By Mike and Barney Chunn
The Jamie's World Facebook phenomenon points to, what is in essence, a youth revolution. There are no adults near it. It is an indication of the entrepreneurial possibilities for a teenager to travel the world.
She’s got 700,000 fans in the UK. 300,000 in Italy. Over 600,000 in the US, over 100,000 in NZ, and 80,000 unread fan emails. She’s got 4 million Facebook likes, from most countries in the world, and gets ambushed on the streets by fans for photos. She’s barely left her house to achieve such success, let alone Napier, and chances are if you’re over 25, you’ve never heard of her.
Jamie Curry, author of the Jamie’s World Facebook page and a 17 year old 6th former from Napier, is an unprecedented celebrity. She started the Jamie’s World page just over a year ago, as a place for her to put short comic videos and photos for her and her friends to enjoy.
She is a star where absolutely no-one else plays a part – no agent, camera crew, publicist, casting director, manager, publisher or producer. She is a star of an entirely new world. A stream of humanity in which Jamie has become the catalyst, with her videos and photos of an exaggerated reality of the life of a teenager. So where does this come from? We drove south to Napier to find out.
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Jamie, in her maroon, very un-loud school uniform with shirt and tie and winter clobber, looks your typical sixth former. She doesn’t bounce through the door, trip on the rug and fly headlong across the room. Like most comics, and definitely teenagers, there seem to be a few different Jamie’s.
We asked: “Was there a Facebook page which you were aware of that led to your designing the concept of Jamie’s World?”
Jamie: "I don’t think there were any other pages like it… Or that wasn’t why I did it. I just used to make memes for my friends and then thought, ‘why don’t you make it into a Facebook page?’ So I did. That was it."
Not quite it. The page grew in its number of followers, as friends shared photos with their friends, who then shared photos with their friends… Exponential arithmetic saw to the rest.
"It wasn’t gradual as such… but I do remember someone from Christchurch posting on my wall ‘you’re so funny,’ and I was like, ‘OMG, someone from Christchurch!’ And then it was like, ‘Someone from Australia!’ ‘Someone from Italy!'"
She started the page on July 16th 2012, and hit 100,000 likes by Christmas that year. By April it was at 1 million, then by May, 2 million.
Her fame and connection with her audience soon reached superstar status such that she was recently accosted by hundreds of school kids when she was filming a TV slot in Auckland.
"I just saw a sea of blue uniforms. They all wanted to take photos and touch me. I got a few bruises. It was great, it was cool, but I don’t really like people touching me, haha. Eventually I had to go, but they followed us, so I had to run to the car. It was weird."
Being hounded is hardly common for NZs most famous celebrities and shows the depth of connection that Jamie’s World has had. Though it may seem difficult to register the fan base that a young girl can gather making short videos and memes in her bedroom after school, she certainly isn’t the only one out there doing it. There is a inherent understanding of her audience (being her audience herself), coupled with a conscious awareness of what else is happening in that online world, and where Jamie’s World fits within it.
"I do videos to the length of what seems to be trending. At the moment people want 6 second videos, so that’s what I do."
Though Curry is generally reserved, her tone and eyes light up and she becomes much more commanding when she discusses the possibilities of her future. She has a strong awareness of her sense of self, of her brand, as it were, and of her trajectory and goals.
"I’d like to move away from the Internet. I think people on the net just move on. In two years time, I could still have 4 million likes, but it won’t be the same, and no one knows who you are any more, you know what I mean? So if I want to do say, acting, in two years - people may be like, ‘we don’t know who you are anymore.’ I want to do ‘entertainment’ that isn’t on the Internet. People talk of ‘internet celebrities’. It doesn’t really mean anything."
Talk like this also seems like a natural progression as much as a conscious one. Like any 17 year old, you are drawn towards the future and adulthood, and begin to naturally grow out of the teenage ways that so heavily dictate Jamie’s subject matter.
Her transition from the Facebook screen to a career in show business (let’s call it) is certainly a plan. And it won’t be one where she plans to study at RADA, go through casting auditions and knock on agents’ doors. Jamie’s beautiful stance in the massive success of Jamie’s World is that she has the confidence and a sense of direction where she will make moves on her own.
"I’d rather get experience by doing it. It seems to have worked for me. But it’s because I‘m young… I want something to offer that people will respect. People don’t necessarily respect this. You know. Something that adults too will respect. I want something to show for. Something that’s going to make people go ‘wow'."
In the fine and delicate balance between self-deprecation and extrovert provocation, Jamie Curry seems poised to make moves in her singular world that will take her to new places and new heights.
"I’ve got the attention of so many people, I may as well do something useful with it."