Alabama Viral Sensation Speaks Ten Years Later

Paige Reynolds was giving the performance of a lifetime to an audience of one. Singing a tune written by herself, the 15-year-old sashayed across her parent’s living room before taking center stage on a small coffee table.  Swaying back and forth, the young songstress bared her soul to the web camera stationed less than 10 feet away.

Then she fell. Hard.

“That wasn’t my first time on the table,” Reynolds clarified. “I had been standing there a couple of times before and so honestly I was super into the song and was just singing and I didn’t think anything would happen from standing up there.”

The fall, caused by the table tipping over, was seen by the world and, thus Scarlet was born. Since then, the iconic moment has been parodied across the world wide web.

The 4-minute video, cleverly titled “Scarlet Takes a Tumble” boasts over 30 million views on YouTube, becoming one of the most watched on the popular streaming site.  But the video, hitting the web was nothing short of an accident. Shortly after recording the video, Reynolds recalled showing her sister who was then attending college in Huntsville. Finding the video hilarious, her sister asked her to email the video. There was just one problem: the file was too large. The other option was to upload it to the then-new streaming site YouTube.

The rest is history.

“I uploaded to it to YouTube and back in the day, it took like three or four hours to upload a video and it took so long that I forgot to set it to private,” Reynolds explained “That’s basically how it got to YouTube and got popular. I was trying to send the video to my sister.”

In hindsight, Reynolds isn’t sure what inspired her alter-ego, simply stating “I just remember, well, I can’t put my own name up there, and no that doesn’t fit, so I just picked Scarlet, but I’m not entirely sure why.”

Within days, “Scarlet” was a viral sensation that took the world by storm. What the world didn’t know was Reynolds was just a regular high schooler living in Roebuck, Alabama. To her luck, her cyber identity didn’t completely seep into her personal life.

“I don’t think it was ever really a local thing until the people at my high school found out, but it was more national that it was local,” Reynolds explained. “Because it wasn’t my name, so people didn’t necessarily know it was me, unless I told them. People would recognize me, but they couldn’t place where they recognized me from.”

Reynolds made her first televised appearance on Maury, something that she was reluctant to do. The gig spawned multiple talk show invitations from super model Tyra Banks and Daniel Tosh of “Tosh.0.”

The latter turned out to be her favorite on-screen appearance. Tosh invited the Alabama teen to Hollywood for a “web redemption”, a popular segment that allows accidental viral stars to recreate their videos on a more grandiose scale. The redemption featured cameos from former NFL player Terrell Owens and Gymnastics coach Yefim Furman.

For Reynolds, the over-the-top sketch was the first time recalled being she could laugh at herself, instead of cringing in embarrassment.

“I had gotten into the habit of embracing it more, so I had gotten over the initial embarrassment of millions of people seeing me roll around on my back screaming.”

So, what has Reynolds, now 25, been up to recently?

In February, Reynolds broke her silence and appeared in “I Went Viral”, a short YouTube video that focused on her journey as a former viral sensation and owning her “beautiful, black skin” and creating an identity for herself.

Reynolds, who now lives in Michigan, said she is heavily involved with her church’s choir. She was even a member of Oakwood University’s award-winning choir. However, she retired from living room concerts.

“I’ve let tables go,” Reynolds laughed. “In fact, I’ve let go of climbing on all furniture. You know, it’s not really a good idea for me.”

Obtaining her degree Andrews University, Reynolds said she plans on relocating back to Alabama to obtain her counseling license and pursue a doctorate in African American Studies.

“One of my passions in school is telling people about bullying and that definitely came from that video and having to go through that portion of dealing with the bullying and feedback that came out of being Scarlett.”

Even with the brief limelight, there was a dark side to internet stardom. At one point, her mother took initiative, screening the comments before letting her daughter read them.

“People don’t talk about it a whole lot, but it happens more than you would think as far as on the cyber side of people putting unnecessary nasty comments on videos for no reason,” Reynolds said. “Like they did that a lot, like a whole lot during the time when it first came out and first got popular. That was still the early day of YouTube where not a whole lot of protection was there and there was some people would just say terrible stuff, like I got called a lot of derogatory names.”

Though accidental, Reynolds cautioned those looking for viral stardom to carefully reevaluate their intentions, because once it’s posted, it’s permanent. She added that the internet can be a great platform to expand upon.

“If you’re someone like Issa Rae who’s going viral for your comedy and artistry, what you’ve really practiced putting forth in the world, I think that’s a beautiful thing, but if you’re doing whatever you can to go viral, one you’ll never go viral that way; Two, it’s always going to be poisonous for you if you do.”

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