Kiwi Youtube sensation LonelyGirl15 celebrates 10 year anniversary

Lonelygirl15 was eventually unveiled as former Mt Maunganui woman Jessica Rose. Photo / Supplied
Lonelygirl15 was eventually unveiled as former Mt Maunganui woman Jessica Rose. Photo / Supplied

Since June 2006, millions of people have watched 16-year-old Bree Avery's YouTube videos about life in her "really, really boring" small American town.

Her videos are nothing special - she complains about her family, boys and pulls funny faces - but Bree soon became one of the internet's first viral sensations.

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Millions tuned in to watch her awkward, fumbling rants and she gained a loyal following online.

But four months after LonelyGirl15 posted her first video, Bree Avery was outed as a fake.

Her real name is Jessica Rose, a Los Angeles actress - formerly from Mount Maunganui in New Zealand - employed by two young filmmakers. The whole show was fiction.

"A lot of the hardcore fans were really quite sad and I don't blame them," says Rose in a new interview to mark the show's 10-year anniversary.

"It's like you lose a friend, which a lot of people felt like. But that girl doesn't actually exist."

Rose, her co-star Yousef Abu-Taleb and the show's creators Miles Beckett and Mesh Flinders, sat down with Vocativ to talk about the legacy of their strange series.
Here are the 10 things we learned from the interview.

1. The internet was nothing like it is now

Lonelygirl15 aka Jessica Rose. Photo / Supplied
Lonelygirl15 aka Jessica Rose. Photo / Supplied

Jessica Rose: "At that time, I did have a MySpace, but I didn't use it often. I had an e-mail, but I also checked maybe once a week. The internet just ... for me, it wasn't what it is today, where you use it every five minutes.

"[The show's creators] had us watch a few YouTube channels. I found it really strange and voyeuristic just watching this other person's life. I watched that and I was like, 'Okay, that's kind of cool. I get it. Sort of.'"

2. The creators found their star on Craigslist

Jessica Rose: "It was when I first started acting in Los Angeles, so I submitted myself on Craigslist. They called me in...and I just auditioned.

"As I was leaving, I let them know that I had been home-schooled, which worked out really well, because obviously they were looking for someone who wasn't going to be too well-known in public."

3. LonelyGirl was supposed to be a feature film

Jessica Rose:"When we got there, they told us it was actually going to be on the internet, and that it was going to be on this thing called YouTube, and it was going to be called LonelyGirl15.

"My heart just dropped, because...I'd gotten so excited when I booked this movie that when they told me what it was, I was like, 'This is one of those scams. This is probably porn, or something really dodgy.'

"I was really upset. Actually, Miles called me later on, because he could tell that I was not into it anymore, and was like, 'It's not porn! I promise!'"

4. Their following came from click-bait, before click-bait was a thing

Miles Beckett: "Every single comment that somebody would write, we would write back to.
Through that, we were able to get the videos consistently into [YouTube's] most-discussed section. It worked shockingly well, because by July 4 [the series debuted on June 16] we had our first video to get half a million views, which was the video My Parents Suck.

"Other things that worked: really good freeze-frame thumbnails for videos...something that makes people want to click. It was like click-bait before there was click-bait."

5. Fans constantly doubted whether it was real

Yousef Abu-Taleb: "In the beginning there was constantly comment wars on YouTube. People would say, 'It's fake' and other people would say...'If it was fake, the production value would be way better.'

"In the beginning, it was just four of us and a little crappy web camera and a nightstand that was actually broken."

6. Jessica had to stay hidden to keep the secret

Jessica Rose: "I had two jobs other than LonelyGirl. When it started to get popular they were like, 'We don't want you out.' They took out a loan so they could pay us a very small salary to not go to work, and just do LonelyGirl.

"I was out at the bookstore once in Santa Monica...I got home, and one of the comments on the thing was, 'I could've sworn I saw you at Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica today.' And they were like, 'But I knew for sure it couldn't be you, because there's no way you'd be in Santa Monica.'"

7. Fans threatened to expose the show as fake

Mesh Flinders: "Jess was having to wear a hat and sunglasses. She couldn't go out of her apartment.

"It was getting to a point where people were writing directly to us - because we maintained the account for LonelyGirl - and saying, 'I know you're a fraud and I'm going to expose you.' People hacked us and that just freaked us out."

8. Then mainstream press started digging

Jessica Rose: "I remember about two months in that, I think it was The Tyra Banks Show, asked Bree to come on her show. Bree, not me, the character. I was like, I absolutely cannot do that. I don't think I could've pulled it off. That was when it started to get kind of out of hand, with the whole press sensation."

Mesh Flinders: "The decision was made for us. We were either going to admit to it or the whole world was going to know about it."

Miles Beckett: "We were terrified that if the press went the wrong way, maybe people would hate us. But after the press, viewership skyrocketed even more."

9. The revelation made them more popular, so they rode the wave

Miles Beckett: "It was the number one channel on YouTube from subscribers and views, for six months to a year, around when YouTube was bought by Google. We were meeting with every single studio and network in town.

Our first advertiser was [chocolate brand] Hershey's...Neutrogena was our first six-figure sponsor."

10. When the show ended in 2008, Bree had to die

Jessica Rose: "It was kind of my decision to have Bree die. I was the only way that Bree was going to go down. She just couldn't be like, 'Peace. I'm out. Maybe I'll come back and maybe not.' She had to die.

"We went into contract renegotiations and it just wasn't going to work. It kind of felt like Bree was up in the air...She sort of had gone a little too far into this whole cult thing. It was very hard to bring her back as the original Bree, as how she'd been in the beginning.

"I think that made her a bit stuck, and it made it not the Bree that I had enjoyed playing in the beginning. So then they decided, 'Yeah, she's going to die. We're going to make it, like, epic.'

- news.com.au

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