They got people to like their videos. They got people to subscribe to their channels. Now, they’re some of the biggest social stars of 2019 — and in some cases, the decade — who’ve also been able to take their success on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and more, into the mainstream.
It’s not just been a big year for Lilly Singh, but decade. In September, the 31-year-old, who started her enormously popular YouTube channel in 2010, added another major job to her résumé: late-night talk show host. She made history with her show A Little Late With Lilly Singh — the replacement for NBC’s long-running Last Call With Carson Daly — becoming the first person of Indian descent and first openly LGBTQ person to host an American network late-night broadcast.
Tyler Blevins, a.k.a. Ninja, stepped away from the gaming console long enough to dress up like a ice cream cone and compete on Fox’s smash-hit singing competition The Masked Singer. The professional gamer and streamer may have a huge following, but many viewers of the 2019’s most outrageous reality competition didn’t know who he was. They did, however, by the end of the season 2 premiere, when he was eliminated after a sing-off against The Tree — (click here to see which celebrity that was eventually revealed to be).
It’s possible no social star had a more meteoric rise this year than Lil Nas X. The 20-year-old — who as a teen, he says, was hoping to gain internet fame on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (where he did find some thanks to memes he created) — not only created one of the catchiest songs of the year with “Old Town Road” but it was one that gained attention on TikTok earlier this year thanks to the #YeeHaw Challenge. Oh, and he also broke records with the song that eventually was remixed to feature Billy Ray Cyrus: “Old Town Road” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July, staying there for 19 weeks, surpassing previous record-holders “Despacito” (Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber) and “One Sweet Day” (Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men). The singer-songwriter has already picked up two American Music Awards, two MTV VMAs, and won a CMA Award in November, making him the first openly LGBTQ person to do so. He’s also nominated for six Grammys, including Best New Artist and the top award, Album of the Year.
To see which other social media stars had a big 2019 beyond the various digital platforms, check out the video above, which was made in collaboration with What’s Trending.
And click here for more of EW’s Best of 2019.
- The most memorable shipper moments of 2019
- Lilly Singh gets tied up with Downton Abbey movie stars for spin on Pictionary
- Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ breaks Billboard Hot 100 record for most weeks at No. 1
- The Ice Cream speaks! Here’s how The Masked Singer recruited the mysterious celebrity