Confessions of an Internet Meme

“Happy Birthday Miranda!” was the campy social media meme which defined 2019.

Harry Browse speaks to Sam Hayes and Jack Remmington, the two people responsible for the viral sensation.

You might recognise Jack Remmington for two reasons; as one half of 2017 X-Factor duo ‘Jack and Joel,’ or as the catalyst for a viral sensation which got people from all over the world saying, “Happy Birthday Miranda!”

In May 2019, he came across a video innocently posted to Facebook by Sam Hayes, an executive PA from Southampton in which she wishes her friend Miranda a happy birthday from the observation deck of the Shard. Noticing the video’s iconic quotes – notably Sam’s enthusiastic, and slightly tipsy, outburst of “missing you, loving your FACE!” – Jack shared it to his 31,000 Twitter followers. It’s campy, unintentional humour made it particularly popular with the LGBTQI+ community on Twitter.

Almost overnight thousands of people began uploading their impersonations of Sam’s birthday wish. Its virality intensified when Radio 1’s Greg James, one of Jack’s followers, dedicated part of his show to the meme. This prompted award-winning singer-song-writer Lewis Capaldi to post his own version to his 923,000 Twitter followers. All the while, Sam had no idea that her face had gone viral.

The meme shows no sign of stopping. It has been seen over a million times on Twitter and now Sam, Jack and Miranda have released merchandise which is helping to raise money for a charity assisting people living with HIV. How does a seemingly typical birthday message become a viral hit?

Almost overnight Sam’s video went from a private birthday message to a viral sensation.

Jack Remmington – The Catalyst

I get tagged in about 10 stories a day from people all over the world, re-enacting the video. Memes are so quick to appear and disappear, but there are certain ones which last in peoples’ psyche and I feel like this is one of them. Particularly in gay spheres. If I go out to a gay bar,  people come up to me and say, “Oh my god, you’re the ‘Happy Birthday Miranda’ guy.” It’s got to the point where I lie and say they’re mistaken. More people recognise me from the meme than they do from X Factor.

My housemate Becks showed me the video first. It had gone through a chain of friends before it got to me: Becks was shown it by her friend, who knew someone else who happened to be friends with Sam on Facebook. We would quote it all the time, but I realised that my followers thought I was going mad. That’s when I decided to let everyone else in on the joke and I shared the original video.

I was getting replies to my Instagram story straight away. People thought it was hilarious, so I shared it on Twitter. Initially it was just my mates doing re-enactments but then it started to spiral out of control. I know a girl who works with Lewis Capaldi and she was such a fan of the meme that she got him to say it on camera. I was in Ibiza at the time with my best friend who is the biggest Lewis Capaldi fan and we both freaked out.

When I found out Sam was blocking people who were commenting “Happy Birthday Miranda!” on her Instagram posts, I got really anxious and I tried to reach out to her on Instagram. She must have been inundated with direct messages because she didn’t reply. After all, it was a video from months ago – it had disappeared into the archives of Facebook by the time I tweeted it. Why would it ever be on her radar again? Then some people started commenting things like ‘luv ya babes’ – one of the quotes from the video – on photos of her husband and her daughter; nothing to do with the Miranda meme.

Out of context it looked like we were taking the piss out of her. I had been keeping track of the meme on a Twitter thread and people were replying with their own versions of it. We were being sent videos from Bali, Australia, South America. I think the only continent still to wish us “Happy Birthday” is Antarctica. Miranda came across the thread and we began chatting on Twitter. I introduced her to ‘gay Twitter’ and explained that the reason the video was so popular was because it’s camp – it shouldn’t be funny, but it is. She began to understand that it was an adoration thing and that we weren’t taking the piss.

I think Sam kept her distance because she was apprehensive about the meme and thought it was malicious. Miranda was able to reassure her and about a month after I originally posted the meme, Sam replied to my impression of the video saying, ‘your version is better than the original.’ From then on, we began messaging. Sam is larger than life like myself, so we clicked instantly and those initial chats on social media blossomed into a friendship. In November last year, we were finally able to meet in person.

