Here's What Happened To People From Some Of The Biggest Viral Stories Of 2016

And what they've learned undergoing the fast, finicky current of internet fame.

It may only have been a year or less since a select group of people were pulled into the strange paradigm of "going viral," but in the craziness of 2016, that can feel like a lifetime.

BuzzFeed News tracked down a few of the people who went ~mega-vi~ in 2016 to find out what they're up to, what going viral has taught them, and to reflect on the year.

The people we talked to were involved in Twitter drama, boudoir shoots, random teen memes, humanity at its best, humanity at its worst, and dogs.

Without further ado, here are some quick snapshots of a life-after for people who went viral in 2016:


By 2016 standards, the "Damn Daniel" phenomenon already feels a decade old. Not much context is needed to explain how high school teens Daniel Lara and and Josh Holz gained nationwide fame overnight, but also...not much context can really explain it.

It was what it was.

And in mid-February it was everywhere.

Post–Ellen Show, life for Lara and Holz has gone back to normal.

Emerson Miller

After the initial burst of fame and press-touring — they named "traveling" and "going to events" as highlights — Lara and Holz returned to school.

However, the duo have much bigger ambitions once they graduate, they told BuzzFeed News, such as photography, videography, modeling, and learning more about the entertainment business.

To this day, they said strangers and classmates will still approach them and ask the same handful of questions.

"They always ask me, 'Do the voice' or 'Are you the Damn Daniel guy?' [or] 'How's Ellen?'" Holz said.

"'Are you still friends with Josh?' [and] 'Are you really in high school?'" are other questions they've been asked, Lara said.

The two have already started thinking beyond "Damn Daniel" when they graduate high school in 2018.

Holz said he wants to continue to make content for the internet, but he's always had a passion for photography and videography.

"I'll probably take a career in that direction," he said. "Who knows...I'm still young."

Lara is also focused on finishing school first. While he admitted he's not completely sure what his long-term goals are, he's "learning a lot about the entertainment business."

"For now, I am starting to create more videos and I just want to enjoy these next couple of years, maybe continue to model," he added.


A few months ago, 25-year-old Kyle Harris was pulled into a messy love triangle/pregnancy hoax on Twitter. The drama was eventually aired out to millions of people online.

Twitter: @LING_LING156

Here's a summary:

Harris was called out on social media for blocking his then-girlfriend/side-bae Shantasia Phillips. Phillips tweeted an ultrasound picture, tagging Harris and claiming she was impregnated by him. Harris refused to accept the news, as he claimed they used a condom. And then he accused his friend of being the baby's father. Harris eventually revealed he had a (main-bae) girlfriend, Brená. But she broke up with him as this all played out on Twitter. This was all standard love-triangle affairs until Phillips admitted to BuzzFeed News she had faked the entire pregnancy and stolen the ultrasound photo from the internet.

Harris, who's currently residing in Erie, Pennsylvania, said he still sees Phillips around town, but they've ceased communication entirely.

Kyle Harris

He's since gotten back on friendly terms with his ex, Brená, but it hasn't been so rosy with other people.

"A lot of women look at me like a scumbag now," he told BuzzFeed News.

Harris said that dating has been tough for him since the drama unfolded so publicly.

"People don't take me serious because of it," he explained. "When I'm at the mall, all types of people recognize me."

Harris said the most shocking part of the whole thing was that picked up the story, which catapulted him to fame (or, er, infamy) in his small town. He said people will often ask him if he's "the guy from BET."

"It's weird to have that type of attention," he added.

He wants the world to know that he's now a "faithful man," as a result of the drama, and is now single if anyone is interested.

Phillips did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.


During the Rio Olympics, University of Texas student Sabryna Salazar made headlines around the world for matching with — and ghosting on — Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling on Tinder. Schooling had just beaten Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly race.

Twitter: @sabwow

At the time, Salazar told BuzzFeed News she was watching the men's 100-meter butterfly race on TV when she thought the winner of the race, Schooling, sounded "familiar."

Shen then looked back through her Tinder messages and realized it was the gold medalist, and UT classmate, she had once forgotten to message back.

As hilarious and serendipitous as the story was, many commenters accused her of being "shallow" — opening a flood of harsh puns.

Salazar told BuzzFeed News that she's still on Tinder today, but has not heard from Schooling since her story went viral. She has, however, learned a valuable lesson about cyberbullying. "People are [quick] to criticize and make assumptions about someone’s character," she said.

Sabryna Salazar

Salazar explained that she did not intend for this to go viral, nor was she trying to get back in his Schooling's good graces after he won a gold medal.

"I also don’t think it makes someone superficial for not responding to a late night 'whatcha up to?' message on Tinder, just saying," she said.


A lot of you may remember, and still feel the impacts of, Yana Mazurkevich’s powerful photo series that depicted sexual assault to raise awareness.

The project, called "It Happens," was inspired by the release of Brock Turner.

Mazurkevich told BuzzFeed News she wanted to convey that sexual assault and rape is "something that actually happens in real life.”

“And this happens to real people, people close to you, people who you know,” she said. She further explained that the project was not only inspired by the media and news headlines, but from personal experiences as well.

