Plymouth resident’s proposal photo goes viral
In the vast Internet community filled with endless cat videos and ad banners, a young Plymouth couple briefly found itself the center of attention for millions of social media users.
When Erika Boone, 21, posted a picture online of beau Nick Landis, 24, proposing to her on a recent trip to Disney World, the “In the Way Guy” was born.
The photograph depicts a charming scene of young love – Nick is down on one knee as Disney’s iconic castle stands starkly in the background against a pale blue sky at what is commonly referred to as “the most magical place on earth.”
It’s a truly classic moment.
However, in the forefront of the frame – blocking Erika’s question-popped excitement – is a guy. And he’s in the way.
The unidentified man, wearing a white polo shirt with a black shoulder strap, strikes a pose as classic as Nick’s while he embarrassingly attempts to duck out of the shot at the moment he realizes what’s happening behind him.
Variations of the photo have since been used and viewed by millions of people worldwide.
“We thought it was hilarious, and it needed to be shared with the world,” Erika said. “When we saw it, we couldn’t stop laughing at it.”
Five years prior to the photo, Nick and Erika met for the first time at Mann Plymouth Cinema 12 Theater.
Both graduates of Wayzata High School, the couple met during a job hunt that led Erika to the theater where Nick worked as an usher.
Shortly after, Erika invited Nick and a friend to Music in Plymouth. The friend never showed up, and the two began to get to know each other.
The couple said they hit it off right away and haven’t looked back.
Erika has always been a fan of Disney World – she said she had been to the theme park at least four times prior to the proposal trip. With their fifth-year anniversary approaching, Nick knew he had to do something special.
“It was the big five-year anniversary, and I always try to up what I did the year before,” said Nick. “I figured I had to pull out all the stops.”
They booked the trip, and although Erika said she had it in the back of her mind, she knew better than to count on getting engaged.
“He had told me before that I shouldn’t get my hopes up when we go on trips,” she said. “I thought, ‘you know what? It’s going to be a fun trip. If it happens, it happens, if not, that’s okay.’ But I was very happily surprised.”
Nick pulled the ring out on the final full day of the trip and arranged for a Disney photographer to capture the moment.
“I told her there was only one thing left to make the vacation perfect for me, and I got down on one knee,” Nick said. “I asked her if she’d marry me, and her eyes filled with tears. She couldn’t react for a few minutes. I had to ask, ‘well will you?’ She just kind of grabbed the ring like, ‘my precious!’”
While visiting Disney World, attendees can arrange to have multiple photos taken through a photo identification system. The system saves all photos and makes them available for purchase through its website. Nick purchased the full set.
While the couple was looking through the photos of their vacation, they came to a picture of what should have been their timeless moment. Instead, they found the “In the Way Guy.”
After posting the photo to Reddit.com, Erika said she got a sudden boost in Karma – points of approval on the website somewhat similar to “likes” on a Facebook page. The original post got 32,700 up-votes and 1,500 comments in just 16 hours.
“In the Way Guy” had gone viral.
People began posting alternate photos with the man in the white polo getting in the way of other historic photographs. For instance, variations have been made of “In the Way Guy” blocking shots of the first man on the moon, the inauguration of President Barrack Obama and the album cover of the Beatle’s Abby Road.
Erika’s favorite use of the meme is “In the Way Guy” blocking the first photo of the royal baby. Nick said he enjoyed “In the Way Guy” in front of the “Tank Man” photo at Tiananmen Square.
The accidental main subject of Erika and Nick’s engagement photograph was being shared and enjoyed internationally.
“And that’s when the news people started to get a hold of it,” Erika said.
The couple received calls from ABC News, Fox News and the Huffington Post. They were featured in a short spot on the Today Show and were offered a segment on a Japanese talk show.
“It was pretty surreal,” Erika added.
“I was just happy that they got our names right and they know how much I love my fiancé,” Nick said. “And now the whole world knows.”
Erika continued to say that the mass-media attention on their proposal photo actually acted as the means to inform much of her family about the engagement.
However, the “In the Way Guy” exposure wasn’t Nick’s first taste of Internet spotlight.
Seven years ago, Nick posted an abridged-version video of the popular Dragon Ball Z animated series with some friends. The video caught on and went viral quickly.
Since then, Nick helped to establish teamfourstar.com – a website devoted to the abridged video series.
Team Four Star’s YouTube channel has nearly 1 million subscribers, and Nick earns his income through the website’s ad revenue and merchandise sales.
Nick is frequently invited to comic conventions and has traveled to Canada, Australia and around the U.S. as a result of the video series.
Erika said she’s happy to have her own piece of Internet history, even though the “In the Way Guy” photo is often mistakenly credited to Nick.
“It’s been really cool for me,” she said. “It’s died down a bit now, but it’ll be around for a little while I think.”
After the media storm following the original post, Erika and Nick said they are getting back to day-to-day life and will begin preparing for their wedding.
Tentatively set for November 2014, the couple plans to host an intimate wedding in Florida. Erika has been told there will be a cutout of “In the Way Guy” at the wedding, but no such plans have been solidified.
Internet celebrity is a fleeting aspect of the modern world. People will find themselves a topic of intense attention for possibly a month or two – maybe longer – and shortly fade back out of public consciousness with little to tangibly show for it.
“It’s shocking how easy it is,” Erika said. “I literally just posted a photo to the Internet, and we’re sitting here having an interview. I’ve never done this before. It’s kind of amazing.”
Nick has had time to reflect on the subject through his recognition from Team Four Star success.
“It means about as much as any regular celebrity, expect there’s less skill involved and more luck,” he said. “But there’s debate as to how much luck is involved in becoming an actual celebrity. It’s just entirely being at the right place at the right time or catching on to the right thing at the right time.”
The couple did agree, however, that the phenomenon has added a special dimension to their engagement; they got a funny story out of it, and they were able to share their moment with the world.
The couple also assured that the photographer at Disney World was able to capture a proper picture of the moment Erika said “yes” to Nick – one that won’t likely go viral, but one that unobstructed-ly depicts a young couple from Plymouth taking the first step in establishing a life together.
Contact Brian Rosemeyer at [email protected]