Superstar influencer and teen sensation Charlie D’Amelio became the first person to gain 100 million followers on TikTok on Sunday, just over a year and a half after joining the platform. The 16-year-old reached the key figure in front of the world’s biggest celebrities and his previous stars on YouTube, Instagrammers, Musical.ly and Vine.
“100 million people support me,” tweeted D’Amelio. “I really can’t believe this is real.”
Mainly popular with Generation Z (over 60% of US users are in their teens and twenties), TikTok hasdue to an inspection of his Chinese parent company, ByteDance. There have been times when it is felt that the future of social media, especially in the United States, where it draws the wrath of President Donald Trump, is on shaky ground. But through it all, TikTok̵
Although this year was rough for most, D’Amelio had an exceptional 2020 by someone’s standards – not that a teenage schoolgirl who just a few years ago was just shooting dance videos in her bedroom. Her app profile has grown exponentially from just 1 million followers a year ago, but her career outside of TikTok has also exploded.
Among her honors this year, D’Amelio made his feature film debut; launches nail polish, makeup and fashion collaborations with major brands; appeared in a Super Bowl commercial; drank Dunkin ‘Donuts, named after her and appeared in a music video with her character J-Lo. Her first book, Essentially Charlie: The Best Guide to Maintaining Reality, is coming out next month. A Forbes report released in August suggests that D’Amelio has earned $ 4 million in the past year from various deals.
D’Amelio has not only invented a new and unexpected career for herself, but also for her whole family. Big Sister Dixie began her music career, her mother and father have their own followers, and they all post content to their families and individual YouTube channels, as well as subscribe to United Talent.
But as beautiful as they all look, Charlie is definitely the star. Without her TikTok fame, which torments them from obscurity, there is no doubt that they will still live a quiet life in their home state of Connecticut.
If you are not familiar with its content, you may be wondering what D’Amelio does, which guarantees such charm and popularity. The answer is difficult to put on the finger – even for those who have watched closely, even for D’Amelio herself.
Back in August, I received a notification that Charlie D’Amelio had gone live on Instagram. I joined the stream to see D’Amelio, shrouded in a purple-pink filter and absorbed in playing with a Lego Friends model she had made earlier that day. She spoke live in her soft, quiet voice. “Look! Friends, best,” she said, holding several figures next to her phone’s camera.
“What the hell are you looking at?” Said my partner.
“I’m just trying to figure something out,” I replied. “For work.”
I had heard of D’Amelio’s meteoric rise long before I knew anything about her or her content, and I had touched “following” mainly out of curiosity. For most of this year, her TikTok biography reads, “Don’t worry, I don’t understand noise either.” But I was determined to understand noise.
From what I initially saw, D’Amelio was a modest, handsome, stupid, sensitive, deeply normal teenager whose work (largely consisting of dancing, pulling faces, and drinking cold coffee) was unadulterated and unpolished. She looked mature and young at the same time for her age – she mingled confidently with her older peers and threw her energy into TikTok eyebrow dancing, but she also happily mingled with Lego and openly embraced the “childish” side of life. .
It was clear she was eavesdropping. “It is her simplicity that is the key to her success,” said Zoe Glatt, a digital anthropologist and critical intersectionist feminist researcher at the London School of Economics. “With her beautiful girl next door, she illustrates the perfect package for TikToker: Responsive, authentic, normatively attractive, youthful, funny, threat-free and unquestionable.”
The qualities of authenticity and relativity that audiences seek in influential people are often elusive, says Brooke Erin Duffy, an associate professor at Cornell University who studies media, technology and culture. “However, we should not neglect the role of luck and privilege in the production of celebrities,” she said.
Because the white upper-middle-class Americans Charlie and the D’Amelio family, who found wealth completely unexpectedly, meet the bills on both points.
Earlier this year, D’Amelio was falsely credited with creating the dance “Renegade,” which was actually the work of black teenage Jalaiah Harmon from Atlanta, Georgia – not something she claims, but it was widely speculated because of its viral version. of the dance. “This story tells us something about the culture of TikTok, where white creators usually approach aspects of black culture,” says Glatt. The episode led to D’Amelio and others, who more often added dance credits to their TikTok captions to ensure the creator was recognized.
The longer I followed D’Amelio, the more I became convinced that despite her supposed normalcy, she had a definite thing that set her apart and inspired her. Duffy believes this has to do with the way she conforms and challenges the idea of femininity. “She enjoys traditionally feminized activities (shopping, cosmetics), but opposes conventional performance codes,” says Duffy.
It also helps that she grew up competing in dance competitions, Glatt said. “TikTok, with its short-form videos based on sound redirection, is the ideal platform for dance trends to emerge: fast, fun and captivating combinations performed with popular songs that other users can recreate,” she says.
In fact, it’s hard not to like D’Amelio, who looks like a sweet, funny and problem-free young woman. Even when she is chased around Los Angeles by men with a camera three times her age who shout invasive questions about her romantic life, she is polite and smiling and speaks kindly when confronted with shady things people have said. for her.
Something in her personality and travel time has clicked with both TikTok’s algorithm and the audience, and whatever alchemy has arisen will not be easily reproducible to anyone trying to imitate her. This also makes it an attractive partner for brands, which is why it is offered so many lucrative partnerships, says Glat.
But while her rise to fame seems like a social media story – the average teenager making videos in his room, ejected into the spotlight, becoming the most famous influential internet on the planet in a year – that’s not all. brand deals and sunlight.
The star of TikTok abounds in traps and opportunities for cancellation. Rarely does a day go by without a scandal, which can range from the trivial (relationship drama, the ego-driven beef) to the really serious (racism, older influencers watching fans who are minors). D’Amelio is largely immune to this – any appearances in the TikTok Room (an influential news source on Instagram) are usually the result of someone having something bad to say about her.
What she is not immune to is the jealousy and harassment that come with the superstar. The biggest threat to her right now is overexposure – people are so tired of waiting for her to stumble that they impose impossibly high standards on her and then claim that she has fallen.
An example of this is the reaction to a YouTube video posted this week. In it, D’Amelio jokes with friend and fellow influencer James Charles that it would be great to reach 100 million followers on TikTok – something that would always happen when watching her trajectory – exactly a year after for the first time. hit a million. She also asks if she can get bites from Dino, even though she is served dinner prepared by a friend of the family’s chef.
His reactions were disproportionately cruel. At the more favorable end of the scale, D’Amelio is labeled as “titled,” “disrespectful,” and “rude,” but there is also a huge influx of commentators who make her commit suicide – an unforgivable thing to say to someone. for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter to a child about something so harmless. According to Glat, the incident “demonstrates the fragility of online fame, especially for young women who behave in impossibly high standards of behavior compared to their male counterparts.”
Time does not seem to matter. It is easier to gain TikTok followers than on other social platforms, but the fact that the former has reached the 100 million is still a huge feat and there are many people who believe that it does not deserve it.
On Instagram Live, D’Amelio reacted in tears to the comments, saying, “I don’t even know if I want to do this anymore. These are confusing things that people say – like people who tell me to hang people who just don’t respect rudely. the fact that I’m still human is not right at all. “
But she also came back quickly, tweeting, “I’ll be back tomorrow, posting normal content with a smile on my face! At the end of the day, I know I’m a good person with a good heart and I’ll never change that for myself. I love you all !! “
Such resilience will serve her well if she wants to survive in the relentless world of Internet fame. Social media stars come and go – longevity is never guaranteed. But for now? There is absolutely no reason why D’Amelio should not turn his attention to the next 100 million.