Elysse Gorney didn’t set out for Kevin to be famous.
It just happened.
Kevin, a.k.a. Lil’ Kev, was born with “it” – that natural charisma that makes people smile. And, on social media, that brings all. the. follows.
It all started in April 2019 when Gorney got a two-month-old Golden Retriever pup, a decision that would change her life – furever.
“I always knew I wanted a Golden,” Gorney said. “I wanted a dog from a particular breeder for the longest time. It was more about timing.”
“I remember calling my mom and saying, ‘I want to get a puppy,’ and she was like, ‘You can’t handle a dog right now. You’re working long hours at the office. Just wait, just wait.’”
“Of course, like any child, I didn’t listen to her,” she said, laughing.
Gorney got herself on a waiting list that was a year-long. Then, finally – it happened. A star was born.
Like most who post to social media, Gorney started an account for Kevin simply as a place to post photos for friends and family to see.
Rise to Fame
Photos and videos of his adventures – from hanging with his Golden gang to swimming at the pool – started getting likes and shares and followers from people outside of Gorney and Kevin’s circle.
Gorney said she and her colleagues started a countdown for Kevin’s social media account to gain 1,000 followers – just for fun — not thinking it would actually go anywhere.
“He had a lot of viral videos, and then it just never stopped, kind of was like, ‘This is fun, but if it stops today, that’s okay.’”
It was then that Gorney really started to take notice that something was happening. “I finally stepped back and was like, ‘Whoa. This is becoming a big thing.’ It’s only been a year, and we had 100k,” Gorney said.
Then, suddenly, around the time the pandemic hit – BOOM!
“I think there was a lot of uncertainty going on in the world, and people really took to social media to pass the time during the day and to find some happiness,” said Gorney. “We received so many messages during this time thanking Kevin for bringing such joy to them during this hard time. It really motivated me to post more content because I really wanted Kevin’s page to become a source of happiness for people.”
Kevin was featured on We Rate Dogs, a renowned nonprofit platform that celebrates the lives of dogs, and his quivering pumpkin hat video got him featured on pop culture site Barstool Sports. In the summer of 2020, Kevin’s viral video of babysitting his friend Hank caught the eye of producers at “Good Morning America” who named him Pet of the Week. Gorney and Kevin appeared on a GMA segment, and, of course, Kevin had on his ducky hat.
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Though exposure from “Good Morning America,” Barstool, and other outlets did provide an uptick in followers, most of Kevin’s success on social has been an organic process.
People just love dogs. And millions love Kevin because of what his human describes as a “happy-go-lucky, goofy personality who loves life and loves people.” His content is enjoyed by 426,000 on Instagram, 127,000 on Facebook, and a whopping 1.7 million on TikTok.
All Play, Some Work Makes Kevin a Fun Boy
While Kevin’s unexpected journey toward fame has been fun, it’s hard work.
Gorney works full-time as an attorney at Phelps Dunbar LLP. She practices in the area of labor and employment and employment litigation. She represents employers in all stages of litigation.
“We also do more on the counseling side, too,” Gorney said. “So, if a company needs help with their handbook, making sure all their policies are compliant, or drafting severance agreements — we’ll help them. We’re full-service in terms of labor and employment on the defense side.”
It’s a busy, stressful line of work that often means full work weeks.
Add to that an active 76-pound dog that also happens to be a social media darling, and Gorney has put in many hours before the week is through. “It’s like a second job,” said Gorney.
On average, Gorney and Kevin create about five videos a week, shorter ones for Instagram and TikTok and a couple longer form Facebook videos. She often shoots the footage and edits it a few days later. Most of the content for Kevin is created on the weekends; if Gorney can create any content during the week, it’s at night due to her work schedule.
“A lot of it is planning, but a lot of it is on a whim,” Gorney said. “We’ll be out and about, going for a walk. I’ll just be recording, and he’ll do something funny, and it turns out to be a good video.”
Gorney said TikTok trends can sometimes inspire content, but most of the time, it just comes to her. “Kevin could be doing something silly, and I’ll think to myself, ‘Hey, that would be a funny video with music behind it.’ Kevin acts just as you see him in the videos—he makes it easy to make content because it’s just him being himself.”
Business in Tampa did a Q&A with Kevin to find out about his favorite things.
BIT: What are your most favorite things to do?
BIT: Where are your favorite places to go?
Kevin: I love Hyde Park! Especially Downtown Dogs, I love everything there! I go straight to the back where all the girls work, and they give me a treat.
Elysse: I can’t even walk by the alley without him pulling me in.
BIT: What’s one of your favorite restaurants?
Kevin: I love Forbici. Mom said she’s going to get me a meatball one day.
BIT: What are your favorite things to eat?
Kevin: Pup Cups from Starbucks!!
Elysse: Kevin knows when we’re going to Starbucks. If we leave without getting him a Pup Cup, he is not happy.
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Kevin: Mom feeds me Nutro dog food… it’s the best for my sensitive tummy.
BIT: What is your favorite toy?
Kevin: Most definitely a Frisbee, most definitely.
BIT: What are your favorite brands?
Kevin: WHIMZEES!!! [gets excited]
Elysse: They have these alligator-shaped dental chews. Before he eats it, he does this weird dance thing around it. He rolls on it, pounces n it, kicks it. It’s a 10-minute ordeal before he finally sits down to eat it.
It caught the attention of Whimzees, and now we work with them.
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All images courtesy of Elysse Gorney and A Golden Named Kevin
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