Quarantine has halted almost all Hollywood operations, stopping a slew of TV and film productions in their tracks. However, the six month period has blown up TikTok, with teenagers rushing to the social media app looking for new content. The TV industry has been talking about short form content for years now, and TikTok is certainly an indicator of where things are headed. When asked about the possibility of TikTok stars joining Hollywood in the near future, ‘Euphoria’ exec Kathleen McCaffrey said “great ideas come from anywhere“. With more and more executives recognizing the app’s creative potential, creators are finally getting the acknowledgement they deserve.
We sat down with creator Brendan Radecki to talk about the dramatic shift in viewership and his thoughts about fame online.
What was your reaction to your first video that blew up?
I remember the details so well because I was so excited, I was on vacation with my family. When I woke up it had 600,000 [views] and I was losing my mind the whole day. I sent screenshots and everything to my friends and I was freaking out. For 3 days after, I was so excited and I didn’t even know how to react because that’s so many people. I didn’t even know how to handle it.
Now that you’ve reached the fanbase that you have, how would you define the connection between creators your age?
It’s really cool because there are people who follow me who I’m able to talk to who I never ever expected I would be able to. It’s cool to see that side of them that no one else gets to see. Everyone is really easy to get along with, and I’ve honestly never met anyone on the app or that I’m friends with that I don’t like or isn’t easy to talk to.
Would you say the community is competitive or generally supportive?
I’ve never even considered it as competitive, I don’t think other people do, but I can’t speak for everyone. People [in the creator community] will reach out and be like “if there’s anything you ever need [you can reach out]” and that kind of stuff but also if you reach a milestone like they hit whatever amount of followers, people are so excited and really supportive.
Now that content creators are somewhat recognized as celebrities (getting stopped on the street, getting fan accounts, etc.) where do you think the line is for privacy?
It’s weird to go out of your way to find personal information for sure, I know people who have had their address leaked and that’s definitely way way too far. Even going onto family members’ social media and finding pictures, I think that’s a little far too. Even though it’s public information, it still might make some people uncomfortable. That’s never really happened to me, but I know other people that don’t like it because they want their privacy, especially with family. I think definitely if they aren’t comfortable with it then that’s something important to respect.
There’s sort of this mentality that since there are creators that film every single moment, that kids feel like they have an OK to follow their every move.
I’ve been seeing a lot of videos, especially with people like the Hype House, talking about how supposedly someone broke in. I don’t remember when, but that’s definitely way too far. I know a lot of people that I’m friends with just consider themselves to be average people. They think it’s really cool and they get noticed in public, but they’re like “it’s weird because I’m just an average person, I just happened to get followers, I didn’t even expect this to happen.” Of course there are boundaries.
What do you think a creator’s place is for setting an example for their viewers?
Especially if they have a really big platform, they should obviously be a good example. There are some people, I don’t want to name anyone, but certain people who probably don’t deserve a platform- either because they’re condoning certain behavior or treat people a certain way or act different off camera. People have been getting called out for things like the parties and stuff. I think that’s definitely not a good example to be setting, because the people with the most followers on the app have a really young audience. A lot of people my age who I’m friends with have generally an older teenage audience, or even like early 20’s, but someone like Charli or people in the Hype House are like 12-13. I definitely think they should be setting an example as much as they can because they have a lot of impact.
How has the recognition or attention from fans on TikTok affected you mentally?
It’s honestly not something that I ever thought would happen at all. I’ve been spotted at school probably close to a dozen times now, but people are always really nice they’re like “oh my god are you on TikTok, I follow you” or “I see your videos”. On my second day here [in college] I was just walking down the street getting to know the campus and a girl came up to me and was like “oh my gosh are you on TikTok” and I’m like “yeah that’s so funny” and she said “can I have your snapchat I have no friends, I want to meet people” and I was like “yes, I have no friends either”. I’ve hung out with her every day now and from her I’ve met three other people and we eat every day & walk around campus together. If she hadn’t come up to me, who knows if I would have anyone to do that stuff with so I’m really grateful for it and that’s really cool to me because I would just never expect that to happen.
On the other side of that, how do you deal with negative reactions- there’s been a lot of talk especially about backhanded compliments?
I don’t know why that’s such a big thing right now- everyone who has a following is dealing with those backhanded compliments. I’ve talked to so many people about it who are dealing with the same thing, and everyone is like “don’t give them attention, if you respond to it and you give them attention or you call it out then that’s what they want”. They want you to notice them, they want you to talk about it so the best thing you can do is ignore it. Someone I was talking with about it said “I only started paying attention to and responding to the nice compliments, like the actual genuinely nice things people were saying,” and then she noticed a huge increase in people being nice to her. I thought that was interesting and I thought that was a really good way of going about it. Just ignore it, don’t pay attention to it.
