The Break the Internet Awards™ 2018 Winners
Break the Internet ®

The Break the Internet Awards™ 2018 Winners

Celebrating Internet culture, digital disruptors and social media influencers, PAPER is debuting our first ever Break the Internet Awards™. Take a look back at this year's most viral Break the Internet moments, both PAPER's choice and the ones more than 1 million of you voted on this month.

PAPER's Choice

Cardi B has made a name for herself as the type of celebrity that will always tell it like it is. As far as we can tell, this year she fulfilled that promise, continuing to bring her fans along for her wild ride to the top of the charts and mingling with some of the most famous people in the world, all while keeping it 100. A star that real is always easy to root for. — Claire Valentine

Rihanna, queen of doing the absolute most, took this year's Met Gala theme to new extremes as the event's official co-host. Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination invited celebrities to pull inspiration from the historic Christian denomination, so, naturally, Rih arrived dressed as a literal Pope wearing an embellished white Margiela gown and towering crown. Like with all Internet-breaking fashion moments, her look immediately infiltrated every last crevice of social media, and even attracted controversy over whether Rih's interpretation of the dress code was cultural appropriation or not. But if there's anything we've learned from successful pop stars of yore, a little religious backlash is always a good thing. — Justin Moran

Queer Eye foodie Antoni Porowski quickly became a viral sensation this year for his consistent love of avocados on the Netflix series, which the 33-year-old culinary guru capitalized on in full. Following an onslaught of memes, he gave fans tips on choosing the best avocado (you literally just press down on the joint to test its texture), he revealed his favorite way to eat avocados (a Lebanese-style smoothie), and even danced in an avocado rainfall while cradling the fruit for Betty Who's theme song music video. Porowski's new West Village restaurant, The Village Den, aptly features avocado on its menu, from a breakfast bowl with avocado and poached eggs to his very own smoothie that mixes matcha with avocado. He really does love them! — Justin Moran

There's little more cringe-inducing than a dad trying to be cool on social media — unless that Dad is Will Smith. Smith has managed to translate his infectious silver (and TV) screen charm to our phones, a rare feat. — Claire Valentine

Gucci's fall 2018 collection was an exercise in excess, as Creative Director Alessandro Michele managed to pack tons of cultural references, from Sikh to South American indigenous dress, into a sterile, blue examination room. Most viral and permanently engrained onto our brains was Michele's Frankenstein-like props, including a sleeping baby dragon and exact replicas of models' heads, which were carried like handbags throughout the runway. The heads were created with silicone and polyurethane resins, once models' skulls were 3D-scanned using green screen technology. According to Vogue, the heads took six months to complete, and reflected the way Michele approaches design: "the act of cutting, splicing and reconstructing materials and fabrics to create a new personality and identity with them," Gucci wrote on Twitter. — Justin Moran

Tarana Burke dedicated her life to bringing healing to survivors of sexual assault. When #MeToo exploded into an international movement, fronted by A-list Hollywood actresses and dominated by headlines of powerful men being exposed as predators, Burke reminded us to center the most marginalized and vulnerable among us, and to keep the focus on survivors. — Claire Valentine

Voters' Choice

Chihuahuas? Thank u, next. The hottest trend in tiny celebrity pets this year was micro pigs. Or one micro pig, to be precise. Piggy Smalls immediately won hearts and minds when he appeared on Ariana Grande's Instagram story in September; she adopted him with her then-fiancé Pete Davidson, and won custody rights in the aftermath of their much-publicized break up. Piggy has already been immortalized in tattoo form, and via a starring role in Grande's "Breathin'" music video. He is the biggest thing to happen for pig awareness since Babe. — Kat Gillespie

The worst thing about Kanye West's continued obsession with Donald Trump is that most of us have been too afraid to say anything about it. He's Kanye, right? It's way easier to just believe the whole thing is an elaborate prank or performance art piece than acknowledge one of hip-hop's greatest supports a president with a proven track record of misogyny and racism. Which is why Lana Del Rey's surprise clapback on one of Ye's MAGA hat Instagram posts was so iconic. "Trump becoming our president was a loss for the country but your support of him is a loss for the culture," she wrote. And she wasn't wrong. — Kat Gillespie

The "My momma said" meme is better than all the rest. As if Cardi B hadn't endeared herself to us enough with her unfiltered videos and stream-of-conscious monologues about her daily life in the limelight, the meme featuring Baby Belcalis as the annoying little sister that somehow always throws a wet blanket on every occasion took us all back to our childhoods for a good laugh. — Claire Valentine

Black Panther crashed into Hollywood like an 18-wheeler this February: setting off explosions in the lily white worlds of fantasy and sci-fi, and leaving old-school execs quivering in its wake. The film, from its breakout cast, to the stunning afro-futurist eden of Wakanda it conjured, to a script that managed to address real-time racial politics while delivering a seat-gripping action storyline, broke the Internet and proved to the world that people will absolutely go see a movie about a Black superhero set in Africa. Millions of people, in fact. Black Panther is the year's highest-grossing film, beating out Titanic at the box office and ranking as Marvel's most successful movie to date. Black Panther was so successful that it frightened the Oscar's into creating a whole new award category for "Popular Films," just so it wouldn't steal the crown from more traditional critical favorites. Black Panther shouldn't have been as radical for viewers as it was, but as it is, few movies have ever broken so many rules in one go. — Jael Goldfine

Continuing the business-savvy legacy of sister Kim Kardashian's penchant for creating sensational viral content, beauty mogul Kylie Jenner legitimately broke the Internet with the photo announcement of her first child, baby girl Stormi Webster. After months of silence and virtually no public appearances, rumors swirled about whether or not Kylie was pregnant in the first place and who the father was, while many within those threads speculated on Kylie's readiness for motherhood. So when Kylie posted a heartwarming photo of baby Stormi grabbing her manicured hand, along with a written statement addressing her desire to keep her pregnancy private and a 10-minute video documenting her preparation for birth with father Travis Scott, she effectively reclaimed whatever narrative the Internet was spinning for her and her family. In the digital age, few people sell their baby photos to the press anymore, so Kylie's announcement allowed the world to really witness her joy through her and Stormi's eyes. — Michael Love Michael

2018 is the year Ariana Grande fully exploded into our national pop culture conscience, through a series of carefully planned publicity stunts, actual trauma and masterfully timed art. Sweetener is an emotional rollercoaster dipped in sugar and served on a stick made of gumdrops. The highs and lows of the 15-track album mirrored the highly publicized dramas of Grande's life, from a post-breakup track about Mac Miller ("Dunno") to the minute-long song named after her (now-ex) fiancé Pete Davidson, to the touching tribute to the victims of the bombing at her Manchester concert last year on the last track, "Get Well Soon," this perfect pop journey is one you can return to again and again. Claire Valentine

Nike sparked instant chaos when it debuted a powerful new "Just Do It" campaign starring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the first player to kneel during the NFL national anthem to protest racial injustice. Right wingers angrily burned their shoes in protest, and Nike stocks temporarily plummeted. But the sportswear brand's controversial decision to essentially lend public support to the Black Lives Matter movement paid off, in the end: its market value is now at an all-time high. They just did that. — Kat Gillespie

Nothing made us feel warm and cozy, or helped us forget about the rapid deterioration of our garbage heap of a society like Queer Eye. Just you, your laptop and five beautiful gay men bossing around a dorky straight guy for hours on end. Literally what could be better? Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby, Antoni and the unphasable Jonathan Van Ness lit up our year, as we sobbed over Jon or Mike or Matthew's transformation and confessions of their insecurities. And even as we indulgently binged, the men of Queer Eye always encouraged us to be our best selves, and, like a Kelly Clarkson song playing perpetually in the background, gave us the confidence we needed to spice up our grilled cheeses, pursue a bold lip, dress for the bodies we have, and to embrace the sexiness of our vulnerability! — Jael Goldfine

Barack Obama doesn't do selfies. So naturally we gagged when he made an exception for his BFF and former Vice President, Joe Biden, and even acknowledges the rarity of this in the caption, seeing as how the photo opp marked Biden's return to Instagram. The resulting selfie, garnering more than 3 million likes to-date, is a candid shot of the laughing duo, and it captures them from a shoulders-up angle, which feels very Dad-friendly. You can tell neither of them do this sort of millennial self-portrait often, plus they're not trying to stunt and show off a lewk, they just want you to know that they relate. Obama and Biden are real ones with presidential flair. Name a more iconic political duo. We'll wait. — Michael Love Michael

