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Once upon a time, there was one road to fame: big entertainment and cultural capitals like New York and Los Angeles. Models, actors, writers, and entertainers flocked to the major studios, agencies, and publishers to get their names and talents out to the world. No longer. TikTok has completely changed the conventional roadmap to fame. You don’t need a movie studio; you only need a phone. You don’t need an agent; you only need a following. But beyond that, what are some of the common characteristics that have defined the top TikTok stars of our day? How can you take some lessons away and one day become TikTok verified yourself? We decided to look at 13 of the top TikTokers and trace how they first rose to fame.
1. Addison Rae
It’s easy to look at Addison Rae’s TikTok success—over 80 million followers and counting—and assume she was destined for TikTok fame from the start. She has a knack for picking the songs and trends that will generate the most views for each of her quirky, light-hearted videos.
But Addison Rae’s success also comes from her self-admitted “obsession” with the platform. As Rae told Forbes:
“I attribute all my social media growth across all platforms to one thing: consistency. I am always really active. Daily, I post three to five pieces of content on each platform. People notice how often I post, how much I interact with them, and people really like that.”
From her earliest posts, when Rae uploaded dancing videos in tune with the latest trends, she showed she was willing to put in the work. She’s since signed with an agency, secured sponsorship deals, and even released a song, Obsessed.
A well-chosen title.
2. JoJo Siwa
Like Addison Rae, Joelle Joanie “JoJo” Siwa has a background in dance—her mother was a dance instructor. She found early success in Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, a dancing reality series on Lifetime, and made subsequent appearances on Dance Moms.
A lot of successful social media promotion followed, including a YouTube channel (It’s JoJoSiwa). But her knack for self-promotion and dance skills were a natural fit for TikTok, gaining her over 37 million followers over the years. These days, her emphasis is still on dancing, with recent videos tackling issues like foot problems and the ins and outs of practicing with a dance team.
The JoJo Siwa TikTok success story comes from leveraging different media platforms. From conventional TV—including a spot on Dancing with the Stars—to social media like YouTube and TikTok, she’s gained an audience with her upbeat personality and broad appeal.
3. Dixie D’Amelio
Judging by the first two entries on our list, you might expect dancing to be the most important skill for a TikTok star to have. But Dixie D’Amelio—along with her younger sister, Charli—has become a star through another one of TikTok’s favorite trends: singing and lip-syncing.
It was Charli who first struck TikTok fame by posting a popular “duet” with a friend. Inspired by Charli’s early success, Dixie soon joined in to create the Dixie D’Amelio TikTok account. Posting duets, lip-syncs, original songs, as well as dance moves with friends, Dixie’s taken a broad approach to build her following of over 50 million TikTok users.
Like the other users on this list, Dixie’s success comes from on-point capturing of the latest TikTok trends. Follow her and you’ll quickly see the latest songs and soundbites making the rounds. She’s even careful to select the right sponsorship deals, making sure that when she mentions a product (like in the video below), it has some helpful tips included.
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4. James Charles
Speaking of creating value for your subscribers, that’s the M.O. of beauty YouTuber and makeup artist James Charles. Charles first went viral on YouTube thanks to an entertaining video featuring makeup application tips using a ring light. These days, Charles’ makeup tips regularly garner millions of views on YouTube alone. On TikTok, he has over 30 million followers.
The secret behind James Charles’ TikTok success? Valuable content. Charles uses everything TikTok has to offer: before-and-after hair care videos, instructional content, new trend alerts for makeup artists, and more. If you’re interested in any of the above, Charles positions his account as a must-follow.
Charles also cultivates a following through honesty about his approach. As he said in one interview, “I want to make sure my fans are looking up to somebody that is making good choices, and is learning from their mistakes.”
It’s a lesson any aspiring TikTok star can use. You don’t have to be perfect, but your followers will appreciate it if you grow over time.
5. Bryce Hall
Bryce Hall is another young entry on this list who has nonetheless racked up years of experience in social media. Hall initially started his social media presence on YouTube, streaming as a way to make new friends. He also saw early success on Vine, something of a proto-TikTok that encouraged users to submit short videos.
