A year ago, Mike Senatore just wanted to be in the Ardrey Kell High School talent show. He couldn't sing. He couldn't dance. He couldn't play an instrument. But none of this stopped his desire to participate.
The original idea was to chug a bottle of water before flipping it, but Mom quickly nixed that one. Instead, Senatore decided to set up "awkward tension" with music before flipping a bottle onto a table. He put together the music clip from Jorge Quintero's 300 Violin Orchestra and called it a night.
"A lot of it was just BS'ing," Senatore tells Bleacher Report. "I didn't have any real talent."
In a flash, a video of the event exploded (now over 7.5 million views on YouTube) and it quickly had 20,000 retweets on Twitter, making Senatore an overnight sensation. The next day, his phone rang endlessly, and he talked to everyone from the New York Times to Teen Vogue. By the end of the week, Senatore appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, showing the comedian his bottle-flipping skill. His flight to New York was the first time he'd ever been on an airplane.
"Every single viral person is thinking the same thing when they're in that moment of viral fame," Senatore says. "People who make it to that tier, when they make it to a show, it's just like, 'How is this happening? Why am I in New York?'
"A whole year later, it doesn't make sense to me."
Senatore embraced his 15 minutes of fame, but the bottle-flipping craze continued through the year as one of 2016's biggest trends. Students around the country started flipping bottles in class, which led to teachers banning bottle flips. Bottle-flip iPhone apps were developed. Think pieces were written. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers even flipped bottles during a blowout win over the New York Knicks. And every time someone notable flips a bottle, Senatore hears about it from his friends.
"The first day that I went viral, it was like I saved the world or something. People I hadn't talked to in years are texting me," Senatore says. "A manager I had for two weeks at one of my jobs texted me. It was super surreal [to see] who comes out of nowhere because they think it's so freaking funny that this happened."
Along with the fame, Senatore is proud the video led Deer Park, the bottled water brand he flipped, to donate $10,000 to the American Cancer Society, especially since he lost his father to cancer some years prior. Senatore says the donation day was the happiest day of his life, and soon he saw people around the world raising money through bottle flipping.
"That something so stupid that I did in my talent show could have such a great cause to it, in my eyes, that's the coolest thing I've ever seen," he says.
Even a year later, people around town know Senatore as the kid who flipped a bottle. And even if his national fame isn't what it was for those two weeks last May, the local fame remains.
"I work at a car wash, and it's funny because they all know me there from forever and they make fun of me," he says. "I've had the same manager for three years, and they call me water boy now. These kids are obsessed with me. They want to go to work meetings just to meet me. It's funny because kids look at me like I'm some hero, and I don't know how to react to it. In my eyes, I'm just a stupid college kid doing his own thing."
Senatore acknowledges he probably won't ever create anything as widely seen as his bottle-flip video, but that doesn't stop him from reaching.
"I peaked. That's what people tell me," Senatore says. "I use it as motivation. It motivates me every day in a way. I don't want [the bottle flip] to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I can't expect to go on Stephen Colbert again, but maybe I could be on Stephen Colbert again."
Senatore says he wanted to be a politician before the video went viral, but the notoriety and the past election changed his mind. Now, after seeing the behind-the-scene machinations of the entertainment industry, he's found an interest in production and is an incoming sophomore studying business at the University of South Carolina. Regardless of what the future holds, Senatore understands that bottle flipping will always have a place in his story.
"[Bottle flipping]'s still a daily part of my life. Ten years from now, it'll still be big in my life," Senatore says.
"I think kids will still be doing it. Planking died out, but planking was also planking."