Kaileigh Thomas was not happy. Clearly.
She was a frustrated, lifelong LSU fan watching her team get clobbered by Alabama for the eighth consecutive time. Reality had already sunk in that her hopes of the Tigers pulling off the upset were all but gone.
Earlier in the game, she had hope. When the camera came to Thomas and her friends, they cheered and went crazy. The only problem was that the camera wasn’t on, and they weren’t on TV.
So when the camera came back to Thomas and her friends in the final 2 minutes of the third quarter, she assumed that CBS wouldn’t switch to that feed. After all, she was an upset fan by that point of the game.
“I was not in the mood,” Thomas told SDS. “The camera comes out of nowhere and just does not move. Any other time, I would’ve been all about it. But I was just not having it. I was like, ‘I do not want this camera to be in my face. I am so mad at this game.’”
What happened next made Thomas internet famous. Instantly. Five seconds of one of the best deadpan expressions you’ll ever seen.
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) November 4, 2018
That’s all it took for Thomas to become a Twitter sensation. But just like she was in the dark about her fake TV appearance earlier, she was in the dark about just how viral her expression was about to become.
Because of some shaky Tiger Stadium wifi, she wasn’t able to get on social media to see the flurry of tweets involving her. It wasn’t until one of her friends that she was with got a text with a picture of Thomas’ face that she realized what was about to happen.
Well, sort of.
“Within 5 minutes, people were texting me like, ‘You’re gonna be a meme,’” Thomas said. “I was like, ‘No way.’ Then sure enough … it’s insane.”
Search “#LSUGirl” on Twitter or better yet, just find any tweet from over the weekend about being in a bad mood and it probably involved Thomas.
CBS Sports didn’t even have to add any words with its final score tweet.
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 4, 2018
When she got a chance to catch up on her viral moment — the irony being she said doesn’t post much on social media — Thomas’ newfound internet celebrity status sunk in.
“What are the odds? Of all the people in the stadium, they chose me,” Thomas said. “Everyone is like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ I’m like, ‘Me, either.’”
The look on Thomas’ face said “so, we’re really going to lose to Alabama again?” Though she’s only a freshman, Thomas was born and raised an LSU fan in Louisiana. Her dad works at the university.
Contrary to her facial expression, LSU’s rise to No. 3 in the Playoff rankings has actually been a blast for Thomas. She’s a season-ticket holder in her first semester of college. From more of a casual fan growing up, she flipped the switch to full-on diehard fan after enrolling this fall because as she said, “it’s LSU.” It’s gotten to the point where her friends make fun of her because of how into each game she is.
Perhaps that’s why her 5 seconds of TV fame captured the perfect emotion to describe LSU fandom in that moment.
The camera seems to have a knack for finding Thomas. Earlier this season, she made her first TV appearance during the Louisiana Tech game. That time, she wasn’t glaring into the camera. She was instead in the middle of chowing down on a pretzel in one hand with a drink in the other.
“I’m so glad that one didn’t go viral,” Thomas said with a laugh.
Thomas is indeed a meme, though she’s not quite an on-campus celebrity just yet. As of Monday morning, she said she did feel more looks from strangers walking through campus than usual, but that she wasn’t getting stopped by them. She has, however, gotten a flurry of texts from high school friends and teachers, who told her how famous she was.
The ultimate thrill for Thomas was what happened to her on Monday morning. After she fired off a rare tweet about becoming a new meme, LSU’s official Twitter account had the perfect response:
Your reaction may be a new meme, but we love your support of the Tigers! pic.twitter.com/WsU1Wibz0w
— LSU (@LSU) November 5, 2018
“I was freaking out,” Thomas said. “I was like, ‘This isn’t real. This isn’t real.’”
Thomas said as mad as she was when the camera caught her, it’s been nothing but positive since then. With the result essentially decided by the time Thomas’ expression went viral, the attention of she and her friends quickly shifted to the reality that her face would come to define the game of the year in college football. She even lost her voice that night.
Though Thomas was disappointed with Saturday night’s on-field developments, she’ll continue to enjoy what’s been an eventful season in her first semester of college.
“I’m a huge fan of Coach O and everything he does,” Thomas said. “I love the Tigers and I will be with them no matter what. I still feel like they’re gonna be great, and I still have hope for them.
“But the Alabama game definitely did weaken my spirits just a little bit.”
Yeah, we could tell.