Derrell Jones, 48, is a "humble" and "high-spirited" guy, according to his daughter, 21-year-old Nautica Jones. If you live in the Richmond, Virginia, area, you may know him as a machine operator at a local chemical-production company or a sports fanatic or a family man, as Nautica described him to BuzzFeed News.
But if you're a person of the internet, you probably know him as That Guy from this purse-lipped reaction meme. Nautica never expected that the image she captured of her dad in 2014 would go insanely viral and that, even five years later, people would still recognize and approach Derrell multiple times a week.
The image of Derrell has seen its many hilarious iterations and evolved over the years, but the origins of the image are somehow even funnier. In a recently viral Twitter thread, Nautica explained that she snapped the exact moment her dad turned around to react to a comment her aunt had made at the time.
According to Nautica, at a family function in 2014, her aunt had remarked about trying to make her ex-husband's new fiancé jealous by making her license plate say "'#1' with her married last name," indicating she was his first wife. That's when her dad abruptly turned around and said to her aunt, "Jamie, shut the hell up; you sound stupid," making that now-immortalized facial expression.
Nautica told BuzzFeed News she had her phone in her hand and was able to catch the visceral look on her dad's face.
Sometime after, and separately, she shared the image as her own reaction image to a tweet about finding out surprising information about her then-boyfriend's past hookups.
"I chose my dad’s face [and tweeted], 'When you find out who bae used to mess with,'" she said. "I usually post at night, and the next morning it was blown up. People were retweeting and faving like crazy."
In the relatively early days of Twitter-viral, it had gone very viral. "At the time, he didn’t know I was going to put it out there," she said of her dad. "Once I did, he was like, 'Man. that’s funny.'"
She joked that her 16-year-old self thought she and her family were well on their way to Hollywood.
"I thought we were going to be famous. I was like, 'Oh my god, this is so many retweets. We’re going to be on The Ellen Show!'" Nautica recalled, laughing.
She also recalled the moment she realized just how quickly that image she took of her dad became iconic. She and her dad, who's a huge sports guy, saw his face blasted on ESPN one day.
"I knew it was 'big big' when it was on ESPN — it was [featured] with other memes, like the guy who had the cellphone with glasses, the baby Chloe … and then my dad was in the corner."
Derrell hilariously told BuzzFeed News that his first thought upon seeing himself online and then on national television was, "Wow, I'm hood famous."
"People began recognizing me as the meme guy ever since, which is very exciting," he added.
Both Nautica and Derrell described the unique experience of being approached as a social media–famous person IRL over the years.
"Some people will make him do the face," she said. "He’s so humble about it. He’ll make the face, he’ll take the picture; it doesn’t really faze him. Unless he's in the middle of eating."
Derrell said he still gets approached by strangers and asked to take photos several times a week.
"I get a kick out of how people react when I say, 'Yes, I’m that guy in the red shirt,'" he said, chuckling. "One of my favorite [times] was eating at a restaurant in DC and having the waiter from another table come over with cell in hand asking, 'Is this you?' Of course I said yes, and he proceeded to take selfies and then summoned the entire staff to come and join in with cameras flashing all over the place."
Almost exactly five years since the now-famous photo was shared publicly, Nautica decided to commemorate both that random event and a special homage to her dad for Father's Day with a tweet that also went viral earlier this week.
"My father, my famous guy, the number one guy in my life.. i lovee you dad," she wrote, including the image of the original meme.
Nautica told BuzzFeed News that her tweet was "to recognize he's my famous guy." And after years of watching her dad get recognized and adored, she's come to appreciate just how down-to-earth her father truly is.
Derrell is not what one might call a chaser of the clout, her daughter explained.
"He of course acknowledges he is a meme, but it’s not like, 'Oh my god, I got to do this or do that to impress someone online. He’s a very heartfelt person."
Nautica went on to say that he's also "a great father ... so happy, so positive. He’s high-spirited. Invested in his family. Everything is about family. He's my hero."
She's also loving hearing from strangers online about the unsuspecting but sweet impact her dad's image has had on people's real lives throughout the years.
"It gives me joy 'cause people are like, 'Your dad is a legend.' Someone even said, 'He got me through college.'"
"I really had a picture of your father in my phone," one person tweeted at her.
Another wrote that since strangers essentially "grew up" with the meme, Derrell has become "all our fathers" in a sense.
Even though Nautica has been the one more actively on social media and more versed in its idiosyncratic culture, she loves the role she plays as her dad's kind-of brand manager.
"it’s cool to be behind the scenes, helping him out, keeping everything positive and seeing his expressions, and seeing him smile," she said. "It’s a cool experience."