My mum asked me the other day if I was familiar with “the lady who does the funny spoof photos on the internet”. At first confused, I realised that she was referring to Celeste Barber, the 37-year-old actor, writer, comedian and Instagram sensation who has recently fundraised over 50 million dollars for bushfire relief.
Celeste has 6.7 million followers on Instagram including Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Hilary Swank. She has been building this following since 2015, when she first hashtagged #celestechallengeaccepted. These celebrity parody photosstarted “as a fun experiment” to see what an average person would look like “doing rich people things”. To say they have gone viral would be an understatement. Celeste has parodied the Kardashians, Emily Ratajkowski, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna amongst many, many others. Whether you know these faces, or, like my mother, you don’t, there is no denying that Celeste Barber’s humour is irresistible and universal.
When Celeste set up a fundraising campaign on Facebook after her mother-in-law was forced to evacuate her house in Eden on Australia’s Far South Coast, she set the target at $30,000 and urged her 6.5 million Instagram followers to donate. Within a week the fundraising page had raised over 50 million dollars, with 1.2 million people from over 75 different countries chipping in.
This goes a far way to demonstrate the universality of Celeste Barber’s appeal. She still lives in the small coastal town of Terranora on the far north coast of New South Wales where she grew up, and despite her mammoth rise to success, refuses to move to LA. She is quintessentially, the every-lady. She has become an accidental role model for body positivity, and shares the mundane minutiae of her days via Instastory, appearing very much the same as you or I.
It is the simplicity and visual nature of her comedy that arguably makes Celeste so popular around the world. It can be understood by all and does not discriminate by language. It is self-deprecating and simple, so that it cannot offend. Regardless of whether you know her by name or not, a #celestechallengeaccepted image will be familiar to everyone, and it is this that speaks of her success. Celeste has loyal fans from over 75 countries around the world, aged younger than me and older than my mother, and the best part about her success is that she is harnessing it for good.