Until this June, Carter Reynolds was pulling in thousands of dollars and developing an adoring fanbase in the millions just by recording Vine videos. For a 19-year-old, he was on top of the world. But then, after a scandal erupted due to a private video leak, it all came crashing down.
Reynolds, 19, and his ex-girlfriend, 17-year-old Maggie Lindemann, were budding social media stars who were forced into the national spotlight in June when the video surfaced on Tumblr. It appeared to show Reynolds attempting to coerce the then-16-year-old Lindemann to perform oral sex on him while he filmed it.
It’s the kind of scandal that could take down the career of a public figure. Indeed, it has. Look no further than someone like politician Anthony Weiner, whose rising political career in the New York House of Representatives was ruined after illicit photos leaked online.
And you don’t have to run for office or star in a blockbuster to become a public figure these days. Social media users can now become stars, just by sharing their lives through videos, photos, and tweets with their many millions of loyal fans. Brands take advantage of these massive followings, paying the young stars tons of money to endorse products.
After the video leaked and Reynolds was lambasted, he did apologise. Instead of issuing a press release like a disgraced congressman or famous athlete would, he wrote an apology to his 2.38 million Twitter followers, saying, “I’m sorry to everyone I offended and especially Maggie.”
But Reynolds apparently couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie. He’d grown his huge fan base by sharing his entire life online, so he continued to do so — to his own detriment. He broadcast an ill-advised YouNow livestream in which he trashed Maggie. He got into a high-profile argument with her over Twitter. It all culminated in an embarrassing appearance at VidCon that led to him being escorted out by security.
Now, it appears his short-lived and lucrative Vine career could now be over. Companies that once paid Reynolds big bucks to promote their products are dropping their contracts, and Reynolds’ fans seem to be turning their back on their former idol.
North Carolina-based Reynolds had a cute guy-next-door image that shot him to popularity alongside other boyish Vine stars like Nash Grier, Shawn Mendes, and Cameron Dallas.
His content is full of goofy videos that showcase his humour and his friendship with well-known Vine stars, both of which appealed to younger girls. Soon Reynolds had 4.3 million Vine followers, 2.38 million Twitter followers, and over 2.9 million Instagram followers. His 6-second Vines where he’s dancing while the beat drops or yelling loudly in hopes of scaring his mum have been played nearly 770 million times.
By 2014, Reynolds had landed sponsored ad deals on Vine and YouTube with Coca-Cola, Airheads, Audible, and teen clothing brand Aeropostale. Sponsored deals like this always vary by the Viner’s follower count, but can be worth anywhere from $US5,000 to $US100,000 per post, according to Complex.
But perhaps the most lucrative of Reynolds’ paid content deals was his involvement with the Magcon Tour.
Magcon, which stands for “Meet and Greet Convention,” was created by a single dad named Bart Bordelon in October of 2013. Bordelon’s genius idea? To take the cultish popularity of Vine and YouTube superstars and sell pricey tickets for eager fans to meet their idols and watch them goof off, do backflips, and banter on stage together. $US32 got fans a general admission ticket while $US150 VIP tickets ensured a spot in the front row and a chance to take selfies with all the guys.
As far as building an online brand, these teen superstars know there’s nothing the fans of these kids love more than when one social superstar starts dating another. Reynolds had become one half of a social media power couple when he began dating Texas-based Maggie Lindemann, a gorgeous singer-songwriter who had amassed 200,000 fans on Instagram by the time she met Reynolds in early 2014. She now has over one million followers.
The pair posted selfies together at Coachella and created YouTube videos designed to appeal to their younger fans. In one video, they kissed chastely and tried to guess what flavour chapstick the other was wearing. It’s been viewed over two million times on YouTube.
“I hope Carter and Maggie will be happy together and start a family,” one fan wrote. “I think they’re a cute couple.”
They did look like any wholesome, attractive teen couple you could find at the mall, and Reynolds’ fans — and sponsors — ate it up.
In April 2014, Reynolds left the “Magcon family” alongside Hayes Grier, Cameron Dallas, and Nash Grier for unknown reasons, though some tweets hinted that perhaps some of the boys didn’t think the convention was good for their brand. A source close to the stars tells Tech Insider that Magcon was making the guys look “cheap and greedy; taking advantage of their fans’ money.” At other conventions, there’s more of an emphasis on watching stars perform in addition to meeting the fans. Magcon can feel more like a cattle call for the stars to get paid for quick selfies with their fans while providing little else in terms of entertainment.
But Reynolds went on to launch his own eponymous The Carter Tour two months later that charged a whopping $US75 for VIP tickets and featured guest stars like Lindemann and the Jason Derulo-discovered singer Alyssa Shouse. He was also invited to be a part of another meet and greet convention — DigiTour’s DigiFest — with other high-profile Vine stars like Jack and Jack, Lohanthy, Matt Espinosa, and more. The event plays around the country and charges from $US30 for a general admission ticket to as much as $US300 to get backstage.
Reynolds seemed to have it made, basking in the glory of social media fame.
But his personal life began to eclipse his social media persona in December of 2014 when it was revealed that he and Lindemann had broken up. Many fans of the couple started blaming Lindemann, 16 at the time, for the breakup and allegedly sent her death threats.
Remember the gossip-filled halls of high school? For Reynolds and Lindemann, the internet is their high school, and they seemed to both take pleasure in playing out personal drama to a public and captivated audience. The pair rekindled in
March 2015 before once again breaking up two more months later after another public spat instigated by Lindemann following her ex on Twitter and Reynolds not approving.