The photos were picked up by almost every major outlet, including New York Magazine, the Daily Mail, Seventeen, and Mic, among others.

Almost immediately, Mazurkevich received an outpouring of heartfelt "thank you" messages from around the world. She said the most insane and unexpected effect of her photos going viral was overhearing her name among incoming freshmen tour groups on campus.

Yana Mazurkevich

"When people see influence in my work and use it to inform their communities... That’s probably the most rewarding feeling," she said.

Mazurkevich added that among all the support she's gotten around the world from strangers, many of them have shared their own personal stories with her, or have asked her about volunteering opportunities.


In September, photographer Lindsay Coulter captured photos of Ibrahim Halil Dudu, a recent Syrian refugee to Canada, helping to fix a broken zipper for a bride. Dudu didn't know the bride, but being a tailor, he stepped in to help.

Lindsay Coulter / Via Lindsay Coulter

Coulter was there to capture photos of the bride getting ready on her wedding day when the bride discovered that zipper on her dress would not close.

When no one at the wedding was able to fix it, a bridesmaid asked the neighbors.

"The bridesmaid came back [and] she said the neighbor not only has pliers but also is sponsoring a Syrian refugee family, and the father was a master tailor,” Coulter recalled.

Coulter's photos of Dudu touched people around the world, and he was quickly featured by CTV News, NPR, and others.

Coulter told BuzzFeed News Dudu would like to maintain a more private life, but she's kept in contact with him and said he's adjusted well to life in Canada.

Lindsay Coulter

She said the photos led people and organizations to donate money "for the Dudu family and other Muslim families in the area" to continue to help refugees settle into their new lives.

"One of the best things that's happened to me since the photos went viral was being able to witness how much good really exists in the world and how wonderful people all over the world are," Coulter said.

She admitted that she took a hiatus from social media because of all of the "negativity."

Coulter said that she had just had lunch with Dudu and his family, and their sponsor family, to celebrate the holidays.

"I don't think Mr. Dudu even knows yet what an impact his small act of kindness has had on the world," she added.


Another set of photos that had its own, erm, influence this year was the boudoir shoot that had Harry Potter fans dropping their homework, groceries, and jaws.

They are quite simply photos of a very attractive model named Zach Howell playing the role of Harry Potter...if the role only involved undressing and smiling sheepishly away from the camera.

"My patronus just changed into water because I am thirsty," one commenter reacted.

Since the photo shoot went mega-viral, Howell said he's not only gotten more modeling work, but his messages are also filled with...other unsolicited requests and photos.

Sarah Hester

We'll let you imagine what they are, but he told BuzzFeed News the aftermath "was just wild."

Howell said "even for a conservative state like Oklahoma," he still gets noticed and stopped in his everyday life, just running errands.

He said he notices people often taking photos of him without flash when they are "trying to be discreet."

But overall he is grateful to have thirst be the catalyst for his rising career.

"Honestly, this experience is amazing," he said.


In early May, Spencer and Whitney Blake helped people laugh at what is otherwise a painful process in parenthood. The Blakes coordinated a photo shoot to "announce" their infertility.

Spencer and Whitney Blake

After trying for a child for a year, they were diagnosed with "unexplained infertility," they told BuzzFeed News.

The Blakes, who have two adopted sons, decided to use humor as a way to cope with the often difficult and discouraging moments of infertility.

They drew inspiration for their photo shoot from typical pregnancy announcement tropes.

Their photos spread quickly across the web and were featured on Huffington Post,, and People, among many other outlets.

Spencer told BuzzFeed News the media coverage helped them start conversations with other parents going through infertility, which can feel like a lonely experience for couples.

Spencer and Whitney Blake

"We got dozens of emails from people sharing their stories," he said.

"Infertility can feel very lonely so I guess it's nice to see people connecting and supporting one another over a trial that is so very difficult and often very unrecognized," he said.

They currently have no plans to expand their family, he added.

"We waited so long for those kiddos," he said of his sons. "Now that they're here we're doing our best to savor being their parents.


Many people around the world fell in love with a woman named Karishma Walia this year. She swiftly called off an arranged marriage to a New Delhi man after he pressured her to get rid of her dog.

Karishma Walia

“My mom thought he’s an excellent match because he’s good-looking and well-off,” Walia said. “There was a lot of family pressure, and they still think I did the wrong thing by raising the concern about my dog.”

But Walia maintained firmly that it was either her and her dog or none of them at all.

Walia recently told BuzzFeed News that she still has no interest in maintaining any contact or relationship with her former husband-to-be.

Karishma Walia

He has tried to contact her a few times since her story went viral, but she has not responded. However, she still gets private messages every day from "people all over the world, especially women, [coming] forward with their stories," she said.

Walia said women tell her "how they too want to stand up for themselves."

"Many matrimonial sites started platforms for pet lovers" because of her story, she added.

Walia said she wants to continue to be an advocate for women and animal rights.

"[I] would want to tell everyone out there that being human doesn't make us entitled," she said. "Do not make your pet 'until-you-get-married' sorts. It really does hurt them."

Note: We were not able to reach out to everyone, and not everyone was able to respond in time, but we'll revise the update as we hear back.



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.