Antoine Dodson Capitalizes on Accidental Fame With Facebook, Twitter, Web Page, Merchandise
For many people who dabble with fame, it's their face that determines their fortune. But Antoine Dodson's ticket to success isn't his face, it's his fury.
Three weeks ago, the 24-year-old man was struggling to complete an associate's degree at a college in Huntsville, Ala., while living with his mother, three sisters and a niece.
Now, he's an Internet superstar with Facebook fans by thousands, YouTube views in the millions and enough money of his own to move his family into a new house.
All because of a televised rant that attracted a rabid following.
On the local news in late July, Dodson unleashed an animated diatribe the likes of which even the Internet had never seen, denouncing an intruder who allegedly attempted to rape his 22-year-old sister, Kelly, in her bed one night.
"Obviously, we have a rapist in Lincoln Park," the 24-year-old called out to the camera. "He's climbing in your windows, he's snatching your people up, trying to rape them; so y'all need to hide your kids, hide your wife and hide your husband, because they're raping everybody out here."
He ended the video with a sharp warning to the still-at-large perpetrator: "We're looking for you. We gonna find you. I'm letting you know that. So you can run and tell that, homeboy!"
Gregory Brothers Turns Dodson Video Into 'Bed Intruder Song'
The next day, Dodson said, the online video surpassed one million views, making him a local celebrity. A few days later, his star rose even higher when the Gregory brothers, the masterminds behind the popular Auto-Tune the News videos, turned his blustering into the iTunes hit, "Bed Intruder Song."
Last week, the song broke through to No. 16 on iTunes' pop charts and the Gregory brothers estimate that, in total, the song has attracted about 15 million views.
"I love it," said Dodson, who now sits atop a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel, a personal website and even "official merchandise." "We laugh and joke about the videos. ... We watch it every day."
He declined to say exactly how much money he's made from the video and his new celebrity. But between a PayPal account on his website, which lets people donate to help his family, his merchandise and YouTube ad sales (the Gregory brothers split the earnings 50-50), he said he's made "a nice amount of money."
"It was enough to move my family from the projects," said Dodson, who is known by his first name "Kevin" at home.
But though he owes his fame to comedy, he said he never forgets that the situation underneath it all is far from humorous.
The police have been helpful, he said, but they still haven't found the man he saw attacking his sister.
"I want people to realize that this is funny. It is funny -- I'm not going to lie, 'cause we're laughing too. But this is a serious matter," he said. "I really thought that when I went into Kelly's room, he was choking her life out of her. I was terrified. ... It was so crazy. But God allowed me to save her and that's what I did."
Now that three weeks have passed since the alleged assault, Kelly said she enjoys the video and her brother's success. But when she first saw it, she said laughing about it was the last thing she wanted to do.
"When I first seen it, I was very upset about it because they were taking it as a joke and I was feeling like they were not looking at the part where I was the victim," she said. "If Antoine wouldn't came in, I probably would be dead."
As time has passed, she said, she's taken a different view.
"They wasn't laughing at the situation, but Kevin's reaction or how he was acting," she said. "He is funny."
Richard Figueroa, a Huntsville, Ala.-based talent scout, thought Dodson was funny, too. So funny, in fact, that immediately after seeing the viral video making the rounds online, he drove right over to the Dodsons' home.
"I said, 'This guy is going to be a sensation,'" Figueroa said. "He's a hero. What an amazing person. I've never seen nothing like this before. ... I was like, 'Wow, he's going to need a good manager, representation, with all of this fame."
Along with scout and photographer Beth Boldt, Figueroa now manages Dodson's career and image, while a lawyer makes sure that all the deals that come Dodson's way are legitimate.
"He says he wants to write songs," Figueroa said. "Also, he loves fashion, he loves clothes, he likes designers."
Given the connections he and Boldt have developed in the fashion world, he said, "We're going to try to get him some exposure in that side of the industry first."
Andrew Gregory: People Like Music That's Original, Passionate
With Dodson's long, lean frame and photogenic face, Boldt said she thinks he has great modeling potential, but television and film could be in the future too.
Andrew Gregory, part of the team responsible for sending Dodson's already soaring stock into the stratosphere, said that what attracted them to Dodson was that he's an "unintentional singer," whose voice conveys the right amount of volume, passion and originality.
"They're saying something that's really articulate in their own way," he said about people, like Dodson, who make for good auto-tuning candidates. "People are frustrated with pop music because it's all the same over and over again, in terms of being love songs or a song about someone going away. These are songs that aren't about anything you've ever heard a song about."
Since early 2009, the Gregory brothers (which include Andrew's brothers Michael and Evan, and Evan's wife Sarah) have entertained the Internet by marrying hip-hop music with online news reports. Just last week, they finalized a deal with Comedy Central to develop a pilot about their Internet-fueled fun.
Dodson was the latest "singer" they encountered, but he said they've hit "viral gold" with others too. Just a few weeks ago, they sent the Internet into a tizzy with a song ("Double Rainbow Song") about a man who sounded practically orgasmic after seeing two rainbows simultaneously arch across the sky.
Viral sensations of decades past had no way to capitalize on their accidental popularity, Gregory said, but thanks to the burst of new media platforms, times have changed.
"Now because of Facebook, because of Twitter and because of YouTube, Antoine can sort of say, 'Holy crap, I just maybe got famous. If I can work this the right way, this can be my job, this can be my livelihood,'" Gregory said. "He can do things like sell merchandise and become a YouTube partner to make money off it, which we think is fantastic."
It's good to see that something good is coming out of the whole "Bed Intruder" meme for Dodson's family, and how well he's handling it (and I admit, I LOL'd at the agent who saw dollar signs and busted out as fast as his car could take him to Dodson). I'm also glad to find an article on this that finally talks to his sister and gets her opinion on it. I don't know if this will translate into anything long-term for Dodson, but he's definitely taken control of his own fame and is trying to use it to take care of his family.
Oh, and in case anyone wants them, here are Antoine's: