Emmanuel is a simple emu: he loves the spotlight and he hates phones.
These traits, plus his on-camera charisma, have helped him become an internet sensation almost overnight.
But not all the credit goes to the emu himself, of course. Emmanuel’s newfound fame also comes thanks to Taylor Blake, his caretaker and human documentarian, who in recent weeks has been posting videos of the emu interrupting her day to day life on the South Florida farm she works at.
“Emmanuel, don’t do it!” Blake often says to the emu when he crosses in front of her and the iPhone camera. Emmanuel then normally pauses, stares into the lens and completely takes over the shot.
Blake and Emmanuel are seen in videos hanging out at Knuckle Bump Farms, a hobby farm in South Florida that focuses on miniature cattle, according to its Instagram bio. Blake posts the videos of Emmanuel to the farm’s TikTok account, @knucklebumpfarms, which has accumulated over 950,000 followers and 23.7 million likes. One compilation of Blake and Emmanuel’s misadventures has been viewed over 23 million times on Twitter.
The now famous internet duo didn't respond to interview requests. Blake tweeted on Tuesday that the attention has been overwhelming.
"My emails and DMs have been absolutely flooded," she wrote, adding "I am slightly overwhelmed, but want you all to know that I’m doing my best! I appreciate every email and inquiry."
Their sudden popularity isn't surprising. The attachment fans may feel toward a public figure — especially personable creators who are very active online — is often described as a parasocial relationship. Famous pets occupy a unique niche in parasocial interactions. Fans may feel a closeness with the pet’s owner and care for the creator’s pet as they would care for their own.
In the videos, Blake will often appear in brown Tommy Hilfiger overalls and a baseball cap. In one video, she even dresses Emmanuel up with his own matching hat.
Sometimes, Blake — like many parents scolding their children — invokes the emu’s full name, “Emmanuel Todd Lopez.”
Emmanuel will in some cases peck at the camera, causing it to topple onto the ground. Other times, he will heed Blake’s warnings and simply step out of the frame.
The TikTok channel’s oldest video dates back to January 10. Most of the content originally focused on the miniature cattle living on the farm. But soon Emmanuel content took off.
Emmanuel’s interruptions are not scripted or staged. Rather, Blake told the Washington Post, the emu has an “obsession with the camera” and with Blake herself.
“Emmanuel, you’re my best friend!” Blake tweeted, along with a video of herself and Emmanuel doing best friend activities like telling each other jokes and eating ice cream.
But Emmanuel is not the only emu on the farm. There is also Ellen, a female emu who was adopted along with Emmanuel in 2015 by Blake’s grandmother, Blake told the Washington Post.
Don't start writing emu-shipping fanfiction, though. Blake wrote in a TikTok comment, “She [Ellen] and Emmanuel hate each other.”
In another TikTok comment, Blake wrote Emmanuel "hasn’t fully come out yet but we’re pretty sure he’s gay. We’ve had him since he hatched, he’s very sweet & loves cuddles but he’s also a menace.”
In some ways, though, Emmanuel has become a symbol of standing up to authority. “Become ungovernable," author Deanna Raybourn tweeted. "Be the Emmanuel you wish to see in the world."
On Sunday, Blake posted a photo to Instagram of her kissing Emmanuel on the beak.
“Thank you, for everything," she wrote. "All I’ve ever wanted was to spread joy like wildfire, I feel like all my dreams are coming true. I can’t wait to tell my future children all about how an emu changed my life.”
Still, Blake appears concerned that the fame may be giving Emmanuel a bit of an ego.
"I’m starting to think the fame has gone to Emmanuel’s head," she wrote in the caption of a video posted Tuesday. In it, Emmanuel drops in unexpectedly while another animal, Princess, is in the spotlight.
"Emmanuel," she says before ending the video, "we have got to talk off camera."