'Chewbacca Mom' on winning Facebook in 2016

By Nathan Williams
BBC News

image copyrightFacebook/Candace Payne
image captionChewbacca Mom unmasked: Candace Payne and the mask that changed her life

How does your life change after you film a funny video for your friends and it notches up some 164 million - yes, million - views?

This is what happened to Candace Payne, a 37-year-old from Texas who one day in May bought a silly mask and live-streamed herself chatting about her purchase.

The video, filmed in a shop car park, broke the record as the most-watched Facebook Live video ever.

You may remember this because it is pretty much four minutes of complete joy as the mother of two dons the Chewbacca mask, then laughs her head off as the toy mimics the sounds of the famous Star Wars character. Here it is again, should you have missed this moment of sheer delight in 2016.

media captionChewbacca mask woman becomes a viral hit

"Things are wonderful at the moment," Candace says.

Since Candace has shot to internet stardom she has appeared on a Late Late Show sketch with Star Wars director JJ Abrams, one of her heroes, released a cover of Michael Jackson's Heal the World and keeps being recognised in the street.

"People come up and ask if they can take a selfie with me," Candace says. "Most are pretty kind and many people want to say thanks for my video."

image copyrightTwitter/ James Cordon

Candace says she recorded the video for her friends and family and made it publicly visible without really thinking about it.

Because it was public, people could share it and they did - over and over and over again.

"I remember seeing that I got 50,000 views within an hour - and thinking 'I don't know 50,000 people. What's going on?'"

By the time Candace went to bed - seven hours after she posted it - the video had one million views and she wanted to know what makes a video viral.

One reference said you needed five million views in 24 hours and she said: "I thought I might actually go viral."

image copyrightTwitter/ Candace Payne

By the time she woke up the next day, Candace had 24 million video views and 20 messages on her phone.

Her Chewbacca antics had shattered the previous Facebook Live record set by Buzzfeed's exploding watermelon - a video in which two people gradually add rubber bands to a watermelon until the inevitable happens.

Facebook had only rolled out live streaming video capability to all users a month before, in April.

"Within three days I had 78 million views and climbing. I refreshed my Facebook page and saw the number of views jump by 100,000."

image copyrightInstagram/ Candace Payne

Candace says she clearly remembers a moment being in the kitchen "on the floor, in tears".

"I said thank you to God."

She says she knew a "door had opened up" for something different in her life.

"I wasn't scared, I was grateful.

"I knew that being a stay-at-home mom was just a season.

"Once both my kids started at school and kindergarten, I was looking to go back to work again. But the right option never came up.

"And I always had dreams of doing something grand."

image copyrightFacebook/ Candace Payne

She also appeared on Good Morning America, where she remembers chatting off set about her new-found fame.

"Someone said to me: 'Not many people are ready for this. But you are'.

"I really took those words to my heart. It gave fire to my bones."

Candace now has some 800,000 followers on Facebook and another 50,000 on Instagram and she is looking forward to starting life as a video blogger for American network TLC.

image copyrightInstagram/ Candace Payne

Candace also has a small group of people looking after press inquiries and her engagements, while she delivers speeches on the theme of finding "joy in the everyday".

"We forget that joy calls us to play," says Candace. "That's what happened in the car that day. I didn't care who walked by and saw what I was doing."

Candace says she has landed the dream job for which she did not apply "which is being myself and going out there and meeting people, and sharing the joy".

image copyrightInstagram/ Candace Payne

Candace says she has not changed, but some things have changed in her life. Some people who are close to her think she might be too busy to see them and that space is filled with more strangers who want to meet her.

It is also difficult to teach her children to be careful with strangers, she says, when there are random people coming up and asking for a photo with their mother.

"But I haven't met someone I don't like yet. In general, I love people."

Candace has received negative messages on social media. But she says hateful things just "roll off" her back if they are from people she doesn't know.

Surely though, what we all want to know is why was the video so successful? Why did so many people love it and share it?

How did it become the top global live video of the year, beating others from major publishers covering stories such as the US election?

"I don't get it either," says Candace. "But laughter is a universal language. My video was just joyful and had nothing to do with any agenda."

Produced by the UGC and Social News team

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