Just when we thought Rihanna couldn't get any cooler, the Bad Gal transformed herself from international artist to business mogul with Fenty Beauty. Not only did Rih make celebrity-branded makeup cool again, but she more importantly shook the cosmetics industry to its core with her authentically inclusive line of foundations made for every skin tone. Now, with Rihanna's Savage x Fenty lingerie collections dominating New York Fashion Week and the beauty line touted by celebrities, influencers, beauty professionals and novices alike, it's hard to imagine a time before Fenty Beauty. Claire Valentine

When The Cut's Allison P. Davis plucked Big Dick Energy out Twitter obscurity this summer, and dropped it in our laps, she had no idea that she was leading our ignorant society out of a philosophical and linguistic darkness. After years of stuttering, we finally had the language to describe that mystical, gender-neutral X-factor of confidence and charisma that certain individuals exude: as if, due to the possession of a huge wang. To capture the kind of hypnotic magnetism that has the power to turn extremely beautiful and very famous person Ariana Grande (albeit briefly) into a puppy-eyed, lollipop-licking junkie, addicted to a scrawny, tired-looking comedian. The term, which was first used to describe Anthony Bourdain, isn't cockiness, it isn't a power trip, it's "a quiet confidence and ease with oneself... a healthy, satisfied, low-key way you feel yourself." In 2018, those four syllables provided us with endless entertainment, as we spent late nights determining ever every person, place and thing on the planet had it, and as the world crumbled around us, gave us a lifeline to cling and aspire to the noble radiance of BDE-havers like Rihanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Frank Ocean and Cate Blanchett. — Jael Goldfine

2018 sorely needed a distractingly hunky heartthrob, and from his very first scene in Netflix original movie To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Noah Centineo delivered. It wasn't just that Peter was arrestingly tall and good looking as Lara Jean's fake, then real, boyfriend. Although that definitely helped. Centineo's screen presence was also kind and reassuring and sweet in a way that felt real. Within about 10 minutes of screen time, he'd killed off the fuckboi trope forever and replaced it with a way better teen rom-com archetype. We're excited to see what happens in the sequel. — Kat Gillespie

In 2018, the global scope of mainstream music exploded. Latin sounds from trap en español to reggaeton blasted onto the charts and our playlists. A bonafide flamenco album is clocking on nearly every end of year list. Korean pop stars are snagging features on major hip-hop tracks. But no single artist played a more earthshaking role in re-scrambling the geography of pop music this year than BTS: the sparkling Seoul-based princes of K-pop. They've been superstars in Asia for years, but in 2018, BTS became impossible to ignore. RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jung Kook released not one but two Billboard #1 albums, making history as the first Korean artist to score a #1, sold out their first US stadium show in minutes and landed a Grammy nomination. But even more impressive and Internet-breaking than their industry achievements, is simply the Beatles-like viral mania that BTS inspires in their fans, known as the BTS Army, who ensured they were the most-Tweeted about celebrity of 2018. Anyone who can drive fans that wild is here to stay. — Jael Goldfine

Jeffree Star has got to be one of the hardest-working people in the beauty industry. Having made a name for himself as a high-concept, queer Internet pop star in the Myspace era, his transition to beauty seemed already fully formed. Star took what people have loved, hated, admired, and criticized about him — his preoccupations with fame, luxury, and shocking pop art aesthetic tastes (think: razor blades nestled in cupcakes) — and laid the groundwork for what would ultimately become a competitive beauty empire. Founded in 2014 from his life savings, Jeffree Star Cosmetics began as an e-commerce brand, but now has its own store, and boasts a robust, gender-fluid product line that sells at retailers worldwide. The enterprise is worth millions. His wildly popular YouTube channel, which features tutorials and mini-docs shared from Star's notoriously candid, but no less down-to-earth point of view, has more than 10 million subscribers who have racked up over a billion views. — Michael Love Michael

Graphics by Fred Sands & Saul Areizaga (Trophy: Tetra Images/Getty Images; Optical: Mark Grenier/Shutterstock)