Jonathan Lee is a Trinity Senior studying mathematics and computer science from New Mexico. He was randomly selected by Mr. Beast from Duke University to go on an impromptu trip to Paris in a TikTok that has since blown up.
The Chronicle caught up with Jonathan to talk about internet fame and the experience of a lifetime.
TC: Did you know who Mr. Beast was when he approached you?
JL: I did. I've seen some of his videos in the past. I knew he was big, but I wasn't an avid watcher.
TC: And when he approached you, what convinced you to say yes?
JL: I had heard of something like this happening in the past on TikTok. I thought I'd play along. I might miss a few days in class for a good experience, so it'd be worth it. I just had to email a couple of my professors — it wasn't too bad.
TC: In terms of logistics, did you leave right then and there?
JL: It was like, right there. He booked the plane ticket right in front of me, and that's how I knew it was serious. Because before that, I was still like, “Oh, this could be a joke,” but then he booked it right in front of me. I think it was around two, [when that happened]. The flight was 5:00 or 5:30 or something. I immediately had to go back home to my apartment and pack, just throw things in a bag, and then we headed to the airport. We were supposed to be there for two or three days, but we ended up being there for six days. They were filming like other events, too — they were multitasking.
TC: Did you buy the baguettes on the first or the last day?
JL: We had multiple days of shooting. We bought them, I think, on three separate days, 12 or so each time. There were three days of shooting for me. So, in total it was like 36 baguettes.
TC: And apart from that, how was the rest of the Mr. Beast team?
JL: They were really nice. The people who were with me were this one Tiktok star who’s not part of the team, but Mr. Beast had him because he spoke French. He was a translator, and then we had a producer and a cameraman. It was cool — I got to know them pretty well, and it was a good time.
TC: How did your family react when you told them that you were going to Paris?
JL: Well, my mom had no idea who Mr. Beast was. I told her who he was, and then she thought that he was from Reddit. She was really confused at first, but once I explained it to her, and once she got the assurance that l wasn't being kidnapped, it was chill.
TC: Do you get recognized at all?
JL: I do. I have been. Some people [at Duke] have. It's funny because one time I was going back home and people recognized me at random places. I noticed this kid staring at me — like this 12-year-old or like 13-year-old kid on the plane — he's just like, “You're that dude.” And I was like, “Yeah, that's me.” So, people do recognize me sometimes.
TC: Has staring in a viral video changed your life in any way?
JL: I guess. It was cool to have this experience. I got to hang out with them and see how the inner workings of it work. I have people recognizing me now, but that's pretty much the extent of it. It hasn't changed my life in a huge meaningful way. It was just a cool experience. I can tell people a cool fun fact!
TC: Would you do it again If you had the chance?
JL: For sure. I think it was especially good that everything is paid for so yeah.
TC: Thank you so much for your time!
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