The Shard offered to look after us with complimentary drinks on Miranda’s birthday; exactly a year since the video first blessed the internet. We thought it right considering the amount of free advertising they’ve received from the meme.

I saw Sam, Mark, her husband and her five-year-old daughter Honey, as I walked into the foyer and it felt like I had known them for years. We had gotten to know each other quite well from speaking on social media so all the apprehensiveness which we felt as the meme was going viral had gone. We hugged and together, we posted a video wishing Miranda a happy birthday. It was also the day we revealed our new Miranda merchandise.

Since January 2019, I’ve been volunteering at the Food Chain; a London-based charity and food kitchen for vulnerable people living with HIV. However, they’ve been having issues with funding and were on the brink of shutting down. It was my idea to make merch. I noticed that the meme wasn’t slowing down like they tend to do, so I thought why not jump on it while we can and raise some money for charity at the same time. Fortunately, Miranda is a designer in New York, so she offered to design the jumpers, hoodies, mugs and bags. 10% of proceeds generated by the merch are going towards the ‘Save the Food Chain’ campaign and the rest we’re funnelling back into making the merch. Thanks to public donations and money raised by the mech, the Food Chain have said they’ve raised the £40,000 they need to avoid the risk of closure.

Sam Hayes – The Content

I’ve known Miranda for about 6 years. I had been in a business relationship with somebody from Serbia and during that time I would fly out to meet with him. On one of those occasions I met Miranda who was dating the Serbian actor Stefan Kapicic who plays Colossus in the Deadpool movies.

We didn’t say much more than ‘hi,’ but I thought she was super attractive and very tall. When I returned to London, I contacted her on social media, and we began chatting. We’re both very direct women and we have a similar sense of humour. Normally that would mean we would clash but we seemed to get on really well. While I was out in California on holiday, we managed to meet up and we became even closer. To this day we offer each other support, despite the distance between us.

Myself and Mark – known as ‘Hazy’ to his friends – had gone to the Shard for Mark’s birthday on the 24th of November. Coincidentally, Miranda’s birthday is two days later. I was a bit tipsy because we’d had a couple glasses of champers and I said, “Why don’t we record a birthday message for Miranda.”

The only reply I had on the original video was from Miranda saying, ‘oh my god I love this!” I had no idea that it was doing the rounds on Instagram and Twitter. Then I started to receive comments from people I didn’t know saying, ‘happy birthday Miranda’ and ‘oh my god I’ve found you.’ I’m not someone who’s in the public eye, so when these comments started to increase in number, I thought “what the fuck is going on?”

I messaged Miranda asking if she knew anything about it, but she was also none the wiser. At first, I didn’t like it. Miranda showed me a Twitter thread posted by Jack and my instinct was to reply to the thread and contact him. I wanted to determine whether it was a piss-take.

Jack and I began to message each other privately and he introduced me to ‘gay Twitter,’ and that changed the way I saw the video. As well as a genuine expression of love, which I think it retains, it’s also camp; the fact that it wasn’t meant to be funny, paradoxically makes it funnier. People were going out of their way to impersonate myself and my husband – putting on swimming caps to mimic Hazy’s bald head. Hazy and I found the recreations hilarious.

I started getting personal messages from people saying this is iconic. For some reason, the video connected people. I don’t know whether it was me being slightly pissed or the quote “loving your face!” but it connected people, it made them laugh.

Then one day, I received a message from a woman I didn’t know, and it said, “I haven’t spoken to my brother in 10 years and something has happened. I saw your video, I contacted him and we’re back in touch with each other and we’ve bonded over your video.” I thought that is amazing. This video, as ridiculous as it is, is actually making people do good things.

The meme has taken on a whole new meaning for me. It’s a message of love which is multiplied every time someone repeats the words ‘Happy Birthday Miranda.’ Because of this video, I’ve gone from a place of pain and isolation to one of acceptance and community. Some can’t bare it and I get that it’s annoying, but for people who are struggling and find enjoyment or connection from it, it can only be a good thing. I only feel love for it now.  

Photo credit: Sam Hayes

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