The cyclical nature of modern meme culture means that anything that’s blowing up the Twittersphere will be irrelevant within 3-5 business days (or, about as long as it takes to receive a package ordered from Bath & Body Works). In 2022, going viral is easy—anyone and anything can do it. But if you want real staying power? You’ve got to channel the gods. That takes a special combination of skill, charisma, comedy, and pure, unassailable destiny.
With genuine humor lacking in modern viral videos, it’s no wonder that we often look back on the meme days of yore for the laughs we need. Believe it or not, there was a time when things became outrageously popular online without TikTok. To go viral pre-TikTok—and hell, pre-Vine—and still have people return to your content is a feat that only a handful of people have been able to pull off.
Angela Julius is one of those people. You might know Julius from her YouTube channel, where she has been making modest, funny content about her day-to-day life in small-town Wisconsin for years. But chances are, you know her as the Bath & Body Works Candle Rant Woman, after a 12-minute video Julius posted in 2012. In the video, she detailed a harrowing experience at a suburban mall’s Bath & Body Works store, where she was trying to locate the retail chain’s famous holiday scents. The video exploded online two years after it was initially posted, going massively viral on Tumblr and Twitter.
The video is titled, “I MIGHT Boycott Bath & Body Works RANT!” (The use of the modal verb alone is comedy gold.) Julius sits comfortably in front of her camera, speaking to her tight-knit online candle community. “Hello everybody,” she says, smiling. “This is going to be extremely explicit, so if you don’t like swearing or angry people from Wisconsin, then turn your mother-effing camera off now.”
To know the video is to absolutely love it. Watching Julius recount her horrendous Sunday afternoon driving around Wisconsin looking for the now-infamous Winter Candy Apple and Iced Gingerbread three-wick candles is storytelling on par with our greatest filmmakers. It’s impossible not to be sucked into the frenzied tale. Julius’ knack for details and semi-unintentional comic timing feels like you’re watching a game-changing documentary. And, of course, there’s her hilarious portrait of “Jen,” the nefarious Bath & Body Works manager, who is our great antagonist in Julius’ expedition for her winter scents.
But others didn’t respond so favorably. Julius’ recounting of her journey—even in its half-joking, ultra-hysterical manner—made some feel as though Julius was the embodiment of the retail customer we all despise, the “Karen” before we ever had that already-outmoded term for it. Julius received death threats and was harassed at her work, until the video’s initial virality calmed down many months later.
Still, people revisit the video annually as a way to ring in the holiday season. For some, there’s Mariah Carey. For others, there’s Angela Julius. (For me, there’s both).
On the eve of the rant video’s 10th anniversary, The Daily Beast’s Obsessed spoke with Julius over the phone to relive her lightning in a bottle video, how it affected her life, whether or not it was completely serious, and how she’s dealt with a new generation discovering it after a major TikTok resurgence.
The video has been out for 10 years now, but it really hit in autumn 2014, a couple of years after you initially posted it. What was it like for you when you realized, “Something has caught on here?”
When the video went viral I was in complete disbelief. I was in shock. Because back then, when things went viral, it was much bigger than when things go viral now—people go viral on TikTok all the time. But back then, it was a huge deal. Especially coming from a small town, I had all the media contact me and it was very overwhelming. I just wanted to hide under a shell and never come out. So it was actually negative at first.
People loved the video, but when things go viral like that, as much as they love it, they love to hate it as well.
Especially because the video was done lightheartedly, but somebody who didn’t know the background of it could take it as, “This woman is completely insane and she just needs to be stopped.” It was scary, I had people showing up to my job. I had people recording saying that they were on their way [to my hometown] to do bad things. So it wasn’t the greatest. It was scary at first. But the total outcome was good in the end.
Did you get much feedback on the video in the two years between when you uploaded it and when it first went viral?
I didn’t get much! Basically, the video was meant for the candle community alone. That was the only following that I had. There were maybe 600 people and they watched it, they laughed with me, they got my sense of humor. They understood because they wanted those candles as much as I did for review. That’s what we were doing, we were going to the Bath & Body Works store and getting these candles that were in high demand and doing these reviews on YouTube. So it was understood during those first two years.
I want to take it back to that fateful day in 2012. We’ve got the Peach Bellini candles to exchange, and we’re looking for the Winter Candy Apple and Iced Gingerbread. Do you have any memory of that day in particular, or is it all a blur and you’re remembering it from the video?
I actually remember being in Oshkosh with my mom and we were at the outlet there. And previous to that day, like a week prior, I was calling all over the place—just like I said in the video—trying to find these candles because they were like the “it” candles that were coming out for Christmastime. I got the call from Jen, and she was so polite on the phone to me saying, “Hey, we got ’em, come in!” And I went there and they were not there. And I think she realized that she screwed up!
One point I do want to make is that when I do these rant videos, I’m never rude to the employees at the store. I’m overly kind. What I’ll do is I’ll come home and if I’m upset at the situation, I’ll just bitch online. And everyone will hear it! But I’m never like that to people’s faces, ever. But that’s basically what happened, I was upset about the situation and I came home and literally just let it rip. I did my little comical stance on it, and, if you listen closely, you can hear my daughter laughing in the background as well.
People don’t really understand that we’ve all had those days. We’ve all been at a store and something has gone wrong, and I think most of us are pretty confrontation averse. We’ve all come home and been, like, “This is the worst fucking day!”
I think that’s where the confusion set in with the people who are watching the video now. They see my comical anger and think that I must’ve went off on Jen in the store and that’s how it was on the day that it happened. But now there are Karens that do go off on people in the store! And [they’re getting recorded] and it’s like, “Oh my god!”
People really love your accent. You’re someone who is from the Midwest, from Wisconsin. I’m from North Dakota myself, so that was a big draw when I first saw it all those years ago—it reminded me of home! In the video, you’re going from Oshkosh to Neenah to Appleton. What does it mean for you now to be sort of a hometown hero?
I love it. I love it! Believe it or not, I get recognized the most at TJ Maxx. I am a total Maxxinista, I literally could go there twice a week and spend hours in that store, it’s like my home. I get recognized at TJ Maxx by the employees, and it’s a lot of fun.
You seem very good at owning it now.
It’s out there, there’s nothing else I can do, I can’t take it back.
It’s a part of internet culture forever, which is scary, but at the same time it’s kind of iconic. A lot of people clamor for that kind of longtime internet virality. Your video did experience a resurgence on TikTok this year, a decade after it was uploaded. What has it been like dealing with a new generation of people discovering the video all over again? You said people often don’t see its comical nature—has this been tough or has it been rewarding?
I don’t really get a lot of hate at all, especially this year with TikTok and people reciting the video. I am just so happy that that’s what’s going on, that they’re getting it out there again. It seems like every year somebody does something, somebody will shout it out. But this year especially I’m seeing that younger generation come forth and do the reenactments and I absolutely love it. This girl who did one reenactment, she explained to me that she is actually autistic and that’s what gave her the ease of reciting the video and getting into it. I just think that’s so cool, that they can bring light to that. She did it, she put it out there. The tone of her voice and mannerisms matches mine so brilliantly, it’s so cool.