Fame is a communicable disease — spend enough time rubbing elbows with the stars, and you’ll soon discover that your arms are simply covered in notoriety. Before long, you could be famous in your own right without so much as an Auto-Tuned single to your name.

Take, for example, the curious case of “Stalker Sarah,” a 16-year-old girl who’s snagged photos with everyone from Brad Pitt to Justin Bieber, Justin Bieber, and Justin Bieber. Sarah M. — she doesn’t reveal her last name for fear of online predators — has been in the celebrity photo game for more than four years. As of today, her Flickr portfolio boasts over 4,800 images, most of which show Sarah grinning as she stands just to the left of a boldface name. Many of her photos are taken at high-profile premieres and parties, while others are snapped on the street or in other public spots. (“It’s almost as if I can’t get away from celebrities at this point,” she says.) Thanks to her dogged pursuit of celeb portraits, Sarah’s already been featured in the Daily Mail and on Good Morning America, among other media outlets.

So how does a normal kid stumble on herds of celebrities in the wild — and how in the world does she get invited to events like American Idol‘s finale party or Nylon‘s Young Hollywood party? Sarah didn’t reveal all of her trade secrets when EW chatted with her over the phone yesterday — but she did shed light on her process.

First and foremost: Sarah is homeschooled, which explains why she can attend daytime tapings and run into Billy Ray Cyrus at lunch. She says she left public school in fourth grade: “Some kindergartener brought a gun to school. And we just kind of decided, ‘Yeah. We’re going to do the homeschooling thing.'” The other entity implied by that “we” is Sarah’s dad, who told his daughter that as long as she got straight A’s, he’d take her to as many celebrity events as possible.

There’s a rumor that Mr. M is a paparazzo — but Sarah is quick to dismiss it, even though she won’t reveal what he does do for a living. While Sarah also claims her dad doesn’t work in the entertainment industry, he must at least have serious connections with people who do. When asked how she initially gained access to star-studded events, Sarah simply answers, “I have my sources, and I do my research.” She also told me that her manager — yes, the girl has a manager — is a “close personal family friend” who also manages her own son, a young actor on a “long-running” TV show Sarah wouldn’t name.

But connections or not, Sarah says she’s been so successful because she’s always calm and respectful when asking for photos — and because she only has kind words for the stars she meets. “I was always reading negative things about people that I liked, like Britney and Lindsay and stuff,” she explains. “I wanted to post something positive for younger kids.” Sarah has learned not to approach celebrities “if they don’t look right, or if, you know, they seem like they just wouldn’t want to take a picture.” She won’t, for example, walk up to Britney Spears when she’s playing with her kids in a park.

Sarah’s signature uniform — jeans, band T-shirt, leather jacket — has also helped her stand out among the throngs that surround celebs at all times. “It’s just my original style, and I kept [wearing] it because so many people liked it,” she says. According to Sarah, her look is so well known that last year it was “a popular Halloween costume.” The garb also helps Stalker Sarah stalkers spot the photog herself — after which they stop her and ask for pictures of their own. “I get that daily,” she says with a laugh, adding that she always obliges these requests: “I mean, I can’t say no to anybody.”

Sarah’s such a red carpet fixture that she says she could attend events every day “if I wanted to.” Though she’s been featured in the media and even made friends with a few celebs, she adds that she “was never in it for, like, fame” — she simply liked taking pictures. And while she’s attracted plenty of haters on Tumblr and Twitter, Sarah says she finds their snark motivating. “I kick back and read [hateful comments] with a bowl of popcorn, and I just laugh it off,” Sarah says. “Sometimes it upsets me when I get too many nice comments. I’m like, ‘Come on, I want some action here,'” she adds with a laugh.

Soon, Sarah might find herself under even more scrutiny. She’s recently taken a few meetings with Ryan Seacrest Productions, the company behind Keeping Up With the Kardashians — and they’re not the only ones interested in a potential Stalker Sarah project. “A lot of people have been approaching me about things lately, and I’m just trying to make the right decisions on what to do and how to move forward with everything,” says Sarah. She’d be open to acting — “I don’t get nervous in front of a camera or anything” — or hosting a reality show in which she helps other kids meet celebrities.

And given Sarah’s precocious savvy, it’s safe to guess that she’ll find wider success in Hollywood. At the very least, she’s got self promotion down: Just before we hung up, she stopped me and reconfirmed that her Twitter page would be mentioned in my article. “It’s @SarahMOnline,” she said. “There’s a lot of posers on there — but yeah. You know my Twitter.”

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