What is Cameo?
Cameo is a service that allows you to purchase personalized videos from a massive collection of “creators.” Since its launch in 2017, the platform has amassed an impressive selection of creators, from up-and-coming TikTok stars to Doug the Pug and even celebrities from reality TV and old classics. On the flipside, there are a handful of folks that just film their pet in front of a shabby green screen or impersonate D-list celebrities in their living rooms.
You can make personalized videos for anything from a friend’s birthday to a “treat yo self” gift, anniversary celebration, or even holiday wishes. Brands can also purchase videos for endorsements—though they come at a much higher price. As a buyer, you don’t know exactly what you’ll get from the creator you hire. But you can get a taste of their style with a few sample videos.
How much is Cameo?
Cameo has creators for every budget. That doesn’t, however, mean all the options are equally good. If you want to go really big, the most expensive person available is Caitlyn Jenner for a whopping $2,500. Other pricier Cameo stars, like AKON and Kevin O’Leary, also known as “Mr. Wonderful,” were mostly in the $1,000 range. The cheapest Cameos are as little as $5, but it can be hard to tell what you’ll get, as some of them don’t even have samples yet.
The prices for individuals are displayed on the front end, but after you actually click “request” the cost will change. If you’re using the service to create a personal video, the cost fluctuates due to an additional service fee that’s tacked on. The website didn’t provide additional info on how the fee is calculated—but for a $250 Cameo creator it was $12. For the more expensive creator Reviewed chose, the total was $52.50, with a service fee of $2.50.
If you’re making a Cameo video for a business and endorsement, be prepared to fork over a lot more. Ernie the dog, whose Cameo is marked as $16 on the front end, goes up to a whopping $157 for business and brand use. Thorgy Thor, a drag queen from RuPaul, goes from $45 to over $300.
How do you use Cameo?
Cameo’s selection would be daunting if the company didn’t have an easy way to search and narrow results. The website’s search function makes it straightforward to hone in on whatever you’re looking for. You can narrow creators and search results by categories, like “actors” and “reality TV,” or price point.
When you find someone you like, you can click onto their individual page, which shows their reviews and overall rating, price, one to two buttons to book or chat with the creator (though some creators don’t offer chatting), and up to five sample videos. The samples are recent Cameos the creator made and provide a taste of their style. If you want to see more, you can join the creator’s “fan club,” which I would generally refuse to do, but for the sake of Reviewed, I did. When you click “join fan club,” a pop-up informs you what you get as a “fan,” which elevates you to VIP status, which means Cameos you request from that creator are prioritized, you can view more previews of the creator’s content, and you’ll receive alerts on deals and price drops. All for free.
You have two options to connect with the creator on the other side of your screen: either fully commit and request the Cameo, or pay to chat with them. The paid chat is generally cheaper than the video, but it’s not abundantly clear what you get. Is it five messages back and forth? Do I have an hour of their time? Is it a one-time fee for unlimited messages? The FAQ didn’t provide any clarity.
Once you find a creator you like and click “request,” you’re redirected to a page where you input details on who the Cameo is for, the names of senders and recipient(s), their pronouns, and so on. You’ll also be prompted to include details on what you’d like the creator to say, and the occasion you’re celebrating. Everything from payment info to details is on this one page, which makes it easy to book. After you submit the request, it’s out of your hands! Just take it easy and wait for the creator to send your custom video back within a week.
I worked closely with Kate Ellsworth, a Reviewed editor, to select a creator to wish our co-workers happy holidays. I dubbed Reviewed as an entity “The Dream Team” (which I stand by) and the “Incredible Crew.” We put the selection between a wholesome TikTok dad and a drag queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race to our co-workers in a poll. As it turns out, many of them love RuPaul, so we went with Tammie Brown, a drag queen in California who was on the first season and an all stars season.
What happens after you order a Cameo?
Hitting the submit button isn’t anything glamorous—you’re just redirected to a page that confirms your order and has dots reminiscent of confetti. You receive an email confirming your order, and then you just wait. One of the upshots of Cameo is it’s relatively little work for a very personal gift.
Once your Cameo is ready, you’ll receive an email notification. When the final Cameos popped up in my inbox, I was thrilled. Even though it wasn’t for me and I don’t watch RuPaul, I was still excited to see it. With everything that’s going on, there’s something special about a surprise in your inbox, even if it isn’t for you, just like having a surprise package or letter that isn’t a bill appear in your mailbox.
The email comes with a link to view your Cameo. I clicked through the link on my laptop, though they can also be viewed on mobile, and was redirected to a page that featured the video, as well as an option to download, share link, and a button that redirects you to Facebook or Twitter to post the video there.
What’s the result?
Of course, end results depend on the creators. But I’ll tell you about the two that Reviewed requested. We opted to try two very different creators—one that’s better known, human, and has a higher price point, $45, and another that’s less prominent, and a dog, but costs just $16. I gave both loose guidelines and asked them to congratulate my co-workers on their success last year and provide an overall “holiday-hype” video.
