n late March 2012, computer programmer Will King was at the annual Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, South Carolina, casually snapping photos as runners passed by. After uploading these to Flickr and Facebook, a friend took notice of a particularly eye-catching runner and dubbed him “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.” From here, the image was posted on the r/pics subreddit and rapidly became a viral sensation. Zeddie Little is the man pictured in this meme, and since that day in 2012, he’s been pretty mellow about his internet fame compared to some meme celebrities. He’s currently living in Brooklyn with his long-time girlfriend and two dogs, working as a bartender and signing the occasional autograph for tourists. Little took us up on our offer to interview him, so we decided to delve deeper into the story behind one of the famous memes from the era of Advice Animals.
Q: Alright so to begin here, can you fill us in on some background details of your life, and what you’re up to currently? Where do you live presently, and what’s your career?
A: I am from Charleston, South Carolina, and I live in New York now in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. When I moved here, I worked in and out of music a little bit, but most of my life I was in media communications and got my major from the College of Charleston. At the same time, I’ve worked in kitchens, so when I moved here in May of 2011, I was cooking and then made a weird transition to the front of the house and took a liking to it. I'm currently the general manager at a cocktail bar in Williamsburg. This one I've been at off and on for a few years, and now I'm actually sort of taking it on as entirely my project. I did work in and out of PR and stuff like that in tandem with working at record labels or music venues, but primarily my bread and butter is in all the hospitality industry. Eventually, the goal would be to have my own thing.
Q: Given your ridiculously photogenic good looks, why haven’t you become America’s Next Top Model instead of your current career?
A: [laughs] I don't know, I never even thought about it really. Nor have I really even done photoshoots or anything like that. I've sort of been approached by a couple of friends that work in fashion. Funnily enough, for the first time in like six or seven years or whatever it's been [since the meme], a friend of mine who works in fashion here -- he and his boyfriend [were] like, "Hey you wanna come shoot some photos?" I said, "Maybe." It would have been cool, but I ended up not doing it. I haven't really pursued anything. If it falls in my lap, sure. But I'm not going to seek it out. [Brooks Running] tried to scout me for some things, but they ended up just giving me a bunch of free stuff -- a couple of seasons worth of running gear and shoes, so that was cool.
Q: Let’s take a step back to that day in 2012. Would you mind filling us in on the finer details of the Cooper River Bridge Run leading up to the photo? Do you recall the specific moment you had the picture taken and did you think anything of it at the time?
A: I was running the race there and had recently moved to New York at the time so I kind of used that as an excuse to just go and visit and hang out for the weekend. I was somewhat of an avid short-distance runner and I ran it once or twice in the past. I was like, "Sure it'd be great to go home and do that and see some friends." I remember the race started super late. It started at like 9 o'clock and the gun was supposed to be like 7:30 or 8, but something happened with the bridge. It was super fucking hot, and by that time it’s already like 85 or 90 degrees or something like that -- and we had the humidity.
So I remember everybody was already exhausted. This was maybe a mile in, and we hadn’t even gotten to the bridge yet where the picture [used in the meme] was taken. [Near that point], I was running past an old employer and saw them and was like, “What’s up?!” and it was just me being happy. I guess I was just caught cheesing. I do kind of remember staring down the barrel of a camera but not thinking anything of it at all. I think the moment [that photo was taken] can be attributed to me being ecstatic and not really registering exactly how uncomfortably warm it was at the time. It's kind of why everybody else looks completely wiped out. [laughs] Other than me seeing him [the friend] and the race ending, it was not really a fun race. It was just so unpleasantly warm.
Q: So as the image solidified into the Advice Animals format of “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy,” do you recall when you first saw a meme using the image? What was your initial reaction?
A: I forget who it actually was first showed me, but it was like the Monday or Tuesday after, and we had driven down with our dogs [to South Carolina]. It was a long drive too, I think like 13 or 15 hours, and we stopped at a Whole Foods in Jersey a couple hours out to stock up on some food and avoid having to do any errands when we got home back to the city. Then my phone just kind of lit up.
Q: So it was very shortly after the race like a couple of days or a day after?
A: Yeah. It was like a day or two later. Somebody saw it on Reddit before it was a meme and then there was some type of democratic process where they were like, “Do we get this to be a meme?” and my friend just kept filling me in on the details. I told them, “You tell me what to do, I'm not going to delve in and obsess about it.” So I kind of got all the info on the breaking news like secondhand by them just sending me all these “holy shit” moments of how it was skyrocketing. It was sort of bewilderment. I thought, “This is stupid, like really?” But it was also kind of funny ‘cause it was a good picture. I don't ever really look like that all the time. I’ll take it, but man -- people really find this funny. As it kept multiplying and multiplying, I had a lot of fun.
Q: During that initial time period when it was popular, how did you feel being featured in such a prominent meme? Did you love it or was the experience weird?
