Among the individuals and groups who hold the strongest influence over Gen Z’s and Millennials’ highly-moldable lives and choices are celebrities. While the definition of what a celebrity is might vary depending on your social location, more than half of young people report actively following celebrities. This is a powerful reminder that celebrity culture matters when it comes to understanding the lifestyle preferences and consumer choices of Gen Z and Millennials.

Celebrities’ rise in pop culture dominance among young people is driven in part by social media, as they leverage their online platforms to connect with young audiences like never before. Whether through photos or live content, social media gives young people a firsthand glimpse into the day-to-day lives of their favorite celebrities. It enables them to connect with and relate to celebrity culture in entirely new ways, and the celebrities utilizing these channels most effectively have secured dominant popularity spots among their young followers.

And this pool of Gen Z and Millennial followers is substantial, with nearly 40% of 13-36 year olds reporting that they follow celebrity accounts on social media. Young celebrity social media followers particularly connect with live vlogs or other live content, with that form of media topping the charts for the kinds of live content young people are watching. An overwhelming 65% of audiences 13-36 years old stated that celebrities’ live videos across social media platforms make them seem relatable and enable them to connect effectively with followers.

So you might be wondering which celebrities are paving the way in connecting with their young audiences and leveraging social media to do so? In a recent poll, young consumers aged 13-36 were asked who was their favorite celebrity, and the results were revealing. Respondents’ answers were across the board, with over 200 different celebrities (including YouTube stars and other social media influencers) being named. Let’s take a look at the celebrities who rose above and dominated the charts for young audiences’ favorite celebrities.

Topping the chart for the combined male-female category among 13-36 year olds is, not surprisingly, Beyonce. In her long-held spot at number 1, Queen Bey continues to prove that she is an unstoppable cultural force. Following her unforgettable Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show in 2016, her visual album release “Lemonade” also in 2016, her Coachella show in 2018 paying homage to HBCU culture, and her most recent hit album in collaboration with husband Jay-Z, Beyonce continues to shape and even drive American pop culture. With over 121 million Instagram followers, it’s not surprising that Beyonce’s online presence helps her to maintain this top spot among Gen Z and Millennial celebrity favorites.

Next on the combined chart is Taylor Swift, another cultural queen who has consistently shaped pop culture and music among young consumers. Defined by her highly personal songwriting, genre-bridging music, and transparent relatability toward her fans, Taylor has persevered through several controversies and public feuds to maintain her popularity among Gen Z and Millennials. Taylor Swift, along with fellow female powerhouse and Fenty founder Rihanna, are the only celebs to challenge Beyonce in her number 1 spot among young followers.

One result which might be surprising to some is Will Smith, coming in at number 3 among the 13-36 age group and male-female combined category. Will Smith’s number 3 standing is a testament to the power of social media presence among young audiences. Smith rose several chart spots this year, and it’s no coincidence that this is also the year he joined Instagram, much to his followers’ delight.

When broken down by age group, the results are more mixed. Among 13-17 year olds, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the most popular celebrity; among 18-24 year olds, the answer is Taylor Swift; and among 25-36 year olds, it’s Beyonce. A rising star among young followers is Ariana Grande, who comes in at number 2 for 13-17 year olds and who was recently named Billboard’s Woman of the Year. Despite his retirement from the L.A. Lakers, Kobe Bryant maintains the number 4 spot among 18-24 year olds. Social media maven, makeup guru, and ultimate influencer Kim Kardashian-West appears at number 3 among the 25-36 age group.

Whether they are singers, actors, or sports figures, these favorite celebrities among young audiences have one thing in common – their unmatched ability to meaningfully connect with their followers and to leverage online channels and social media platforms to do so in fresh, compelling ways.

Varsity Spirit and Our Corporate Partners

Varsity Spirit works alongside our corporate partners to help them be useful, relevant and entertaining to teenage consumers.  These young consumers could very well become lifelong customers.  Contact us today, and let’s start the conversation about how we can get your brand in front of millions of the nation’s most spirited and influential teen leaders.