Just Like Emmalina, Whoever She Is

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By Frank Ahrens
Sunday, June 18, 2006

What does it take to become an Internet video phenomenon?

Let's start with what it doesn't take.

It doesn't take high production values. It doesn't take plot or story or special effects. It doesn't take programming genius. It doesn't even take -- by the phenomenon's own admission -- having anything interesting to say.

If you're Emmalina, the latest star to blow up on YouTube, it takes being a coquettish, dancing, yoga-demonstrating 18-year-old with a lilting Tasmanian accent. Add one webcam, and you've got your phenom.

In case you've missed it thus far, YouTube is a video-sharing site. Anyone can shoot a digital video and post it there.

YouTube goes a long way toward fulfilling the early-days, pie-in-the-sky vision of the Internet: A nobody with a good idea for a song, a movie or a tale can post it on the Web and, if it has merit, it will catch fire. Musicians can bypass big record labels, aspiring directors can tell the major studios to take a hike.

Emmalina ( http://youtube.com/profile?user=Emmalina ) doesn't have a good idea for a song or a movie or anything else, as far as I can tell, other than for creating celebrity. Which may itself be a skill.

Her numbers are eye-popping. According to the YouTube counters, she has more than 4,200 subscribers to her oeuvre, which includes 28 videos ranging in length from a few seconds to a few minutes. As of 8 p.m. Friday, her work had received 363,652 views since the first video went up two months ago. That's 2,000 more than when I checked Friday morning, making it one of the most popular destinations on YouTube.

Put her numbers in a little perspective: NHL playoff games -- actual professional athletes competing live in actual produced events with actual stakes riding on the outcome -- are averaging about 850,000 U.S. television viewers.

Emmalina's growing empire also includes a blog and a MySpace profile, natch. She may bypass the NHL by the time the Stanley Cup is awarded.

Her video blogs, or vlogs, feature her talking about her day, her boyfriend, her pet mouse (which she introduces on camera) and any old mundane thing that pops into her head. She admits that many of the postings are boring, but that seems only to incite viewership. She also dances in front of the camera and does yoga, which has caused her videos to turn up on some less-tasteful sites.

You know you're a phenom when you have imitators, haters and parodists. Plenty of YouTube filmmakers have posted their own homages to and attacks on Emmalina. The funniest I've seen is this rap from LazyDork, bemoaning his own anonymity, wishing he could be "Just Like Emmalina": http://youtube.com/watch?v=M8VjJuHl5nU&search=lazydork .

I e-mailed Emmalina to see if she'd be up for answering a few questions. She got back to me right away and said she'd be happy to answer. So I e-mailed her a bunch, but she didn't e-mail back by deadline. Maybe it's the time difference, or maybe answers require a contribution to her PayPal account, which she calls the "Emmalina-is-cheap-and-wants-your-money fund."

Clearly, much of Emmalina's popularity is based on her appearance.

She plays with the concept of voyeurism and even waxes a little prudish about her viewership; knowing that she's watched by "creepy old men" who are "at least 40" unsettles her. At the same time, in another video, she says she's not so worried about people seeing some suggestive photos of her, obviously, "because I put them on the Internet ! "

Maybe Emmalina has that "it" that performers like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton have -- a combination of looks, attitude and fame-for-no-reason that more than compensates for their lack of what traditionally would be called "talent."

If you're not the daughter of a hotel magnate and don't enjoy the entree that brings, then perhaps you can trampoline your way to YouTube fame, and be just like Emmalina.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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