The New Old-Fashioned Way
Acacia Brinley and Jairus Kersey are a 21st-century love story
Brinley Rey Kersey was born May 14 in Eugene, Oregon. The daughter of Acacia Brinley Clark and Jairus Kersey weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces and was welcomed into the world with 290,000 “likes” on Instagram.
You’ve probably never heard of Acacia Brinley, a 19-year-old singer/social-media personality, but that’s the way fame works in the 21st century. Instead of waiting for record companies or magazine editors to decide you’re somebody important, you just put yourself out there on the Internet and build a fan base. Three years ago, Acacia’s band Watercolor got about 300,00 views for the YouTube video of their song “Stick Around,” which isn’t bad for a bunch of teenagers. The guitarist sucked and the production values were crap, and I swear to God back in my day there were dozens of garage bands that sounded a million times better, but there was no YouTube back then, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
The one good thing about Watercolor was Acacia Brinley, whose pouty good looks made her something of an Internet celebrity after her band broke up. She gathered a following on Tumblr and Instagram and got involved with various online dramas of the kind you expect from fame-hungry teenagers. That’s the thing about the do-it-yourself ethic of social-media stardom — without publicists and managers to tell them how to present their “image,” these kids just do stuff on the Internet and whatever stuff they do (some of which is intensely stupid) becomes their online persona.
A couple of years ago, Acacia broke up with her boyfriend, Bennett “Benn Suede” Vogelmann, guitarist for the band Crown the Empire. Less than six months later, in October 2015, she announced she was moving in with her new boyfriend, Jairus Kersey, the 24-year-old singer for Alive Like Me, an alternative rock band that had released one album. This caused some online controversy, and it has been alleged by Internet gossips that Acacia “stole” Jairus from her ex-best friend. Well, I don’t know whether to believe that kind of gossip, but this is the kind of nasty stuff you get when you have kids living in the social-media spotlight without adult supervision.
Speaking of adults, Acacia was not quite 18 when she announced she was moving in with Jairus, but as she said in the (super-annoying) video about their new home in L.A., “In my family, being 18 means ‘see you later’ and moving out. And you start your own life.” Which is arguably better than parents sending their kids to college to major in Gender Studies, then to grad school for a master’s degree, so that they can move back home at age 26, living in mom’s basement with $100,000 in student-loan debt.
Grow up, move out — a very old-fashioned idea, but evidently still feasible, even on the ad revenue from a YouTube channel. Acacia has more than 700,000 subscribers on her channel, while the “Acacia and Jairus” channel has more than 180,000 subscribers — a rather substantial online audience for a teenage girl and her boyfriend. DIY Internet fame may not be as lucrative as a TV or movie contract, but the advertising income for a good month might be a few thousand bucks. And this looks like a very good month for the young couple. The video of Brinley’s birth has gotten more than half-a-million views already — ka-ching!
Capitalism is a beautiful thing, and babies are beautiful things, too. The technology that allows Acacia and Jairus to broadcast their lives to hundreds of thousands of viewers didn’t even exist 15 years ago, but capitalism made it possible — investors saw the potential of YouTube when it was just an idea in the minds of three former PayPal employees, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. Now it’s producing billions in annual revenue from advertisers, and a few thousand bucks a month of that revenue stream will end up in the bank account of baby Brinley’s young parents.
In general, I can’t stand watching YouTube videos, most of which strike me as amateurish dumbed-down versions of “reality TV.” But my kids spend hours watching their favorites, and it’s weird how certain performers build massive followings — hundreds of thousands of regular viewers, larger than the average audience for an MSNBC show. Think about that: Cable TV anchors with multi-million-dollar salaries getting fewer viewers than some kid on YouTube with a webcam and a laptop.
Baby Brinley is just two weeks old, and already has her own fandom. By the time she’s 18, she’ll probably be a second-generation YouTube superstar.
Some will say it’s unfortunate that Acacia and Jairus aren’t married, but considering that every other YouTuber is coming out as gay or trans, at least this couple is doing the old-fashioned heterosexual thing successfully.
Congratulations on your success, kids. Keep up the good work.