New York Magazine

Welcome to the Who-niverse

A guide to the many, many celebrities whose names make you say … “Who?”

RITA ORA. BLAC CHYNA. COLTON HAYNES. ZENDAYA. BELLA THORNE. A Wholebrity (or just a “Who”) is the kind of celebrity—or “celebrity”—whose name makes many of us stop and ask: “Who?” The average celebrity-gossip connoisseur might have a difficult time matching a Wholebrity’s name to a face. But to ignore Whos, or pretend to be above them, is to miss out on the cultural conversation of the moment: We are living, increasingly, in a Who universe.

These people, the sorta famous, have always been with us. They used to be known as C-through-Z-list celebrities. But today, everything has changed. The click-seeking media cover Whos with nearly as much passion as they do those on A- and B-lists (“Thems,” as we like to call those more recognizable stars), even if the Who has no immediately discernible skills or credits to his or her name. For example, there are Explainers—take Us Weekly’s “Who Is Becca Kufrin? 5 Things to Know About the New Bachelorette,” which includes such facts as “She’s Got Beauty and Brains” and “She’s an Animal Lover.”

Whos can only ever be a little bit famous; there is something charming about that, like a homespun version of celebrity. But don’t confuse Whodom with obscurity or viral fame. It takes hard work and an unslakable thirst to become a Who. Whos have been raised on celebrity culture, and they reflect its values back at us in their deep desire for fame and their performance of it.

Whodom was enabled by social media: Our new, post-Facebook internet allows the fame game to be played on a weirdly level field. Stories of actors struggling to make it in Hollywood, the kind of all-or-nothing narrative you see in movies like La La Land, have been

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