Whatever Happened To The Chicken Nuggs Boy?

On April 5, 2017, a high school student from Reno, Nev. issued a plea to the Twittersphere: "HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS." This simple caption accompanied a screenshot of an exchange between Carter Wilkerson and fast food giant Wendy's. "Yo @Wendys how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets," Wilkerson asked. "18 million," the burger chain replied. "Consider it done," Wilkerson shot back.

With that, Chicken Nuggs Boy was born. Wilkerson woke up the next morning to 50,000 retweets, and the hashtag #NuggsForCarter trending like crazy. Less than two weeks later he was on Ellen, where the daytime talk show host and then-holder of the record for the most retweeted tweet of all time attempted to bribe him with a big screen TV and a year's supply of her branded underwear. "If somehow you pass me, Carter, I will come to your house," Ellen warned the viral superstar.

But pass her he did on May 9, 2017 with a jaw-dropping 3,505,305 retweets. Though Wilkerson was short 13.5 million RTs, Wendy's made good on its offer, awarding him his precious nuggs in addition to contributing $100,000 to The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. 

So what happens when you become such an internet celebrity that Guinness World Records recognizes your achievement? Read on the find out what happened to Carter Wilkerson, the Chicken Nuggs Boy.

He's kind of nugged out

Giving a high school kid an unlimited supply of chicken nuggets for an entire year could go wrong in all kinds of ways — think pranking his friends by filling their cars with nuggs or eating so many that there's a worldwide shortage of the bite-size meat treats. But Carter Wilkerson showed a surprising level of restraint with his prize.

Speaking with Metro one month ahead of the one-year anniversary of his re-tweet record, Wilkerson revealed that he wasn't "100% sure," but he thought he'd "eaten over 400" nuggets by that point. Just doing some rough calculations, that means Wilkerson downed only 8.39 nuggets per week, which is probably more in line with the average nugget enthusiast's consumption as opposed to a super fan who waged a worldwide, record-breaking social media campaign over them.

So what's the deal with that? "I still love chicken nuggets of all brands and types," Wilkerson told Metro, but he added, "If i could choose a different food it would have to be In and Out Double Doubles, or just burgers." 

Burgers? We feel like we don't even know who you are anymore, Chicken Nuggs Boy!

Did he deserve those nuggs in the first place?

As we previously mentioned, the original arrangement between Chicken Nuggs Boy and Wendy's was "a year of free nuggets" upon his achievement of 18 million retweets. At the time of this writing, Wilkerson's epic tweet has leveled off at 3,649,469, which is, of course, impressive, but falls quite short of his goal. And Wendy's isn't letting him forget that.

The burger chain with the unusually hilarious social media presence tweeted at Wilkerson on April 5, 2018, "Had a whole year and still didn't get to 18 million? smdh," along with a smirking emoji. Wilkerson replied, "aye, we cool right." Wendy's shot back, "Always." This savvy exchange between the teen and a major brand is now something of a mainstay on Wilkerson's timeline.

One day after his back-and-forth with Wendy's, Wilkerson tweeted at the Denver Nuggets, asking, "Yo @nuggets when you guys gonna bring me out for a game?" The NBA team issued a stinging clap back of with, "When you actually get your retweets." Woah! 

Do you smell that? It's the distinct odor of Chicken Nuggs Boy getting roasted over an internet fire.

Nuggin' for a good cause

From the very beginning of his quest for a complimentary nugg-filled year, Wilkerson knew that he was in a unique position to use his viral fame for good. That was the impetus behind his website, aptly named Nuggs for Carter, on which he sells t-shirts and donates all of the proceeds to a worthy cause.

"I'm pretty fortunate," Wilkerson told the Reno Gazette Journal of his philanthropic endeavor. "I don't need the money, so I thought it would be really cool to give it to charity." That charity is The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the eponymous organization started by the Wendy's founder with a mission "to dramatically increase the number of adoptions from foster care."

Wilkerson also seeks donations through his website for Mom's on the Run, a local Reno, Nev. (where Wilkerson is from) organization that raises money for families dealing with a diagnosis of breast or gynecological cancer. Wilkerson told KTVN that he has a personal connection to Mom's on the Run through his own mother, who battled breast cancer in 2009.

Who knew a teen's half-hearted Twitter joke could turn into something so positive?

Chicken Nuggs Boy knows how to internet

Katy Perry's 2017 music video for her song "Swish Swish" was so jam-packed with viral stars that the CDC probably should have quarantined it. According to PR Week, the video featured not only Doug the Pug, but also "social influencer" Dexter Mayfield, YouTuber Christine Sydelko, and Russell Horning (aka the "Backpack Kid.") Chicken Nuggs Boy was there too, albeit in the briefest of cameos, of which he definitely made the most.

In his literal one second of screen time, Wilkerson is seen chomping a nugg, sporting a Nuggs For Carter tee, laughing, pointing, and all while holding Katy Perry's dog named — wait for it — Nugget on his lap. He celebrated his music video debut by turning his cameo into a GIF and sharing it on Twitter.

