The New York Times has discovered the phenomenon of the modern Z-List celebrities. People whose fame is so niche that it really feels that a consortium of dictionary editors and elite linguists should come together to create a letter that comes after “z” to truly capture the list-level of their fame, and, yet, seem to generate A-list-worthy interest in certain corners of the web.
Their existence isn’t anything particularly new, but the Times does have the sacred responsibility of explaining it to the types of people who exclusively get all their information from the Times. The paper also takes an analytical look at how both new media (blogs, Instagram feeds and podcasts) and traditional media (supermarket tabloids, particularly) have taken to covering the Z-listers.
Though Z-list fame doesn’t require traditional talent or accomplishment, it is not completely random. There is something of an art to gathering that amount of Instagram followers after all. Most of those mentioned in the story fall into at least one of three distinct categories.
People who are very pretty and stylish like Jeremy “Hot Mugshot guy” Meeks and The “Gucci Gang”.
People who have, through a social media presence, achieved some sort of perceived authority in a niche interest. Basically the world’s beauty vloggers and mommy bloggers.
Meet at least one of those criteria, and then maybe with a little luck and self-promotion, you too could become a Z-lister.
Which is to say, you too can reach the level of fame as Justin Bieber’s dog Todd.
Yes, Todd the dog, officially launched his own Instagram page today, despite the fact that his owner’s account is still deleted (at least for the time being). He is now the world’s latest Z-list celeb.
Known as @ToddTheStud on the network, Todd has two key z-list credentials: he is very pretty (yes he is! yes he is!), and he knows Justin Bieber. Thanks to that, he’s up to almost 20,000 followers in just a few hours. Give him a few weeks and he may reach the social media fame of Bieber’s other dog, @EstherTheCutie (who, frankly, is basically a Y-lister at this point. The dog has 687,000-plus followers after all).
Of course, things for Todd’s fellow Z-listers aren’t all rosy. The Times notes that while they attract genuine fans, they also develop a following of a sort of “anti-fans” who follow them to get a daily fix of schadenfreude.
“There’s something deliciously surreal about monitoring the online movements of the barely famous, a class of people who are just unpolished, desperate and savvy enough to act mad, sloppy and sexy,” writes Amanda Hess.
As it turns out, the obsession with people whose fame level can be duplicated by a dog isn’t necessarily one of total admiration.
Except for Todd. Everyone genuinely loves a cute dog.
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