CULTURE

The Viral Celebrity Moments That Defined the Year

The devil works hard, but the Internet works harder.


A collage of the most viral celeb moments that defined the year 2022
Collage by Ashley Peña

For every strange, existentially threatening, or truly hilarious thing that happened this year, the Internet was right there with us, reflecting these wild times in which we live. And, true to form, celebrities continued to provide fodder for the always-hungry content machine. Below, our top viral celebrity moments from 2022:

Euphoria Mania

While season one of HBO Max’s psychedelically filmed teen drama Euphoria made a splash with viewers when it aired in 2019, it wasn’t until season two hit the streamer in January 2022 that it became a record-breaking hit. Chalk it up to lockdown or the mid-winter blues—millions tuned into the show compared to a music video with intense plot breaks. Creator Sam Levinson’s vision turned the series into a social media juggernaut, with users breaking down the characters’ rhinestone-adorned beauty looks, enviable fashion, feuds, love triangles, and psychological profiles all year (and turning Sydney Sweeney into a meme). It didn’t hurt that the series is fronted by such a charismatic cast, all of whom became celebrities in their own right (if they weren’t already).

Rihanna Announces She’s Pregnant (in Vintage Chanel)

Leave it to Rih to announce her pregnancy with A$AP Rocky in the most fashionable way. The 33-year-old shared the news of her first child with a photoshoot in People, for which she wore a vintage 1996 pink Chanel puffer jacket and matching belt and body jewelry, glowing in the snowy streets of Rocky’s native Harlem. The Internet quickly declared that the Bajan singer had Rihinvented both pregnancy announcements and maternity wear.

Usher Tells Us to “Watch This”

Usher will never go out of style. After delivering one of the best Tiny Desk Concerts in recent memory for Black History Month, a clip of him gesturing toward his eyes while performing the opening of “Confessions Pt. II” quickly became one of the most crucial meme responses of the year. So we can add that to the long list of things we have to thank Usher for: which includes an endless R&B catalogue, the best scene in Hustlers, and Justin Bieber.

“The Slap”

The otherwise uneventful 2022 Oscars were brought to a grinding halt by the slap heard ‘round the world. Will Smith approached host Chris Rock and hit him with an open hand across the face after Rock told a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. While the awkward—and, by all standards, truly shocking—moment was quickly brushed past during the live ceremony, the Internet was alight with opinions and jokes for weeks on whether the slap was deserved and what ramifications there should’ve been for Smith, if any.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Kim Kardashian’s Marilyn Monroe Met Gala Moment

If anyone knows how to manufacture a viral moment, it’s a Kardashian—and this year’s most Internet-friendly Met Gala moment was brought to you by the head Kardashian herself. Kim walked the red carpet of this year’s American Fashion-themed Met Gala in one of Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic dresses—a slinky, nude, beaded gown that the late icon wore while breathily singing “Happy Birthday” to then-President John F. Kennedy. On loan from Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, the dress sparked endless discourse online, from archival fashion restoration (and the ethics of celebrities wearing, and possibly damaging historical pieces), to Kim’s extreme weight loss regime to fit in the dress. There were even comparisons between reality-mogul Kim and a Hollywood legend like Monroe, along with renewed discussions about Monroe as both tragic figure and heroine. A mid-divorce Kim walking down the red carpet with Pete Davidson by her side only upped the stakes. Virality achieved.

Gotham/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Lea Michele Cast (at Last) in Funny Girl

Nine years after her Glee character, Rachel, was cast in Funny Girl, Lea Michele was finally announced as the starring member of Broadway’s current Funny Girl cast, replacing Beanie Feldstein and fulfilling Michele’s well-known, Barbra Streisand-inspired dream of obtaining the role. The announcement opened up Pandora’s box in regards to Michele’s reputation both in Hollywood and online, though the controversies haven’t touched the show’s now record-breaking run. Guess Glee really does predict the future!

Bennifer Finally Got Married

Two decades after Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck had one of the most public engagements and break-ups of all time, the pair tied the knot in a private ceremony in Las Vegas, celebrating with their families, friends, and children. “In the end, it was the best possible wedding we could have imagined,” Lopez wrote in her newsletter at the time. “One we dreamed of long ago and one made real (in the eyes of the state, Las Vegas, a pink convertible and one another) at very, very long last.”

Don’t Worry Darling Drama

An on-set affair between director and (pop) star. Alleged jealousy and sabotage. Leaked text messages about Shia LaBeouf. Subtweets via hairdressers in embroidered shirts. One cast member possibly spitting on another. Emotional cheating with homemade salad dressing. These are but some of the wildly complicated details surrounding the release of Don’t Worry Darling, a relatively small film helmed by Olivia Wilde whose intracast drama far exceeded the twists and turns of its own head-scratching plot. And the Internet, of course, jumped on board the ride, cataloguing every detail and cooking up increasingly wilder conspiracy theories.

If Heidi Klum’s a Worm, I’m a Worm

Heidi Klum is no stranger to a hyper-realistic costume, proving the old Mean Girls maxim that Halloween really is the one day a year girls can freely dress like absolute freaks. (Was that not the line?) In any case, Klum put doubts about whether she’d lost her Halloween mojo to shame with one of her strangest costumes yet, slipping into an absurdly realistic earthworm costume. Naturally, the Internet ate it up. Dust we are, and to dust we shall return. Thank you for putting things in perspective, Heidi.

Negroni Sbagliato...With Prosecco in It

Emma D’Arcy was known as one of the breakout stars of HBO’s House of the Dragon—that is, until they became far more famous for making a little-known cocktail recipe blow up on TikTok. A clip of an interview between Dragon stars D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke went viral, with the former recommending their drink of choice in an undeniably sensual way. “A Negroni...Sbagliato,” D’Arcy says conspiratorially, before leaning forward and lowering their voice a pitch, adding, “With Prosecco in it.” Hear that? It’s the sound of a thousand (okay, maybe a few dozen) bartenders around the world, popping open Prosecco to make the Internet’s new favorite drink.