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At the young age of 10, Sammy Griner has already saved his father’s life.
In a profile with British magazine New Statesman, “Success Kid” Griner and his mother Laney discussed his artistic passions, his father’s kidney transplant, and the fact that he doesn’t care much about being a viral sensation.
Thankfully, he seems to have grown up to be quite the normal tween. Life for Griner in Jacksonville, Florida, consists of skateboarding, illustrating, and homeschooling (only because he’s gotten in trouble at school for things like talking during class). Griner’s father Justin is an artist, too, and Sammy is following in his footsteps.
It’s been 10 years since Laney took that iconic photo of her son eating sand at the beach, but his impression is still lasting and iconic nonetheless—nearly 20 pages of search results have emerged regarding Success Kid in this last year alone. His relevancy on Google Trends from the past three years has ranged anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of his peak popularity in February 2012, when Virgin Media used his image in an ad campaign.
Then last April, Griner surfaced once again when his father needed a kidney transplant. Justin had been diagnosed with kidney disease in 2006, and he then was placed on dialysis after a full kidney failure in 2009. Laney launched a GoFundMe campaign for the medical costs, which raised more than $100,000 once Reddit realized the campaign involved Success Kid.
Today Griner’s image and likeness are still licensed and used in ads, most recently for Honey Bunches of Oats cereal. But aside from having helped his dad, Griner’s a bit resistant to the fame. He’s even kind of embarrassed that strangers want to take photos with him for a picture from decade ago of which he has no memory. But he’s thankful nonetheless.
As he told New Statesman:
“The only thing I’m happy for now with that picture is because it saved my dad from dying. He could’ve died so that’s the only time I’m happy—not when people say, ‘Oh, take a picture with me.’ I’m just happy because I probably wouldn’t have a dad anymore.
“When I was little I never thought it was a big deal, I never thought it would save my dad from dying. When I see a bunch of these commercials I’m like ‘Oh my gosh,’ just from a baby holding a fist makes everybody happy.”
Griner may not be finished with the spotlight, however. He admitted that, yes, he’d like to go viral again, “just once.” But when asked if he would be fine with being known as Success Kid while also an artist, Griner took a moment to reflect.
“It’s actually a really hard question. Let me be a detective,” he replies slowly, stroking his chin. “I mean, I’m already famous and stuff, as you can see”—Sammy strikes another pose, one hand behind his head like a model—“but I think I would rather be known for my art.”
Read the entire profile on Success Kid Sammy Griner here.
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.