You never know when a social media post will go viral. But it’s often easy to figure out why a particular video or photo has struck a chord. The majority of popular posts have reached their shareable status because they cause viewers to feel moved in some particular way.
When California mom Jaqi Clements began posting pictures of her twin daughters on Instagram, she couldn’t have imagined how much the world would adore the images. Soon, her posts were being liked by thousands of fans because, they said, the girls had the most beautiful faces in the world.
On July 7, 2010, Jaqi Clements and her husband Kevin found themselves in a delivery room unexpectedly. Although they were preparing to welcome twins, the babies weren’t due for another four-and-a-half weeks. But the newborns had other ideas – they didn’t plan on hanging around any longer.
Identical twins Ava Marie and Leah Rose arrived into the world that very day. And their mother subsequently explained that she understood why they arrived ahead of schedule. “Knowing their personalities now it makes total sense that they would show up early, unannounced and ready to take on anything,” Jaqi wrote in a blog post.
Moreover, it wasn’t long after the girls were born that people took notice of their natural beauty and sassy personalities. “For as long as I can remember, strangers would approach me […] asking first if they were twins,” Jaqi wrote. “Their follow-up would always be, ‘Wow, they are so beautiful, you should really think about getting them into modeling.’”
As it happens, Jaqi did more than think about getting them into modeling – she actually got her daughters signed to a Los Angeles-based agency. However, she soon found the responsibility difficult with her infant twins and their two-year-old brother Chase in tow. “It was hard enough to get out of the door most days, so my attempt back then was short-lived,” she said.
In fact, it wouldn’t be until the girls turned seven on July 7, 2017, that Jaqi made a point to get them into modeling again. Inspired by the date of their birthday, she felt it was the right time to give the girls another shot. “So many sevens,” she wrote, “so many signs that this was their year to shine.”
So, on that day, Jaqi posted a photo to Instagram through an account called “theclementstwins.” The first image showed the girls wearing sunhats and lace dresses and was captioned “7 years side by side.” The picture came from the girls’ first photoshoot, which wasn’t as effortless it appeared, their mom said.
It all began when the Clements’ neighbor started her own pop-up boutique for children’s clothing and began marketing for her new retail outpost. She needed some photos to help promote her business – and recruited the girls to star in the ads. “My twins were, of course, more than up for the job,” Jaqi wrote.
The job would be second nature for the girls, who had always enjoyed the spotlight, their mom said. “They loved to perform their dance routines in front of an audience, any audience,” Jaqi recalled. “Neighbors, friends, strangers… it didn’t matter to them, they loved to be the center of attention.”
But that first shoot for their neighbor’s boutique wasn’t as effortless as their spontaneous dance performances. “Ava would look at the camera while Leah would stare off into space,” Jaqi wrote. “Leah would accidentally bump into Ava, who, of course, thought it was on purpose and would shove her back.”
And yet, somehow, the good shots were enough for Jaqi to send them to agencies – and to post the images on Instagram. And the upshot was that Ava and Leah not only signed with modeling managers in Los Angeles and Orange County, but they also found near-instant success on the social media app, too.
Jaqi actively cultivated a strong following on the social media site. In a July 2019 blog post on her daughters’ website, she explained how she consulted with Instagram-savvy friends who helped her gain followers. They gave the twins’ mom some good ideas – comment on other people’s photos and hashtag everything, for example.
Within two months, the girls’ Instagram account had attracted 1,000 followers. Three months later, that figure had tripled. And, at the same time they were on the rise, Jaqi got the first set of professional headshots of her daughters back.When she posted the first round of snaps was when the account really took off – they went from 3,000 followers to 15,000 in the space of seven days.
A few more headshots from the same shoot pushed their follower count from 15,000 to 25,000 in just a few more days. Jaqi recalled the shock of their instant success. She wrote, “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I remember thinking… is this normal? Is this a glitch? Am I going to wake up tomorrow and all of these followers will just be gone? It almost seemed too good to be true.”
As their popularity grew, Jaqi realized a pattern in the posts that seemed to strike a chord with Instagrammers the world over. She wrote, “I noticed the pictures with both of my girls together were getting way more likes then the ones I posted of them individually.” Plus, people seemed to like photos “were those that showed their similar features (especially those that accentuated their eyes),” the mom-of-three added.
Jaqi began to take photos of Ava and Leah with those factors in mind. Her photoshoots weren’t technically professional ones. Instead, she’d take her daughters around their neighborhood for an hour a week to snap new side-by-side pictures of them. And she got help from her boutique-owning neighbor, too.
