The Backpack Kid Gives us The Scoop On Dancing, Viral Fame, and What he Keeps in That Famous Backpack
Going viral is nothing new to fifteen-year-old Russell Horning, who is better known as the “Backpack Kid”, or by his Instagram handle @i_got_barzz. He was first thrust into notice after releasing a series of Instagram videos that announced the arrival of a bold and original new style of dance — locked arms flying side to side in a “flossing motion”, paired with a sashay of the hips and a completely straight face. The videos quickly went viral, dazzling the likes of Rihanna and Katy Perry, who invited Horning onstage during her performance of “Swish Swish” on SNL. He showed up wearing – inscrutably – a backpack, and during the finale of the song he stole the spotlight and the world’s attention, dancing with an infectious vigor that completely outshined the rest of the performance. The “Backpack Kid” was born. We spoke with the Backpack Kid about going viral, SNL, and what’s in his backpack:
Hey Russell, tell us a little about where you’re from and what you’ve been up to this week.
I am from Atlanta, born and raised. This week is pretty ordinary. I’m sleeping over at a friend’s house, and I had a photo shoot earlier today.
Where did you get your inspiration for your original style of dance?
My inspiration is: I was always just that weird kid in school who wanted to make people laugh and one day I posted a video of me dancing weird and that video blew up overnight.
Your Instagram handle, i_got_barzz, had over 734,000 followers the last time I checked. How did you get here?
One video gets posted on a page, and then other accounts will repost, and sometimes I’ll get a hundred thousand followers in a few days. That’s what happened with SNL.
Can you tell me what it was like for you to go viral for the first time?
The first video I made only went minorly viral. And a few weeks later I made another video for fun and it went majorly viral. I was just having fun.
How has life changed for you since you started doing this?
It changed for me a lot. I try to maintain a normal life and not travel as much and not drift away from the people I knew before I was famous.
Do you get recognized in public?
Oh yes. Pretty much everywhere I go. Even Walmart – the other day I was recognized by five or six people.
What do you think it is that makes people enjoy your videos so much?
I’m unique and different — you can’t find other dancers who are just doing it for comedy purposes and that’s what I’m all about.
What’s your favorite dance move?
That move where I’m moving my arms back and forth — flossing — I’ve been using that in every video because it’s my signature move.
Tell me what initially brought you to wear a backpack while dancing?
On SNL, that was the first day I wore the backpack. After SNL, someone dubbed me The Backpack Kid.
What are you thinking about that helps you keep such a straight face?
That took me a little while to do. I like making people laugh and the best way to do it is with a straight face. If you laugh and smile, it’s not as funny. It’s what I’m known for as well.
Talk to me a little bit about your Instagram bio, “Disclaimer: I can’t dance lol Ending racism”?
I cannot dance to save my life. But that’s just me being myself — I still think I’m overall a bad dancer but I still enjoy it.
And a lot of my friends are African American and when they’re in my videos people are like: ‘Why does he only have black friends?’ But I think it’s completely fine. It’s not about race for me.
And lastly, what is in your backpack?
I have seven dollars, a couple coins, a bunch of Slim Jims, a charger, a Bluetooth speaker, a water bottle, a pair of ear buds, hair gel, sunglasses, and my wallet.
Photographed by Sidarth Kantamneni
Written by Chanel Peykar