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A Q&A With the Creator of the “whereslightfoot” Instagram Account

By Kevin Beerman / April 1, 2020

Perhaps Bashir Salahuddin said it best during Chicago Ideas Week last fall.

“Chicago is not a city that wants to be in the house. Unless it’s cold.”

So when temperatures rose into the upper 50s on March 25, people took the chance to leave their homes and flock to Chicago’s lakefront for some fresh air. People gathered in such large numbers, despite the ongoing shelter-in-place policies, that it gave the mayor’s office a cause for concern. The next day, Chicago’s lakefront parks and trails, as well as other outdoor spaces, were closed.

Within a few days, memes an account on Instagram started sharing memes of iconic public spaces in Chicago with images of Mayor Lori Lightfoot cropped in, standing guard. In a matter of days, the account, @whereslightfoot on Instagram took off, accumulating 37k followers (as of April 1st), and even garnering a commendation of sorts from Mayor Lightfoot herself.

So, we reached out to the creator behind @whereslightfoot, Danny Martinez, to learn more about what sparked the idea for the account, how he brings it to life, and what the value of humor is in times like these.

Chicago Ideas (CI): Where did this idea come from?

Danny Martinez (DM): This idea came after Mayor Lightfoot decided put the lakefront ban in place. I started to see all the pictures of the road blocks that the CPD was enforcing. I thought, “wouldn’t it be funny if in every picture you can see Lori, like be at multiple places at the same time?” And so I did exactly that. I grabbed like ten pictures and just decided to post them on my FB. Few hours later it started to spread like wildfire.

CI: What were you trying to do when you started this account?

DM: When I started the account I wanted to bring some humor to this pandemic but at the same time (and more importantly) bring awareness to those who don’t know the severity of the problem, the awareness to stay home to stop any more infections.

CI: What do you make of the wild success?

DM: Honestly, I did not think this would blow up the way it did, the way it still is. But at the same time I’m thankful that I now have a platform where I can entertain and make people laugh, but at the same time to deliver an important message.

CI: Mayor Lightfoot has said that she is personally a fan—how does that make you feel?

DM: It makes me feel great. You know having a huge leader like herself recognize my content during this time, it’s definitely an honor. And makes me want to help in any way that I can.

CI: What is the hardest part about running this account?

DM: The hardest part about running this account is replying to everybody who is thanking me for my content. That it has brought smiles to their faces, a lot of laughs with their families, co-workers, etc. I try to read most of them and reply to them because I honestly am thankful for them. It’s a great feeling.

CI: Where do you get your ideas for the different images?

DM: Google. Just google specific places in Chicago I want to make a meme about and see which ones I can sneak Lori into. I don’t have many now but there’s going to be many places around the city I’ll make memes about.

CI:What do you think of the shelter-in-place policies right now?

I think it’s a necessity. People who constantly go out really don’t understand how important this is. Not only are you risking your health, but the health of others who might not have a great immune system, or have a not so great medical history that are more susceptible to catching this virus. It’s essential for us to stay home to prevent any further spread of this virus.

CI: Why do you think a sense of humor is important in times like these?

DM: I thinks it’s important because I believe that even in the toughest of times, it’s important to smile, and laugh. Laughing alone can go a long way, believe it or not, and I feel that after all the stress, and fear that we’re all going through right now, we can use some humor to alleviate that. Especially for all the essential workers that still have to work, most importantly the healthcare workers. They are the real MVPs. And I’ve gotten messages from various medical professionals thanking me for the memes, and honestly that’s an honor that I truly appreciate the most.