There was a time when being an internet celebrity basically meant your porn video had been “leaked” online, and as long as you followed it with a breathless, dewy-eyed rebuttal, you gained subsequent notoriety and dubious stardom (I’m looking at you, Kardashian). But thanks to Perez Hilton, reality television and more panty-less celebutantes than you can shake Kanye’s dick at, it’s harder to get noticed these days.
Thankfully, getting noticed has never been a problem for Todrick Hall. This quintuple-threat sensation (he sings, dances, acts, choreographs and directs) has become a veritable YouTube star, with video parodies of Disney songs, pop tunes and a fierce Beyoncé mashup of 70 songs in four minutes.
Television audiences first saw Hall on Season 9 of American Idol. But while he may not have taken home the big prize, he shrugged off the loss and forged his own path to stardom. His YouTube videos have been seen by millions.
“YouTube has changed the name of the game for so many people,” Hall says. “There are a lot of people who fit into a cookie cutter mold and can just get out there and book gigs, but there are some of us who don’t fit in like that.
“YouTube gave me the opportunity to create my own roles and basically to create commercials for myself, to show what I can do. It’s a very democratic thing that way. It’s given the audience a voice. It’s giving everybody the equal opportunity to be successful.”
That’s not to say that he hasn’t gone above and beyond in seizing the opportunity. From his very first video — a hilarious clip of him singing his order to a McDonald’s drive-through speaker (complete with backup singers) — to his urban sendups of Disney princes and princesses, Hall has busted his butt writing dialogue and adapting songs, choreographing, directing and even editing his mini-musical films.
“The McDonald’s drive-through order was a pivotal moment for me,” he says. “I had just gotten eliminated from American Idol and I was trying to figure out what to do. I was doing a show on Broadway but to be honest, nobody would know me from doing two shows a day, six days a week. Then the video got millions of views, and I realized how much power we have.”
The power to entertain, certainly. But Hall also realized he had the power to inspire when he came out in his “Cinderfella” video, a magnum opus complete with special effects, large-scale choreography and a flawless mix that blends Disney classics with top 40 hits. Like so many of his videos, there are several laugh-out-loud moments: just try not to sneeze your cocktail when Alice (formerly of Wonderland) segues from The Little Mermaid’s “Kiss the Girl” into Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” all while grinding with Jasmine from Aladdin.
That video, along with Hall’s “It Gets Better” offering, cemented a fanbase across the spectrum of gender and sexuality. The icing on the cake for his Toronto fans will be a hotly anticipated appearance at this year’s Pride celebrations, followed by his live extravaganza Toddlerz Ball. Then it’s back to production for the launch of Todrick, an MTV reality show that takes viewers behind the scenes of his parody videos. It’s an exhausting schedule, but it’s all part of this talented young man’s quest for success on his own terms.
“It’s awesome to go out and connect with the people who are watching you and sharing you and favouriting and retweeting you,” he says. “A YouTube celebrity needs their fans so much more, because we don’t have the big machines behind us, putting us in magazines and keeping us out there. So our fans are just everything to us.”