Celebs We Totally Forgot Launched Their Careers On Social Media

Ashley Hunte
A computer screen displaying the YouTube homepage.
Unsplash | NordWood Themes

Nowadays, it's pretty common for social media influencers to break into true celebrity status (and for bona fide celebrities to hit peak influencer status). But back in the day when social media was still pretty new, it was a much rarer case.

Nowadays, there are a lot of celebrities who got their start on apps and platforms. In a lot of cases, like with the celebs here, you probably forgot about their YouTube covers and Myspace pages.

Alessia Cara.

Before the singer, now known for hits like "Here" and "Scars to Your Beautiful," got her start in the world of stardom (which includes a Grammy win), she was just posting covers on her Facebook page and YouTube channel. Her powerful vocals caught the attention of Def Jam, and the rest is history.

Kate Upton.

It's kind of hard to believe that someone with as big of a name as Kate Upton was ever struggling to get her big break. But everyone has to start somewhere, and the start of Upton's career is a little surprising.

In fact, she owes it to a YouTube video.

In 2011, a video featuring Upton dancing to "The Dougie" was uploaded, and it was kind of a big deal at the time. Such a big deal, in fact, that it launched her career.


Before their mega-successful career took off, Halsey was posting songs to their Soundcloud account, which included the song "Ghost." The single gained popularity on the platform, which led Halsey to sign a record deal and release their first album, Badlands.

Bo Burnham.

Like many people did in 2006, Bo Burnham started a YouTube channel. His videos gained a lot of popularity during the platform's early years, and this helped him expand his career, including several comedy specials released on Netflix.

This, of course, went on t0 include his 2021 special, "Inside."

Bo Burnham eating food while sitting in front of an open laptop.
Giphy | Bo Burnham

He's also worked in filmmaking, having written and directed the critically acclaimed 2018 film, Eighth Grade. And to think, it's all thanks to a YouTube channel.

The Weeknd.

In 2009, Abel Makkonen Tesfaye began anonymously posting music to YouTube, and after some of his songs gained attention from Drake (a fellow Toronto native), he adopted the stage name "The Weeknd," and his career had nowhere to go but up.

Tori Kelly.

Tori Kelly got her start like a lot of the artists on this list -- through posting song covers on YouTube. She then briefly appeared on the 9th season of American Idol, but didn't make it very far. She then self--produced an EP, and ended up signing to Capitol Records not long after that.

Troye Sivan.

In the midst of his early acting and singing career, Troye Sivan also had a YouTube channel. Like other contemporary YouTubers, he'd post vlog-style content, and even collaborated with the likes of fellow YouTube star, Tyler Oakley.

Charlie Puth.

Puth is yet another celeb who had his start with a YouTube channel. His channel focused on comedy and music, featuring acoustic song covers. He also began releasing original music in 2010, culminating in an independent album called "The Otto Tunes."

From there, his music started to gain a lot of "Attention."

Puth was then signed to Ellen Degeneres's short-lived record label, eleveneleven. He then went onto sign with APG, and blew up after appearing on the 2015 Wiz Khalifa song, "See You Again."

Darren Criss.

Before getting his role as Blaine on Glee, Criss co-founded and worked alongside StarKid Productions, which is the company behind A Very Potter Musical (in which Criss also starred). StarKid distributes its content on YouTube for free.

Madison Beer.

Beer used to post covers of songs on YouTube and Music.ly before gaining the attention of Justin Bieber. Now, she's signed with Epic Records, and has released a number of songs and collabs, including with the "League of Legends" virtual group, K/DA.

Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney.

Beck Bennet and Kyle Mooney are a pretty well-known comedic duo from Saturday Night Live (though the latter left the show in 2021 to be closer to his family). And while they've definitely made their mark in the comedy world, they got their start much earlier.

The pair were part of a YouTube channel called GoodNeighborStuff.

Alongside Dave McCary and Nick Rutherford, Bennet and Mooney put on a series of skits on their YouTube channel, which are pretty similar to the comedic stylings they've become known for on SNL.

Colbie Caillat.

Before the singer's success with the song "Bubbly" (which she'd actually sung during an American Idol audition but ultimately got rejected), Caillat was a pretty popular singer on... Myspace, of all places. It led to her getting a record deal with Universal Republic Records. I wonder if the Idol judges regret not passing her in the audition round.

Shawn Mendes.

Most people today will probably think about his relationship with Camilla Cabello or his hit songs like "Mercy," "Treat You Better," or "If I Can't Have You" when thinking of Shawn Mendes. But he actually got his start on the social media platform, Vine.

He even toured alongside a number of popular Vine stars of the time.

He was a member of the Magcon tour shortly before signing a record deal with Island Records in 2014. He also went on to become the youngest artist to make the top 25 of the Billboard Hot 100.

Justin Bieber.

Bieber's rise to fame is probably one of the most well-known examples of an artist being discovered through social media (even if nowadays you tend to forget that he was discovered through social media).

Like many of the artists in this list, Justin Bieber got his start through YouTube.

Around 2007-2008, Scooter Braun discovered Justin Bieber's YouTube channel and brought it to Usher's attention, which led to Usher signing the young star. And after a decade and a half of career ups and downs, he's still one of the most popular male singers today.