The life of an internet sensation follows a predictable pattern. A real-life human being—say, Antoine Dodson—will do a thing, quite often a local news interview. The clip will, for whatever reason, strike a chord with bored teenagers who have too much time and technology on their hands. Cue the “songified” remixes, memes, and suddenly inescapable catchphrases.
Unfortunately, calling yourself a viral sensation is just another way to say you’re unemployed. After an initial burst of appearance opportunities, the face behind the meme quickly fades into anonymity. Ironically, most people who watched Dodson rant about an unidentified intruder would have a difficult time picking him out of a lineup. You’re far more likely to find yourself absentmindedly humming the tune of “Bed Intruder” than remembering Antoine Dodson’s name.
After a certain amount of time, only the faintest memory of a meme remains. Unfortunately for early viral stars like Chris Crocker, you don’t get royalties every time someone makes a “Leave Britney alone!” joke. Viral stars are rarely compensated for their creative labor. Their catchphrases and hilarious facial expressions are manipulated, enjoyed, and passed around by tweens, whose spending power is often limited to monthly allowances and whatever profits they can cobble together from reselling their sneakers. So, in the age of a million memes, how can an internet sensation translate their 15 minutes of #fame into cold hard cash?
Danielle Peskowitz Bregoli (alias: Cash Me Outside girl) is trying to answer just that question. The Dr. Phil phenomenon is currently shooting commercials for her new line of merchandise, which will doubtlessly feature her infamous catchphrase. In addition to merchandising, Bregoli is also getting into the video girl game. According to TMZ, the 13-year-old’s manager sent footage of the viral star dancing to Kodak Black’s “Everything 1K” to the rapper’s team. Kodak Black apparently loved the footage, and decided to release it as the single’s official music video. It’s two minutes of lip-synching and cash-flashing, complete with unwieldy acrylic nails, grills, and a Rolls-Royce.
When Danielle isn’t struggling to check her texts without scratching her iPhone screen, she’s showing off her “Cash Me Outside” gear—shirts and sweats that are perfectly suited for sitting on expensive cars while wildly gesticulating. According to the stack of cash that Danielle is proudly flaunting, Bregoli has a few hundreds, a couple of twenties, and some singles to her name. Of course, the bills may have been left behind by whoever agreed to loan the 13-year-old internet sensation their Rolls-Royce.
Like a would-be Tiffany Trump hairstylist, Bregoli was paid for this video in “publicity.” In other words, she wasn’t paid at all. Howbow dah. Of course, this isn’t the first time Bregoli has amused the masses pro bono. Recently, the ill-behaved adolescent was kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight after she allegedly punched a fellow passenger. According to TMZ, “Danielle says the other woman put her hands on her mom, and that’s why she had to ‘cold-cock’ the allegedly impatient passenger…We’re told police agreed there was mutual combat, made no arrests, and everyone involved decided their lawyers would handle it from here.” In a subsequent video, the pint-sized puncher used a prop pillow to illustrate how she “hit her one time,” before concluding, “She got her ass whupped by a 13-year-old.”
But before Bregoli was banned from Spirit Airlines for life, she was just Dr. Phil fodder. She originally appeared on the trashy talk show last September in a segment called “I Want to Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried to Frame Me for a Crime.” While Dr. Phil clearly failed to offer any sort of cure for Bregoli’s bad behavior (as evidenced by the aforementioned airplane fiasco), he haphazardly stumbled upon a ratings goldmine. After Bregoli became internet-famous, Dr. Phil and his producers wasted no time inviting her back to set. The Dr. Phil Facebook page posted an incredibly dramatic promo for Danielle’s encore performance, captioned, “Look who’s back for round two!”
Of course, saying that Dr. Phil is more interested in views and clicks than the welfare of his troubled “patients” isn’t exactly a hot take. Last year, The New York Post wrote up a short list of the TV psychologist’s alleged wrongdoings. For example, in 2008 the Oprah alum and his staff spent $30,000 bailing a teenager out of jail after she assaulted a classmate. In a subsequent statement, the Dr. Phil show was forced to admit that, “Certain staff members went beyond our guidelines (re: the bail being paid)” and pledged not to go forward with the young woman’s story. Britney Spears’s family also called out Dr. Phil’s plans to insert himself in the troubled celebrity’s affairs as “self-serving.” According to The New York Post the talk show host was chasing after an “intervention special” with Spears, and even went so far as to publicly brag about a private hospital visit he had with her while she was undergoing a psych evaluation.
More recently, Dr. Phil’s shady reputation took a turn for the truly indefensible, when the PhD-wielding host started promoting his exclusive interview with 67-year-old actress Shelley Duvall. The Shining star, who’s been out of the public eye for over a decade, confessed in the interview that, “I’m very sick, I need help.” Supporters of Duvall quickly deduced that the exploitative interview wouldn’t give the actress the help she so clearly needed. Director Stanley Kubrick’s daughter Vivian posted an open letter demanding a Dr. Phil boycott. “Unquestionably, this is purely a form of lurid and exploitative entertainment—it’s appallingly cruel,” she wrote, adding, “I recoil in complete disgust. I hope others will join me in boycotting your utterly heartless form of entertainment, because it has nothing to do with compassionate healing.”
Celebrity progeny Ronan Farrow echoed Kubrick’s concerns, tweeting, “Interviewers sometimes must show suffering. It’s our ethical responsibility to do so with compassion. Duvall appears to have been shown none…When people sell exploitation it lessens all of us. When we fail to protect people at their most vulnerable it hurts all of us. Don't support the exploitation of vulnerable people. Don't watch Dr. Phil.”
Dr. Phil has made a career out of offering audiences human specimens to gawk at. While Danielle Bregoli may feel like a star, she’s just the latest in a long line of disposable subjects. Of course, that’s not to say that Danielle can’t use all of that free publicity to her own benefit. But a second Dr. Phil appearance and an unpaid video girl gig seem like awfully unsustainable ways to make a living.