that Vine is ruthless when it comes to letting an individual stand out.
If more creative and talented people out there can carve out a niche for themselves on Vine and have their talent shared and go viral, we might be seeing the next wave of stars coming out of Twitter’s twisted sister. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for the success stories Vine has already produced and seeing whether they can rise to new heights outside the platform or if they crash and burn. In the meantime, if you’ve got 6 seconds to kill, check out a Vine video. You might be watching the birth of tomorrow’s movie or rock star.