Actor and model Darren may not be a household name just yet, but he is certainly causing quite a stir on Instagram writes Joanna Kiernan.
Darren Killeen’s success as an actor on stage and screen has blossomed over the last seven years, but from the moment he began chronicling his self-imposed detox from cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol last May on his Instagram account @bobbydazzler — his life took on another dimension entirely — that of an online star.
As I write this, Darren has 60,400 followers, but the number is growing by the second. In fact, when we met just hours ago that number stood at around 58,000, so by the time you are reading this, god knows how this number may have swelled.
Darren is not your average #Irishfitfam poster, however. A majority of his Instagram selfies feature a range of seductive poses, ranging from various states of undress to the full Monty (always with strategically placed household items on hand to cover his modesty.)
“There is more to it than me just taking photos of myself,” explains Darren, 38.
“The whole thing started last May. It had been coming for a while and was mostly about smoking. I lived in Australia for a few years and I gave up smoking for two periods over there; then I moved back to Ireland and I started smoking again. I would be having a coffee and I would want a cigarette or I have a drink and I would want a cigarette, so they just all had to go, I realised.
“Around that time I saw this post on Facebook with #100daysofhappiness and when I thought about what that would look like for me, I knew straight away that stopping drinking and smoking would be it. So I gave myself 30 days at first, but in my head I wanted to do 100 and I started Instagramming my progress on the fourth day of that.”
As a newcomer to the platform, Darren spent time playing around with his Instagram posts, but found over time that his more risqué photos attracted the most attention.
“I started out just putting up a picture of four fingers to signify the first four days completed, and then eventually I ran out of fingers,” says Darren, laughing.
“Why is my shirt off? Why not? That’s apparently what you do on Instagram. You get bored so you do different things. A lot of the photos I take would be out in my back garden. Sometimes I just wake up in the morning and think, ‘the light looks really nice there now I will just hop in and take a photo’.”
“They are selfies, so I just put the timer on my phone.I have a tripod because I do self-tape auditions and all that, but mostly it is just balancing somewhere on the windowsill or table.
“I will just take a couple of shots and have a look because sometimes it takes a few more. It’s just a bit of fun.”
The art of perfecting a good selfie pose is not lost on Darren, who took up modelling last year and is represented by the Assets agency.
“It is amazing, actually, the amount of support that you get from people on Instagram,” he says.
“I have people contacting me to say that I have inspired them to give up things like smoking or one American girl is giving up pizza and diet soda, based on what I am doing; I never expected to have that effect on people.”
So has Darren’s Instagram fame resulted in more acting and modelling jobs?
“Not that much as yet,” he admits.
“There is a modelling agency in Paris who I have been in touch with, that found me through Instagram, but no work has come from that yet and a guy in Miami also got in touch, he runs a modelling agency there and a theatre director in New York messaged me through it. It does give me hope though because I don’t feel like I am just living in Ireland anymore.”
“It’s incredible how far you can travel on Instagram,” he says.
“The industry is difficult here and that is fine, that’s what I signed up for when I was getting into acting and I was fully aware of that, but then you do something like this and all of a sudden you have a global audience, that is an amazing feeling.”
Darren used his newfound fame to promote his recent TV work with TG4.
“I was in Eipic, a series on TG4, and I put that up on my Instagram, promoting it every week and I had messages from people in America and Canada and Australia, who were watching the show in Irish with the subtitles saying how amazing it was.
“You can perceive all of this as just a vanity project or you can perceive it as something better; something challenging,” adds Darren. “I get all sorts of people getting on to me with comments like ‘the state of you!’ You definitely get haters. I had a girl yesterday get on to tell me ‘you’re awful and your hairy body is making me sick’.
“I put up little videos of me dancing as well and with that you get some abuse. The whole thing is that since I haven’t been drinking and smoking I am lighter, my life is lighter, I smile more, I smile on my own, and sometimes I do feel like dancing in the middle of the day and that’s all it is. Some people will say ‘you have brightened up my day’ and others will tell me ‘you can’t dance, the state of you!’ So now I put up this disclaimer telling people I am not a dancer and I don’t aspire to be a dancer, but I do aspire to smile and laugh and dancing allows me to do that. What’s so wrong with me boogying around my kitchen?
“It is entertainment at the end of the day and it is a kind of theatre with a global audience.”
And with between 500 and 1,000 new followers a day, Darren appears to have created a winning Instagram formula. “It’s just exploding, which is a bit unnerving,” Darren says. “Mostly the comments are good and that is nice. It is a strange thing because it is not real life, but the Instagram posting has become a very integral part of my clean living.
“It is a part of my day and it gives me that external pressure which makes me continue on with what I am doing.”
Darren stars as Michael Collins in Mill Productions’ staging of ‘Good Evening Mr Collins,’ at the Mill Theatre in Dundrum from May 11-21.
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