My girlfriend and I were at a Whole Foods in New Jersey when I got the first text.
It was the Monday evening after the race, and my friend texted, “Dude, there’s a picture of you going all around the internet and, by the way, it’s fucking hilarious.”
I was like, What does that even mean?
I pulled up the photo on my phone when we got back in the car and thought it was the funniest, stupidest thing I’d ever seen: It was just a silly photo of me smiling like a dummy.
We drove back into the city and texts starting pouring in from friends and acquaintances. But by the time I got to my place in New York and got ready for bed, the fervor had mostly died down. At that point it was just a popular photo on Facebook among my friends, and not a meme. I went to bed thinking that would be the extent of it. Like, Okay, that was cool.
Never underestimate the power of Reddit, though. Will King, the guy who took the picture, had posted a link to the photo there with the title “My Friend Calls Him ‘Mr. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.’” By the time I woke up the next morning, it had been almost instantly upvoted to number one on the site and received more than 1 million views.
That’s when the photo entered “meme” status, with people adding their own captions to the photo and recirculating it on Tumblr, Twitter and every other social media site. When I signed into Facebook, I had hundreds of friend requests from total strangers.
My friends were far more excited about it than I was. My first thought was What in the world is going on? I’ve always been a quiet, keep-to-myself kind of person, so being heaved into the internet spotlight was surreal. I just tried to go about my normal life, but that became more and more difficult as the week went on. People started doing triple-takes on the streets of New York. For a minute it seemed like it was happening all the time — 10, 15 people a day asking if I was “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.” Some people even asked for photos with me, which made everyone around me assume I was a celebrity.
But it was a different kind of celebrity. It wasn’t sought after, you know? I didn’t go on a reality show. I just woke up one day and was randomly picked.
One morning when I was leaving for work, my girlfriend pushed me away from the door and said, “Don’t go out there. Inside Edition is at your stoop and they’re asking for you.” I didn’t want my first interview to be Inside Edition so I snuck out the back exit of my apartment building. I still have no idea how they found my address.
A bunch of people were whispering in King’s and my ears about how to make money off of my newfound celebrity. We started generating ideas — appearances, photo signings, a photo book, maybe. I suggested we split everything 50–50. But King wanted 100 percent of whatever we made, and I walked away.
So, technically, I never made any money off of it. But that doesn’t bother me. It was still a fun ride.
The street sightings became gradually less frequent over the next few months. I still had a few weird run-ins, though. For example, I was waiting for takeout one day in a Polish restaurant and a lady screamed, “I saw you in the newspaper in Poland!”
Since then, it’s been pretty much life as usual. In fact, no one’s noticed me in more than a year.
Which is fine by me. I didn’t bank on the picture being taken. I didn’t bank on King thinking it was interesting enough to post to Reddit. And I certainly didn’t anticipate that millions of people would think it was funny enough to write their own captions for it.
But that’s what happened.
Life is like that sometimes, you know?
— As told to John McDermott
Zeddie Watkins Little V, 29, works in restaurant management and lives in Brooklyn.