The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a frightening new illness. It brought the whole world to a standstill as the death toll steadily rose. And yet as always there are some people who simply refuse to take it seriously. These celebrities appeared to consider themselves immune to both the virus and public backlash, but they got a wake-up call.
No amount of fame cancels out the threat of coronavirus. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced in the middle of March that they had both tested positive for COVID-19, and spent some time in quarantine before they recovered. Idris Elba likewise got the virus and had to self-isolate, but only displayed mild symptoms.
Royals and politicians have also contracted the virus. It was announced on March 26 that the 71-year-old Prince Charles had tested positive for it, with a spokesman from Buckingham Palace saying he “otherwise remains in good health.” Only one day after that, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also tested positive.
And some public figures have also sadly passed away. These include four-time Tony Award winner Terrence McNally, Top Chef Masters star Floyd Cardoz, and country music singer Joe Diffie. With every widely reported high-profile death, it becomes more and more clear to the world how very serious the situation is.
Most people have followed official guidelines about coronavirus. They’ve self-isolated, stayed inside, and done their utmost not to spread any germs. Some celebrities, knowing the influence they have, have used their platforms on social media to spread both awareness and some cheer in these difficult times.
Many entertainers have been live-streaming videos and performances, sometimes with a self-isolation-themed twist. Neil Diamond sang “Sweet Caroline” for his fans with new lyrics which went, “Washing hands / Reaching out / Don’t touch me / I won’t touch you.” Simon Pegg and Nick Frost did a spoof of their hit movie Shaun of the Dead including updated quarantine advice.
And some have gone the extra mile and donated large sums of money to help relief efforts. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave $1 million to the Frontline Responders Fund to assist with the purchase of medical equipment. Rihanna and her Clara Lionel Foundation donated $5 million to help first responders.
YouTubers have also joined in to try and improve things. At the end of March over 100 popular stars of the platform, plus some other famous faces, got together and asked their fans to “stay home” in a video message. Any money they made from the video would be donated to the British National Health Service (N.H.S.), they said.
But not all social media personalities have been so constructive. Some have instead committed actions that actively endangered others. One of these is 21-year-old TikTok personality Larz, who sometimes goes by the name GayShawnMendes. He’s developed a reputation for ill-advised stunts.
Back in 2019 Larz gained infamy for a “challenge” in which he licked a tub of ice cream and then returned it to the freezer. This was obviously an illegal act, and the police got involved. However not long after the “prank” Larz tweeted out, “Just left the police station. Too much clout to care.”
The original act which triggered that disgusting “challenge” was a social media video of a woman licking Blue Bell “Tin Roof” ice cream and then putting it back. Blue Bell removed all of that particular ice cream flavor from their stores and launched an investigation. Food tampering is in fact a second-degree felony in Texas, where the offense took place.
Police eventually caught up with the girl and interviewed her, but she was a minor and was not identified by the press. However, an adult man who had done the same thing was arrested and charged. Although he bought the ice cream after he licked it, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
If Larz really was questioned by the police, it appeared that nothing major came of it. In October 2019 he appeared on TV program Dr. Phil and had some unpleasant things to say. He announced, “I don’t talk to my family. They’re irrelevant. None of them have followers, if they got rich I’d probably talk to them.”
Larz went on, “I don’t know what I’d be talking to my mom about if she’s not making me relevant. I have a career and I’m famous – that’s what happens when you get famous, you cut people off.” He then told the appalled audience that they simply didn’t “understand” him, although perhaps they understood him only too well.
Another social media user who gained fame for stupid stunts, and who also appeared before a shocked Dr. Phil, is Ava Louise. While on Dr. Phil’s show she called herself a “skinny legend” and she said she would rather “die hot than live ugly.” Her later actions would put those words into a whole new context.
Both Larz and Ava Louise marred their reputations – or what they had left of them to begin with – when they decided to partake in a TikTok viral “coronavirus challenge.” This involved licking toilet seats, which is obviously something you should never dream of doing even when there isn’t a global pandemic.
For the so-called “coronavirus challenge” Larz entered a public toilet and licked one of the seats not once, but twice. As soon as the video went viral people were disgusted. On Twitter people wrote such remarks as, “I hope his tongue falls off” and, “I feel bad for the toilet… now it’s gonna turn into a diseased TikTokker.”
Ava Louise’s take on the “challenge” was even worse. After she filmed herself licking an airplane toilet bowl, the video was taken down from TikTok. Yet it remained on social media, shocking people who came across it. And Louise’s justification for her actions – or lack thereof – was even more shocking.
As the original video of her licking the toilet seat spread and spread, Louise posted a bizarre video to YouTube titled “Why I licked the toilet seat, now I’m running for president.” Her motivation was, apparently, hatred for elderly people. She said, “There’s a reason coronavirus is taking out people over 50, because you’re all idiots who ruined our country, our economy, and raised clout-chasing idiots like me, the person you all hate so much.”
Louise also claimed in the six-minute YouTube video that she did it all for the sake of making herself famous, and announced, “Thanks for the coverage. I don’t regret it, I’m not sorry.” People were outraged at the “influencer” for reasons that went far beyond seeing her lick a toilet seat.
