In the relatively short life of YouTube and the rise of “user-generated content,” the story of Lonelygirl15 has already become a legend. An innocent girl named Bree uploads videos from her room, drops some hints about her weird parents and her boyfriend, and becomes a bonafide sensation, with millions of people watching her videos. Then the story breaks that she is an actress in her 20s, and the whole thing was dreamed up by some independent filmmakers (which is still an interesting story).
It’s not quite in the same category, but Virginia Heffernan — who writes the Screens blog for the New York Times and was one of the first to jump on the Lonelygirl15 bandwagon (just shortly before yours truly) — has turned up another YouTube sensation/mystery, one that goes by the name YsabellaBrave, or maybe MaryAnne. An attractive blonde with Raphaelite curls, large eyes and a strong singing voice, she has about 16,000 subscribers to her channel on YouTube, and is #34 on the “most subscribed list” of all time at YouTube. She sings classics such as The Band’s Weight, As Time Goes By and Swingin’ on a Star.
Ms. Heffernan points to a post on the blog of crime writer Steve Huff, in which he does some digging into the background of the singer, who claims to have little or no training. He turns up a video clip of a brunette Ysabella — calling herself MaryAnne — trying out for a job as the host of a horror movie TV show, and also produces blog entries in which she describes herself as a devout Christian, and mentions that she is an actress.
But just when we are ready to dismiss MaryAnne as a fake, Huff gets a comment from the singer herself, then exchanges emails — and becomes convinced that she is genuine. Ms. Heffernan isn’t quite so convinced, but she has yet to respond to a comment from MaryAnne on her Screens blog, in which the YouTube video star says
“Remember when reporting, even scandalous reporting, was built on fact and only rarely seasoned with hearsay? If you want to know about me, Iâ€™m here. You have my email.
Please donâ€™t let an article consist of verbal allusions or 3rd party quotes about a woman; thatâ€™s just a flush away from â€˜Call MaryAnne for a good timeâ€™.”
Whatever the truth might be, it isn’t nearly as crucial to the picture as Lonelygirl15’s real story was, since part of the reason people got interested was that Bree seemed to be under lock and key to some extent, and possibly in danger. MaryAnne is just a singer — and a pretty darn good one too. Who cares what her real name is, or whether she’s a horror movie fan, or a devout Christian, or both? Lots of artists change their names, and we rarely find out their real life story until after they’re dead.