Teacher gone viral ministers to broad community

Lil' Billy, a character portrayed by Charles Outlaw, uses Snapchat filters to appeal to the humor of both his internet audience and seventh-grade math students.

By Staff Writer | Lizzie Thomas

Charles Outlaw, a La Vega Junior High School teacher, has an alter ego which has repeatedly gone viral. Over the summer, his videos of “Lil’ Billy” with the Snapchat filter emphasizing the mouth and eyes telling about his life have taken off, and they have been featured in the Daily Mail and the TV show “Right This Minute.”

As a seventh-grade math teacher, he’s gained respect from his students who are typically “too cool for school.” Outlaw’s social media fame gives him an advantage with students who consider him a celebrity.

In one of the videos which has gone viral, Outlaw (as Lil’ Billy) raps with a student he tutors. The student has a severe combination of brittle bone disease and dwarfism. As a 14-year-old, he cannot walk or attend school.

“He’s a really awesome kid,” Outlaw said. “They said he wouldn’t live past a year. Then they said he would never be able to crawl and he did. Then they said he’d never be able to sit up and he did. Now he’s 14, going at it. Man, I tell you, that kid is really inspiring. He is resilient. He’s been through so many surgeries. He’s been in a full body cast several times. He just keeps on ticking. He’s an awesome kid.”

After a year of tutoring and getting to know each other, it quickly became clear to Outlaw that this student loved rapping.

“We would mess around, and one time I just recorded it. It shows a connection between two people that are really opposite,” Outlaw said. “Basically, how it ended up working was we started pretending that he was a rapper or a producer and I, as Lil’ Billy, am wanting to come in, like I was trying to get on his track.”

Raps and comedy are not the only types of videos Outlaw creates and shares. He was a youth minister for three years before becoming a teacher.

“I do spoken word, too,” Outlaw said. “It’s really cool because sometimes people will watch some of my dumb videos, but stumble across one and out of curiosity watch it, and it’ll touch them in a way they weren’t expecting. It’s neat to see that God can use joy and humor to cheer people up and just bring light, but he can also use spoken word or testimony. I used to think that God could only use me if I was preaching, but I’ve had so many people message me … ‘My dad just died today, and I’m at the hospital and stumbled across your video and it made me laugh.’ A lot of people with depression say that it cheers them up. It’s cool to see God use something so simple.”

Lil’ Billy began as a character on the social media platform Vine, which has since been discontinued. With the six-second limitation, Lil’ Billy did not take off.

However, a couple years later, Outlaw had a rare moment while alone at home after work. He decided to play as Lil’ Billy with the Snapchat filter as he heated up hot dogs.

“My goal, honestly, was to do it very extra … like a kid would almost do it, really just to annoy people,” Outlaw said. “People kind of enjoyed it, so then I just kind of made a couple more and just kind of tried to develop him as a character with a name and certain things that he likes, and it kinda worked out.”

Porsha Guild is a “top fan” of Outlaw on Facebook. She, like many others, found Outlaw’s skits through a friend who thought they were exceptionally funny.

“I had a friend on my Facebook that re-posted a video of him, the one where he goes through the process of cleaning his toilet or plunging it,” Guild said. “She said he was so funny, so I watched the video and was literally in tears from laughing. It made my entire day!”