14 years ago, in June 2006, a friendly 16 year-old girl named Bree Avery (more commonly known as Lonelygirl15) began to post videos to YouTube. In them, she is simply sitting in front of her webcam and talking to the audience. Nothing out of the ordinary (especially in 2006), but Bree’s likeable antics made her the very first viral YouTube stars. People loved her for her authenticity and relatable personality, and she seemed to have a great time exploring her world and talking about it in her videos. She was an absolute phenomenon in the early days of internet culture.
So imagine the shock when, a few months later, people found out that Lonelygirl15 did not actually exist.
The story of Lonelygirl15 is often said to be the first YouTube scandal ever. It turns out that Bree Avery was a fictional character played by 19 year-old actress Jessica Rose, and every single video she had posted had been written and meticulously directed by three California filmmakers to look like an authentic video diary. In a surprising event for the time, mainstream media picked up the story, with the New York Times even going on a special investigation to unmask the people behind it all, but the web series ended up continuing and even spawned a number of spin-offs, up until its end in 2008.