Through the pop-up boutique owner, Jaqi borrowed cute new outfits for the twins to wear. She’d also switch up the girls’ hairstyles between shots so she could get a variety of pictures to put in her Instagram arsenal. She explained, “If I was lucky, I’d get three or four good shots that I could use to post to their account for the next week and that I could also give to my neighbor to promote her boutique.
Other people reposted photos of Ava and Leah, too, boosting their Instagram exposure. These shares showed Jaqi that people most loved the photos of her girls together. She wrote, “Every picture that had been reposted was of my girls posing together, rather than alone, so I realized it was the ‘twins factor’ that was contributing to their large following.”
The so-called twins factor pushed Leah and Ava’s Instagram account far beyond its 25,000-person follower count. By the time Jaqi wrote her July 2019 blog, they had 380,000 followers on the platform. A year later and that figure had more than tripled to a whopping 1.8 million people – and counting.
As Instagrammers took notice of the Clements Twins, so, too, did news outlets including newspaper the Daily Mail and website BuzzFeed. Jaqi spoke to the latter in March 2019 about how her daughters had loved their experiences with modeling and internet fame up until that point. She said, “This past year has been really fun and exciting for Ava and Leah.”
Jaqi went on to describe all of the perks that came with her daughters’ budding modeling careers. She said, “Whether it be private shopping experiences, gifted merchandise from brands all over the world, or taking pictures with fans, the girls have had an amazing ride so far. Of course, what’s most important to them is the friends they’ve made along the way.”
On that note, Jaqi told the website that she tried her best to give Ava and Leah a normal upbringing despite their growing success. She said, “Any jobs that they book through Instagram I schedule on weekends or right after school so that they don’t have to miss any class. If they book a job through their agency, there is a teacher on set to help them with their schoolwork.”
The twins’ mom said that, as of 2019, most of their modeling jobs took them to Los Angeles, a two-hour drive from their home. Working there gave them a chance to have a little bit of fun between shoots: Jaqi planned family outings, or meet-ups with the girls’ L.A.-based buddies to break up their days.
And, of course, non-working days meant that Ava and Leah had schedules similar to most other kids their age. Jaqi described the twins’ routine, saying, “On days they aren’t working, they go to school and then usually go to swim practice, dance class, or play outside with their friends in the neighborhood.”
Another way that Jaqi retained her daughters’ sense of normality was by keeping them away from their burgeoning Instagram account. Neither Ava nor Leah had access to the app, but their mom sometimes gave them the chance to interact with followers second-hand. She said, “Sometimes I will allow them to come up with a question they want to ask their followers under their post for the day and then I’ll let them read the responses from their followers.”
Even with Jaqi at the helm, fans interacted with Ava and Leah’s Instagram page regularly. Most left gushing comments on the images that their mother uploaded. The twins have been called “absolutely stunning,” “really truly gorgeous,” and “so beautiful.” One follower was even moved to describe the pair as “the most beautiful girls in the world.”
Of course, that’s a sentiment that casting scouts seem to share with the Clements twins’ Instagram fans. After signing with their agencies, Leah and Ava have been photographed for various magazines and clothing brands. At one point in December 2017, the girls completed six modeling jobs in just seven days.
However, even with all the love they received, Jaqi did have to field some backlash to the images she shared of her daughters. In a January 2018 blog post, she wrote, “When you put your family out into the public eye, you open up the door for criticism. I guess, for me, what I don’t understand is why anyone would take the time and energy to leave the negative comments?”
Among the most common concerns voiced by viewers, Jaqi said people often thought her daughters looked sad, that they shouldn’t be wearing makeup or they should be doing normal kid things instead of modeling. But to all of her naysayers, the Clement twins’ mom had the perfect response.
“As parents, we all want the best for our kids,” Jaqi wrote. “We want them to find things they enjoy doing in life and support them on their journey. I didn’t decide that my girls were going to start modeling – they did. And if the day ever comes that they want to move onto something else, I will 100% support their decision to do that.”
More than a year later, criticism of Jaqi flared up again, this time via Reddit. Multiple commenters on the site accused Leah and Ava’s mom of using the girls to bolster her bank account. One person wrote, “Why do people do this? Is social media everything? Why take away their childhood?”
Another person agreed, comparing Leah and Ava to their own child of the same age. The Redditor wrote, “This is so gross. I have an eight-year-old. Couldn’t imagine exploiting her like this for money or Instagram likes. And all that makeup and Photoshop. Ew.” But Jaqi had already debunked many of these complaints on her blog.
For one thing, Jaqi said she didn’t make any money from her daughters’ modeling career – she actually had to spend her cash on it. The twins’ mom wrote in 2017, “[One] not-so-amazing thing about this new life are all of the expenses associated with it! A lot of people assume parents are making money just because they see their kids working a lot. False!”