With over 20 million followers on TikTok, it’s easy to imagine that the Bryce Hall TikTok profile was an overnight success. But a quick glance at his bio shows that his social media engagement goes back several years and across several platforms. He’s worked at it.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an “overnight” TikTok star who didn’t make a major commitment to the platform. For Hall, that even includes where he’s lived. Hall joined “Sway House,” a house for TikTok stars owned by a management agency—and a sign of a commitment to TikTok if there ever was one.
6. Charli D’Amelio
You might remember Charli from the segment on her older sister, Dixie. It was actually Charli who first joined TikTok and started building a following as a dancer. Although only 17, D’Amelio had amassed a decade of experience in dance before joining TikTok.
Head over to the Charli D’Amelio TikTok page and you’ll see an amazing number of followers—over 128 million. How did she get to that many? According to an article about her in the Washington Post, even she doesn’t “know why.”
But according to fellow TikTok star Madi Monroe, the reason may be that Charli’s humility makes her relatable.
“Literally everybody on the Internet sees Charli as just like a normal girl. They look at her, and they’re like ‘Oh, my gosh, I could do that, too.’”
The lesson? If you forge an authentic connection with your followers, you’ll eventually find your fans. You may even find over 100 million of them.
7. Jason Derulo
While Charli D’Amelio might be a little surprised at her TikTok fame, there’s no wondering why Jason Derulo has a large audience. At the ripe old age of 32 (hey, we’re talking TikTok years here), Derulo has already established himself as a singer in jams like “In My Head” and the TikTok viral hit “Savage Love.”
Now a top-15 TikTok account, Derulo’s music has found a fresh audience on TikTok. TikTok, after all, is the home of trendy memes set to music and shared audio—which makes it a natural fit for artists who want to promote their music.
For Derulo, that means treating TikTok as more than just another wing of his online pop empire. He prioritizes the Jason Derulo TikTok account. Visit his profile and you’ll see slow-motion videos, highly-edited productions, and reactions to the latest trends. Derulo has done more than simply put up an account. He’s clearly a part of the TikTok zeitgeist, engaging with what’s popular and tailoring his content accordingly.
8. Brent Rivera
Comedy, hijinks, pranks—it’s hard to put one specific label on the Brent Rivera TikTok profile, but his followers know why they pay attention. Somehow, someway, they’re going to get entertained.
While companies the world over will spend billions trying to figure out what will trigger the next viral hit, Brent Rivera seems to have a knack for it. His 40+ million followers on TikTok are a testament to that. You can see viral hits on his YouTube channel (for example, “Last to Stop Kissing Wins $10,000” or “I Got Married to My Best Friend for 24 Hours”).
What differentiates Brent Rivera is that he appears to be the social media version of a late-night variety host. You never know what you’ll get next from him. It seems as though every video and TikTok upload has its own unique appeal. It’s hard to start watching one video without wanting to find out what happens at the end. On YouTube, it’s difficult to so much as read a thumbnail without wanting to know how something went down.
“Extreme Dares with my Best Friends” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s ideal for the TikTok audience.
It’s not easy to take lessons from someone who seems to have a knack for TikTok. But going viral on TikTok isn’t only about learning a “knack.” Sometimes it’s about developing that knack as well. Getting famous on TikTok might not come as easily or naturally as you first assume. A video you hoped would get one million views might get a thousand instead, and vice versa.
But one thing is consistent with the top TikTok stars: they keep at it. They forge connections with their audience by emphasizing what works and avoiding what doesn’t. They continually adapt to what audiences want. Brent Rivera’s unique ability to tap into what people want to see on their phone is a testament to much more work than it may look.
9. Lexi Rivera
Look up Lexi Rivera online and you’ll probably see her Instagram account first, rather than the Lexi Rivera TikTok account. Why? Some social media personalities garner a huge following on TikTok even while emphasizing another medium.
Does the last name sound familiar? That’s because Lexi is the sister of Brent Rivera, our second set of siblings on this list. The two clearly share some tips. As Rivera told one interviewer, her approach to social media is to “post a variety on my channel depending on what my viewers want to see.”
That means an emphasis on fashion, beauty, and wellness—all three key audiences on both Instagram and TikTok.
Like her brother, Lexi seems to have a knack for opening a TikTok video with a compelling story. One recent video starts with Lexi and her mother standing in the living room. Caption: I told my mom she could slap me if she hears a cuss word. Meanwhile, a song plays in the background.
