It all began back in 2013 on Vine—not quite ancient history, but it sometimes feels like it, as this video-sharing platform is now long gone. Then two-year-old Gavin began making cameos in videos posted by his uncle (and Vine star) Nick Mastodon. Gavin’s animated facial expressions got all the attention. Viewers started taking screen shots from the videos, and soon they were being circulated around the Internet with deadpan captions.
By age five, Gavin was a viral meme star, being tweeted by celebs like Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and pop star Katy Perry. He even made BuzzFeed’s roundup of memes that defined 2016 (alongside the Obama-Biden bromance, and the Damn Daniel video).
Gavin still isn’t sure what a meme is, but he’s pretty OK with being noticed around town and asked for a photo, says his mom, Kate Thomas. But before any selfie stick is hoisted, Gavin makes the call. “I don’t want to be one of those moms who’s like, ‘You need to do this,’” she says. “Sometimes he’ll just give a high-five or a wave.”
With all this fame, Gavin recently launched his own unboxing YouTube channel and has signed to a modelling and talent agency in Minneapolis. His future goals are pretty modest: to become a swim instructor and open a fidget spinner store. “I’m biased, but I know Gavin is amazing and has an ability to make people laugh and smile,” Thomas says. “For me to be able to share just a little piece of him with the whole world is pretty great.”