TikTok: How the app’s rise to power helped a doctor, drama graduate, and athlete become household names


TikTok’s growth during the pandemic has paved the way for a new wave of influencers to hit our phone screens.

While we still see meticulously produced YouTube videos viewed millions of times, TikTok users often take a somewhat different approach.

During the pandemic a number of new influencers have burst onto our small screens – showing us everything from healthy train scouting content to British nominated music.

And the year that web infrastructure company Cloudfare called the app more popular than Google, Sky News caught up with some of the new voices that used it to break through and explains how they achieved their newfound fame.

Ilona Maher – USA Sevens rugby player – 832k followers

The United States and rugby aren’t always synonymous – let alone the Women’s Sevens (the seven- and seven-and-a-half-minute version of the game).

But Ilona Maher is on a mission to change that and started going viral when she showed users behind-the-scenes content from her time at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

I knew the Olympics would be a great time to build awareness of your brand and get people watching, ”Maher told Sky News.

“And I just think TikTok is an amazing platform. And yeah, people call it a kids app, but this app is powerful, and at the Olympics I was just doing it and it’s really just me. am genuine and then people loved it.

She said her first truly viral video was when she and the rest of her team were testing the infamous Olympic Village cardboard beds, showing them various activities to show their resilience.

“I said, like, ‘guys, do whatever you want on the bed and we’ll react organically.’

“I went to bed with that one because it was morning in America… and then I woke up and I thought, ‘guys, that’s 1.3 million viewers’, then that kept climbing. “

And even though she thinks she’s a model, she doesn’t want to have to censor her content to fit in a box.

“We think the role models are perfect, that they never do anything wrong, they’re just the best people – but I’m very smart.

“I have my RN degree, I get my Masters in Business, I’m a very nice person – but I don’t want to be put in that box as being a role model and I just have to appeal to kids – c is what someone was telling me.

“‘Oh, maybe watch the content you are showing’ but then I’m like ‘no, this is who I am’.

“Like, if you know me, I make jokes like this is who I am, and I’m 25 – I’m allowed to make these jokes. So I think I’m a role model, even though I am. do some. [more adult] jokes, because even models like to do weird stuff.

Kyron Hamilton – actor – 1.2 million followers

After graduating from drama school during the lockdown, Kyron Hamilton turned to TikTok to show off his acting prowess – going viral for his solo comedy sketches where he played teachers interacting with students.

As a result, he got engaged as an agent and now dreams of performing in comedy shows for television audiences.

“I was in my third year, then COVID hit and I was really bored during the day… I kept laughing at people on TikTok, and thought I was going to try and make people laugh and give me something to do too, and the process was born in containment. “

Hamilton is best known for his point of view style clips, where users are part of the experience, and he conjures up memories of their school days.

However, he says, after sometimes gaining tens of millions of views, he felt pressure to continue.

“I was excited about it and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that could be something amazing.

“Now I have this pressure of making every video, trying to be good and trying to hit the same as every other video, and when I was locked out I didn’t really know. if people would know about me … because I’m not used to seeing someone who knew I was.

“It didn’t seem real because all I know is just my phone screen.”

And while he’s not quite sure what caused him to become such a household name, he says it’s “I hope because I make them laugh and cheer them up and stuff like that”.

He now dreams of appearing on TV and hopes his exposure can help him.

“I would love to get into the show business alongside what I’m doing,” he explained.

“I probably wouldn’t have been approached this way if I hadn’t had the platform I have here. It opened up quite a few doors and events that I never even thought would happen. previously.”

Maddy Lucy Dann – NHS Doctor – 713,000 subscribers

Doctors have struggled for the past two years with the health and morale of the country downright at their doorstep.

For Dr Maddy Lucy Dann, she saw the app as a chance to speak to users face-to-face on everything from her general thoughts to tackling vaccine misinformation – and is now represented by one from the largest talent agencies in the country.

Dr Dann said she began to notice how much of a problem this was after one of the videos started to draw thousands and thousands of viewers, and is now regularly asked for photographs when the people spot it.

She was also hired by Insanity, an agency that looks after Jo Whiley, Jessica Plummer and Martin Kemp – highlighting the power this app has for its content creators.

“It was a little surreal, really… because I didn’t have the real impact of the videos,” she explained.

“It’s extremely flattering to have someone who sees potential in you… So I really felt the pressure of that too, especially since there was never an end goal in mind.

“When I first started doing anything on social media, I really really had fun doing it and I really appreciated the feedback I got and I really enjoyed doing stuff.

“But I also found out that I was kind of like, ‘OK, let’s not get carried away. Let’s think about what that will mean, what it will mean for the future and various things.

“If I was doing paid promotion type stuff, I would sort of organize it myself.

“At first I was thinking, well, I’m going to get it myself, why should I pay someone a commission?

“But in fact, the amount of work I get is worth it.”

Since becoming famous, Dr Dann has made appearances on television in comedy shows and dabbled in the world of comedy – while continuing as a doctor.

“It’s who I am as a whole person. I’ve always tried not to be defined by a part… I just had all of these things that make me up.”

Sky News

© Sky News 2021

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