What are your thoughts on the white boy of the month mentality?
(Laughs) The whole thing is so weird. I’m trying to think of where it even started, I think it started in like March or April at the beginning of quarantine when everything was going on. I can’t think of any examples before then, but the joke was that every month the app would choose a new person to blow up and give attention to. It’s not something you can control most of the time but it’s fun to poke around with it and there are people “competing” for who it’s going to be, and it’s just a fun little joke for a lot of people. I think it’s really funny though.
It’s sort of like Homecoming King- it’s you running against Chase Rutherford for the month of September.
(Laughing) Yeah, yeah – it’s really funny.
It seems like fame happens very quickly for creators, did your rise to 200,000 followers happen really fast or did it feel more gradual?
I definitely think it happened pretty fast, I was not expecting it. The whole reason that I made this second account was just because I wanted to be able to post random things mostly for closer friends, random things without having to worry about people getting annoyed. I would spam so much, I would just post 20 times a day because I was bored. This was at the beginning of quarantine in April so I was doing nothing, …so I just kind of started posting whatever came to mind, and then I had a video in late April blow up for some weird reason. Ever since then it’s been a steady increase- at times I’ll gain more than others. It happened a lot faster than I expected, … [but] there are some people who have gotten like a million followers in a month which I could never imagine, that would be so overwhelming.
What’s one message you would give to anyone who’s a fan of yours?
Thank you! I don’t even understand why people follow me, why they choose to. People say they think my videos are funny, I think that’s funnier. I don’t really think anything of it when I post certain videos, sometimes videos that I think are so stupid do the best and people think they’re so funny. So I really appreciate people following me and it means the world because I don’t know what I did right to deserve it. I’m really grateful that it worked out for me because I don’t know what I did. It just kinda happened.
What are your plans for the future, regarding your account and then just generally a career, college, everything?
Regarding the account I honestly have no idea. With college getting stressful and busy and time consuming I think I’m probably going to have less time to post. For the future, I’m probably going to be in college for quite some time, I want to get my masters (I’m majoring in meteorology), and that takes a long time- it’s not an easy or quick process so I’m expecting to be here more than four years. It’s harder to say what’s going to happen at that point. Obviously I want to forecast the weather but it could be awhile before I actually get a job and an internship and all that stuff because there’s a lot of classes I have to take and all that. I’m thinking at that point though, four+ years the app won’t really be a thing anymore or obviously I won’t have time so I’ll grow out of it.
If you could switch lives with any other creator for a day who would it be and why?
Charli, definitely charli. I would just want to see the amount of interaction she gets- I mean she gets hundreds of thousands of comments on every video, she gets ten million views or likes on every video. I think that would be crazy. Just for a day though! I don’t think I could handle it more than that.
What trend do you want TikTok to be over with?
It sounds so stupid but there’s this trend going around that- you’ve probably seen it, it’s still going- the one where you follow and unfollow someone right when they’re about to hit say 10,000 followers or something. I still see those videos and it’s been going on for so long, so I’m kind of just like okay we can stop now.
Who do you think is going to be the next big thing?
There’s a few people that come to mind, but I think Sophia. We follow each other and she just recently hit 300k but only last month she had like 50k. She’s gained so fast and she’s so funny, she’s probably one of my favorite people on the app right now. Her videos are so funny and people really like her so I’m thinking maybe her, so I guess we’ll wait and see.
Who’s someone that you were starstruck to interact with or become friends with online?
Probably the Real Tati, she followed me back at the end of July and I freaked out. I opened the app and it said “say hi to the real tati” and I was like what is happening. I couldn’t believe it, at that point she had like 3 something million [followers] and I was like woah! She still follows me, we’ve talked a few times, but I was like I never expected this, ever, it’s crazy.
What’s a major change you’d like to see the platform make?
It’s kind of random, but the ability to post just for your followers. You can post for friends only, but I only follow like 200 people so only those people could see it because we follow each other. If you could post for followers only, it would be like your account is private but you would have to be following them to see it. Some videos you don’t want to get on the for you page, not for any reason just because they’re more personal. It would be really cool if you could post something just for followers so that when they follow you they could see it.
So there would be three tiers of public, followers, and then friends.
Yeah, I think that would be really cool.
You can follow Brendan on TikTok @brendanisugly, or on Instagram @brendanradecki.
This interview was edited for length & clarity.