A: It was cool because it was sort of like a little window into online culture. At the same time with smartphones really starting to take over and pretty much be in everyone's pocket, it was funny to watch how quickly this thing happened. I was, and still am, a very casual follower of memes. At the time, I was aware of what they were -- I had just never seen anything completely skyrocket like that. It was interesting to see how online culture operated.
Q: How much did you really know about memes back then? Were you already familiar with the culture or only after you became one?
A: My experience with any type of meme was very casual, like everybody knew who Grumpy Cat was -- things like that -- growing up in the era of Facebook and Instagram. I didn't really have an obsession with it, but I was aware. When it actually started to happen [with my meme], I registered what was going on. That's why it was super interesting. I saw the evolution of it, and it was a really interesting study of online culture.
(Little on Good Morning America in 2012)
Q: As your photo and the meme went viral in the early 2010s, how did your friends and family react?
A: My friends were loving it, and they were like, “WTF is going on? Where are you? Are you okay?” Because it was so ravenous. There was like an obsession around this thing. A local paper down there [Charleston] somehow found out it was me. And my dad, who’s always been active in the community and ran a successful nonprofit and was always in touch with the media. So they easily found him and then he would comment like, “He's got a girlfriend. He does this and this.” So I had to say, “Dad! Just keep the mystery a little bit and have fun with it.” He was being a proud dad, but it's hard for him to keep secrets and stuff like that.
Q: I remember reading about your dad being super excited about it all and you having to tell him to chill out a little bit. Did your parents really know anything about memes?
A: Oh my God, yeah. I have a little brother who is five years younger than me. Funnily enough, he was on American Idol recently. But he was sharing his frustrations during this like, “Dad just won't shut up. Like there's certain things you can’t talk about, and he hasn't said anything yet, but if he’s nervous he will.” But you kind of can’t blame him. It’s endearing that he cared that much and he liked it. Everybody had a good time with it. I don't think anybody was jealous or anything like that. I really don't think they knew [about memes]. My mom probably still doesn't fully understand memes. She kind of does but more so emojis.
Q: You mentioned something about your brother being on American Idol. Can you tell us more about that? Did they ever mention you and the meme?
A: Yeah. He actually did really well. He plays guitar and sings, which he started doing in church a lot. He moved to Colorado and that’s what he does for work. But he had a lot of fun with it and he’s still in touch with them [people from the show]. His name’s Grayson Little. [About the meme], I don’t know. He would always call me and ask, “Can I say that’s you?” They do like crazy background checks. His whole life was being audited for a couple of months because something happened in the past with one of the contestants. So he had this really scrutinous period where people were looking at his medical records and all this stuff.
Q: While some people featured in viral memes have aggressively pursued ventures into making a living off their internet fame, you seem to live pretty private life disassociated from Ridiculously Photogenic Guy. Can you tell us why that is?
A: I don't want to discredit people who have actually gone on to become successful or make a killing. I wasn't hoping for it to happen, so I just kind of left it where it was. There's also a gray area between the photographer [who took the photo] and myself, so it's just such a headache to even want to pursue it. If something happens, I’ll say yes, but I’m not gonna aggressively attempt to do something with it. I grew up a very introverted Southern kid in church, so maybe my brain is a little less braggadocious or whatever. I was never a competitive kid in sports and all that either.
Q: We read from your AMA in 2012 that you single-handedly crashed the Reddit servers. With Kim Kardashian claiming to have "broken the internet" with her infamous photoshoot, which one of you do you think would win a Zoolander-style Walk-Off Challenge on the runway?
A: [laughs] Her. My butt is nowhere near as good. That was a funny time, I remember everyone’s computer just not working. My friends were kind of walking me through the AMA process because it was kind of unfamiliar to me. They had never seen an instance where it crashed.
(Little during his Reddit AMA)
Q: Over the years since then, do people recognize you as the face of Ridiculously Photogenic Guy out in the world? What’s that like?
A: I didn't really have any stalkers or anything. My Instagram doesn’t really have any photos of myself tagged. I don’t delete any either, just for some reason I somehow end up out of pictures. So I think some people are hesitant to take my picture because they think I'm weird about it, but honestly, I’m not. I still get noticed every now and then. It’s kind of funny, and I’ll play around with it like, “I don’t know what you're talking about.”
(Little posing with W. King)
Q: Does it feel like they instantly recognize you from the meme, or they just kind of look at you like they know you from somewhere?
A: I do get those glances a lot more often. But there was a moment where people knew “You’re that guy!” but that was early on. Especially being in a place like New York City, I was signing people’s journals and stuff for a moment. That was really weird -- and of course, taking pictures and selfies. So yeah, a lot of photos and all that. Now it’s maybe once every few months or something.
Q: That's very funny that people actually asked you just like for your autograph. I think what I have been like a surreal feeling.
A: Yeah for a minute. That was really weird. A lot of times it would be a group of tourists or something in New York and it just made their vacation. I would definitely humor them.
