Christina Grimmie said she hated where she was.
It had nothing to do with her career or her personal life. She was referring to her surroundings.
“I’m in like a parking lot right now,” Grimmie told VideoInk as a low rumble echoed in the background. “Another truck.”
It was the last day in May. Grimmie — a YouTube singing star whose fame had crossed over into the mainstream thanks to appearances on NBC’s “The Voice” and ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” — was on tour, on her way to a show that evening at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City with Before You Exit.
She was coughing intermittently, but it was important for her to stop in that parking lot and talk about the next day’s launch of the Charity Champions League, an online “giving competition” in which fans earn money for nonprofits by scoring “points” for watching, reading and sharing content from one of eleven teams headed by celebrity captains.
As the captain of the team supporting the Humane Society of the United States, Grimmie was excited about the opportunity to use the social media following she’d built for something more than just self-promotion.
“You shouldn’t only be posting about yourself,” she said. “I think that the higher the number you have, in terms of fans and following, the more you should do and talk about something you care about. For me, animals have always been my love, my passion. So I’m definitely going to be promoting this in any way I can. I don’t even consider it promotion. It’s just fun for me. I’m just like, ‘Praise the animals!’”
Grimmie said she planned to post videos of her dog Chloe, a five-year-old lab/pug/pit bull mix (“All of my fans already know who she is, which is funny,” she said), and maybe a puppy mill raid.
“It’s kind of always been my dreams [to go on a raid] ever since I started working with the Humane Society,” Grimmie said.
But it wasn’t to be.
A week and a half later, on the evening of June 10, Grimmie was signing autographs for approximately 120 fans at a post-concert meet-and-greet in Orlando, Fla., when a man approached her and opened fire with a handgun. The assailant fatally shot himself after being tackled by her older brother, Marcus Grimmie. She was rushed to the hospital, where she died. She was 22.
“It’s hard to put in to words how devastating, senseless and tragic this loss is,” said Paul Polizzotto, founder and president of CBS EcoMedia, which created the Charity Champions League campaign. “She was the very first celebrity to sign up for Charity Champions. She stepped up straight away.”
Earlier this week, CBS EcoMedia announced that Grimmie’s team had won the Charity Champions’ $250,000 grand prize for the Humane Society, beating out ten other teams, including ones led by sports stars Usain Bolt, Cal Ripken Jr., Mark Teixeira and Jerod Mayo and traditional media celebrities Phil Keoghan (host of “The Amazing Race”) and “Entertainment Tonight” co-hosts Nancy O’Dell and Kevin Frazier.
The Human Society honored Grimmie’s memory by creating the Christina Grimmie Animal Medical Fund to provide life-saving veterinary attention and ongoing care for its most critical animal rescue cases.
“Her many fans made sure that she placed first in the Charity Champions competition, enabling a gift of $250,000,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. in a statement. “We hope that the Grimmie family, and her worldwide fans, take some solace in knowing that her compassion for animals and people will live on through this life-saving program.”
Cynics might assume that the media coverage of Grimmie’s death caused a surge in participation in her Charity Champions campaign, but Polizzotto said her team was leading the competition from the beginning.
Grimmie’s YouTube channel had more than 3.15M subscribers and 377M views when the competition started (its now at 3.58M subscribers and 412M views), helping to give her the second largest social media following of all the team captains, behind Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who has a social reach of 17.2 million according to Tubular Labs. But Polizzotto said it was her personal commitment that made the difference.
“All the talent agreed to do at least two posts. She jumped in straight away and did way more than she technically agreed to,” Polizzotto said. “She did a full takeover of her Facebook page for Charity Champions, completely on her own, and tweeted and posted far more than we ever expected her to. I was literally watching the points [accumulating] from the minute she got involved. They took off and she kept going. Frankly, we were overwhelmed how she embraced this.”
Grimmie was also the one who stepped up to do an interview with VideoInk — the only one she did about her work for Charity Champions.
One of the things she discussed was how much she missed her dog, Chloe.
“I can’t take her on tour, because she is crazy,” Grimmie said. “But she’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever met in your life. The Humane Society is well aware of her. I talk about her all the time online, and they love that. They’re like, ‘We know your dog now!’”
As the interview wound down, we exchanged the de rigueur pleasantries. I thanked her for her time. She thanked me for putting up with the trucks.
As I often do at the end of interviews, I told that maybe we’d be talking again soon.
“Yes, definitely,” said Grimmie.