By Tetona Dunlap
The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho.
It all started with an early morning Facebook status.
In 2014, Jene Nicole Johnson, a senior at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, was tired and craving some coffee. She posted some lyrics about going to Starbucks, set to the tune of Frozen’s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”
“I was really tired and it just popped in my head,” said the 2010 Twin Falls High School graduate on Monday.
She didn’t think anything of it, until friends encouraged her to keep writing and make a parody video. Johnson teamed up with college friend Olivia Mowry, who agreed to direct, shoot and edit the video.
“We had the time and resources to do it,” Johnson said.
But what happened next surprised Johnson.
“Do You Wanna Go to Starbucks?” became a viral hit. It was featured on such websites as The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and on NBC Nightly News and The Today Show. It has more than 4 million views on YouTube. Starbucks even put the video on its website and tweeted it from its Twitter account.
On the heels of the video’s success, Johnson and Mowry have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a musical mini-webseries called “CUT! A Hollywood Musical,” which would star Johnson as “Penelope Gatherswald,” a wide-eyed girl from a small town with big dreams of becoming a famous actress in Hollywood. They need $41,500 to launch the series in June. The Kickstarter campaign ends March 12.
“We have the idea and we think it’s a good one. We have a fan base and we just want to give them more content,” Johnson said. “We hope this turns into more exposure and furthers our careers. It’s already pretty hard for both of us as young people and young women to get ahead in this industry.”
They have also created a sequel to their first video, which is a parody of Frozen’s “Love Is An Open Door.” They posted “Love Is An Open Store” on Feb. 14.
In “Do You Wanna Go to Starbucks?,” Johnson is a student studying for finals in the library. She sings to her friends, with the hopes that they will go on a coffee run with her. But when she finally gets to Starbucks, she discovers it is closed.
In the sequel, Johnson plays the same student in search of coffee and she finally gets her wish when Starbucks opens at 4:30 a.m. The barista who who sings with Johnson is played by Weston Bennett, a 2009 Twin Falls High School graduate. The two of them get excited and belt out their mutual love of Starbucks. On Tuesday, “Love Is An Open Store” had nearly 8,000 views.
“There’s been quite a few times I’ve been in public place and people will say, ‘Can we take a picture with you?’ Johnson said. “It’s pretty weird and different.”
Though the video gave Johnson and Mowry Internet fame, they did not make any money from it through YouTube ad sales because it is a parody.
Johnson lives and works in Los Angeles. She graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University last year with a bachelor’s degree in music composition. Since graduating, she has landed 15 extra roles on television shows including “Bones”, “NCIS: Major Crimes” and “Shameless.”
Johnson grew up in the Magic Valley and was involved with local theater and singing groups. She was a member of JIVE and Chamber Singers at Twin Falls High School. She did community theater with Magic Valley School of Performing Arts, Dilettante Group of Magic Valley and Missoula Children’s Theater.
“Twin Falls isn’t big especially compared to San Diego and L.A., but it was so accepting of the arts,” Johnson said. “I was able to be part of a show constantly. It shaped me as a performer and helped me grow.”