With the White House Correspondents' Dinner coming up this weekend, we're all in a tizzy — partially because we're excited, but mostly because we want to figure out what it is about some celebrities that made Arianna Huffington want to invite them to the dinner instead of us. Arianna, I read The Huffington Post every day; I thought we had something! So, what is it about Nash Grier that got him invited to the event of the year?
As it turns out, Huffington's invitations this year are based on a strategic theme: She invited people who have become stars through digital media. This includes everyone from Sarah Koenig to Bethany Mota, Sean Parker to Neil deGrasse Tyson, and somewhere in the middle, Nash Grier. Grier isn't the only Viner to be invited to the cool table, but he's certainly the most popular — after KingBach recently ascended to the No. 1-followed spot on Vine, Grier became the user with the second-highest number of followers: 11.5 million, to be exact. Huffington told The Washington Post of her mission:
There’s a new power center. People whose names you might not have heard of have tremendous power — and we want to know them.
So why exactly is Grier so famous? What makes his videos so popular with so many people — specifically teenage girls? Like almost any Viner, he makes six-second videos detailing pretty normal moments at home and at school, either alone or with friends. He only joined in the summer of 2013, but he's amassed tons of followers through the humor he infuses into these everyday moments. As The Huffington Post puts it:
He started posting bite-sized clips filmed in his bedroom, or, for something truly exotic, the local Wal-Mart. These mini-movies, with titles like “When you can't find your phone in your pockets…" trade on the mundane minutiae of high school life, and they drive girls wild.
Like chugging a Red Bull laced with Pixy Stix, the videos hit female adolescents with the emotional equivalent of a sugar high. They’re carefully-edited, six-second jolts of humor that are big on action, short on subtlety and long on relatability.
Grier is savvy about his popularity, and he even has a team to handle things like public relations and advertisers. The Huffington Post reported that major brands pay $25,000 to $100,000 for Grier to plug their products in his Vines. That amount of money is enough to make any teenager's head spin. And it's his quick rise to fame that, not surprisingly, led him to some unwanted controversy over the content of his videos.
In 2014, the teenager became the subject of heavy media attention when he started gaining large numbers of followers, and people began noticing the frequency with which he tossed around homophobic slurs. After posting one Vine in July 2014 in which he loudly yells a homophobic slur, Grier was heavily criticized. He took down the video and later issued an apology via Twitter.
Fellow social media star Tyler Oakley, who is vocal about gay rights on his wildly popular YouTube channel, called out Grier for the video.
Oakley and Grier will likely have to meet each other face-to-face at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, as Huffington invited them both. It probably isn't a stretch to suggest we'll be seeing this meeting on Vine.
Grier has come under fire for other videos he's made. In addition to his Vine page, he has a popular YouTube channel, where he posts videos like the one below. This particular video, which is an extremely long and drawn-out description of all the vague adjectives and physical traits that Grier and his friends "look for in girls," was later taken down after criticism that Grier and co.'s comments were sexist.
So why would Arianna Huffington invite a social media celebrity who admittedly has a large following, but is also the center of heated controversy on issues that many of her readers are no doubt passionate about? It's simple: There is no such thing as bad publicity. The intense levels of emotion that Grier stirs up in young people — either very negative or highly positive — make him a smart choice of invitee. Plus, The Huffington Post already has a history with Grier: When he wanted to make a public apology for his infamously homophobic video, he did so through an opinion piece on the Huffington Post. The question isn't where you've seen Nash Grier — it's where you won't see him after this weekend.