Dianne from Parson Cross is the comic creation of Sheffield hairdresser Keelan Justice, whose alter-ego has more than 180,000 Instagram followers and nearly 280,000 on Facebook where her most popular videos have been watched more than a million times each.
Their remarkable popularity has earned 27-year-old Keelan lucrative deals with cosmetics giants like MAC, W7 and Benefit, inspired a range of merchandise from T-shirts to mugs and face masks, and caught the attention of celebrity fans.
Keelan, who runs the vegan hair salon Lavo on Broadfield Road, near Heeley Pool, with his fiancee Robert Fletcher, told how it all began when he was messing around with a client one day around three years ago.
"She’d brought in this synthetic blonde hair piece which I couldn’t use because it was so vile, so I put it on to show her how horrible it was,” he said.
"I started messing about and opened the window and filmed myself shouting in character to my imaginary kids, saying ‘dinner’s done and if you don’t hurry up I won’t waste the leccy warming your food up’.”
His creation really took off when a subsequent video, showing mum-of-four Dianne lambasting her drug dealer ex Nigel for failing to stump up the cash for a trip to Skegness, was shared and went viral.
Keelan, whose fiance Robert plays Dianne’s friend Denise, has since recorded hundreds of short films, often inspired by the events of the day, like Boris Johnson announcing the road map out of lockdown or Piers Morgan storming off Good Morning Britain.
Although he earns a tidy sum from the commercial tie-ins and personalised video messages, which are particularly popular for Mother’s Day, he has no plans to give up the day job.
"I never set out to get lots of followers. I was just having a laugh putting some videos on Instagram and it went crazy,” he said.
"It’s not about making money, because we have a successful business. It’s a little bit like therapy. We’re just trying to entertain people and cheer them up.
"We’ve had so many messages from people saying our videos have got them through lockdown, because at the minute people are just looking for an escape.
"We’ve got quite a diverse following. We have people in their 80s who’ve downloaded Instagram just to watch my videos, and we have kids whose parents let them watch, though I would say around 85 per cent of our viewers are women.”
Dianne’s famous fans include The End of the F***ing World actress Jessica Barden, Geordie Shore’s Vicky Pattison and Tanya Bardsley, from the Real Housewives of Cheshire, who is Auntie Tanya in the videos.
Keelan always takes the wig on holiday to record videos of Dianne on her travels and says he has been recognised even without the hair piece on trips to Amsterdam, LA and Turkey.
"We were in Thailand in February last year on a remote beach which was only accessible by boat and I even got stopped and asked for a photo there,” he said.
“It was crazy to think that even there I could bump into someone who follows me online.
"We’ve been followed round Amsterdam for miles too by people who were building up the courage to stop and ask for a photo.”
Keelan would hate for anybody to be offended by Dianne, who with her platinum locks, foul mouth and catchphrases like ‘not been funneh’ he says is an affectionate caricature of people in his life.
"It’s not taking the piss out of anyone. My background is completely council estate and I have friends and family members I’ve taken inspiration from and used the phrases they use,” he said.
“It’s more celebrating that kind of person, with the added aspect of her being a bit of a bad mum and putting herself before her kids for comic effect. When I put on that wig, it comes quite naturally to me.
“I think some people find it funny because it’s an insight into that kind of life, while other people like it because they know characters like that and can relate to Dianne.”
Keelan explains that his mum was just 15 when he was born and 20 when she had his sister, and she raised them both on her own, though he says she is the ‘complete opposite’ of Dianne in every other respect.
While she’s obviously proud, he says she’s also very shy and becomes embarrassed and walks away when they are out together and get stopped by fans.
Keelan’s comedy heroes include Alan Carr and Catherine Tate, and he is also a big fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
He still uses the original hair piece which inspired Dianne’s creation but has built up a collection of about 10 wigs, which have been sent to him by companies desperate for the exposure he can offer their products.
Although he’s always enjoyed ‘messing about’ with wigs, he says he had never tried comedy or any other kind of performance before filming that first video and had no idea back then that it would lead to this.
"It’s crazy to us because we’re just two normal people who never set out to do owt like this and it all came about organically,” he said.