Jason Momoa
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Why Aquaman star Jason Momoa is the model modern celebrity

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Dec 21, 2018, 4:15 PM EST

Jason Momoa is stepping up to a new level of fame thanks to his titular role in Aquaman, a monumental blockbuster that is projected to do quite well. He's ready for the jump, not only because he's had the spotlight on him while playing Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones, but because beyond the roles Momoa has played, he has cultivated attention through social media and his presence at conventions.

In short, people adore him for his engagement with his fanbase, his clear love of life, and his willingness to share his enthusiasm with the wider world. He makes everything better, from the films he's in, to the lives of the fans who love him.

Of course, many also love Momoa in no small part because he's easy on the eyes, and it's arguable that his good looks and his exuberance have caused many to underrate him as an actor. Critics' reviews of Aquaman laud his bubbly portrayal of the heir to Atlantis, and many praise his strong-yet-sensitive portrayal of Khal Drogo. And so, while many may first become fans of Momoa because they like it when he takes his shirt off, they become stronger fans because he's good at what he does, and because he shares his life with us, whether in person at conventions or, more regularly, on social media.

It's these intimate moments that Momoa shares on his Instagram and YouTube channel that make people feel like they have a real connection with him, even if they've never met him in person. This phenomenon in psychological circles is called a parasocial relationship.

"Think of this as a 'socially acceptable' imaginary friend," Dr. Andrea Letamendi, Clinical Psychologist at UCLA, explains. "We know the relationship isn't real, but we feel close to the person or character nonetheless. Through repeated exposure, we can form long-lasting social bonds and sense of intimacy with someone who isn't a real friend. The more we see their lives through social media, know their likes and dislikes, learn about their daily routines, and meet their friends and family, the closer our bond feels."

Fans can bond all over the place on Momoa's social media. His 7+ million followers on Instagram get regular updates of what he's doing, which usually includes activities like rock climbing, jumping off cliffs, and drinking Guinness (and always with the sign-off "aloha j"). On his new YouTube Channel, you can see him wielding Aquaman's trident in Times Square, sitting in a fancy bowl-shaped bathtub eating pasta Bolognese, playing the ukulele for fans waiting in the rain, and talking to his friend about how thankful he is to be living such a wonderfully surreal life.

Fans who've met Momoa in person have experienced his energy and enthusiasm firsthand, and many have wonderful stories to tell about meeting him. One fan named Whitney, for example, met Jason at Atlanta's Dragon Con a few years ago at a meet-and-greet. "I had hot pink extensions in my hair," she recalls, "and when I walked up to him he stood up and put his hands in my hair. He wanted to know how the extensions were attached… he was really sweet. He spoke to my husband and me for a long time and was funny but still humble."

Nicole Stoufflét, another fan who met him at a convention in New Orleans this January, got a photo with him at an official fan photo event. Jason found Nicole's cosplay as Wonder Woman so impressive, however, that he wanted a selfie of his own after his event was over.

"He casually strolled over, grinning ear-to-ear," she recalls. "He walks up to me to ask if he can get a selfie with 'Wonder Woman.' I said, 'Sure!' He leans in, and I snap one with my iPhone…a few girls shriek with excitement, and people start running over to mob him for pics. He excuses himself from our conversation and starts to run to escape! And just like that, he was gone."

So there you have it. Jason Momoa makes everything better not only because he's a good actor, but also because he includes us in his life and in his enthusiasm for everything he does (also, abs). On top of that, it's clear he's extremely grateful for his career and his fanbase. "I'm thankful," he explains on the YouTube episode about his time in NYC during the Aquaman press tour. "Very humbled by the whole experience. I don't have any advice yet… but right now, I'm just thankful."

And Jason's fans are thankful as well — every famous person should follow his example of how to engage with fans.