Justin Bieber credits his wildly successful performing career to his YouTube videos, as do singers Rebecca Black and Greyson Chance.
But some teenage girls are courting Internet fame another way: by transforming themselves into living dolls and posting controversial how-to makeup, fashion and hair videos on YouTube.
With her oversized doe eyes, puffy cupid’s bow lips and flawless complexion, Dakota Rose Ostrenga – known to her fans as Kota Koti -- has a global audience for her videos. She also has a Twitter page, a blog and there are several Facebook pages devoted to her.
Some people theorize that Dakota is between 16 and 18 years old. She certainly looks much younger. She occasionally speaks in her videos but in most she stays eerily silent while subtitles give a step-by-step guide on how to apply cosmetics, style hair or dress fashionably.
Dakota’s popularity in Asia is unquestionably due to her resemblance to a Japanese anime caricature: big eyes, tiny but full lips, and straight hair. On a popular Japanese website Nico Nico, all of her Kota Koti's videos are uploaded and viewable.
A London teen, Venus Palermo, 15, known online as Venus Angelic, has also gained popularity for resembling a living doll. After spending time in Japan where she was exposed to anime, she adopted the look. She has 78 videos on her official YouTube page -- ranging from makeup tutorials to nail art -- and her Facebook page boasts more than 13,000 fans. Unlike Kota Koti, she does voice-overs in a high-pitched ittle girl voice with a slight Japanese accent. Her videos are a little creepier since she looks so very young, wears baby-doll clothing and is often surrounded by plush toys and dolls.
Young Japanese women have aspired to look like anime little girls or dolls and embraced childlike clothing for several years. Some might even compare this trend to the '60s-era popularity of Margaret Keane's paintings of big-eyed children (which inspired the look of many of Tim Burton's film characters) or supermodel Twiggy with her huge eyes, painted-on lower lashes and schoolgirl minidresses.
However, there are many who criticize these online video tutorials. Some people are convinced that videos are enhanced by the use of Adobe After Effects and other image manipulation programs to create rounder faces, larger eyes and fuller lips. There are online demonstrations on how to get the wide-eyed computer-generated look popularlized in Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" music video. Makeup and oversized contact lenses help, but the final touch may come from the click of a mouse.
(You can actually give yourself an anime look on your home computer: Apple's new operating system, Lion, has added new effects to its Photo Booth program, and you can make your eyes larger with an effect appropriately called Bug Eye, or turn yourself into a space alien, a chipmunk, a frog, etc.)
Other cultural observers worry that these modern-day Lolitas' online videos feed and stimulate a pedophile audience and could be very dangerous -- not only for the girls in the videos, but for other children as well.
"The case of Venus Angelic is uncomfortably exploitative, as there is clearly a sexual undertone to what she is doing," Harvard sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman told Yahoo in an interview. "In general, young girls on YouTube is a disturbing, growing trend."