Khaby Lame: From Factory Work to King of TikTok | ICT Tac
LLike many of us, Khaby Lame turned to TikTok at the start of the pandemic. The Senegalese-Italian had just lost his job in a factory in Chivasso, a suburb of Turin 20 km northeast of the city center, because of the Covid and did not know what to do.
Just like countless others have, he began posting videos – at first Italian subtitled videos, but later silent, close reactions to absurd events. Unlike most of us, Lame’s association with the short-form video-sharing app has gotten serious. After an astronomical two years, the 22-year-old is now the king of TikTok.
At the end of June, Lame dethroned Charli D’Amelio as the most followed creator on the app. “I feel like it’s time someone else got this spot, and I’m proud of him,” D’Amelio told attendees at Vidcon last month, an event held in Los Angeles. celebrating the world of digital creators on platforms such as TikTok. and YouTube.
Today, Lame has 146 million followers on the app, where his profile reads, “If you wanna laugh, you’ve come to the right place.” Fame has brought him fortune: he recently struck a sponsorship deal with cryptocurrency firm Binance to sell his services. He has already helped Hugo Boss, alongside Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber in commercials.
“It’s been amazing watching Khaby’s journey to TikTok stardom,” said Rich Waterworth, Managing Director for Europe at TikTok. “In just two years, he’s gone from creating comedy sketches in his bedroom to becoming the first creator in Europe and the second in the world to surpass the 100 million follower mark.”
But how did someone who worked in a factory just over two years ago become the world’s most famous comedian, a spiritual successor to the exasperated reactions of Buster Keaton?
If the Tinseltown star was the 20th century’s “big stone face” for his downtrodden behavior, Lame is the 21st century equivalent of TikTok, letting elaborate viral videos play on everything from double-jointed contortionists to getting keys to your locked car, then cruelly undermining them with a roll of your eyes.
He is so popular because of his everyday man attitude and the shtick he has managed to hone as himself and alone. “Khaby’s videos are short, quiet and funny,” says Dr Bondy Valdovinos Kaye, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds and co-author of an academic book on TikTok. “They cross linguistic and cultural barriers. His earlier popular content made heavy use of the dot feature, cutting off a short segment of another video at the start of his video.
Lame’s talents for poking fun at the weird wrinkles of everyday life are evident, but he was also in the right place at the right time. When it started picking up followers in late 2020 and early 2021, TikTok was best known as a popular app for teenagers dancing to their favorite songs. “Khaby’s creative tongue-in-cheek humor exemplified another side of TikTok that could provide an entry point for the uninitiated to explore what else the platform had to offer,” says Valdovinos Kaye. .
“The fact that he doesn’t say a word gives you a deeper connection to him,” says Timothy Armoo, founder and former CEO of Fanbytes, a Gen Z marketing agency. Armoo likens it to locking eyes with a stranger in the middle of an unusual situation. “You don’t say anything, but you know exactly what the other person is thinking. This is how you build a deep bond with someone.
Lame is also attractive to companies looking to build on its success and set themselves apart, Armoo says. “He doesn’t fit the stereotypical idea of what an influencer is, so people support him even more.” It’s this opposition to what D’Amelio is and represents – a white, middle-class, already wealthy America – that makes Lame so intriguing to audiences.
It also echoes what TikTok strives to be: a diverse and revolutionary platform that can propel anyone to stardom without the gatekeepers of old media. While Instagram’s most-followed celebrity is Cristiano Ronaldo, whose abs images are eyed by fans, and Twitter’s top three are the otherworldly trio of Barack Obama, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry , TikTok’s totem is altogether more prosaic.
About a tenth of its audience is in the United States, 9% in Brazil and 5% in Mexico, according to internal TikTok data. Unusually for an influencer, it attracts male and female viewers almost equally.
“Its success demonstrates how creativity expressed in simple and authentic ways can be a catalyst for engaging and connecting millions of people around the world,” Waterworth said. “Khaby’s story also epitomizes why TikTok is quickly becoming the place to discover the brightest names and faces in entertainment.”