Many people spend their lives trying to grab their 15 minutes of fame; some succeed, some fail miserably, others get their 15 minutes and are never heard of again.
It is rare however that someone will shoot to internet fame completely unexpected as a result of uploading a few videos. That is just what has happened to one Longford lad, James Donnelly.
Twenty-year-old James is originally from Dublin but has lived in Edgeworthstown for many years. Recently he has gained a lot of attention from videos he has made which take a humorous view on life and how people act on a daily basis. Today the number of likes on his Facebook page stands at 52,669, a huge achievement by anyone’s standards considering it is less than two months old.
A few months back, James became the target of a vicious hate campaign based on the anonymous persona of “Longford Memes”, a character set up solely to poke fun at Longford. James was accused of being this mystery character however he still maintains he had nothing to do with it. His videos began when he stood up for himself on the social media website; “Basically, I started the video looking very sad and guilty and led the viewer to believe I was going to admit my part in Longford Memes but I turned it around and went on to declare my hate for tomato ketchup on my cheese burgers! It went down quite a storm.” And thus an internet star was born.
Funny and quick-witted, James doesn’t hold back with what he wants to say and it is because of this the joker was prompted to take it one step further. “Last year I wrote to Nicki Minaj on Facebook and my post got 70,000 likes and it made the national papers and a few people wrote to me asking did I do anything else like make videos and to be honest, I saw a gap in the market for it. Nobody in Ireland was online doing what I’m doing. And if they were, they weren’t making waves doing it. I thought it through and knew what I had to do to get my name out there and thankfully it worked.”
From this, James was inspired to upload further videos of himself impersonating personas of people who we can all relate to, “To be honest, I just look around me. The idea for ‘Things Irish Mammy’s and Daddy’s say’ was taken directly from things my parents say (aside from the language, that was my idea). But yeah, most of my videos would contain observational humour and I think that’s why so many people can relate to them.”
However, James doesn’t just sit around all day making Facebook videos, he works as a freelance Photographer and Journalist. “I’ve recently signed to a Media Management Company where I have my own management team. I’ve also recently signed to a photography agency in Dublin where I’ll be interviewing celebs who make appearances in nightclubs in the city.”
Being recognised when you’re a celebrity is one thing. Though being recognised around Longford is a common occurrence for James, he is finding that his new-found popularity means he is instantly recognisable everywhere he goes. “I was even on the train a good few times and I had people approach me. But it was only last weekend it really hit me. I went back to my native Dublin for a day’s shopping with my girlfriend and the amount of people who recognized me was crazy! I was in the Jervis Street shopping centre, at KFC, in the queue and all I heard was ‘Oh my god, is that James Donnelly?!’ from behind me. And I was asked to pose for a photo by a large group of lads and girls. I really didn’t think I’d be noticed in Dublin.”
With fame however, comes a mix of support and vilification but James has learned to ignore the haters and appreciate the good comments he has been receiving, “The positives are amazing. I get messages from people in Ireland, the UK, America, Canada and even Australia. I’ve gotten quite a few messages from people who’ve been going through a tough time and they’ve said my videos and content have really helped them through the hard times and made them laugh. One in particular stands out for me. I got a message from a mother in Dublin who said her son was seriously ill in hospital and the only things that were keeping him going were my videos so it was a really good feeling when I read that. The negatives are tough. Obviously with any bit of attention you’re going to get abuse. I’m told to kill myself at least 5 times a day, get thrown all kinds of insults and threats. But I’m well able for it. I must be doing something right if a fella tells me to kill myself over a video of me eating toast”.
Negative feedback aside, according to Facebook statistics over half a million people have seen one particular video made by James and his profile is growing by the day. Not only is he hoping for 100,000 likes before Christmas, he has big plans for the foreseeable future. “My management company I’ve signed to want to get to work straight away. Obviously there’ll be the celeb interviewing to start off but there are radio appearances, stand up gigs and I’ll be presenting a fashion show down in Clonmel in a few weeks also. The big thing I suppose is that we’re looking to present a few ideas to RTE hopefully after Christmas so fingers crossed that all goes well.”
Things are happening for James because he dared to do something a little different. Love him or loath him he is “Just-James”.