“Villanova Piccolo Girl” isn’t crying anymore!
You may remember this time last year when “Villanova Piccolo Girl” became a meme that emerged from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Roxanne Chalifoux, at the time a senior and a member of the Villanova band, gamely played her piccolo, her eyes filled with tears, as her beloved Wildcats lost their second-round game to North Carolina State.
— For The Win (@ForTheWin) April 5, 2016
Roxanne became a viral sensation. And as the image of the heartbroken young lady got “liked,” “shared,” and otherwise saturated all over social media, Roxanne Chalifoux became a mini-celebrity.
She even appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, playing her piccolo with the house band, The Roots.
A year later, “Villanova Piccolo Girl” is now an adult woman, comfortably in her early 20s. She’s no longer a college student, having graduated Villanova with a degree in Biology, according to the Los Angeles Times. She’s now doing graduate work at Pennsylvania College of Optometry. Aptly enough, she’ll be studying tear production if she hasn’t already.
And, by the way, last week, Villanova University won the tournament with a dramatic last-second buzzer-beater.
And Piccolo Girl didn’t have to cry this time.
oh what a difference a year makes✌️ pic.twitter.com/ata7RCkNjL
— Roxanne Chalifoux (@roxiechalifoxie) April 5, 2016
The rush of sudden viral fame wasn’t easy for the young woman, who was in the midst of her senior year of college and who describes herself as “a pretty private person.”
“The whole thing was always just a little uncomfortable. I was definitely overwhelmed. It wasn’t really something I wanted to happen just because I’m a pretty private person in general.”
However, in an email to USA Today, Roxanne explained that she had loved ones to help her through it.
“Going viral was definitely overwhelming. I constantly reminded myself that everything was going to be OK and that I had so much love around me. My friends and family supported me through it all and that meant the world to me. It was a bit of a blur at the time — everything happened so fast.”
A year later, Roxanne has put being Piccolo Girl behind her. People still reach out to her on social media, but she doesn’t respond. And she’s put her piccolo-playing days behind her as well.
“No instruments. Nope, I’m done.”
As Piccolo Girl’s story demonstrates, becoming an overnight viral sensation can be a mixed bag. The internet can make instant celebrities of people who neither anticipated nor wanted fame, and that’s not always a good thing.
One of the first-ever viral internet memes, emerging before the words “viral internet meme” had entered the lexicon, was the so-called “Star Wars Kid.” Ghyslain Raza, at the time a chubby high school student, appeared in a grainy video, swinging a stick that he was pretending was a light saber from the Star Wars franchise.
One of Raza’s classmates posted the video, two years before YouTube, without Raza’s knowledge. It would go on to be viewed an estimated 900 million times, according to Yahoo News.
And the fame was not kind to Raza.
“In the common room [at school], students climbed onto tabletops to insult me. No matter how hard I tried to ignore people telling me to commit suicide, I couldn’t help but feel worthless, like my life wasn’t worth living.”
Fortunately, internet fame has mostly been kinder to Villanova Piccolo Girl. Although she neither asked for nor particularly appreciated becoming a meme, the internet was largely sympathetic to her, and she was able to weather her sudden fame and emerge relatively unscathed.
[Image via YouTube]