I discovered a place online that is so warm and friendly it is almost magical. It’s a place where Jerry Springer congratulates on the impending birth of your first child from the driver’s seat of a parked car. Where Kenny G stops an important studio session, sax in hand, to wish you a happy retirement. Where Nigel Farage cheerfully offers you good luck in your new job as a project manager, or the usually scabrous Azealia Banks kindly wishes you a happy 16th birthday. I speak of course Cameo, where celebrities smile at you like you’re the son of an oligarch. For a small fee.
I first realized I was hooked on browsing Cameo when I texted a friend at 3:22 a.m. to say, “Jesus Christ, you have the exact same kitchen layout as Robbie Coltrane. Names of such delightful coincidence paraded before me – Samantha Mumba, Chet Hanks, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, Roseanne Barr, Steven Berkoff – and I would just have to tell someone. I felt like people needed to know that Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen has a really nice wallpaper, or that Ginuwine is bearded but still a hottie.
Cameo is the personalized video service that, since 2016, has connected celebrities with fans – and has grown around the world. In exchange for payment – say, £ 36 for Bargain huntTim Wonnacott or £ 562.50 for Ice Cube – the celebrity will record a short video message for you that you can post online, send to a friend, or – in the case of someone I know last summer – play during of a mid-DJ set party. Buyers can describe what they want in 250 characters. “Please don’t send scripts,” asks Larry Hankin, who played Mr. Heckles, the madman who lived under Monica and Rachel’s apartment in Friends. He’s on Cameo; a flight at £ 37.50.
Covid was the manufacture of Cameo. As work in every theater, television studio, concert hall, sports arena and fan convention has dried up, a cavalcade of revenue streams has also dried up. The site suddenly ingested talent from all corners of entertainment: actors, comedians, sports stars, musicians and influencers. Today, like a gigantic stray dog pound, there are over 30,000 on the site – all in their own way saying “Pick me, pick me”. Add in the fact that you can watch past Cameos on every profile page, and you’ve got a very engaging and endless source of free content. As the costs of most streaming platforms seem set to rise, I am considering canceling Netflix et al and watching Cameo for the rest of my life. It is without a doubt the most entertaining and overwhelming catalog ever made. Sorry Argos.
One of his most amazing things is that everyone is on Cameo. Cameo’s homepage reports premium shows like Office and Game of thrones, RuPaul’s Drag Race, The Sopranos and Parks and recreation. But every other imaginable vestige of celebrity is there, too. Carole Baskin from King tiger fame is one of the many faces you might expect to see, as are Chris Noth (Mr Big), David Hasselhoff, rappers Vanilla Ice and Flavor Flav, and Fresh prince actor Alfonso Ribeiro. But show me another platform that also unites intergalactic funk legend George Clinton, cricket commentator Henry Blofeld, former sex worker Stormy Daniels, Mutya of the Sugababes, and actor who plays Herr Flick from bad. 80s comedy. ‘Hello? Hello! This really is the website with everything, if your design of everything takes into account Caitlyn Jenner, “Nasty” Nigel Lythgoe and – like the eternal entertainment cockroaches they are – some Elvis impersonators.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that everyone is purely on Cameo just to make some naked money. In 1993, the Wu-Tang Clan abandoned “CREAM”, which meant “money rule all around me”. Today they are putting their birthday wishes on Cameo for £ 270 a pop. Celebrities have always sold out houses, but unlike the shameless making of a blockbuster movie, accessible album, or even a commercial, there isn’t a single artistic justification for making content like this. here – although, ironically, every contributor is still subject to critical evaluation via user reviews ranging from zero to five stars. Even the nicest man ever – Police academy actor Steve Guttenberg – once didn’t receive a star from a man complaining that he got his wife’s name wrong (his 185 other reviews all get top marks).
Despite the obvious pullback factor, the many people on Cameo who are violently chained to a slogan at least made it work for them: Biff de Back to the future (“McFly! “), the arrogant butler of Ferris Bueller’s day off (“Are you Abe Frohman? The Sausage King of Chicago?”) Or “Ghostbusters” singer Ray Parker Jr (“Who are you going to call?”) To name a few. You expect your toes to be curled so violently that you are afraid that you will never walk unaided. But they are professionals. They have that. In a way, Cameo gives them some influence over the monster that created them. Some stars, like Between two Actor James “Jay” Buckley – who is said to have directed 10,000 videos – has transcended his original raison d’être and turned video messaging into a sweaty, profitable art form.
