Interview by Avery Cather & Nona Nishigawara
Editorial by Ryan Flaherty & Ellie Weber
Soph is a creator on TikTok, better known for her contribution to the debate trend style videos. Outside of this trend, she creates relatable teenage content that her 500,000 followers adore. She pushes for equality and change in todays society; utilizing her platform to create a safe place for these important conversations regarding mental health, racial injustice, etc. to be had. We talked with her to get a closer look into journey to fame.
Photo courtesy of @putputputter on Instagram
How did you first start on TikTok and how did you “blow up”?
I just kept posting nonsense which I was perfectly happy with, it was very fun. Then I found the debate trend and I thought it was so cool. The first thing I did was get fully dressed up with hair and makeup, and set up a whole station. I made one or two videos and posted them… eventually I went to sleep with it at 15k likes and woke up with it at 50k. I ran to my brothers room and was like, “look at this thing!” I was checking it every five minutes. It went from being this fun little spam account to something I could keep going with. I was super taken back.
What got you interested in joining the debate trend?
What inspired me about it was playing a character. Since I was younger, I was super into acting. I went to a fun creative arts camp run by these hippies in a converted warehouse. It was awesome. As time went on, I developed really harsh anxiety so I started straying away from [acting]. Instead of it being fun, it became super nerve wracking for me. But with social media and stuff like this, when I see something creative where you can play a character I think it’s the perfect opportunity. It just sparks something in me where I’m not afraid to do it. I don’t have to worry about face to face confrontation. I can get into costume and express myself that way which was always super fun for me. I even have a costume drawer just for fun, for no reason!
Do you ever find yourself hitting a wall while trying to think of new ideas? How did you come back from that?
Oh absolutely. The creative wall is something that is always there. Something has to spark in the moment and I don’t really know what I’m doing until then. When I hit a wall, I move away from whatever it was that made the block. I’ll hyper focus on it for a little first, but I try to think about other ways I can do it. Now I’m also hitting a block because I was so focused on this trend [the debate trend] and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the platform. It’s a cycle. I know its possible, but sometimes the ideas just don’t come to me.
What do you think of TikTok as a platform and how such young creators like yourself can blow up so easily? What are the pros and cons of that?
I didn’t realize until I started growing [in followers] so much what “growing so much” really was and how it all went down, I didn’t realize that this is how the platform works. You get a sudden random chance and that made me realize how the TiktTok algorithm and cycle works. You start becoming immersed into the community you look up to… like when people who I looked up to followed me back and that we had the same amount of followers. It made me realize how much we idealize people especially on Tiktok. We’re the same person! I’m just a kid and this is crazy for me, and I look over at another kid and I see that we’re all just kids! This platform we’re idolizing is nothing, we’re just people. I’m fifteen and people in my comments will be so surprised. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m fifteen let’s remember that please!” It feels weird to be so young and to be getting so much attention, one of my biggest worries was having so many eyes on me and being so young.
After you blew up, did you find yourself putting more value and self worth into the content you make and your stats?
Oh yeah, definitely. In its plainest definition, yes. When things were at a high, I was checking my analytics constantly. If the video didn’t do well and I watched it back and noticed a specific flaw, I’d think it was no good and would hyper focus on it. If someone commented a weird hand movement that I did, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. On the other hand, there was an overwhelming amount of supportive comments which I honestly wasn’t expecting. But the few that were off-putting I took straight to heart. It would either make me feel bad or embarrassed. I blamed the video not doing well on myself. It’s really sad that people think their analytics reflect truly on themselves.
Do you think you’ve found a way to deal with that as time has gone on and you’ve gotten used to having this big of a following?
The biggest attachment [I had] to the stats was the trend and now that I realize that it was just a trend and kind of brushed away, I’m getting used to the fact that there’s going to be a difference in my analytics. I have to come to terms with the fact that this isn’t a reflection on me and it’s just how the algorithm works. It’s not personal, it’s just the system. You’re still creating and enjoying which is great no matter how an audience receives it.
Has your personal life changed at all after gaining followers?
I remember telling my mom and my brother. He was continuously checking on my videos that were blowing up. They were super excited. I had to explain to my mom what all the numbers meant, but I feel like at some time she got the hang of it… maybe. I think she’s still struggling. The point is that she knows that something is happening. I didn’t want my privacy to be pushed too much just out of embarrassment so I was like, “Hey, let’s not tell everybody!” They’ll joke about my fame and it’s one of those things that feels awkward to have said back to you. Overall, my friends and family were incredibly supportive.
Because you are so active about topics like racism, sexism, and overall equality, how do you feel about “cancel culture” and how it’s changed with TikTok?
I think cancel culture is ridiculous, but the thing is it’s not in terms of holding people accountable. There are a lot of creators who have done some really foul things and haven’t been held accountable in the right ways. There are two sides, some people will genuinely apologize and there’s an overwhelming response of no. There are a thousand in betweens, but there’s an appropriate way to handle all of it and there are definitely some creators that don’t deserve their platform after their history. There’s a common theme of it being nonsensical, a very uneven reaction. I do think that some people grasp for straws and viewers need to sort out what is blatantly wrong.
Have you made friends with other creators? How has that experience been?
Oh yeah totally. I’ve made a couple friends who I’ll talk to now continuously. But I remember when some of the bigger creators would contact me, like reach out or something, that was like “Oh my god wow.” I remember, his name is Nathan something, he did the weird three times speed videos, I remember he sent me “HEY” in all caps in my DMs. But the thing is, my phone number was never hooked up to it so I can’t respond to them. Which was very frustrating because sometimes they’d comment like “we should be friends”, “give me your snapchat, let’s talk” and I’d be like “I can’t contact you!”. That sucked but even them just saying something was completely heart stopping. It’s like something you would just be imagining forever and the fact that it happened is just like, oh my god. I have made friends with some of the creators, like one of my friends Seth (@seth_cohn). We talk a lot, we FaceTime a lot, we text a lot. And just the fact that I made friends off of this I think is really cool. I love meeting new people and I feel like meeting new people in this way made the whole experience a lot more friendly.
Do you see a future with social media or I guess this presence that you’re building?
Yeah, definitely. I don’t plan on just dropping all this. I guess now my focus is how i’m going to use it. I feel like now I’m going to focus on, I’ve thought this through actually, I’d be focusing more on mental health because that’s something that I talked about intermediately through posting. Now that the debate trend is over and what not, I can focus on [mental health] a lot more. People had a pretty positive reaction when I would talk about that. So I’m going to try and focus on that, focus on other social issues. More random, nonsense posting. Just you know, find my way around. But yeah I am going to continue using my platform and try to continue growing my platform.
What’s your favorite movie?
Rocky Horror Picture Show
What’s your favorite book?
He Digs a Hole
What’s your favorite TV Show?
What is something you wish people knew about you? Hobbies? Anything you’re passionate about that TikTok doesn’t know about?
Oh. I’m really into art, I really enjoy art. When I was younger I really wanted to do [acting] but as I got more anxious and things got more overwhelming I strayed away from that. It wasn’t until recently when people would start commenting “are you an actor, you should be an actor” and things like that when I was like, oh you know what I kind of do want to get back into that. I kind of do really like that. So yes, I would say I do want to be an actor, or anything like that in the slightest.