What happened to Alex from Target?

Where were you when "Alex from Target" took over the internet? Alex Lee was just 16 years old and had been working at Target for only three months when a Twitter user posted a photo of at the register ... and it spread around the world. It was just a snap of the young man bagging some goods, but it took on a life of its own for reasons that are both predictable and mind-boggling in this day and age.

"My manager came up to me and she showed me the picture that was blowing up, and it had like 30,000 retweets," Lee told J-14 in 2018. He describes that day as being rather hectic, with people actually coming into his job to take photos of him and someone going so far as to leak his phone number. And just like that, #AlexFromTarget was born. 

As most viral stars do, the teen went on to appear on various talk shows to satisfy the people of the internet. "The moment I realized it was actually going to change everything was the moment Ellen [DeGeneres] called," Lee told J-14

But just as quickly as he rose to fame, he seemed to disappear. What happened to Alex from Target? Hint: you won't find him bagging your purchases anymore.

The spotlight proved to be too much.

With great fame comes great responsibility — sometimes too much. In order to manage his newfound social media notoriety, Lee told his fans in a 2017 YouTube video that he was advised to hire a manager to help him handle his huge overnight fan following. However, Lee admitted that social media was never really his thing. "I didn't really care about social media because I was an introvert," he says in the clip. 

In fact, in his 2014 interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Lee revealed that before his photo went viral, he only had 144 Twitter followers — much less than his more than 633,000 at the time of this writing. 

All of the spontaneous attention proved to be too much for Lee, who told J-14 he couldn't even use his phone when his photo first started making the rounds online because he had too many notifications. "I think it's too much for anybody," he says about his rapid climb to internet fame in his YouTube video.

Social media earned him a lot of love, but not without hate.

Would the internet really be the internet without its trolls? Unfortunately, a lot of people spend their time online tearing down others, and that's something Lee wasn't immune to despite his many new fans. Soon after his internet fame skyrocketed, Lee told The New York Times that the attention wasn't all good. He faced insults from random people online and even received some death threats. Lee told the Times that he was "kind of scared to go in public" after enduring a number of ambushes from fans.

And it wasn't just Lee facing the negative attention. According to the Times, some of his family members' personal information, including Social Security and bank account numbers, was leaked online. "The biggest concern for myself and my wife is some of the negativity we're seeing online," Lee's father, Eric Fooks, told the paper. "Our concern is making sure [Lee] is safe."

Juggling school and fame.

For most kids and teens, going to school every day is hard enough as it is without also trying to manage newfound fame. Thanks to Lee's sudden popularity, he actually had to drop out of school. He told J-14 that he even had to appear in court for missing too many days from flying out to Los Angeles on a regular basis. 

"Once I started homeschooling, then I actually got the freedom to kind of go wherever," he said. That gave him the ability to travel and to keep up with the demanding life of a social media star. "After that everything just started getting crazy," Lee said.

He hasn't given up on his education completely, though. In a 2017 YouTube video, Lee tells fans that he plans to go to school to become an emergency medical technician (EMT).

Did his acting career fail?

As most people on the hunt for stardom do, Lee took his newfound fame as an opportunity to move to Los Angeles to pursue a potential career in showbiz. One of his first orders of business as a social media star was attending the 2015 DigiTour, a social media and music festival, where he infamously did the worm on stage (including falling on his face at least once). 

"I did a handstand before I did it and I went up too high and I just went face straight into the ground," Lee recalled to J-14. "I was extremely embarrassed. It was pretty funny."

After the DigiTour, Lee seemed to sort of disappear (perhaps it was the worm's fault.) Though he told J-14 in 2017 that he was actively auditioning for movies and television, his IMDb page (which, yes, lists him as "Alex from Target") is rather empty. Aside from his talk show appearances, Lee's only other acting credit at this time is for a completed film that does not yet have a release date.

His own management may have sabotaged him.

The most important (and hardest) part of social media fame is relevancy. There's so much going on online that even viral stars like Lee are soon forgotten if they don't continually produce new content. Unfortunately, that may be exactly what happened in this case.

In a 2017 YouTube video, Lee claims the manager he hired had access to his entire social media presence and everything was going well — until it wasn't. "Some sketchy [things] started happening with his stuff so we ended the management thing," Lee says. 

Lee then attempted to make it on his own, but that didn't work out as planned. Shortly after firing his manager, Lee says his social media engagement worsened. He eventually hired new help, only to discover that the new management had allegedly stolen "well over 30 grand" from him, so he fired them and gave up on social media altogether.

RIP #AlexFromTarget

In order to reclaim his identity as a person and not just a viral meme, Lee started a fresh YouTube account in 2017. In his first video, Lee's girlfriend says "everybody knows 'Alex from Target,'" but Lee says, "nobody really knows me."

According to Lee, his original management team allegedly took over his YouTube channel, including admin rights that would give the now ex-manager all rights to anything Lee posted, including financial income. However, Lee says he was eventually able to gain access his old YouTube account to post a fresh video directing fans to his new account, which allegedly prompted the old manager to completely wipe out the original Alex from Target account. 

What does he plan to do with this new account? "I'm just going to be who I really am and I'm gonna give them more insight to my real life and stuff. I hope they enjoy it," he told J-14.

Love sidetracked him.

Anyone who's ever been in love knows that a new relationship is often all-consuming, so you can't blame Lee for letting his fame fall to the wayside in favor of love. 

When he initially went viral, Lee was dating a different girl, but his move to Los Angeles birthed a new relationship. "Me and my girlfriend met as soon as I moved out to L.A.," he told J-14. "I actually moved in next to her. I moved in right next door, and we had met in the hallway."

One look at Lee's social media channels shows that this relationship is super important to Lee. If you're wondering who the lucky lady is, you can see Kelsey Carpenter all over his new YouTube channel and all over his Instagram. With more than 5,000 followers, her Instagram page reveals that she's very much into fitness and being active. She regularly shares video posts of her workouts and, of course, photos of her hanging out with her internet-famous boyfriend. 

Is he over the internet fame?

If you take a quick scroll through Lee's Instagram profile (Yes, we've done it. Don't judge), you'll see this young man's transformation from Target team member to gym rat. In March 2018, Lee even started a new Instagram page dedicated to his fitness journey. 

It seems this new venture is an attempt to distance himself from the fleeting internet fame he received years ago. The bio on his new Instagram account boldly claims "RIP #AlexFromTarget," though he hasn't yet deleted his original #AlexFromTarget page.

Aside from his Instagram uploads, it seems Lee has continued to steer clear of social media, despite its instrumental role in his popularity. His last Twitter post was in November 2017, and despite promising fans a new YouTube channel with a more personal look at his life, he hasn't uploaded a fresh video since November 2017.