Comments by Celebs, created by two Jewish millennial women Emma Diamond and Julie Kramer, is the Instagram account that is poised to become pop culture’s new paparazzi. Emma and Julie met at Syracuse University (Emma graduated in 2016, Julie in 2018) and bonded over their love for celebrities and pop culture. In April 2017, they started an Instagram account, @commentsbycelebs, and nothing has been the same since.
@Commentsbycelebs has become a sensation. With the tagline, “Because even famous people love famous people,” Emma and Julie simply capture celebrity comments on Instagram. They range from the cute (Busy Philipps commenting on Jennifer Garner’s Instagram of chickens, “great chicken content”) to the scandalous (essentially anything Pete Davidson comments on Ariana Grande’s Instagram). Oh, and they have nearly half a million followers and just announced a podcast with Betches.
As one Vanity Fair article explained, “In 2018, Instagram essentially operates as the central hub for celebrity news; it is where couples make their debut, where feuds go down, and where friendships are solidified. In that sense, [Emma and Julie] are the historians of this celebrity moment, pinning down the ephemera floating in the social-media landscape for ‘posterity.'”
I had the chance to chat with Emma and Julie about their path to fame, their supportive Jewish moms, and their future plans.
How did you realize you both were obsessed with celebrities and pop culture?
Emma: We had a group of friends and we always had this group chat where we would talk about all things pop culture related, whatever was going on in the news. And when Instagram originally changed their algorithm [ed. note: to change from comments being displayed chronologically to displaying comments from who you follow and verified accounts first], we would be sending each other screenshots, like, “Oh my god, look what Scott commented on Kourtney’s picture.” And then, we decided we were going to capitalize on it.
So who came up with the idea of making it into an Instagram account?
Emma: I was the one who decided to do it and make the account. So I made it, and then I knew I wanted to do it with someone, and I knew that Julie was the only person I wanted to run it with. Not just because she’s also a pop culture enthusiast, but I wanted someone who was equally as intelligent and witty; who would be good to run the account, not just know about it. She was the obvious choice.
Julie, how did you feel when Emma asked you to run the account with her?
Julie: It’s so funny because I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. I always joke around that she texted me, and said, “Do you want to run this Instagram account with me?” And I said, “Yeah, sure, whatever.” She said, “No, seriously, do you want to do it because I can find someone else.” And I responded, “No, I’ll do it.” And then I got on board, and I’m so glad I did.
Emma, did you have any idea it would become as big as it would?
Emma: I didn’t know what I thought! I just knew it was going to be something. Because I knew people are always interested in what celebrities are doing. That’s always been the case and that’s never going to go away. And I felt like this was kind of the new form of paparazzi, but coming straight from the source. And [the comments] were humanizing celebrities in a way we’ve never seen before. So I definitely knew it was going to be big, I just didn’t anticipate the way it was going to happen. You know, Kelly Ripa talking about it on her show; that’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened!
Walk me through that Kelly Ripa moment. How did you find out that she was going to talk about you on her talk show?
Emma: The day before, I had inboxed back and forth with her because I had joked about being mentioned on “Live With Kelly & Ryan” and she said “done.” So, we were all kind of anxiously waiting, wondering if she would actually do it.
Julie: So we both watched live.
Emma: We were together.
Julie: We were like, we’ll wake up early, we’ll watch just in case.
Emma: I was standing in my towel, in front of my TV, no joke, and I hear her say, “By the way, I follow this account,” and I was like, “HOLY SHIT!”
Kelly Ripa mentioning Comments by Celebs on the February 27 episode of “Live With Kelly and Ryan” (at minute 7:40).
So is that when you felt like you made it?
Julie & Emma: Yeah.
Was there a number of followers you hit where you were like, oh my goodness, this is becoming something so huge?
Emma: I think there were a couple of things, like when celebrities themselves started following us. And when news sites started covering us. Originally, when we made the account, it was more for entertainment. Which it still is. But something we didn’t anticipate was it was really going to become a news source. We would do, let’s say, a Kylie Jenner post, and then if you google “Kylie Jenner” the next day, every article was about “Kylie Jenner deletes Instagram comment.” Like, omg, this is something.
How do you feel about entertainment websites using your account as a source?
Emma: I mean, I love it. They usually credit us, and a lot of the time they’ll use our screenshots.
Julie: They embed the link, which is great.
Emma: Yeah, we love when they credit us. Listen, if they don’t, it’s okay, it’s public knowledge. It’s nice — we’ve built up a relationship with a lot publications.
Okay, I have to ask. How do you find the comments and how do you get the screenshots so quickly?
Emma: Well, we’re constantly looking. We’re 100% of the time on our phones. We’re never not on our phones. And we have certain celebrities that we’re always looking for. But also, we’ve built up a really loyal following and everyone feels like they’re in it with us — which they totally are. And it’s been amazing because our followers are just as excited about the comments as we are. So they go hand in hand. We put it like this: We’re never too worried we’re going to miss something, because if we do, we know our followers are going to send it to us.
What’s your daily routine?
Emma: It’s very day-to-day.
Julie: We do a Chrissy [Teigen] round-up every Sunday, but that’s the only thing that’s solid. Other than that, if something comes up, then we’ll say, let’s do this, or sometimes we look out for a specific person if they were in the news. But yeah, it’s very day-to-day.
Emma: Sometimes we’ll pre-plan. Like, we want to do a couples compilation or we want to do one of Queer Eye, so in those cases, we’ll be planning it. But you know, every day, we wake up and see what’s going to happen. What are the celebrities gonna say?!
How do you two stay motivated, especially since you haven’t monetized the account in any way?
Emma: It’s so much fun!
Julie: We love it. I never really thought about it. There’s no necessary motivation, we just enjoy doing it.
Emma: Yeah, it’s so much fun and it’s so up our alley and it’s so natural to us, I feel like we’d almost be doing it anyways.
You mentioned being the new paparazzi — sometimes celebrity publicists will get paparazzi to set up shots of their clients. It’s a funny concept to think about: Will publicists be setting up comments in the future? Have any publicists reached out to you two?
Emma: We haven’t had any interaction with celebrity publicists, but we’ve had interactions with celebrities themselves. Sometimes they’re their best submitters, we’ll put it like that.
What has been the most surprising thing about running the account?
Julie: I’m still surprised by how many news headlines the things that we post make. There are certain ones we know when we post it, like oh, that’s 100% going to be a news headline. Like with Ariana and Pete Davidson. But every so often we’ll post one that we think is just a funny comment and all of a sudden, it’s news headlines. So I think that’s been really surprising for me.
Emma: For me — I don’t know if this is the type of answer you’re necessarily looking for – but something that Julie and I are constantly in awe of, and so appreciative of, are how invested the followers are. Not just in the account and the comments, but also in our kind of journey. We have people reach out to us all the time who are like, “We’ve been following you since 1,000 followers and I’m so excited!” It’s so nice!
Comments by Celebs first post: Paris Hilton commenting the fire emoji on a Kim Kardashian post.
The internet being nice for once!
Emma: It’s really awesome.
Julie: We have really only positive experiences with people reaching out to us personally through the account.
Emma: Totally. And I think that’s kind of something – if you follow our account, you know — it’s light and humorous and it’s not mean-spirited at all, and we try to stay away from that. If there’s a very exceptionally shady comment that’s hilarious, maybe, yes, we’ll post it. But that’s not our goal by any means.
What do you see as the future of the account?
Emma: We’re 100% going to stick to what’s been working, I think something that’s great about our content is that it’s relatively simple. And I think people respond really well to that. And I think that’s going to stay the same, and we love that. In terms of other partnerships, that’s definitely something we’re looking to explore more. We have an exciting partnership with Betches in the works — stay tuned for that.
I know you two stayed anonymous at the start of the account; how did you parents react to finding out you were running it?
Julie [to Emma]: You told your parents early on, right?
Emma: Yeah, so my parents knew from the beginning because I tell my parents everything —
Julie: The funniest thing was that Emma said to me in the beginning, “We should remain completely anonymous.” And I said, “Yes, I couldn’t agree more.” She said, “Okay, do not tell anybody.” So I didn’t tell a soul. I didn’t tell my parents, I didn’t tell my siblings. But every day she would text me, “I followed this person from comments, don’t unfollow, it’s my hairdresser. Don’t unfollow, it’s my Uber driver.” And I’m like, “I still haven’t told my parents yet!!” And Emma says, “No no, don’t tell them yet, but that person I just followed did my manicure today and she did an amazing job, and we’re going to keep her on.” [Laughs] Then finally, I thought, it’s time to tell my parents. We started in April, and I told them around December, when I like felt like it was enough that they’d be proud of me for it. I waited a really long time.
Emma: I forgot how long you waited!
How did they react when you told them?
Julie: First they were like, why didn’t you tell me first? But they are so overwhelmingly excited that I needed to keep things a little calm until I told them. But they were so excited. Our parents are so supportive.
Emma: Our parents are very much your typical Jewish parents — over-the-moon, could not be more excited, could not be more enthusiastic, kvelling!
Do they brag to all their friends like, “Look what our daughters are up to”?
Emma: Yes, except for the funniest thing — on my end, at least — is that they so badly want to brag, they just still don’t understand it.
How do they explain it?
Emma: They don’t.
Julie: They don’t know how to.
Emma: That in itself is hilarious: watching my mom try to explain the account. She’ll be like, “Celebrities say something, then Emma says something, then it’s just posted!”
Julie: My mom is the same way. She was like the star of Trader Joe’s the other day because she ran into a friend and was telling her about us. Then someone overheard and said, “I know that account.” She told me, “I was in Trader Joe’s today and everyone knew me.” I was like, “No, they knew me!”
Something that I’ve noticed is that a lot of big humor accounts on Instagram are run by Jewish people, which I think is really interesting. Do you have any guess on why you think that is?
Emma: I honestly wish I had an answer for you.
Julie: I think there’s a sarcastic sense of humor that runs pretty constant — but I don’t know, it could just be coincidence. Or really supportive parents!
What are you two currently up to?
Emma: I graduated in 2016, and I just finished my first year at Columbia, getting my master’s in social work. But I actually decided to defer that for a year; I have one more year left. I wanted to do this full-time and see.
Julie: And I just graduated from Syracuse in May  and I was planning on going to grad school. But I also put that off and decided to do this.
What are your personal favorite Instagram accounts to check?
Julie: Gary Janetti. He’s celebrity but also meme-y.
Emma: I second that, but Jen Atkin is one of my favorite people to follow. I love seeing all of the behind-the-scenes glam from different events/trips.
What’s one thing you want people to know about you two?
Emma: People are starting to say, “Oh, well, you guys are celebrities now!” But the point that we always want to get across is while, yes, the account is gaining popularity — and I think it will continue to — we’re so excited and so grateful. Something that we don’t forget, which we don’t want anyone else to forget, is we’re just as excited about this as everyone else is. We get just as excited when we see a hilarious comment. We are in it with everyone else.