It sounds like an episode of "Black Mirror": Celebrities recording videos saying almost anything asked of them, on demand. But plenty of famous and not-so-famous names are doing it, for a price, as part of the talent roster of the Cameo app.
"We've seen gender announcements, engagement announcements, all types of different things,” Cameo CEO Steven Galanis told VICE News. There's about 18,000 "talents" to choose from to record your own personalized announcement, from no-name "influencers" who command as little as a dollar a video to celebrities like Charlie Sheen and former NFL star Brett Favre, who charge around $500 and up. The stars set their price.
Founded in 2016 by three college friends, Cameo now has an estimated $300 million valuation. As the requests come in, the celebrities fulfill them, and Cameo takes a cut of each transaction.
But sometimes the requests can be dubious, like the time in December 2018 when Favre was asked to recite what turned about to be coded anti-Semitic propaganda. Cameo told VICE News they've since developed tech to prevent such requests, and that Favre is now an investor.
Still, why would anyone subject themselves to the whims of fans who might not always have the noblest of intentions when requesting a video from someone like, say, Gilbert Gottfried?
“Fame is a weird thing: It gets to be kind of a drug,” Gottfried told VICE News. “And 90 percent of a successful career is just reminding people you’re still here.”
And then there's the money: Since Gottfried joined Cameo in December, he's done about 1,600 recordings, and we estimated he's earned almost $250,000 in those nine months. Cameo takes 25 percent.