A few weeks ago, if you had mentioned the word “cameo,” I would have assumed you were talking about Elijah Wood’s two-minute appearance in Spy Kids 3 or The Weeknd’s seminal performance in Uncut Gems. Alas.
Cameo is a website and app that allows “regular” people to commission personalized videos from niche public figures, (not NOT) D-List celebrities, and up-and-coming influencers. The range is extraordinary: spanning from Housewives to early-aughts Disney Channel stars to character actors you recognize but can’t place to Gen-Z Youtubers a few tiers down from the likes of Emma Chamberlain to Snoop Dogg. And all are looking to make a buck off of making someone’s day with a three-minute-or-less video.
And I say with 100% conviction that it is the hottest Valentine’s Day gift this year.
My friend Harry Hill–a comedian slash influencer slash postmodern philosopher–was the first to introduce me to Cameo, where he charges $17 for a custom video. Over a recent breakfast he explained the process: Creators get a week to complete a request after it comes through and Cameo pays out every two days, taking a 25% commission. The videos themselves are kind of like virtual autographs, and he gets lots of requests from, in his words, “group chats and girlies” (incidentally a great name for a Babysitters Club spin-off).
I asked Harry if he had ever purchased a Cameo himself and he said yes: “I bought a Cameo from Nikki Blonsky from the movie Hairspray to post on social media, [but] she didn’t say ‘I’m Nikki Blonsky from the movie Hairspray’ so I had to buy another video. I spent $40 on Nikki Blonsky. Basically, if you want someone to say something specific, you have to tell them what you want.”
Haley’s ball and chain (lol), Avi, recently bought a Cameo of Riff Raff for his friends before their move to Poland because “Choppin’ Blades” was their collective anthem. His thoughts spilled out so more cogently than mine re: the absolute WEIRDness of Cameo: “Scrolling through, seeing people you forgot occupied brain space, and seeing them charge to leave a video voicemail feels weird and overwhelming when it’s presented as an endless scroll…You get this sense that everything good has passed, and what remains is the memories that you can unlock at $50 a pop.” Then again, he says it’s the best gift he’s ever gotten anyone.
So: Let’s unlock. Here are 10 Cameo thought-starters that can serve either as gifts for no reason (like this one Haley has watched upwards of 70 times of Cheer star La’Darius from her long-distance BFF) or a creative sub for a Russell Stover box this Valentine’s Day, because what better way to say I love you than with a video of Criss Angel listing off your friend’s/partner’s/mother’s best qualities?
Have everyone in your group chat or, alternatively, everyone in your office, pitch in a few bucks to have Bachelor/Bachelorette host Chris Harrison tell your down-and-out friend who got dumped by that guy who “wasn’t emotionally available after all” that they are not only final-rose-worthy….but Peter Weber worthy. Or, fuck it, Chris Harrison worthy.
Mukbangs—a.k.a. videos where people eat noisily for the sake of ASMR, I guess—skeeve me out so bad. They’re like eat-acting, but worse because the whole point is for you to feel like you’re the literal noodle being slurped down someone’s disgusting gullet. So: Pay to have Johnathan legal name “FoodGod” Cheban eat a bowl of ramen in mirrored sunglasses and send it to your friend who likes to torment you.
I personally know nothing about The OC which makes me a bad child of the internet, but I asked resident stans Gyan and Mallory what they would want if Mischa Barton made a two-minute video for them. Mallory reminded me that Marissa Cooper is the PERFECT COOL GIRL, and should therefore spend two minutes recommending cool bands to that friend you know who can only handle Top 40 and Kacey Musgraves. Expand thy palette!
4. A That’s So Raven Star: For Your Attorney Sister Who’s Too Demure and Adult to Act Like a Freak with You Anymore but Disney Channel is Still Your Connective Tissue
If you say this is too niche, please consort with a little sister near you. Based on Anneliese Van Der Pol’s Cameo profile (a.k.a. Chelsea Daniels from That’s So Raven), she is fully ready to capitalize on nostalgia after drinking what appears to be 13 cups of coffee a day. She loves being on camera, so I say let ‘er rip. Happy V-Day, sister.
If the Patriots lost, my ex when I was 18 would get so mad that he would tell me to go home and not speak to him. Chill. So, for one, congratulations to you: You’re making it with a person who enjoys sports. Two, give them what they really want this season, which is a sports guy saying, “Hey what’s up I do sports” or “Loved your fantasy bracket.” Great job, Chiefs.
There is a shocking amount of The Office turnout on Cameo, so I recommend two different vids: 1. Ask Brian Baumgartner a.k.a. Kevin to surprise your lover with beach vacation plans, during which he must say, “I just want to sit on the beach and eat hot dogs. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.” You may get engaged after this, fair warning. 2. Ask Kate Flannery a.k.a. Meredith to mention the three times she laughed hardest on set and then actually send it to me because [pleading face emoji].
Jasmine Masters was iconic on both Season 7 of Rupaul’s Drag Race and Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 4 for having personality for miles. If you don’t know her, you probably know, “And I oop,” which became a viral sensation. Other memorable quotes include: “You gotta pop them corns so the kids can eat,” “No tea, no shade, no pink lemonade,” and “Hello Burger King, are you hiring today?” I recommend just letting her do her thing. It is truly impossible to be disappointed.
I love Ben Sinclair from High Maintenance, and watching his Cameos confirmed this love. He specifically says he’s here to do “weird stuff” because he deleted his Instagram and Cameo is all he has now. I recommend asking him to hop on a bike and point out the places he would like to put up lemonade stands in Bushwick. Alternatively, ask him if he would let someone collar him and walk him like a dog. Then feel free to send it to me lol.
It’s clear that Mario Cantone is on Cameo for this specific reason: tough love administered Anthony Marentino-style to your dumb ass for still being with that boy. I recommend sending in details for the roast and then letting Mario rip. Carrie—I mean, your friend, might be upset but that’s life, luv.
My third biggest vice after disliking chocolate and thinking Little Finger from Game of Thrones is hot is that I haven’t watched The Real Housewives. Every day I feel how egregious my mistake is, and yet how can I ever catch up? Anyway, I’ve watched enough highlights reels to know Luann will have words about Dorinda, so give her the mic, let her go, and let the Bravo-loving soul in your life thrive.
If none of those scratched your itch, what about the scary little girl from Hereditary? Literal Samwise Gamgee? Beans from Even Stevens? Squidward Tentacles?? The world, and by that I mean Cameo, is your giant clam.
Graphic by Lorenza Centi.