A parent so desperate to help her young daughter get in front of YouTube celebrity “Lohanthony” offered me $US500 for my meet-and-greet admission card this past weekend at an event called inTOUR. The pair had traveled 9 hours to see the 15-year-old Bostonian teen with millions of followers on Twitter and YouTube.
InTOUR (basically a big YouTube stars convention) was held in Pasadena, California and I attended on behalf of Business Insider.
About a dozen teens and 20-somethings were there to entertain thousands of their fans who had purchased tickets to attend. The “stars” — all with millions of followers and subscribers on all social media channels — performed skits, sang songs, and told jokes.
The crowd, all 13 and 14-year-old girls, screamed wildly every time their idols appeared on stage.
Each ticket for a minor came with complimentary admission for a parent or guardian. And as the girls screamed and shrieked and gasped and yes, even cried tears of overwhelming joy, the parents stood back and watched, somewhat bewildered by their daughters’ ability to lose it over a shaggy-haired boy the majority of the world had never heard of.
VIP ticket holders were able to attend a meet-and-greet with all of the stars. Lots of selfies were taken and hugs were given.
This is JC Caylen (and a fan) on the right. He has over 700,000 subscribers on YouTube and 1.6mm followers on Twitter.
VIP ticket holders were thrilled to get to meet all of their idols. Most of them came to see one or two people in particular.
But the team that put on the event had a special surprise for general admission ticket holders. Those folks would have the opportunity to participate in a meet-and-greet with just one of the YouTube stars.
Each guest would receive a card at random with the photo of the YouTube celebrity they would be able to meet. The phrase “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” was the hope of those handing out the cards.
These were the cards.
Unfortunately, some girls didn’t get the card that they had hoped for.
There were tears. Gulpy, sad, hormonal, depressing tears. Some of the parents looked helpless, while others disciplined their kids.
At one point, I walked out of the press room to find two police officers talking to a bunch of girls who were all crying. One of the staff members at the Pasadena Convention Center told me that they were being scolded for “pushing each other to get to a girl who was offering to trade her JC Caylen card for a Ricky Dillon card.”
It was all we could do to not grin at the ridiculousness of it all, but this was the new world we were inserting ourselves in. Anything goes.
Eventually, the cards had to be taken away and hidden in a press room. I walked in to talk to some of the staff of the team putting on the event, a company called Fullscreen. When I told them I was interested in writing a story about the cards, they handed me a pile of them.
“I won’t trade them on the black market,” I joked.
But when I walked out of the room, a mum approached me, asking if I would be willing to give her my “Lohanthony” card for $US500. I explained that I was press and using the cards for a story and couldn’t sell them to her. She pleaded with me.
Her daughter, 13, was a huge fan of Lohanthony, who, at 15, has already gained fame across so many social media channels. Lohanthony, who’s real name is Anthony Quintal, told Business Insider in an interview later that day that he started making vlogs to help people feel comfortable with being who they were.
“I was bullied so much in middle school,” Quintal explained to me. “I wish there had been something online for me to watch and help me deal with that. That’s what I want to be to other people.”
Indeed, that’s what he was for this woman’s daughter, a young girl who had been having some hard times adjusting to life in 7th grade. The mum explained how much she wanted and needed the card, and told me her offer of $US500 still stood if I changed my mind.
Eventually a Fullscreen staffer helped make a meet-and-greet between the teenager and Lohanthony happen.
“Getting to meet my favourite YouTubers is cool because like, you learn that they are human, just like we are,” a teen named Alissa told me as she waited in line to see her favourite YouTube singer, Sam Tsui.
“The guys feel like our friends instead of celebrities. But they’re so much cuter than most of the boys I know,” she added.