Advertisement
Share

Meet the new most popular person on TikTok: Khaby Lame, who lets his face do the work

A man with a vest over a tuxedo waves a peace sign to photographers at a movie premiere
Khaby Lame poses upon arrival at the “Top Gun: Maverick” premiere in Cannes, France, in May.
(Vianney Le Caer / Invision / Associated Press)

Charli D’Amelio was the first person to pass 100 million followers on TikTok, but she’s the social media platform’s queen no more.

Senegalese comic Khaby Lame, 22, now has nearly 144 million people who are very interested in what he has to say — or, more accurately, what he doesn’t say at all.

D’Amelio, 18, breached the nine-figure follower mark on the short-video platform back in November 2020 and since then has added tens of millions more. But wasn’t enough to fend off Lame’s international appeal, which has grown like gangbusters in the last year. On Friday, he had 143.6 million followers, compared to D’Amelio’s 142.5 million.

He had pulled ahead of her the day before.

In June 2021, Lame — whose full first name is Khabane — had “65.6 million followers ... and counting” on TikTok, according to the New York Times. He had lost his job a year prior because of the pandemic and was looking for something to do. At the same time, D’Amelio had 116 million.

Charli D’Amelio has set a record on TikTok with her massive follower count, despite a recent setback involving her family’s embarrassing dinner party.

Lame’s popularity on the platform began with him taking ridiculous videos — ones that theoretically share a better way of doing something, but in fact complicate the process — and using TikTok tools to splice video of his own.

Reacting to a guy who peels a banana using a knife and slices off lots of the edible part along the way, Lame simply peels a banana and voila! — a naked banana appears with nothing cut off. Hands spread out, eyes wide, Lame looks at the camera in dopey disbelief.

Or after a series of musclebound dudes hold golf balls in their elbows by flexing their burly muscles around them, he does a similar thing, deadpan, crushing a raw egg all over himself as he bends his somewhat scrawny arm around it. And again with the hands, the eyes, the face. He is clearly not impressed.

D’Amelio, on the other hand, built her following with choreographed dance videos. She and her family are also mini-Kardashians these days, with “The D’Amelio Show” on Hulu and their own deals for influencer marketing.

Advertisement

Influencers are training to participate in amateur boxing matches in a bid to gain more attention and fans.

Lame, who has lived in Italy since he was 1, told Hypebeast earlier this month that although he started off years ago posting videos for his parents on YouTube, TikTok wound up being “the ideal platform for me to upload my self-deprecating and comic videos.” And, he previously told the New York Times, “It’s my face and my expressions which make people laugh.”

Lame — which is pronounced “LAH-may” — has fan pages around the world and is landing his own influencer work, like a gig pushing Nitro Pepsi when it debuted earlier this year.

“Since Khaby Lame is known for pointing out the obvious with the use of his signature hand gestures,” a Pepsi executive said at the time, “we felt he was the perfect person to show the world Nitro Pepsi is a simple solution for those who prefer less carbonation than that of a traditional cola.”

An Xbox endorsement came around the same time, when he was still No. 2 in the TikTok sphere. The campaign spread beyond social media and onto billboards at places including L.A. Live.

TikToks about the L.A. Cool Girl aesthetic have prompted deep conversations about gentrification.

“Beloved by almost anyone who comes across him, he naturally has a special pull with Gen Z by virtue of the demographics of the platform,” the two guys behind the campaign wrote on Muse by Clio, explaining how they decided to enlist Lame.

“He is best known for making TikTok duets that distill complicated life hack videos made by others to simple, Khaby solutions. And a key to Khaby’s global success is that his content contains no spoken dialogue but instead relies on his hilarious facial expressions and a signature shrug at the end, which invites us all to join him in a community of ‘there’s a better way.’”

In June came a partnership on a limited-edition capsule collection for the fashion brand Boss. And those are just a few.

One place where D’Amelio still reigns supreme, however, is in the land of likes: She has 11 billion of them on TikTok.

Lame, meanwhile, has a mere 2.3 billion.


Advertisement