Fifteen minutes of face
For many Internet sensations, fame comes from a YouTube video or a television gaffe. But for Alabama freshman Jack Blankenship, the attention comes from something completely different: a face.
It all started when Blankenship decided to blow up a picture of himself making a unique face to bring to the Alabama men’s basketball games in order to distract opponents. After the Tide’s game against Florida, a picture of Blankenship was posted on AL.com, and from there, it spread like wildfire.
Since that day, Blankenship has become a mini-celebrity.
“My life has definitely been turned upside down,” he said. “I guess I know what it feels like to be Tay Zonday or Miss South Carolina.”
The Tuscaloosa native who graduated from Northridge High School has appeared on just about every major news outlet. ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, CBS 42, JOX 94.5 and 97.3 the Zone all featured Blankenship in some capacity in the days following the Florida game.
But then he hit the big time.
NBC flew Blankenship to New York City Monday, Feb. 20, where he appeared on the Today Show, Inside Edition and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He even got to attend a New York Knicks game, bringing “the face” to Madison Square Garden where he got Beyoncé and Jay-Z to make “the face.”
“I was holding up my sign, and I caught Beyoncé’s attention and made her laugh,” he said. “Then later in the game she looked at me and did the face. It was awesome. Then she got Jay-Z to do it.”
Back in Tuscaloosa, however, Blankenship has gone from just another student to campus celebrity.
Since being featured across the Internet, Blankenship’s Twitter followers have jumped to more than 4,000, and a YouTube video of the ESPN broadcast at the Florida game has over 1,000,000 views.
Everywhere he goes, it seems people want to talk to the student now known simply as “the face kid.”
“It's been pretty neat,” he said. “I walk around campus and people look at me or ask for my autograph or want a picture or something – mainly a picture.”
So where did “the face” come from?
It started off as an inside joke among some of his friends from middle school.
“Sometimes, we'd look at each other and kind of shrug our shoulders and make [a face], but then it kind of got more and more exaggerated until it became this joke,” Blankenship said. “From there, our friends picked up on it, and then a bigger group of friends picked up on it. It's been a journey of the face.”
And now that journey is making a stop in Tuscaloosa.
Chris Statum, president of Crimson Chaos, the Alabama student support section, said he’s never seen anything like it before.
“I was a little surprised to see it blow up like it did,” Statum said. “I've seen many people make big heads of themselves and never heard of it getting this much attention.”
What does the future hold for “the face”?
Blankenship is an undecided engineering major, but said he wants to eventually have a career in standup comedy.
First, however, he is currently looking in to starting a club at Alabama called “Stand Up Against” – a charity organization that would host a number of student comedians with proceeds benefiting a certain cause.
“It would be comprised of Alabama students who have this interest,” he said. “And they would all get together. Once a month there would be some sort of gig for charity like ‘Stand Up Against Cancer’ or ‘Stand Up Against Malaria’ or something like that. Each event would be a different charity.”