Chicago-based Cameo now offers live video chats with celebrities

Chicago-based Cameo, which started a business selling video greetings from registered celebrities, is adding live video chats to its roster of talent from actors, athletes and superstars.

Starting Thursday, fans can schedule a 10-minute video call with names like Mick Foley, Sean Astin, a former professional wrestler who played Sam in “The Lord of the Rings” as the hobbit or Dorinda Medley of “Real Housewives” fame. Video calls are booked through the Cameo website or Cameo Live app and can be shared with up to nine participants.

For starters, imagine a Zoom conversation with your Aunt Martha and your former Illinois governor and convicted criminal Rod Blagojevich.

Like many recent business innovations, Cameo Live was born out of the booming virtual world of the pandemic.

“During COVID, we saw that it was really popular for celebrities on Cameo to start making Zoom calls with their fans,” said Steven Galanis, Cameo co-founder and CEO. “This allows a fan to have something like a Zoom call, but better for their 10 best friends and talent they want to be with.”

Launched five years ago, Cameo broke new ground in the star-fan relationship by offering personalized video messages from celebrities used for everything from birthday greetings and prom invitations to marriage proposals. Last year, Cameo launched an expanded two-minute virtual meet and greet to be the equivalent of a famous Zoom call.

The recorded video greeting talent roster includes thousands of celebrities, including actors, athletes, comedians, musicians, and social media influencers. A personalized video of actress Lindsay Lohan starts at $500. Musician Kenny G is listed at $350. Barry Williams of “The Brady Bunch” will record a video for as little as $140.

The opening list of celebrities offering live video calls is slightly smaller, and rapper BoB is in St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, actress Bonnie Wright, who played Ginny in the “Harry Potter” movies, and Brooke Lynn Hytes from “RuPaul’s Drag.” Race”, among others.

Like cameo video greetings, prices for live video calls will vary by celebrity. Video chat with former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre starts at $1,200. Former New York City Mayor and Donald Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani is offering a video call for $975. A live interview with Wayne Knight, who plays Newman on “Seinfeld,” costs $990—three times the cost of recorded video messages.

“Probably a little more expensive than basic Cameo videos,” said Galanis, 34.

Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor commuted to a federal prison sentence for corruption by then-President Trump in 2020, is a relative bargain, and live video chats start at $300, according to the cameo website.

Developed in an 1871 Chicago tech incubator, Cameo was co-founded by Galanis, Devon Townsend, and Martin Blencowe. The business model was inspired by a personalized birth greeting video that Blencowe recorded from NFL defensive lineman Cassius Marsh to send to a friend.

Cameo, which has collected $165 million from investors to date, takes a 25% commission from each transaction. Last year, in its most recent fundraising round, Cameo reported $100 million in gross revenue for 2020 and sent 1.3 million registered messages.

Galanis declined to disclose current annual revenue for the private company, but said it was “bigger business than it was two years ago.”

Last month, the Cameo was located at 620 N. LaSalle St. on the River North. moved to their new offices on the seventh floor of the massive old Sports Authority building at The company has about 60 employees in Chicago, and Galanis wants to get them back from working remotely as Cameo goes live with its latest product.

“We encourage people to come back to the office because we always thought it was a special part of our culture,” Galanis said. “We get about 20 to 30 people who start arriving a few days a week.”

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