Jaqi continued, “I know in our case and probably in most cases the parents are putting out more money in order to support their kids.” But the mom-of-three saw this as an investment in her daughters’ prospects. She wrote, “I guess if you really put it all into perspective, the money we as parents put out now to support our kids in something they love doing, will allow them to make their own money they can use towards college or a car or a house in the future.”
As for claims of exploitation, Jaqi said she “appreciated [the] concern” but her girls were “just fine.” She went on, “They are happy! They have an amazing childhood with lots of friends that they get to play with every day! A single pose does not define their personality or their quality of life.”
And the Clements twins have gone on to build robust modeling careers in spite of this backlash. By early 2020, the then-nine-year-old girls had booked jobs with big-name brands including Skechers, Recess Kids, American Girl and Target. According to their website, they’ve also collaborated with the nail polish brand nail & bone and modeled a mommy-and-me slipper line for Muk Luks.
And the Clements twins have expanded their online presence to more platforms than just Instagram. The girls – along with their parents and brother – now have a YouTube channel where they show glimpses of themselves behind the scenes. According to their “About Us” page on the site, the family wanted everyone to “get to know Ava, Leah, and the rest of our family a little more.”
The Clements added, “It’s really hard to truly understand the girls and our family dynamic only through the pictures we post on Instagram. This past year and a half since the girls […] have started in the industry has been fun, crazy, all over the place but such an exciting adventure and we want to share that with you!”
The YouTube videos would be further evidence that, as Jaqi wrote on her blog, the girls were “lovin’ every minute” of their lives in front of the camera. And they’re likely even happier now that another family member is in the business: older brother Chase signed with the twins’ agencies and has started to build his own Instagram following, too.
The Clements girls are certainly not the only set of twins to have captivated the attention of social media users. Unlike Ava Marie and Leah Rose Clements, though, it wasn’t their looks that allowed Aaron and Austin Rhodes to take the social media world by storm. When the popular vloggers and fraternal twins came out to their father for the very first time, they decided to film the moment and post it online for their entire virtual following to see. And thanks to that tear-jerking footage, the Rhodes boys quickly took over the internet.
So not only did the fraternal twins come out to a family member, but they also revealed their identities to the whole world. And what’s even more amazing is that the Rhodes boys recorded their coming-out experience without knowing exactly what their father would say. Would he be sympathetic and embrace his sons’ true natures? Or would he forever cast them aside?
Well, the twins – who are both gay – decided to take the chance and capture the pivotal moment for posterity. After all, Austin in particular had been encouraged to reveal his sexuality after watching online footage of other LGBTQ people dealing with their own coming-out hurdles. The twins’ video was therefore later uploaded to their YouTube channel, The Rhodes Bros.
The event itself occurred in January 2015. And as the new year had rolled around, the twins had decided to take a different tack with their YouTube channel. You see, the boys had apparently stepped away from their popular channel for a time and were now looking to make a fresh start. They explained this further in the caption to a video entitled “Twins Come Out to Dad,” writing, “With 2015 now here, we think it is time to finally just be ourselves.”
“We want to come back as authentic as possible, and we just want to give you guys everything and say everything that we want to say,” Aaron confesses to the camera. And with that, he offers those all-important words that he claims they had both “wanted to share for a very long time.” “I’m gay,” Aaron explains. Austin then follows that up by saying, “And I’m gay, too.” The clip has since been viewed a whopping 27 million times.
So while coming out can be an incredibly isolating process for some people, the twins had seemingly had each other to lean on. And as Austin later related in an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, he and his brother had both confided their respective secrets at practically the same moment.
During the 2015 appearance on DeGeneres’ talk show, Austin claimed that Aaron had turned to him during a post-work lunch. “We were, I think, 16 at the time,” he said. “[My brother] just, like, said it to me: ‘I’m gay.’” But Aaron may not have realized that his twin actually had a similar admission to make. “And I was like, ‘Oh, I’m the same way,’” Austin finished.
The Rhodeses had then later informed members of their family and, as we’ve just heard, their worldwide fanbase. Yet a very important figure in their lives needed to know, too. And in their YouTube clip, Aaron admits to viewers, “Before this video is put out there, there’s one more person that we have to tell – one more person that we need to come out to.”
That person, of course, was Rodney Rhodes – the twins’ father. “So, in this video, we’re gonna call [our dad]… and we’re gonna let him know that we’re gay,” Aaron continues. But how would Rodney react – particularly given that both of his twin sons were coming out at the same time?
