When Keeping Up with the Kardashians viewer Jerome Billingham sent a random tweet to Kim Kardashian, he couldn’t possibly have known what would happen next. But just a few years on, his life has changed significantly – all thanks to a simple three-word response from one of the most famous women in the world.
Thanks to the rise of social media in the 21st century, it’s easier than ever to get in touch with your favorite celebrities. But no matter how many times you tweet them, it’s very rare that those stars will actually respond. After all, they receive thousands of messages every day – and so, obviously, there’s a lot to sift through.
So 25-year-old Jerome Billingham found himself in a highly unusual situation back in 2013 after tweeting Kim Kardashian. At the time, Billingham – who lives in Louth, Lincolnshire in the U.K. – was working in a laundry factory.
And one day, he decided, for no particular reason, to send a friendly tweet to Kim Kardashian. Little did he know, however, that his life would never be quite the same again. What happened to his Twitter account is particularly amazing.
Still, that’s perhaps little wonder when you consider just how insanely famous Kim Kardashian actually is. Kardashian, who first became exposed to the glare of the media spotlight as a result of her friendship with Paris Hilton, has nearly 56 million followers on Twitter, for instance. And she’s kept her media profile up in part by starring, alongside her family, on reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Unsurprisingly, Billingham is a huge fan of both Kim and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. He’s been watching the show since 2012 – five years after the series, now one of the longest-running of its kind in the U.S., first aired.
And on February 21, 2013, in response to a tweet from Kardashian – the precise details of which Billingham says he can no longer remember – he wrote, “Do you notice your fans? I love you loads! #hotlove.” At the time, he probably thought that that would be the end of the correspondence.
After all, the vast majority of people who tweet to Kardashian and other celebrities get no response. And, given her millions of followers, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Kardashian receives thousands of tweets every day. Yet, for some reason, she decided to respond to Billingham, writing back, “Love you too!”
Before he sent his tweet to Kardashian, Billingham had in the region of 200 Twitter followers. But that number very quickly changed – undoubtedly spurred on by the TV star’s huge fan base. Now, across the two Twitter accounts Billingham currently uses, he boasts more than 550,000 followers.
In itself, gaining new followers on Twitter isn’t necessarily all that significant – even if they do number hundreds of thousands. But the scale and rapidity of the increase in his audience would end up triggering a chain of events that would transform Billingham’s life forever, even if he didn’t know it yet.
The unassuming former factory worker first realized something was up when his phone wouldn’t stop buzzing. “I didn’t think anything of it and was walking to work and then my phone just started going ping, ping, ping and going crazy,” he told the Daily Mail in August 2017.
“I thought, ‘What the hell’s happened?’” he said. He initially speculated that something had gone wrong with his smartphone handset. “But then I saw hundreds and thousands of replies saying, ‘Congratulations, well done son’,” he added to the newspaper.
Soon, Billingham’s new-found audience started getting him noticed by brands and advertisers. Clearly, they saw potential in the reach that Billingham now enjoyed via his social media accounts – a turn of events that would swiftly open plenty of doors.
Indeed, clothing companies began sending their products to Billingham in the hope that he would promote their brands on his Twitter feed. Meanwhile, menswear line boohooMAN and online magazine LADbible also got in touch in apparent attempts to cash in on his fame. “People were asking to pay me to send out tweets and promote their goods,” he told newspaper the Grimsby Telegraph in August 2017. “My wardrobes are stuffed with free clothes; I have lots of free gadgets for promotions.”
In fact, Billingham now rakes in over $6,500 every year, all from his social media accounts. Clothing retailer Primark, for instance, paid him around $130 for a single tweet promoting its new Christmas product range.
Billingham has also appeared in TV trailers for the British show Tattoo Fixers and even finds himself getting into clubs for free. His life has truly been upended in a most positive way – and his career has changed, too. He no longer works in a factory, and he eventually aspires to earn a living solely from his posts on social media.
Furthermore, there are even a few stars among his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers – including former heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury. “I do that much on Twitter now I can barely keep up with it all,” he told the Daily Mail. “Considering I still live at home with my mum and stepdad, I feel it’s not bad going.”
The reaction to Billingham’s fame online hasn’t been quite so positive, however. On a LADbible post about Billingham, for instance, commenter Benni Hanfeld wrote, “Saddening to see that somebody gets known because some celeb replied to him and not for having done something extraordinary. What has this world become?”
Chinchilla White, however, played devil’s advocate, responding that it wasn’t Billingham that the sponsors cared about – it was his audience. “With that many followers, his social media accounts are worth a certain amount of money for their influence,” he wrote. “It’s not him that they want, it’s his network.”
Whatever your opinion of Billingham’s rise to fame, however, there’s no denying that he has done well to turn his moment in the spotlight into a profitable sideline. And if you fancy doing the same, there’s little harm in tweeting your favorite celebrities in hope of a reply, is there? After all, you never know what might happen…