As I got deeper and deeper, I couldn’t deny how charming most celebrities were; how… down to earth? It’s exciting to see their backyards, their bed pillars and their slightly dusty gold disc walls. James Van Der Beek has a lovely ranch in Texas and speaks with the warm sincerity of your new best friend. Miriam Margolyes is 79, is wise and skillfully funny as she dispenses wisdom as she sits in front of a portrait of Queen Victoria. A review of hers reads: “Your words were exactly the words our LGBT family needs to hear. I can’t thank you enough! “Even Sir Mix-A-Lot, of” I Like Big Butts “fame, is able to be endearing and sincere when he tells a recipient that she has a” nice ass. ” for a person of 50 years ”.
Conventional wisdom is that Cameo is populated by celebrities who are past their prime. But what is surprising is the number of current young talents who are also there. Take Masego, the insanely trendy 27-year-old smooth soul icon, who will headline the Cross The Tracks festival in London later this year. He’s on Cameo for a whopping £ 749.25. Also in attendance is 28-year-old queer pop star Dorian Electra, as is British rapper Lady Leshurr. Proving nostalgia never sleeps, ‘Friday’ singer Rebecca Black is 23 and on Cameo, ready to take you back to the Hazy Web of Summer 2011 for £ 375 (sometimes including a cover of ‘Friday I’m In “from The Cure. Love”).
People are often sarcastic about it, but these examples – plus the massive weight of TikTok stars there too – show that Cameo could very quickly become something that any the star makes any stage of their career. This is a readily available source of income from day one, rather than a reserve of change so baby boomers can pad their private jets.
Notably, too, Cameo is not just a liberal hot tub of famous toys. It’s fair to describe Cameo as having a pretty impressive array of American right-wingers. The rump of Trump’s clownish political entourage is on Cameo: Former press secretary Sean Spicer, Anthony Scaramucci, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Roger Stone and Corey Lewandowski are all available for hire, as is the former governor of the Alaska Sarah Palin, who promises 24 hour delivery. Page – which is more of a wait than it takes to buy guns in Alaska. On the UK side we have the aforementioned Farage (slogan: “They call me Mr Brexit… some say I’m controversial, and I don’t care”). Last month, wearing a neatly ironed shirt and elegant blue tie, Farage paid homage to a “Hugh Janus”. It takes one to know one, maybe.
And there are cameos for dark tastes. The bassist of OK Go? Perez Hilton? Political poll guru Frank Luntz? The guy who sang “I Like To Move It”? Justin Bieber’s drummer? Who the hell is hiring these people? While some do not have name status due – let’s be frank – to their astronomically low level of awareness, others have no name at all. Meme stars such as The World’s Most Interesting Man and Hide the Pain Harold (he has the goofy unfathomable smile framed by the tight white beard meme celebrity) also have a chance to monetize their very devious likenesses. Even though The Most Interesting Man is probably spending a fortune on cigars.
I used to think that being on Cameo was a sign of intense failure, but having finished it – as you might end Mario Kart – I came to re-evaluate that slightly arrogant position. Yep, it’s weird to see your teenage hip-hop idols congratulating a sales team on a great Q3. But just because some RADA-trained comedians are now, in the reinterpreted words of Withnail and me, reduced to the status of content provider, does not mean that they have failed. I urge everyone to only watch a few videos of Cameo, just to see the true professionalism and good humor that most people bring to every video. Is it so bad that celebrities can get a rating, just like an Uber driver? Or be told what to do in 250 characters or less? Or be labeled with “24 hour delivery,” as if it was a sizzling pizza?
I don’t think so: the more I looked, the more I stopped putting celebrities on a pedestal. I could relate to these people for the first time, because in many ways I could see them doing a slightly shitty, slightly demeaning job. Much like the degrading, shitty jobs we all do, day in and day out. Fame is fleeting. Nothing makes this clearer than Cameo.