Given the circumstances, then, perhaps no one would have blamed the unsuspecting dad for feeling overwhelmed or upset. And yet when the twins finally dialed Rodney’s number and told him everything that they had to say, the pair may not have anticipated their father’s stunning – and undeniably head-turning – response.
The pair’s fans were no doubt blown away by the response, too. After all, the two brothers had forged quite the following online. The duo had actually launched their YouTube channel in the summer of 2014. This was after Aaron had dropped out of college in Ashland, Ohio – the same state where he and his brother had been raised. Aaron ultimately decided to relocate to Los Angeles with Austin instead.
But after having vlogged on their channel for six months, the Rhodeses decided that the moment was right to come out. And as the brothers wrote in the description to “Twins Come Out to Dad,” they were hopeful that the content of the clip would leave viewers feeling as “encouraged and inspired” as they themselves had felt while watching similar videos.
Telling a close family member their news was another matter altogether, however, and the twins were understandably anxious at the prospect. Just before the call, in fact, the Rhodeses reveal their nerves, with Aaron claiming that he feels as though he’s “gonna pass out.” And when Rodney answers, the brothers’ goofing around soon gives way to something far more serious.
During the twins’ appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, too, Austin revealed how worried he had been at the time of the chat. He said, “It was the scariest moment of my life. In my mind, I was, like, ‘This could potentially be the last time that we have a normal phone call like this if [my dad] takes it bad.’” And although Austin also admitted to having had a decent relationship with his father, his apprehension about the conversation makes sense.
On the internet, you see, there are plenty of stories of parents reacting badly to their kids coming out. These tales include occasions where parents have disowned their offspring. A number of moms and dads may also begin a kind of grieving process after the revelations. Authors Jonathan L. Tobkes and Wesley C. Davidson explained this phenomenon in a 2016 article for Psychology Today. They said, in their experience, a parent may almost “[mourn] the loss of the child they thought they knew.”
Given the potential consequences of coming out, then, LGBTQ children may live in fear not only of their relatives’ disappointment and disapproval, but also of becoming estranged from their loved ones. And during the phone call, in fact, Austin may have been trying to reassure his father that their relationship could carry on as before. At one point in the clip, he explains, “[Being gay] doesn’t change who we are as people, either. I’m the exact same person.”
Sadly, though, families can break down after children come out to their parents. A 2012 survey carried out by UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute has found, for example, that an alarming 40 percent of homeless youths in the United States are LGBTQ. And that figure is even more sobering when you consider the fact that young LGBTQ people make up only 7 percent or so of the U.S. population, as of 2017.
The Williams Institute study also found that 46 percent of subjects had fled their homes after experiencing discrimination. Perhaps most upsetting of all, though, was the finding that 43 percent of the young people surveyed had actually been evicted by their relatives. Familial rejection and abandonment are therefore a very real possibility for those who choose to come out.
In a 2017 interview with The Washington Post author Telaina Eriksen outlined one of these reasons why parents may cast off their LGBTQ children. She said, “Sometimes it is based on religion. [Parents] think that their child is a sinner or that their child needs to be punished so they see ‘the error of their ways.’”
Eriksen continued, “[Adults] might think [that] if they force their child to leave their home, their child may return repenting – magically somehow no longer LGBT.” In other cases, the article argued, traditional values may be so deeply entrenched in families that they may not want to consider any other way of life.
Fortunately for Aaron and Austin, though, they were on good terms with their mom. They had therefore come out to her when they were just 17. Initially, at least, the boys assumed that this would be an easier task than breaking the news to their dad. That’s because the pair hadn’t been as close with their father ever since their parents had divorced.
Yet the twins were seemingly determined to capture the coming-out conversation with their dad on camera for all the world to see. When the call starts in the video, though, the brothers appear to lack the words to properly break the news to their father. And, understandably, emotion soon overtakes both Aaron and Austin.
In fact, both boys are seemingly trying to hold back the waterworks as they talk haltingly to their relative at the other end of the line. There are many pauses in the conversation, too, as both brothers apparently tussle with the ramifications of coming out to their dad. Then, finally, Aaron plucks up the courage to deliver the twins’ message.
Aaron says, “I mean, I don’t really know how else to put it. Uh, I’m gay, and, um, Austin is, too. We just wanted to, like call, and tell you.” The heart-wrenching moment is compounded by the reactions of the brothers – who by now are openly crying on camera. And as the two wipe away their tears, there is silence for a few seconds on the other end of the call.
When Rodney does eventually speak up, though, he answers his sons with a hesitant, “Okay.” Then Austin begins to justify himself, saying to his dad, “I just didn’t want you to find out through YouTube. And I just wanted to be able to have that conversation because I feel like we’re close enough.” He adds, “I finally feel like I’m at the point now that I’m able to tell you.”