I was pleased with the quality of the videos I received, as well as the speed. The turnaround is dependent on the creator, but they only have a week to fulfill a request, which isn’t prohibitively long if you plan ahead just a bit. Both of my videos came back within a few days of when I submitted the request.
Tammie Brown, the drag queen from RuPaul's Drag Race, sang a lengthy but enjoyable song about the holidays. And it wasn’t your typical let it snow shebang—it explored political issues and culture in a comedic manner. The video background was simple, but Tammie clearly spent time on make-up and appearance. In other words, it wasn’t haphazardly thrown together—there was effort involved, which makes it good bang for your buck. Of course, Tammie had hundreds of good reviews, so I knew that the product would likely be at least decent.
Ernie, on the other hand, did not sing an elaborate holiday song as he is a pug or some sort of mixed dog that resembles pugs. Nonetheless, this video was a tremendous joy to watch. The human creator behind the scenes perfectly matched the camera’s movements and focus to the song Feliz Navidad. Of course, Ernie cannot speak. I knew when I booked it that the creator uses small strips of paper with sharpie writing to convey the buyer’s message, but I didn’t anticipate how well it would come out. The slips had short messages, with one reading “let’s party!” Ernie was dressed in a small, green holiday hat with a Grinch sitting in front of his paws. It’s a simple enough set-up, but is very endearing.
What’s great about Cameo?
The online interface is user-friendly, and I never felt confused as I searched for creators and went through the booking process. It’s easy for a site like Cameo, with so many creators and categories to become overwhelming—but Cameo balances it all beautifully. I think even my grandparents wouldn’t have much trouble booking a Cameo and following the process—though they may not know many of the creators.
Going into this review, I thought the service was somewhat a gimmick—and felt as though I wouldn’t really enjoy the end result—but I was wrong. The videos weren’t about me, but somehow I felt tremendous joy when I watched them for the first time. It’s almost like being able to open the box and check out the present you bought someone‚ without them even knowing. There’s some peculiar joy in that experience. And when I watched the videos I wasn’t disappointed, I was thrilled. I did a complete 180.
When I shared the videos with everyone at Reviewed, they got as much enjoyment from them as I did—maybe even more since they were a surprise. Based on our crowd-testing results, Cameo is an incredible service that will make recipients happy.
What’s not great about Cameo?
Cameo is not the place to go if you want someone very specific or very well-known. I am a garbage human and watch the Bachelor and Bachelorette, so I tried to search for Demi, a fan favorite from a couple seasons ago. But she wasn’t available. There were a few people from the show that were better known, like Peter Weber and Kelley Flanagan, but it’s just not easy to find a specific person. Most of the other Bachelor and Bachelorette stars on the service were from earlier seasons, or were eliminated quickly. It’s far easier to find something that works if you’re looking for someone from a broad category—say, a person who was on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Cameo as a service is great, but to a degree I wish they had some regulations on the creators. I liked the video I received from Tammie Brown, but at the same time, I personally didn’t love that the creator squeezed in some good-old, shameless self-promotion. That said, I’ve never seen RuPaul’s Drag Race, so for recipients who are fans, this would likely be a non-issue, and news on forthcoming content could even be exciting. Many of my co-workers found the self-promotion entertaining, not irksome.
When I first started scrolling through the website, it seemed as though anyone could apply to be a Cameo creator. I still think that may be the case (I could set up an account for my cat to pick up some extra cash, as far as I can tell—but that’s another story). The spectrum of creators is a strength and weakness. Some creators do an incredible job. Others, well, they’re just filming their pet with a haphazard green screen in the background. So you have to be mindful as you’re making your selection.
Is Cameo worth it?
If you can find a creator who appeals to you—note that there aren’t tons of A-list celebrities on the website—I think Cameo can be great. It’s a sweet and novel way to let someone know you’re thinking about them or celebrate a major life event. I think it’s best for people who are super-fans or deeply invested in celebrity culture. I would be touched to receive a Cameo, but for me, it would be like a lot of internet culture: short lived. You watch the video once… Then what are you supposed to do with it? Maybe watch it again when you need a pick-me-up?
But during COVID especially, Cameos make for an amazing surprise that can show someone you’re thinking of them without infringing on social distancing guidelines. That said, in normal times, I’m not sure I’d be willing to fork over the price of a Cameo. If I could find a cheaper option, like Ernie, I would be compelled. The high price Cameos, like Caitlyn Jenner, probably aren’t worth the cost for most. But if I wanted to let someone know I was thinking of them, or wish them a quick happy birthday without needing to break a sweat about a material present to send, I would absolutely turn to this service again.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Staff Writer, Sleep@lindseyvix
Lindsey writes about sleep, lifestyle, and more for Reviewed. In her waking hours, she likes to spend time outside, read, cook, and bake. She holds a master’s in journalism from Boston University and bachelors' degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from the University of Utah.
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