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{{tncms-inline alignment=”right” content=”&lt;p&gt;Could your online presence propel you to stardom, as Matthew Tronconi&amp;rsquo;s did?&lt;br /&gt;Stetson University faculty member Andy Dehnart of DeLand, a TV critic and writer, is the author of the popular reality-television blog realityblurred.com.&lt;br /&gt;We asked Dehnart about the business of reality TV.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;strong&gt;What makes a good reality show?&lt;/strong&gt;&lt;br /&gt;The same thing that makes for any kind of great entertainment &amp;mdash; strong characters, compelling stories, surprising scenarios &amp;mdash; also makes for great reality TV. &lt;br /&gt;And when reality TV is authentic and true to people’s lives, it also collapses the distance between viewers and the people they’re watching, since the people on TV are just themselves, not actors performing scripted roles.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;strong&gt;Is a self-made YouTube star (or influencer or whatever) like Tronconi better prepared to be a part of the alternative reality of reality TV?&lt;/strong&gt;&lt;br /&gt;A lot of reality shows cast social-media stars, in part because they have big personalities and there’s evidence of how interesting, authentic and telegenic they are. &lt;br /&gt;But social-media influencers and stars are also sometimes cast because networks or producers imagine those people will bring their audiences with them to the show, even though there’s yet to be any evidence of that happening.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p style=&quot;text-align: right;&quot;&gt;&lt;em&gt;&amp;mdash; Eli Witek&lt;/em&gt;&lt;/p&gt;” id=”5d41d491-04d9-4028-ac63-c0fbc89078f2″ style-type=”info” title=”Could you be a star, too?” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

Matthew Tronconi has another name to nearly half-a-million online fans: Clawdeena. The 19-year-old native of DeLand creates popular makeup tutorials as the drag-queen persona Clawdeena, and has 445,719 YouTube subscribers and more than 282,000 Instagram followers.

That success drew the attention of the popular app Snapchat, which recently launched a series of short shows. Tronconi is one of the stars of Growing Up Is a Drag, a show that focuses on teen drag queens.

The series focuses on the struggle to balance a successful social-media career with the reality of home. Tronconi’s parents, who live in DeLand, both struggle with illness and rely on the support of their child.

In the show, as in real life, Tronconi juggles home life with the opportunities that come from being a social-media influencer — opportunities such as flying to Los Angeles with Thrive Causemetics to donate $250,000 to burn victims from the December California wildfires, for instance.

“There’s been multiple opportunities from social media,” Tronconi said. “It’s allowed me to focus on more charity-based things, on making the world a better place in general.”

It might be surprising to learn someone has launched a successful social-media career from DeLand, not to mention successfully navigated the sometimes perilous waters of gender expression.

“The first time I went out in drag, it was as Elsa at Walmart [in DeLand], and the response was really positive,” Tronconi said.

Tronconi as Clawdeena was on the DeLand Pride float in the 2018 DeLand Christmas Parade, the third year in a row the group has participated.

“The city has progressed a lot. It’s mind-blowing, the advances the community has made in the past six or seven years,” Tronconi said. “I love DeLand. DeLand is beautiful, cultural and historical.”

It’s helped having the support of loving parents, Tronconi said.

“My parents have always been my No. 1 supporters,” Tronconi said. “Not knowing about gay people, they didn’t understand at first. My mom was skeptical at first, but she never said anything negative. Their love is so powerful for me.”

And what’s in the future for DeLand’s hidden star?

“I want to bring more awareness to parents of LGBTQ kids. I mean, I can’t change their parents — nobody can change anybody. But I want to show that we’re gay people, but we’re also just people, real people, the same as anyone else,” Tronconi said.

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