Jamie Laou is a 17 year-old high school senior from Sydney, Australia who bears an uncanny resemblance to pop sensation Justin Bieber. This has made him an Internet phenomenon, with an elaborate Bieberesque fan culture of his own.
He was most-discussed topic among Justin Bieber fans this weekend, which means he was one of the most-discussed people on the Internet. So many people tweeted about Jamie Laou the Bieber Lookalike that his Twitter handle, iJever, was among Twitter's worldwide trending topics for hours. Tweets like:
It's safe to say that Jamie Laou is the most famous person who looks like Justin Bieber besides Justin Bieber.
How did this happen? When Laou joined Twitter in July 2009 "everyone ignored me," he told us via YouTube message. But he came to realize his appearance was an indispensable asset in an online world full of rabid Justin Bieber fans. "Whenever I got on webcam on different sites little girls would cry. It was crazy," he said.
It was with these impromptu live webcam performances that Laou broke through. A broadcast using the webcam service Twitcam went viral: by the end of it 800 young girls were watching, convinced they were seeing Justin Bieber. But when Laou revealed he wasn't who they thought he was a strange thing happened: Many of the girls decided they adored him anyway.
A fan culture quickly built up around Jamie that mirrors the socially-networked Justin Bieber fandom. Dedicated Jamie Laou "support" accounts on Twitter sprouted up; Jamie Laou tribute videos appeared on YouTube. There are even Jamie Laou blogs and multiple Facebook fan pages.
Laou now has over 50,000 Twitter followers and attracts as many as 7,000 fans to his webcam broadcasts. Last weekend he posted a YouTube video of a joke rap that included the phrase "I'm a fish." A few hours later, "Imafish" was a trending topic on Twitter.
But also last weekend Jamie Laou sparked controversy when he suggested on Twitter that Justin Bieber had lost touch with his fans. The not-so-subtle subtext being that he, iJever, was better to his own fans. "If Justin love his beliebers so much why hasnt he kept posting youtube videos. Since thats why we subscribed him in the first place?" he asked.
Beliebers were outraged.
"You've now upset over 6 million girls… we're more powerful than navy seals—watch out!," tweeted one user. It's not an idle threat: One girl who filmed herself ripping down Justin Bieber posters from her wall received death threats from the global Bieber brigade.
Things got so heated that Justin Bieber himself offered Laou a truce via private Twitter messages, which he promptly posted to Twitter. "I don't have any problem with you and I actually appreciate your support," Bieber wrote. This seemed to dampen the Beliebers' bloodlust.
Laou continues to tweet and post videos apace, albiet with increased scrutiny from the Biebersphere. He now insists that he's not trying to usurp The One. "I'm never a Bieber wannabe. I'm myself," he told us. "I'm just a teenage kid that has cool hair."