In the comments of Louise’s video, people stated their anger. One user wrote, “I just want to say that this is a person who will take up a bed intentionally in the E.R. or I.C.U. alongside a ventilator. I am… medical personnel and this is why I am on the front line [for]? This is what I’m wasting my gown and mask on?”
After that, Louise did an interview with AFP reporter Gianrigo Marletta – in fact, she specifically approached her and asked to be interviewed – and made herself look even worse. She said that she was sick of the coronavirus, which had at that point killed nearly 150 people in the U.S. alone, “getting all the press.”
Louise then summed up the TikTok video, and in fact her entire persona, with these words, “So I licked a toilet seat on my sugar daddy’s private plane on my way down here to go viral because I f**king hate old people and it’s their fault that we can’t go to the beach and catch a f**king d**k!”
Marletta too was not remotely pleased. She posted on her own Instagram, “This girl approached me earlier today, as I was covering the coronavirus outbreak in Miami Beach, asking to be interviewed… I obviously can’t publish this for broadcast, but I think it deserves attention as something has gone extremely wrong in our society!”
Did anyone involved in the ridiculous, dangerous “challenge” face any consequences? Well, yes. On March 22, on an account which was later suspended, Larz posted a video of himself in a hospital bed with the words “I tested positive for coronavirus.” Very few people were remotely sympathetic to his plight.
But it wasn’t just social media “influencers” who refused to take a pandemic seriously and suffered because of it. On March 9 N.B.A. Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert decided it would be a funny joke to touch every microphone at a news conference. Shortly afterwards, however, he regretted his actions immensely.
Just two days after doing that, Gobert tested positive for the virus. Needless to say, this caused fear and anger. On March 12 ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, “Jazz players privately say that Rudy Gobert had been careless in the locker room touching other players and their belongings. Now a Jazz teammate has tested positive.”
Internet users soon vented their ire on Gobert. In the comments of a YouTube video of the incident, one person wrote, “Honestly he should be fined big-time by the N.B.A. He put the other players, coaches and media at risk by spreading his virus everywhere. People are suffering all over the world and he thinks it’s a joke.”
Gobert ended up posting a public apology on his Instagram account. He wrote, “I have gone through so many emotions since learning of my diagnosis… mostly fear, anxiety, and embarrassment. The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered.”
He went on, “At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously. I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as [a] way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus.”
Celebrity jeweler Ben Baller wrote in response to Gobert’s message, “Grown man s**t. Thank you for taking responsibility and understanding how serious this matter is. All of our lives are about to change inside the[n] next week or less. Big announcements and it will affect the world. We gotta come together to defeat this virus or slow it the f**k down.”
Later on that week Gobert released a video from quarantine via the official N.B.A. Twitter account. He said, “I’m going to start by saying thank you to all the people that have been supportive and for all the positive energy. It really means a lot. As for myself, I’ve been feeling a little better every single day thanks to the healthcare people of Utah and Oklahoma City and all the great people around me.”
The basketball player went on, “As you may already know, I just wanted to make sure to remind you guys to keep washing your hands frequently with soap and water. Try to avoid touching your face, your nose, your eyes, and obviously try to avoid making unnecessary contact with people.”
Gobert concluded with the statement, “It’s all about protecting yourself and the people around you. I wish I would have taken this thing more seriously and I hope everyone else will do so because we can do it together. Take care and stay safe.” He was clearly very remorseful about his earlier actions.
However, Gobert actually channeled that remorse into positive action: he started donating. He pledged $100,000 to families which had been affected by the coronavirus in Utah and Oklahoma City, plus the same amount in Euros to families in his native France. He also gave $500,000 to the relief effort and $200,000 to Jazz employees who no longer had income.
That was a good thing to do, but the same can’t be said of certain other people who were careless about COVID-19. Ava Louise turned once again to Dr. Phil in an attempt to gain even more “fame” from her ill-advised actions. Once again she reiterated that she wanted to hurt people older than her.
The 21-year-old Louise told Dr. Phil, “You know what’s ridiculously irresponsible and selfish is that your generation only cares about this virus because it affects you. You’re blowing this pandemic to crazy proportions, instilling fear in the nation, because you feel like it affects boomers.” This is, however, factually incorrect.
While older people are on the whole more likely to die from the coronavirus, young adults are definitely not immune. In fact, 20 percent of people who have been hospitalized in America due to COVID-19 are between 20 and 44 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People of any age with pre-existing health problems are very much at risk.
This has seemingly not occurred to Louise. In her Dr. Phil interview she said, “I was, like, really annoyed that corona was getting more publicity than me. I just don’t think that this is as concerning as possibly as it could be, because I don’t have coronavirus. I don’t have any symptoms. No one I know has symptoms.”
Yet just because she doesn’t have symptoms, that doesn’t mean she couldn’t still be carrying the disease and spreading it to others. Dr. Phil asked her, “If you infect one person that loses their life, is it worth it for you to have this attention?” She answered, “Yeah.” There are heroes of the pandemic, and then there are villains.