And Austin admits that he hopes Rodney has taken the news positively, continuing, “I just want to have you behind us 100 percent. I just don’t want you to, like, not love us or anything like that.” The YouTuber’s father is quick to interrupt his son’s flow, though, putting a halt to the conversation by saying, “Oh, stop it.”
In fact – thankfully – any fears that the two may have had about Rodney’s reaction are pretty much unfounded. You see, Aaron and Austin’s dad actually responds with some very simple and very lovely words that may have lifted the hearts of the many millions who would go on to watch the YouTube clip.
First, though, there is a pause for Rodney to seemingly collect his thoughts before he continues. “You grew up in a lot different generation than me… I don’t really know what to say,” the dad responds. And in a tense few moments, the brothers seem unsure of what he will go on to say next.
Soon, though, Rodney reveals exactly what he thinks of his boys now. He explains to Aaron and Austin, “You know I love you both. That will never change. You’ve gotta live your lives. You’ve gotta do what you gotta do.” And the father reveals that his views have changed over time. He explains, “Being on the job I’ve been on for many, many years made me more accepting of that.”
So, while Rodney may have been a little shell-shocked by the news, he makes it clear that he won’t reject his boys for their sexuality. And, touchingly, the twins’ father also claims that he won’t “question” or “tell [them] to change,” as some parents do to their LGBTQ children. “I can’t undo being your dad,” he adds during the conversation with his sons.
But perhaps the sweetest moment of the chat comes when Austin claims that he doesn’t want coming out to change his relationship with his parent; he just wants “everything to be normal.” And Rodney immediately responds by saying, “You are normal. What do you mean?” He goes on, “You’re living your lives, and that’s all you can do in life: just live it.”
Some may argue, in fact, that Austin and Aaron shouldn’t feel they owe anyone this kind of announcement – nor should they have to await someone else’s acceptance and approval. And it could be said that, in an ideal world, the twins wouldn’t need to come out on the internet at all.
Perhaps, though, the brothers’ video – along with Rodney’s accepting reaction – will give solace to other young people who are struggling to have similar talks with their parents. And finally revealing the truth seems to have helped Aaron, too. After the pair conclude the call to their dad, you see, the YouTuber admits on camera, “I literally feel like ten million pounds has, like, been lifted off my shoulders.”
And towards the end of the clip, Aaron reveals the twins’ motivation for putting such a personal moment on the video-sharing site. He claims, “Basically, what we want our message to be moving forward from all of this – just… be yourself, whether you’re gay, bi or transgender. Or maybe you’re not any of those. Maybe you’re straight and struggling with a different issue. Just do whatever makes you happy.”
Aaron also followed up the video with an adorable Instagram post that featured a picture of Rodney posing next to his son. And the appreciative vlogger had nothing but kind words to say about his parent. Alongside the image, he wrote, “This is the man behind the phone call: my dad. His words will inspire so many, and I can’t even begin to express how incredibly proud I am of him.”
That sentiment was echoed by none other than Ellen DeGeneres herself. On her show, in fact, she told Rodney that he acted as an example for other parents with LGBTQ kids. The host also claimed that the Rhodes patriarch had sent a “very powerful message to dads out there who just want the best for their children.”
It seems, too, that Rodney shares the same respect for his sons. While on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, you see, the dad boasted that he was “very proud of [his] boys” for being so honest and open to the world. And Rodney’s continuing affection for Aaron and Austin is all too clear in a follow-up video from 2018. This clip sees all three men going back to watch the original coming-out footage.
In the newer clip, then, Rodney relates his relief that his boys had trusted him enough to deliver the news. He may have also touched hearts once again by claiming that he’d always promised himself he “would never abandon [his] kids.” After all, Rodney adds, sexual orientation is only “one part of a person.”
DeGeneres had also asked whether Rodney and his sons were “closer now,” and Rodney had revealed that the coming out had taken “a weight off both [their] sides.” Now, he said, he felt that he could “talk about anything” with Aaron and Austin and that they could “come to [him] about anything in their lives.” Happily, then, that conversation appeared to have only brought the Rhodes men together – not pushed them apart.
There were further upsides for the twins, too. Their coming-out video went viral, for one, and launched them into the spotlight. And that’s not even to mention the $10,000 check that DeGeneres handed the pair on her show. This may have come in pretty handy following their relocation to LA. But perhaps Aaron and Austin can be most proud of the way in which they have remained true to themselves – although they were helped along the way, of course, by a very accepting dad.