TikTok has been dominating the news cycle lately — and not because everyone is trying to do the #WAPChallenge.
Earlier this month, President Trump signed an executive order effectively banning the use of TikTok starting September 20. The app's data-collection practices and its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, have U.S. officials concerned the platform is a national security threat. The company is considering two bids — including a joint bid by Microsoft and Walmart — for control of its U.S. operations to avoid the shutdown of the platform's biggest market outside of China.
Regardless of whether ByteDance has devised a nefarious plot to collect data on every American for political purposes, TikTok has given rise to a slew of great content creators who are amassing millions of likes. In South Florida alone, hundreds of creators have taken advantage of TikTok's elevated platform to shine the spotlight on themselves.
If you're new to TikTok, first of all: Where the hell have you been? Second: Here are five local creators to follow as soon as you log in.
Coral Gables native Tefi Pessoa's TikToks range from big-sis advice to horoscopes to lighthearted roasts. Her quick-witted content packs a punch of relatable comedy. Pessoa uses the app to connect with fans from her YouTube talk show, which is on pause because of the pandemic.
The 30-year-old initially downloaded the app as a joke because she wanted to see what everyone else was laughing at, but the creative potential inspired her to make her own TikToks.
In one of her popular TikToks, Tefi divulges one of her worst nightmares: her future daughter comes home from a night out and tells her they had to wait in line. Waiting in line for a club? Now that is something we will not stand for — literally or figuratively.
Keyondre and his girlfriend, Taylor Selvaggi, create couples-related content for Keyondre's 3.2 million followers on TikTok. Before joining the app, the 18-year-old focused on dance videos for Instagram until someone hacked his account. This blessing in disguise led him to join TikTok, where he continued to showcase his dance moves and comedy as the app gained popularity at the end of 2018. Since then, he has posted hundreds of TikToks alongside Selvaggi, and now the two of them have a YouTube channel.
Keyondre says he hopes to use his TikTok as a launching platform for his rap career.
Latino Miamians will find Edison Lopez's TikToks hit close to home. The Coral Springs native creates most of his TikToks in Spanish, earning him the label of "that Puerto Rican kid from TikTok," he says.
His experiences as a Puerto Rican and a member of the Latin community inspire the majority of his content. Lopez's comedy highlights different Latin cultures, accents, and languages. One of his most popular TikToks showcases the different ways Latin American countries speak Spanish.
He's bringing more of his content to Facebook so that younger followers can share his videos with older family members.
The 18-year-old attends Florida Atlantic University and hopes his TikTok career will lead him to larger video productions and more success on other social-media platforms such as YouTube.
Kayla Granda found fame with a TikTok in which she explained how people from South Florida talk. (The verdict on its accuracy is still out.) Just as the app began to gain traction, Granda jumped aboard. Her intuition paid off — the 19-year-old has more than a million followers.
Some might see TikTok as frivolous, but Granda treats it like a job. She creates mass content to ensure that viewers who discover her page can spend hours scrolling through it. The news of the ban was a wake-up call for Granda, who is now focusing on social media as a whole and not only TikTok. She recently branched out to YouTube and hopes to collaborate with more content creators in Florida and Los Angeles.
Of course, with internet fame comes the haters, but Granda isn't bothered by it.
"If I'm not getting hate, I'm not popping," she says.
With 5.1 million TikTok followers and more than a thousand videos, Ryan Shakes is an "OG" TikToker who has been creating content since 2016 (back when the app was called Musical.ly). The 18-year-old West Palm Beach native started making YouTube videos when he was nine years old. At first, his teachers and family dismissed his creative passion and assumed he would be another internet "fail." But Shakes never let his online and IRL haters deter him. He credits believing in himself as the key to his success.
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"I knew I was going to be successful in some form," he says. "I didn't know what it was going to be, though."
For the majority of his high school experience, none of his classmates knew he was famous online, even though he was casually sitting on over two million followers by junior year. But the summer before senior year, Shakes found a group of friends with the same passion and who help each other create online content.
With a potential TikTok ban on the horizon, Shakes is hoping the app stays around for at least two more years but is currently setting up "something to fall back on," although he won't say precisely what.