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'Mannequin Challenge' Propels Jacksonville High Schoolers To Internet Fame

Allen and Cavins at school
Jasmine Cavins
Emili Allen (left) and Jasmine Cavins are two of the students in the original Mannequin Challenge video. Cavins posted it on Twitter on Oct. 26.

A group of Jacksonville high schoolers are getting a dose of internet fame after they started a nationwide viral video phenomenon called the Mannequin Challenge.

Everyone from Michelle Obama to the Kardashians are posting their own imitation videos, after the teens posted the original on Twitter three weeks ago:

The Ed White Military Academy students hope the attention helps them give back to their community.

Jasmine Cavins —the girl in the burgundy hoodie sticking out her tongue in the original video—said, “We thought it was going to just be different high schools in our area doing it, and it really touched us to see it blow up over a week.”

Cavins, an Ed White junior, posted the clip on October 26. Since then, national politicians, athletes, activists and hundreds of regular social media users have taken the Mannequin Challenge and posted their own.

“Last year, we were known for a school of fighting. The fights would get on the news,” Cavins said. “And now the challenge makes the school look more positive. Like, we’re bringing people together with this challenge.”

Emili Allen—the girl wearing the Ed White softball jersey in the video—says the most unexpected imitation they’ve seen is reality star Blac Chyna’s in a hospital delivery room.

A video posted by Blac Chyna (@blacchyna) on Nov 10, 2016 at 2:50pm PST

“That was kind of crazy for her to be thinking about the Mannequin Challenge while she’s giving birth,” Allen said.

The girls say their new, post-Challenge schedule involves lots of media interviews. They’ve even been in touch with the bookers for the Ellen DeGeneres Show, though there’s no confirmed spot for them yet.

And Cavins says some attention is coming from people looking to make a profit.

“They were kind of weird,” she said. “They said that if we sell the brand of the Mannequin Challenge, they would give us 75 percent of the money they make off of it.”

She says instead, the teens and their parents are talking about going it on their own, with something like Mannequin Challenge T-Shirts. And if they do make money, she says, they want to donate half of it to local nonprofits that help families in need.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP