RAM: 5 Questions for Amber Lee Ettinger "Obama Girl"
How time flies. It's been exactly one year since OMMA featured Internet sensation Obama Girl on our cover, pouting and posing with a cup of coffee, but it feels just like yesterday.
The viral video cover star, real name Amber Lee Ettinger, got all dolled up as a '30s-era diner waitress in a nod to Lana Turner, demonstrating how today's talent breaks through in the age of the Internet. Though a stroke of luck and a no-budget YouTube video can get you the 15 minutes you've always craved, Ettinger's parlayed her series of 30 satirical videos for barelypolitical.com - her first, 2007's "I Got a Crush On Obama," has clocked 100 million sets of eyeballs and counting - into a bond-fide career.
She's since graced the pages of Maxim in various states of undress, appeared on Saturday Night Live and created on her own jewelry line, "Inspired By Amber." Most recently, she's launched Barely Political's newest video, "Red States, Blue States," and even hosted her own Inauguration party in D.C., appropriately dubbed the "Obama Girl After Party."
In light of all that, did she even remember appearing in OMMA, we wondered? "Obama was on a few gazillion magazine covers, but I've only been on two or three," she says. "OMMA was really, really exciting. I'd say it changed my life, and the nation, for the better." You read it here first, dear reader.
How was the Inauguration? Did you need the Secret Service to protect you from fans?
The Inauguration was great! I was bouncing around all over the place covering the Inauguration news for Barely Political, going to parties and being part of all the excitement. I still can't believe Barack Obama is president, and it was fun to be in D.C. when it became official. Fans did recognize me. We'd be walking around and I'd hear someone yell, "Hey Obama Girl! I got a crush on Obama, too!" Still, as much as it would be great to have my own personal crew of bodyguards, people tend to be pretty friendly, so no Secret Service necessary.
Was the Obama Girl After Party better than all the other Washington parties?
Oh, of course. President Obama came by our party. He asked me to sing, "Crush on Obama"
to him. Then Barack Obama and I had a dance off. Wait, no, that didn't happen. But the party scene
in D.C. was fun and I got to meet Jay-Z, which was a highlight.
How has the Internet has changed political campaigning?
Well, the Internet played an unprecedented role in the election - look at how candidates tapped into Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to reach out to voters. Individuals played a huge role too in how they used online media, especially the younger generation. As for the "Obama Girl" videos, it is really funny, because the most common
thing people say to me is, "You know you helped him win!" I don't know if that's true, but people do tell me that a lot and I'm flattered. Obama didn't beat Hillary Clinton by all that much, so if our video actually made a difference in who's president, of course that's pretty mind boggling.
What makes a viral video effective?
I think originality plays a big role. For example me dancing
throughout New York screaming about a politician hadn't been seen before, right? Also, it's really important to communicate with your audience and make sure you give people a reason to come back and watch more. We try to do something different with each video.
How did you feel when Bill O'Reilly described your dancing as "writhing" when you appeared on his show?
I was really nervous before the Bill O'Reilly interviews I did. But I think he liked them. He called me a better-looking John Stewart. That was nice to hear.