WARNING: The video contains vulgar and offensive language. Viewer discretion advised.
TORONTO — In her “Dear Fat People” video, comedian Nicole Arbour took to YouTube to rant about how fat people are killing themselves.
“If we offend you so much that you lose weight, I’m OK with that,” Arbour said in a six-minute rant exhorting overweight people to lose weight. “I’ll sleep at night.”
Never heard of her till now? The Canadian comedian, who has been posting videos on YouTube for five months without much fanfare, picked a good topic to blow up the Internet.
Honing in on a red-hot issue like body image and blaming people for it has brought the former Toronto Raptors cheerleader and Canada’s Sexiest Comedian more attention than she’s gotten for her movie roles and comedy appearances.
The video has gotten more than 20 million views on her Facebook page and 1 million YouTube views since she posted it Thursday. It has sparked many response videos from people disagreeing with her, including from “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” reality star Whitney Way Thore.
Will a controversial YouTube video translate into anything more than her allotted 15 minutes of Internet fame? Will casting agents and Comedy Central coming calling? That’s yet to be determined.
What’s clear is that people who want to become famous no longer have to be approved by a modern-day Johnny Carson or Dick Cavett or a small cabal of Hollywood studios and agents. Great jokes, music or dance moves may garner attention, but generating controversy is a sure-fire way to get noticed.
Sex tapes can have the same impact
It’s not clear whether reality star and heiress Paris Hilton’s sex tape with her then-boyfriend was for private enjoyment or something more. What we do know is that the tape was shared online in 2003, and her reality show “The Simple Life,” co-starring Nicole Richie, launched the same year.
Then-unknown Kim Kardashian’s sex tape with singer Ray J was released in 2007, and fame and fortune followed.
“I think that’s how I was definitely introduced to the world,” Kardashian told Oprah Winfrey in 2012.
Whether it’s an offensive rant or a private moment gone viral, shocking the public is now a tried and true path to fame.
The social media spotlight isn’t always positive
Sometimes, asking for social media attention can backfire, especially for those who don’t know the current mood or moods of the “Internet.”
Controversial celebrity chef Paula Deen wasn’t looking for negative attention when her social media staff tweeted out a picture of her son wearing “brownface” in July.
Her fans didn’t seem to be upset, but many others decried the picture. They asked what the popular chef was thinking, given that she was fired from the Food Network for using a racial slur.
But the tweet didn’t stop “Dancing With the Stars” from casting the lightning-rod chef on its upcoming season 21.
We expect her tweets and other social media to be vetted by Disney/ABC public relations during her appearance on the show.
Singers gotta sing — and court controversy
Happily, YouTube and other Internet sharing sites allow the young Justin Biebers of the world to show off their talent and moves without a filter, and sometimes that gets them noticed. But some stars like Bieber can stay in the spotlight with their antics.
Vine star Curtis Lepore got famous with his short online videos and was even included in Rainn Wilson’s upcoming half-hour comedy show starring five famous Vine users. He lost the gig after being charged with the rape of his ex-girlfriend. He pleaded guilty to assault and still proclaims his innocence online.
Will ‘fat acceptance’ stars get a bump?
Though “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” star Thore didn’t start the debate with Arbour over fat-shaming, she responded via YouTube on Saturday.
“The next time you see a fat person, you don’t know whether that person has a medical condition that caused them to gain weight,” said Thore, who attributed her own weight gain to polycystic ovarian syndrome.
“You don’t know if their mother just died. You don’t know if they’re depressed or suicidal or if they just lost 100 pounds. You don’t know.”
Thore’s heartfelt response generated more than 13 million views on her Facebook page and more than 150,000 YouTube views.
And the timing of the debate couldn’t be better. Season two of TLC’s “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” premieres Wednesday.
When it comes to building fame, riding a wave of controversy can be smart for the offender as well as the offended.