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Famous for 15 minutes: the fleeting stars of 2021

From Jackie Weaver to Pen Farthing, the people who momentarily captured the country’s attention

1

Jackie Weaver

David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Jackie Weaver

Jackie Weaver, 63, became an unlikely internet sensation in February after a toxic online meeting of a Chesire parish council went viral, racking up millions of views. 

Acting as the stand-in clerk during the Zoom council meeting in Handforth, Weaver dispatched three shouty male councillors with a few swift clicks of the removal button as they jeered her. One said the now infamous words: “You have no authority here Jackie Weaver!” – the phrase that reverberated around the internet for months.

2

Patsy Stevenson

Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images

Patsy Stevenson

Stevenson was one among the hundreds of people who attended a vigil at Clapham Common to mourn the death of Sarah Everard, who had been murdered by Met Police officer Wayne Couzens just ten days earlier.

The 28-year-old physics student became known as the “face of the vigil” after a striking photograph of the red-haired protester pinned down by two male police officers was shared thousands of times on social media and splashed across the front pages of the British press. It became “one of the defining images in criticism of how the vigil on Clapham Common was policed”, said The Guardian.

3

Khing Hnin Wai

Khing Hnin Wai/YouTube

Khing Hnin Wai

In perhaps one of the most surreal viral videos of the year, a fitness instructor filming an exercise video near the parliament building in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital, happened to capture a military coup

Khing Hnin Wai, an aerobics teacher, “gyrated her hips to the sound of an upbeat dance track, blissfully unaware of the gravity of events unfolding around her”, said the BBC. In the background, Myanmar’s army was in the process of conducting a military coup, in which they detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders from her ruling party after accusing the party of fraud in its recent elections.

It was a video that “drew comparisons to the dystopian TV show Black Mirror, or something worthy of contemplation by idiosyncratic cult philosopher Slavoj Zizek”, said The Guardian. Online, the aerobics teacher was Photoshopped in front of other historical events, such as the Hindenburg disaster and the storming of the US Capitol.

4

Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Gina Coladangelo

A close friend of Matt Hancock since their university days – and his closest aide during his tenure as health secretary – the businesswoman Gina Coladangelo found herself at the centre of a scandal when The Sun published pictures of the pair, who were both married to other people, caught in a “steamy clinch” at his Whitehall office. 

With social distancing restrictions in place at the time, Hancock was forced to apologise for breaching coronavirus guidelines and step down from his role. The pair have continued dating since the affair was exposed, and were recently spotted holidaying together in the Swiss Alps. 

5

Pen Farthing

Alessandro Rota/Getty Image

Pen Farthing

In the mid-2000s the ex-Royal Marine set up the Nowzad animal shelter in Afghanistan. When the country fell to the Taliban this year Farthing launched “Operation Arc” to evacuate 150 animals and 68 members of staff from his shelter. 

He came under criticism when his staff were unable to leave during the “frantic” mass evacuation from Kabul and concerns were raised that “animals had been prioritised over people”, said the BBC. Despite public support for the animal shelter, Farthing was condemned by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who said his more fervent supporters had ”taken up too much time” of senior army commanders.

Farthing apologised for an expletive-laden message in which he told a government adviser he would “f***ing destroy” him if he did not arrange for his animals and staff to be evacuated, said The Times.

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