Recently, 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio hit 100 million subscribers on TikTok and was declared “the most famous person in the world.” The soft-spoken teenage girl from a suburban neighborhood in Norwalk, Connecticut skyrocketed to stardom faster than any other social media sensation to date after she started posting dance videos on the popular Chinese social media app just a year and a half ago.
@charlidamelioTHANK YOU ALL SI SO SO MUCH FOR 99 MILLION!!! I LOVE YOU AL SO SO SO MUCH!!! 💕💕💕 dc @wh0.nia♬ VMESHBEATS ADDERALL X BOO X IG FREESTYLE – Varoon Ramesh
Not only has Charli risen to fame, but so has her sister Dixie and her parents who make occasional appearances on their daughters’ videos. The sisters have started a podcast together and each member of the D’Amelio family has their own TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter account. They even have a “D’Amelio Family” account on every platform.
The D’Amelios are not the only people to go from obscure family-next-door to stratospheric stardom. The most famous TikTokers are regular high school kids who make short clips mostly in their rooms or at school with their friends and their families.
Virtually every young person knows who TikTok stars, Loren Gray, Noah Beck, Addison Rae, Chase Hudson (Lil Huddy), and Josh Richards are and all of them are just regular teens who started posting 15 to 60 second videos. Now, they are landing modeling contracts, advertising deals, TV features, and, in D’Amelio’s case, her own reality show.
TikTok has a special knack for making average people wildly famous. Among the everyday people going viral is 37-year-old Nathan Apodaca, who in September filmed an oddly entrancing video of himself after his car battery died and had to skateboard to work. His skated to work while lip syncing Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 “Dreams” and drinking a bottle of OceanSpray cranberry juice.
@420doggface208Morning vibe #420souljahz #ec #feelinggood #h2o #cloud9 #happyhippie #worldpeace #king #peaceup #merch #tacos #waterislife #high #morning #710 #cloud9♬ Dreams (2004 Remaster) – Fleetwood Mac
Apodaca’a video got over 46 million views and he currently has 6.2 million TikTok followers.
TikTok has also become a powerful and indispensable tool for musicians and artists to showcase their work. Content is king and if the content is good or interesting enough, you’ll get the views, likes, and follows.
@fundaraWhat do you see inside this #eye [email protected] #thatshouldbeme #drawing #highnote #summertrip♬ break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored – Ariana Grande
Numerous polls have found Generation Z, or Zoomers, to be the most entrepreneurial generation to date. An incredible 54 percent of Gen Z say they want to start their own business. TikTok, which is primarily popular with Zoomers (over 60 percent of its U.S. users are in their teens and twenties), has also become a source where young entrepreneurs can boost their sales via their platforms.
@trippydrawsDRAWING WITH MY OWN PAINT PENS!🎨 LINK IN MY BIO TO PURCHASE THEM TO PREORDER!!!🌀✨💕👽 ❤️ #tiktok #foryou♬ Stay – Cheat Codes & Bryce Vine
Even people in prison are making a name for themselves on TikTok. Vice reported on inmates who have gone viral posting videos “dancing with their cellmates, showing off their commissary purchases, giving tutorials for heating food, or making phone chargers, and just hanging out.”
Many people, especially here at The Federalist, have been deeply critical of the app which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance. TikTok has been accused of unlawful data collection that the Chinese Communist Party can access. Sen. Marco Rubio has been especially vocal in his concern over the app censoring content not in line with China’s communist government directives.
Ample & growing evidence exists that TikTok’s platform for western markets, including the U.S., are censoring content in line with #China’s communist government directives.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 9, 2019
President Trump enacted a ban on the app which was supposed to be implemented in mid-September but has since been delayed and, according to the administration, is “Pending Further Legal Developments.”
Not securing an American company to buy TikTok was a serious failure that may already have security ramifications for users and the country. While the security concerns are very real and very valid, the app has some very redeeming qualities, specifically its egalitarian “anyone can make it” message.
For parents who are worried about the influence woke radical leftist celebrities have on their young children, TikTok provides a glimmer of hope. Since the app is dominated by Zoomers, chances are your 14-year-old is more interested in what Charli D’Amelio had for breakfast than the latest woke soapbox sermon from Taylor Swift. Believe it or not, a video of D’Amelio brushing her teeth has over 48 million views.
While some famous TikTokers had pro-Black Lives Matter videos following the death of George Floyd, most have returned to their apolitical bread and butter “me just livin’ my life” TikToks.
The question you’re probably asking is: Why do people care about these random TikTok-ing teens? The answer is people are sick of the insufferable elitism of Hollywood celebrities.
COVID-19 has made it clear there is a deep divide between regular people and the celebrity class. Celebs complained about living in their coastal mansions during the pandemic or lectured us with “we’re all in this together” videos while breaking lock down orders. And let’s not forget they tortured us with yet another rendition of the annoying John Lennon song “Imagine,” because they actually believe it somehow makes us feel better to hear Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Fallon sing “Imagine there’s no heaven,” while an overreaching government shutters our business and separates us from loved ones.
Hollywood celebrities routinely impose their politics and engage in cancel culture. They gush over leftist politicians, notably bestowing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo with an Emmy for his press conference performance or attending his Zoom birthday fundraiser, all while knowing the disgraced politician is responsible for the state with the highest number of COVID deaths in the country.
To be clear, this isn’t new. The realization that regular people are more interesting than out of touch celebs happened back in the early ’90s with the first reality TV show “The Real World.” Today, some of the most popular shows are shows about real people like “Deadliest Catch,” “Fixer Upper,” “90 Day Fiancé,” “Alone,” “Hillbilly Handfishin’,” “Below Deck,” and “Mountain Men.”
Established celebrities can still create a sizable following on TikTok, but what makes the app special is how it is accelerating the redefinition of what it means to be a celebrity. YouTube was on of the first platforms that started making stars out of average kids like Jake Paul and Emma Chamberlain. Since TikTok is newer than the 15 year old YouTube, everyone, including the already famous, start with the same number followers – zero. In this way, TikTok has become the perfect environment for every day creators to thrive because in the end they are the people that viewers are most interested in following and emulating. It is also simultaneously diminishing the influence of established, preening celebrities who are out of touch and irrelevant, and for that reason alone, I’m all for it.
D’Amelio has said she doesn’t understand why she is a celebrity. For a long time her TikTok bio read: “I don’t get the hype either.” Well, I get the hype, Charli. The fake and manufactured isn’t compelling. Real, raw, and relatable is.
Evita Duffy is an intern at The Federalist and a junior at the University of Chicago, where she studies American History. She loves the Midwest, lumberjack sports, writing, & her family. Follow her on Twitter at @evitaduffy_1
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