'Hide your kids': Viral stars dish on ups and downs of instant fame

Viral fame is a fleeting and unpredictable thing. Antoine Dodson became famous for a funny interview he delivered after an intruder broke into his home.

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Shirtless jogger Ethan Renoe captured hearts around the world when he stopped for a TV interview. And Jordan Axani became a huge topic of watercooler conversation for a couple weeks, with his offer of a free trip around the world for one lucky woman with a very specific name.

On Thursday, the "Bed Intruder Guy," the "Shirtless Jogger" and the "Trip Around the World Guy" joined CTV's Canada AM to reflect on their respective rises to viral stardom, and on what comes after that fame fades.

Axani became Internet famous when he launched a search for a travel companion with the same name as his ex-fiancée, Elizabeth Gallagher. The Toronto native had booked a trip for two around the world, and he wanted to share it with someone whose name would match the one on all the tickets he'd already purchased.

Axani said it was "mind-boggling" to see how quickly his online offer spread online, within hours of his posting it. "It ended up blowing up on the Internet overnight," Axani said. "The next morning, as it was blowing up, as it was going viral, I kept thinking: 'Is this viral?'"

For "Shirtless Jogger" Ethan Renoe, fame came to him even quicker. Fifteen minutes after he appeared on live TV in Chicago, shirtless and well-muscled, a video of Renoe had already gone viral.

"I ran back from that interview, and within that mile that I ran back, the video had gotten about 24,000 views," Renoe said.

During his interview, Renoe told the TV audience that he loves "running in the rain," and that he was single.

On Thursday, Renoe said he's still single, although his viral fame has allowed him to move to Los Angeles to pursue new career opportunities.

Antoine Dodson said fame started creeping up on him the night after he gave the interview, when a friend told him the video was shown on the nightly news. "I just remember laughing, because I felt the interview was funny," he said. "I really didn't think that I would be instantly famous."

Dodson's friend put the video online that same night, and it quickly blew up. The original video now has over 62 million views on YouTube, while a musical, auto-tuned version of the song has 131 million views.

Dodson quickly became a viral star, and found himself working almost non-stop. He said he travelling on airplanes three to four times a week, flying to appearances in all parts of the United States. His fame has faded in recent years, but he insists he's "still riding that wave," with a reality show set to debut on a U.S. network later this year.

Axani said he also "rode the wave" of viral stardom, as he found himself fielding offers to do TV shows and movies. "But then I totally crashed and burned, 100 per cent," he said.

Axani said he's glad he turned most of those offers down. Instead, he tried to use his temporary fame to promote a charitable cause he believes in. "If you give into that, then you're just a commodity," he said. "It was all about saying no to the salacious stuff and saying yes to things where we could actually help people."

Axani has used his viral success to launch a digital start-up called Bounde, which seeks to help people deal with mental illness using digital apps.

"It's a great launching off point for things that I really believe in," he said.



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