The Next TikTokers to Follow
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because it's time we all try to understand Gen Z.
By Joy Nesbitt
With 800 million active global users, TikTok has taken over the world in just a few short years. It’s also creating a language for a generation that’s not fully reflected in mainstream media: 35 percent of U.S. users are between the ages of 16 and 24. The platform — with an AI algorithm that quickly can elevate unknown voices to huge followings — has minted a fleet of Generation Z megastars. Here are a few who are on the verge of a breakout, bringing TikTok’s relatable form of content to a broad audience.
Darrion Nguyen, @lab_shenanigans
What do you do with a degree in biochemistry and theater from the University of Texas at Austin? Make TikToks, naturally. Nguyen, 25, a research technician getting ready to enter graduate school, has more than 460,000 followers on the platform, often personifying biological processes with audio from memes circulating around TikTok. For example, his most viewed video (8.5 million views) displays a lysosome’s defensive response to a foreign bacteria entering the body, all through the audio lens of an explosive episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Nguyen started making funny science videos on Facebook while working as a lab technician at Baylor, but as he garnered more attention, he decided to try TikTok. “I never would have expected that people would be so interested in the world of science,” he says. At first, he was just showcasing the day to day of lab work as relatable content for people in the industry, but with his newfound fame, he feels compelled to educate as well — especially now with the politicization of science. In one recent video, he vividly displayed how soap fights the coronavirus’ lipid membrane. “I really want to inform the public on these biological and biochemical concepts that affect them daily,” he says.
At Baylor, Nguyen studies a neurological disorder called HADDS, and he feels that the core of TikTok dovetails with his fascination with how humans behave — neurologically and physically. “Making videos requires me to pay close attention to behavior and to work as much as possible to replicate that behavior for people to connect with.”
Boman Martinez-Reid, @bomanizer
TikTok finally has its own reality star. Martinez-Reid, 22, a Canadian arts school graduate, has garnered more than 1.3 millions followers on TikTok since his first video in December — by raising the bar for comedy on the platform. His content plays off of the ridiculousness of reality TV.
Through advanced editing practices, Martinez-Reid has created an overdramatic, satirical reality show about him and his two friends, with all of the trademark hysterics and music of a traditional show. As an offshoot, he’s created two vintage-style music videos based on his prior content. Now that Martinez-Reid has signed with mega talent agency CAA, get ready to see him on larger screens too.
Uyi Omorogbe, @youngyosa
This one is a family affair. Omorogbe, 22, is a recent graduate of Colgate University who has gained 1.7 million followers since his first video in April. A first-generation Nigerian American, Omorogbe launched the fashion brand Naso “that marries my love for my African heritage with my love for minimalism.” He started the brand during his junior year of college, and took his ideas to Nigeria, where he recruited tailors to create his first designs. While in Nigeria, he visited his father’s village, Urhokuosa, and found that the school his father once attended was severely underfunded. He then decided to use his brand to support schools across Africa.
His first impulse on TikTok was to “make content that would connect to African people and to the African diaspora.” And so the series “Pissing Off My African Parents” was born. In these videos he obnoxiously sings 2000s pop-punk songs at his unknowing father, who responds with a hilariously annoyed look.
The scenes have racked up as many as 35 million views apiece, while Naso has seen a tremendous jump in sales. Omorogbe has been surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response. “My videos definitely bring up elements of nostalgia in terms of the music I’m singing, as well as relatable content for Gen Z people, especially for those who are first-generation immigrants.”
Brittany Broski, @brittany_broski
Brittany Broski, 23, otherwise known as Kombucha Girl, became famous in August 2019 when she tried kombucha for the first time on camera. Her mixed reaction to the drink was memed and replicated across the app, and she rose to become one of its most popular comedians, garnering 4.8 million followers. Her videos are relatively simple, many of them playing off of the trends happening on TikTok, but she has an unmatched relatability for young viewers.
##duet with @thereal_tati♬ Bruh – Hovey Benjamin
Broski, like her cohorts, is reflecting and remaking the world — one one-minute video at a time.
- Joy Nesbitt, OZY Author Contact Joy Nesbitt