“Bro. Bro! Listen to the kids.”
That’s not just Kanye West’s opening line from his now infamous 2015 MTV VMA Video Vanguard acceptance speech—it’s a sign that Kanye practices what he preaches.
You might remember this clip from Kayne’s 11-minute acceptance speech:
But you probably didn’t catch this view:
That comes from the vantage point—and vocal cords—of Pablo Chacon, 19, and his friend Stephanie Sifuentes, also 19, who were in the audience pit during the show and who may have kicked off the most fascinating pop culture presidential campaign this side of Deez Nuts—the fictional figurehead created by 15-year-old Iowa teen Brady Olson, whose independent presidential campaign has captured the third-highest votes in North Carolina’s Presidential Primary Polls as well as a healthy amount of media attention.
If you listen to that video at the conclusion of Kanye’s speech you can hear the teens shout “Kanye for President” and then see the star pause and make a gesture acknowledging the pit call before stating “And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided, in 2020, to run for president.”
Sifuentes, who initially shouted the nomination, which then her friend Chacon echoed more loudly on the video, told Fast Company that the audience was “just waiting for Kanye to do something crazy.”
Both attended in hopes that they would see Kayne perform, and while they stated that most of the crowd was disappointed by not seeing a musical performance, they were happy to be involved in an even greater pop culture phenomenon and walked away happy that they possibly had a hand in creating a moment that could be even more significant.
“We were all just like confused from his speech,” said Sifuentes. “But it seemed like it was moving people, so that’s when I decided to say ‘Kanye for President’ as a joke. But we didn’t realize what a domino effect it would have had.”
Both believed that Kanye walked on stage “already having something in his mind,” possibly wanting to manufacture another iconic MTV moment that could scrub away his infamous interruption of Talyor Swift’s acceptance speech six years ago, which West admitted on Sunday, he still feels the repercussions of to this day.
But “he had to have heard us,” said Sifuentes. “We were the only ones who said something during the complete silence of the speech.” She added, “we were scared to say it because we thought we’d get in trouble by the staff.”
Should Kanye decide to fully commit toward a candidacy in 2020, it could pay major dividends to Chacon, who attends California State Long Branch with the hopes of one day hosting an entertainment show and Sifuentes, who is an aspiring movie producer.
Although she identifies as a Republican, Sifuentes admits that she’d be interested in an opportunity to get involved and possibly help contribute something like a campaign ad for the artist one day in the future. While Chacon admits that interacting with celebrities at shows like these has given him experiences that he can draw from for a future career in the entertainment industry.
While the teens think that Kanye might have a ways to go before he would make a good candidate, they admit that they think he’s smart in using the media to his advantage and conclude that “all the tension between the two [Democratic and Republican] parties” could create an opening that a popular candidate could take root with a younger generation. (We’ve reached out to West’s reps to find out if he was inspired by Chacon and Sifuentes.)
And while you may think that the 2016 presidential race has become exhausting even before the conclusion of the 2015 summer, just know that we’re only 1,889 days away from November 3, 2020, and, according to the Washington Post, a 24-year-old Republican activist from Maryland has already set up a Ready for Kanye PAC.
H/t to @jon_eats for the tip.
Matthew Mirandi is a senior director at Group SJR and works closely on content campaigns for both Colloquial and Truffle Pig.