It seemed to all be innocuous until June, when that video of Reynolds and Lindemann appeared on a Tumblr account and was then reported on by Gawker’s Sam Biddle. Reynolds soon confirmed that it was his voice that can be heard from behind the camera saying, “Do it,” and, “Just pretend [the camera] isn’t there,” to Lindemann, apparently coercing her to perform oral sex.
The scandal made headlines.
Reynolds was promptly dropped from DigiTour. A spokesperson told TI that Reynolds was let go “effective immediately” from the DigiTour lineup after the video leaked.
While Coca-Cola and Airheads did not return Tech Insider requests for comment to see if they still had a contract with the 19-year-old social media star, an Audible spokesperson told TI, “Audible has not worked with Mr. Reynolds since January 2015 and we have no plans to work with him in the future.”
An Aeropostale spokesperson told us, “Aeropostale’s relationship with Carter Reynolds was contracted through talent agency 26MGMT for its capsule collection United XXVI. Aeropostale is no longer working with the management company or with Mr. Reynolds.”
26 MGMT did not return our repeated requests for comment.
Reynolds’ The Carter Tour — which never became quite as popular as Magcon — also seems to have flopped. The website has not announced any new tour dates after the scandal and merchandise was put on sale for 60% off.
Though business looks to be on the decline for Reynolds, the public drama does not. Earlier this month, Reynolds launched a YouNow stream where he went off on Lindemann, who he seemed to view as the source of all of his image problems.
“I didn’t rape her,” Reynolds said on YouNow about the leaked video with Lindemann. “She knows that herself. The fact that she’s trying to be all innocent now or something, it didn’t affect her that much. I know it didn’t.”
The YouNow video went viral as fans embedded it to YouTube and tweeted about its content. It also sparked a heated and very public exchange between Reynolds and Lindemann on Twitter.
The melodramatic tone of the whole affair is standard for anyone familiar with teenage love lives. But the ante is upped significantly when the he-said-she-said of high school suddenly breaks onto national platforms like Twitter, Vine, and streaming sites like YouNow, where millions of teens watch, favourite, and criticise these idolized social media stars.
Director for the Media Psychology Research Center Dr. Pamela B. Rutledge told Tech Insider that it’s difficult for these newly famous social media stars to anticipate the long term effects of their actions.
“Being thrust into the spotlight is difficult for anyone,” Dr. Rutledge told Tech Insider. “Having this happen during the teenage years can be more problematic because teen brains have not had a chance to fully develop biologically. The prefrontal cortex, which governs long-range planning and self-regulation, is not fully formed until the mid-twenties.”
Reynolds is not the only Vine star to have made a rash move that ended up getting him in trouble. Fellow Magcon sensation 17-year-old Nash Grier was called out by YouTuber Tyler Oakley in July 2014 for screaming a gay slur in a Vine. The Daily Dot also rounded up all of his homophobic rants on Twitter, and Grier was forced to apologise for his behaviour. But Grier bounced back, and remains the second most-followed Vine star today.
But don’t be so fast to say this behaviour is “a teenage thing.”
Take 32-year-old Vine star Curtis Lepore, who was charged with rape by his ex-girlfriend. He ended up taking a plea deal, pleading no contest to assault. His ex was another Vine star, Jessi Smiles.
He then dug himself in deeper on Twitter, sending out missives like, “FAV this if you would willingly have sex with me,” apparently in response to the scandal (that tweet’s since been deleted). Because of the scandal, he lost his TV show deal with “The Office” star Rainn Wilson.
“Celebrity of any variety is seductive because all of us want to be liked and to feel special,” Dr. Rutledge told Tech Insider. “It can result in people feeling that normal rules and social constraints do not apply to them” — and that violating those social constraints will not have consequences.
Reynolds may be hoping he can bounce back like Grier, but his current trajectory seems much more likely to mirror Lepore’s.
As a part of his new-and-improved image tour, Reynolds attended VidCon — like “ComicCon, but for teens and the internet video stars they idolize” — at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. But the scene was not the warm welcome back that he may have imagined. Though a few fans were happy to pose for Vines and pictures with Reynolds, many started boo-ing him. There were shouts of “rapist!” and fans flipping him off. Things escalated to the point where the VidCon staff asked Reynolds to leave.
“Carter was not invited as a Featured Creator of VidCon, his attendance was voluntary,” a spokesperson for VidCon told Tech Insider. “Based on the extraordinarily negative reception he received when he arrived, our judgement was that his safety was at risk and we requested that he vacate the event.”
Reynolds apparently saw it as more than a safety issue.
“VidCon supports bullies and is letting the public opinion on me influence theirs [sic] and the Hilton’s decisions,” Reynolds tweeted. He later revealed that he was forced to cut his stay at the Hilton across the street from the Convention Center shorter than planned after receiving death threats.
A VIDEO OF CARTER BEING KICKED OUT OF VIDCON YES pic.twitter.com/y1kooEPMKs
— veronica 79 (@swiftsapparel) July 24, 2015
To remain successful, Reynolds will need to rehabilitate the squeaky clean, boy-next-door image that was behind his massive following in the first place. But even if he does, fans may already have grown tired of what some have called his attention-seeking behaviour. Though Reynolds hasn’t lost any significant amounts of followers yet on Vine or Twitter, that doesn’t mean he won’t. People still tweet and write neagtives comments like “rapist” to Curtis Lepore as well as Reynolds to prove they haven’t forgotten about the scandals.
Lindemann for her part appears to be trying to move on. When TI reached out to her management, we were told she was doing well.
“Maggie is 100% focused on her music at this point,” her manager said. “She’s in such an incredible place right now, and she’s excited to share her sound with the world. She’s going to make mistakes. We are defined by how we rise from those mistakes. I’m so proud of her. She’s doing just fine.”
After repeated attempts to reach out to Reynolds, TI has not received a response.
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