The Egg asks us to meet at the SIXTY LES hotel in New York. “You can call me Eugene,” Egg says in a welcoming but assertive voice, perched on a plush pink chair. We were forewarned by the Egg’s management to only ever approach the talent slowly, as sudden movements startle them. When face-to-face, it quickly becomes clear that like many celebrities, the Egg is exactly like us but also not at all.
Earlier this month, Eugene the Egg set out to beat Kylie Jenner’s score for most-liked photo on Instagram. In just nine days, the Egg’s nude portrait topped the record that took the Kardashian-Jenner clan a decade of swindling – and birthing children – to set. The Egg’s Instagram post holds a cool 50 million likes.
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As we take our seat, Eugene thanks us for visiting them in their hotel. Going out in public, Eugene explains, has become more difficult since their now-famous nude dropped. “It’s harder to be free-range these days,” they say with a chuckle. Eugene, as they insist we call them, emits an overwhelming sense of self-awareness and humility. They hold their new-found position with grace, conscious of the power of a pun but equally weary of the dangers of oversaturation.
Eugene’s rise to fame came at an opportune time. For most, the crowning of the Egg was a distraction from the conclusion of a turbulent 2018. For a fashion cynic, Eugene was a welcome antidote to the monotony of Men’s Fashion Week. Indeed, this fashion season saw the same variation of reviews and commentary: (a) shows are dying, (b) shows are thriving or (c) shows are lukewarm.
But more than ever, lurking between the lines of positive, negative and meh reviews was the dreaded question that haunts all corners of the fashion industry. It’s the question that haunts most industries: does any of it matter? Or, rather, do the many excuses – fantasy, beauty, feeling – we once used to fend off accusations of fashion’s vanity, elitism and classism no longer cut it?
You can call me Eugene
Fashion has tipped toward democratisation; affordable, street-leaning fashion has taken charge and luxury brands followed suit. Critics were quick to note that recent catwalks shifted from a display of hoodies and sweatpants to a showcase for more tailored garments, but the impact of streetwear goes much deeper than any one runway show. The popularisation of sneakers is not only a trend that will soon pass – it’s a reflection of larger populist shifts. For the first time ever, the fashion elite are bending to the masses, rather than telling the public what they want.
Luxury fashion brands were once experts in dictating public perception – if they no longer can, no company can. Instead, we all answer to Instagram users. Even Instagram users answer to Instagram users. Fashion brands, corporate companies, start-ups, media organisations (and on and on) are all clawing to catch even a minute of the internet’s attention, spending millions of dollars to create “content” worthy of cutting through the digital pollution. And yet, none of them could match the Egg.
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Why were we so eager to love Eugene the Egg? Because Eugene represents something that no company or brand can buy: anti-establishment ardour. In an internet age where the proliferation of information and imagery has become exhausting, Eugene is a welcome break. No party affiliation. No brand affiliation. No hidden agenda. Just the Egg.
The internet came together and gave me an incredible opportunity, so I’m now on a mission to return the favour
The simplicity of Eugene’s nude is undeniably captivating and a stark departure from the contoured, lip-lined selfies that define the Kardashian era. As we learn throughout our time with Eugene, they’re driven to deconstruct these standards. “I decided to use this opportunity to give the world a bit of hope,” the Egg says. “I guess I want to say you don’t have to be famous, filtered or perfect to make a difference.”
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“The internet came together and gave me an incredible opportunity, so I’m now on a mission to return the favour,” they continue. Since their rise to fame, the Egg has launched merchandise, collaborating with designers to dream up fits suited for Egg lovers. A portion of profits are being donated to organisations like Young Minds UK, National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and CALM. “Can we turn the tide of social media and make it more about good mental health?” Eugene asks.
“Social media is an amazing thing that has the power to bring the world together,” Eugene adds. This mindset sings through the Egg’s portrait and continues to move millions to like it. A similar unifying spirit catapulted streetwear to prominence and even drove the rise of the Kardashians. After all, the internet derives much of its staying power from democratising fame. The genius of the Egg, like the genius of the Kardashians, is that it was unexpected, unlikely and driven by us. But, we have evolved: we’re over crowning people, we’re over crowning sneakers and now we’ve crowned the Egg.
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The most poignant message underpinning Eugene’s coronation is that the communion of the internet ultimately holds the power. Not even the seemingly untouchable reign of a Kardashian-Jenner is safe. Multibillion-dollar brands and companies are definitely not safe. While we undoubtedly love our Kardashians, we clearly love the democracy of the internet even more. How decidedly quick we were to aid Eugene the Egg in their revolutionary task, overthrowing Queen Jenner.
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This article originally appeared on HYPEBEAST .