This creates instant tension for the viewer: Will the mom take action? Will Lexi get off the hook? The song that plays in the background flirts with cuss words—only to replace them with more appropriate words at the last minute. It’s hard to imagine a video better suited for TikTok’s on-demand style of entertainment.
10. Rebecca Zamolo
Name not ringing a bell? You might know the “Matt and Rebecca” channel on YouTube, where Rebecca and her husband Matt regularly upload videos as part of The Game Master network. But Rebecca’s social media game extends far beyond that network, including a TikTok account with over 16 million followers.
While Rebecca Zamolo’s bread and butter might be game-related content on YouTube, she’s developed an entirely new following on the Rebecca Zamolo TikTok profile. There, she posts memes and videos about what it’s like to be a parent, a former competitive gymnast, as well as videos detailing her pregnancy journeys.
Like so many other names on this list, Zamolo has a knack for creating viral-worthy content. But she’s also cultivated a unique persona that connects with people in her audience. She shares her struggles, her triumphs, and milestones along her multiple journeys in life. In particular, a recent chronicle of the couple’s IVF journey resulting in pregnancy kept her audience waiting for updates.
11. Elliana Walmsley
Another alum from Dance Moms, Elliana Walmsley used her success in dance to catapult a burgeoning TikTok career. But what separates her from the other names on the list is that Walmsley has achieved her unique TikTok following of 4 million followers at the tender age of 14. That’s not a typo.
Walmsley’s success is partially due to her career in dancing. She’s won fame on Dancing with the Stars Junior and a number of dancing awards. But she also gets followers on TikTok by giving people a sneak peek into her life—like reviewing her boyfriend’s Instagram profile and sharing her Halloween costumes.
While there’s a lot of hard work that goes into the Elliana Walmsley TikTok profile, her success is also a testament to just how young TikTok’s demographics are: about 25% of the TikTok audience is just 10-19, representing approximately the same raw total of users as in the entire United States.
12. Brooklyn and Bailey
Twin stars Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight are an overnight success story—they posted one video to TikTok and immediately gained 6.1 million followers right away.
Like so many other names on this list, Brooklyn and Bailey are young, but they also got an early start at the social media game. They got their start in their mother’s videos, appearing in CuteGirlsHairstyles—but usually one at a time, so many people didn’t know they were twins. As the channel grew, so did Brooklyn and Bailey’s interest in starting their own channel upon reaching 13.
They adopted the same name they’d heard their whole lives—Brooklyn and Bailey, in that order—and looked to their parents to help them with their first videos.
They’ve since grown to add an editor to their team and continue to reinvest a portion of the profits they make from their social media channels back into their platform, according to an interview about the Brooklyn and Bailey TikTok account with Entrepreneur.
13. Nick Austin
No one better exemplifies how TikTok has become an alternative road to fame than Nick Austin. In fact, Austin himself once said:
“Now, social media is better than [acting] because you can be yourself and do what an actor does.”
In years past, someone like Austin might have sought fame the conventional route: auditions, tryouts, etc. Instead he makes his home on TikTok.
And what does he do there? You name it. He’s gotten his nose pierced in front of his audience, he’s done food reviews, he’s run sponsored content for outerwear—he’s even lived in “Hype House,” another TikTok-focused residence. The association with Hype House helped catapult Austin to fame.
The success of the Nick Austin TikTok profile success exemplifies a new type of celebrity. You can’t quite put your finger on what he does, other than frequently posting trendy content including dancing and lip-syncing—both of which are common on the platform. But TikTok viewers undeniably find Austin to be as compelling as their favorite actors. Consider the lines officially blurred.
What’s the Key to TikTok Fame?
It’s a bit like asking what the key to fame is. Everyone’s path will be different.
Of course, famous TikTokers do sometimes share some things in common. Maybe they come from a background in dance, which is wildly popular among TikTok viewers. Maybe they’ve earned fame as the sibling of someone who’s already figured out the social media formula.
But most often, TikTok stars are where they got to be because they’ve been consistent in their pursuit of an audience. They’ve figured out what people like, what they don’t like, and they’ve fine-tuned their system to a well-oiled machine.
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