What this translates to is a viral celeb starring in an homage to viral celebs creating a meme out of the moment and then recirculating it back onto the web. If that's not peak internet, we don't know what is.

All those nuggs haven't gone to his head

Wilkerson still holds the title of most re-tweeted Twitter user of all time, but he's still just a normal teenager. Yes, he met Ellen DeGeneres and Katy Perry, and yes, he's got more than a hundred thousand followers on his verified Twitter account, but he's also a kid who, as of this writing, hasn't even graduated from high school.

In a 2017 interview with The New York Times, Wilkerson talked about just how typical his life had been at the time his tweet went viral "as he prepared for AP tests, considered college applications and took his girlfriend to the prom." The then-11th-grader who previously described himself as "not a huge attention person," confessed that he was enjoying the newfound notoriety from his classmates. "I think they're all pretty jealous," he told The Times, adding, "Who doesn't want to be the Nugget Kid?"

As for what the football team captain and track runner envisions for his future, he's now switching gears from his previous goal of following the family business, dentistry, to considering a possible career in marketing. He's certainly got a nice chunk for the resume already.

He's an accidental marketing genius

According to Digiday, Wendy's wasn't the only brand who wised up to the "viral magic" that could be created by making a celebrity out of an average joe. After all, isn't the unspoken goal of most social media users to be discovered for their hidden genius and suddenly thrust into money-making fame?

Well, after Wendy's performed the rare alchemy of making an internet superstar out of 12 words tapped into Twitter by a random high schooler, other brands jumped on the bandwagon. Digiday reported that Universal Studios used fan-made videos to cut together a promo for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Emerald Nuts actually "made a user's review on Amazon into a tagline for its latest ad campaign;" and Saucony let a sneaker superfan takeover its Instagram page after discovering that he'd "ordered 36 identical pairs of Saucony Jazz shoes because he loved them so much."

If there was ever a time in existence when brands were paying attention to the value of hardcore fandom, that time is now, and largely thanks to the wild success of Chicken Nuggs Boy. 

However, as with any attempt to recreate such a flash-in-the-pan moment, there were always going to be a few epic fails. Which brings us to...

United Airlines' attempt to lure Chicken Nuggs Boy never took off

In a pretty early attempt to grab the coattails of Wilkerson's skyrocketing internet fame, United Airlines tweeted him the following just two days after his plea to Wendy's: "If you get the 18 million RTs, we'll give you a free flight to take you to any @Wendys in the world in a city we serve. Good luck!"

Unfortunately, United Airlines had a viral moment all to itself the very next day when passenger Dr. David Dao was violently dragged off of a flight after refusing to give up his seat due to the airline's policy of overbooking. Twitter users, of course, took the opportunity to hilariously link the airlines PR disaster with its attempt at viral marketing.

User @blader tweeted, "Yo @United how many retweets to not get assaulted by you on my next flight?" Others followed with the similar sentiments, many using the popular "It's a trap!" meme. Amazingly, United doubled down a month later when Wilkerson broke the re-tweet record and attempted to recruit him again.

As far as we can tell, Wilkerson never replied to United, however, user @aligulpir basically spoke for the collective internet this time around with the epic reply, "Yes @carterjwm it's time to decide at which airport you will be dragged off. So many to choose from!!! #excited." Oof. The silver lining here for United — if there actually is one — is that the airline was not alone in its highly public foible.

Sorry, Fake Free Cruise Kid

This one doesn't fall on the brand so much as it does another aspiring viral star, but it was a blatant attempt at copycatting Chicken Nuggs Boy's fame — and he even weighed in on it! — so we're including it here. On April 3, 2018, Twitter user Dylan Baer posted what appeared to be a screenshot of an agreement between himself and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. "Please help, man needs his boat," Baer tweeted, to which Royal Caribbean allegedly agreed, "2 million and Oasis of the Seas is all yours."

As with Wilkerson before him, the tweet gained traction, earning more than 700,000 retweets before folks started questioning the authenticity of the arrangement. Like Wendy's, Royal Caribbean has a savvy and responsive Twitter account that it uses for everything from promoting trips to sharing funny memes to fielding routine customer service issues such as boarding delays or bad dining experiences. When the questions started rolling in about Baer's impending free cruise, three different Royal Caribbean reps were quick to shut the whole thing down.

"This isn't true," tweeted a rep who identified herself as Candy. "It's fake, and I'm sorry for any confusion the tweet is causing," a rep named Lorenzo also tweeted. And finally, Gabbie, yet another Royal Caribbean employee, tweeted, "This is absolutely fake and we didn't agree to this."

The jig was up for Baer, who then got predictably roasted himself. Even Wilkerson took a light swipe, tweeting, "where my boat at? @RoyalCaribbean." Alas, Baer remains among the lowly general populace who still have to fork out cash to cruise, but we wonder: If there was no solidarity between Chicken Nuggs Boy and Fake Free Cruise Kid, is there hope for any of us?