Q: Because you were a big meme back in the early days of the culture’s infancy, have you interacted with other famous meme-celebs over the years? Do you stay in touch with any of them?
A: I did a couple of things like Disneyland in California right in those early days of the meme. There’s some photos of that event out there somewhere. I was holding a currently urinating Grumpy Cat in one of those photos. [laughs] But it was a super chill cat, very calm and kind of down for whatever. Honestly, I don’t really know of anybody else since then. I went on a friend’s MTV offshoot, online-only music video for an indie rock thing because I was working with an indie label at the time. I had fun with that and played this stupid character -- it was kind of silly, sort of like Adultswim. But there were never any other meme people I met.
(Little posing with Grumpy Cat at Disneyland in 2013)
Q: We know you have a personal Instagram page, but where else do you spend your free time online? Have any particularly favorite websites or platforms?
A: I kind of don't really. I had fun with Instagram before the ad days when people were actually using it to manipulate the iPhone camera to its full potential -- like urban photography and stuff. I kind of played around for a little bit and had fun with that. But I’ve kinda fallen off of social media with the current political climate in the past five or so years. I have a Twitter account that I use just to follow reporters, and I don't even tweet or retweet anything. I mainly use it as a news service, which I never thought I would be. Other than that I don’t really use any other platforms or play video games that much. I hear all about them listening to Chapo Trap House and stuff like that.
Outside of that, I have two dogs, a girlfriend, always working. I spend a lot of time [outdoors] and try to go to the beach a lot. I'm still running too, but I have a pretty normal existence like personal life nothing crazy or any big creative endeavors or anything. I have had a new interest in politics and local organizing. For the past four or five years, that’s always been sort of an interest. A lot of my friends are musicians and artists, so we’ll gravitate to those circles, but I don't really have a personal creative output at the moment. Funnily enough, what I've been wanting to do is something that’s the complete opposite of taking a good photo. I've wanted to do some voiceover-type work, which would be kind of fun.
(Photo from Earl Boykins Instagram)
Q: Going back to what you mentioned about politics, what sort of involvement are you talking about? And are you ever considering running for anything?
A: I don't know. People are starting to tell me that I should, but I haven't really even fully solidified my own personal stance on politics and what I do and don't believe -- especially growing up in the South and then moving to New York where everybody kind of has this one exact liberal stance. But you know, I’ve been wanting to be more active and start going to community board meetings and stuff like that, at least starting there. I haven't hardly even started, but stuff like that -- baby steps. It's something that has piqued my interest as of late.
Q: Well I think if you do run for something later on down the line you have a pretty good headshot to run with.
A: [laughs] I think so yeah. I just have to keep my teeth clean.
Q: Are you currently big into meme culture? What are your favorites, or do you have any you dislike?
A: Not really. I mean, everybody with an Instagram account is gonna end up following some meme people, but I don’t really follow any of the big ones. A lot of the ones I like are anti-memes or super niche memes where you have to understand who posted it to get why it’s funny. One of the best ones, which I think is dead now, was that guy @earlboykins. There’s an @earlboykins2 now, which is kinda good. But it was this guy named Andrew Kuo who was a local New York artist that did photos of animals or people in weird situations. I don’t really follow like the “F Jerries” or all that stuff. I did for a little bit, but that whole like ads thing -- even that dude with the sign was doing ads for Moe’s.
Q: Are you familiar with the whole Bloomberg campaign on there?
A: Oh my God yeah. I've loved watching it happen. I was actually on vacation in Mexico, and I was like, “This is making me infuriated. I got to enjoy my vacation.” [laughs] Anyway, good riddance he dropped out this morning.
Q: Do you have any opinion on the use of memes for political advertising? Would you ever do that with your meme?
A: I mean, if it's my own, why not? I get the cleverness of it for sure, but doing it for money or at the expense of buying somebody off, that seems a little dirty to me. But if it's my own, hey, why not? Now you’ve put that idea in my head, so maybe I’ll run with it.
Q: Do you have some favorite Ridiculously Photogenic Guy memes? You mentioned something about the “Record Milk Sales” one in your AMA.
A: Oh yeah, that one was pretty funny. That one and the Wolverine one, which is just so creepy. I still find it hilarious. That’s definitely my favorite one. It’s actually stuck with me the most.
Q: Knowing everything that transpired with the photo/meme, if you could go back and prevent any of it from happening, would you, or do you fully embrace the experience of becoming a meme?
A: Oh, absolutely not. It was super weird, [but] in a good way. I definitely had a lot of fun with it. I don't ever remember being like, “Man I wish it would’ve gotten even bigger or [that] it never happened.” I took it for what it was. Who knows, if it gets somehow meta and comes back, bring it on! [laughs]
Q: Any final words to your fans?
A: No, not really. Who knows, maybe Photogenic Guy 2024 or something.