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Web Spotlight: Overly Attached Girlfriend

How Laina turned a meme into a successful career.

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Web Spotlight is a new CraveOnline exclusive feature that will be highlighting only the most talented and exciting people on all of the internets. Every week, Crave's Paul Tamburro will be discussing life on the World Wide Web with a variety of fresh faces, continuing this week with YouTuber and walking meme Overly Attached Girlfriend.

Imagine one day waking up to find your face plastered all over the internet. This became a reality for 21-year-old Laina who, after submitting a knowingly creepy parody of Justin Bieber's 'Boyfriend' to a fan contest, found herself become famous overnight. "I posted the video and the next day my roommates were sitting in the living room, looking at the views and scrolling through the comments," Laina recounted to me. "One of my friends follows The Daily Meme on Facebook, and she saw me on there and freaked out. She was like “you’re a meme!”"

The video, which poked fun at the Bieber song's possessive lyrics, swiftly went viral, with its success partially attributed to the screenshot of Laina's "creepy face" being circulated among Reddit and 4Chan users. The Overly Attached Girlfriend image macro saw Laina become even more ubiquitous than both the Socially Awkward Penguin and the Philosoraptor, but her newfound internet notoriety led to far more than just a few likes on Facebook and a mention by Daniel Tosh: it led to a career.

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"I knew that people used YouTube as their job, but I didn’t realise how big it was and that there were networks and things like that," Laina admitted. "When I uploaded my video I wasn’t doing it [to get a job], I was just entering a contest. I didn’t even think that anyone would really see it."

But people did see it, and 'JB Fanvideo' amassed over 1 million views within its first week online, prompting Laina's newly garnered fanbase to request that she make another video. "I got a bunch of fans that were tweeting me and asking me to do a parody of ‘Call Me Maybe’, because that song was super popular at the time," she said. "So about a week and a half later I tried it and it blew up bigger than the first one." 

At the time of writing, Laina's parody of Carly Rae Jepsen's hit single has almost 19 million views, and is one of the most watched YouTube videos of 2012. The success of her second video convinced Laina that YouTube was a viable career, and it eventually led to her dropping out of college in order to focus on developing her channel.

I didn't know how to handle it. There were some people who hated my new stuff, and it was very difficult to make a video and to know that thousands of people were going to watch it.

However, her unexpected success on YouTube placed Laina in a surreal position, as she was suddenly known worldwide and had a potential audience of millions waiting to see what she could come up with next. "I felt very unprepared," she told me. "I didn’t really know how to handle it. I knew I wanted to continue to make videos and do YouTube full-time, but I had no idea how. It was very difficult to make a video and know that thousands of people were gonna watch it. There were some people who hated my new stuff, and some people who loved it. It felt like because [the video] went viral I had such a variety of fans, and it was difficult to please everyone."

The Overly Attached Girlfriend's Top 3 Tips for Achieving Web Success:

  1. Be yourself. "That sounds extremely cheesy, but I only put out videos that come naturally to me and that I don't overthink."​
  2. Communicate. "Communicating with your fans is very important. Make that relationship personal. Talk to them, let them know that you're reading their feedback and that you appreciate them, whether you have one fan or one million fans."
  3. Take advantage of social media. "Be all over Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram - if you want to become known, put yourself out there as much as possible."
 

So how does Laina deal with the people who aren't fans of the direction she's taking her videos in? "It’s difficult at times to work hard on something, or to think something’s going to do well, and then read negative comments," she explained. "But as cheesy as it sounds, I think as long as I’m staying true to myself and I don’t think I’m selling out, or doing something that I don’t think is funny… as long as I feel good about what I’m doing, I don’t let it get to me. There are always going to be people who don’t like your stuff. Everyone has a different sense of humour, and I can’t expect everyone to think I’m great."

So despite feeling "unprepared" for the situation she was suddenly thrust into, Laina continued to make videos, and these videos eventually led to her being called up by the folks at the hugely popular US talk show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon