Whether it be through body-positivity content, a simple magic trick or food reviews, these four Boston University students have found internet-fame.
A path to recovery
Alefiyah Gandhi, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she first started posting on TikTok at the height of her eating disorder.
“It was the first time I have ever talked to anyone about any body image issues really,” Gandhi said.
Gandhi’s TikTok page, @lefiyah, has amassed 52.2k followers. Through her videos, Gandhi says she hopes to show people the “raw truths” behind eating disorders and recovery.
“The whole point of my page is to show that my own recovery isn’t linear,” she said. “There’s no expectations attached to anyone watching my content.”
Although Gandhi’s platform has allowed her to work with brands like Pepsi and MTV, she said she has a “love-hate relationship” with TikTok.
“A part of me very much dislikes TikTok because of how addictive it is and how almost toxic it is to the minds of young people,” Gandhi said. “But another part of me feels a sense of responsibility to be the authentic representation for those younger people.”
Gandhi said people who have “completely different lives” than her reach out and share how “impactful” her content is to them.
“It really feels like it’s a no strings attached moment of understanding between you and like a stranger…and I think that’s really special.”
From home cooked meal to viral chef
Stuck at home during the pandemic with nothing to do, Irene Kim, a senior in the College of Communications, said she began tasting and reviewing new foods on her TikTok account.
“My first viral video was me eating sushi because my parents are sushi chefs,” Kim said. “We would have sushi nights at my house because they were just a normal thing.”
Now, with 468.9k followers on her TikTok @ireneykim, Kim continues to post food-related content, but also get-ready-with-me videos, day-in-the-life vlogs as a student and the latest TikTok trends.
“People liked the food content, the food reviews,” Kim said. “It eventually kind of snowball-effected into videos now, where I just try different foods and I just kind of show off what I do in my life.”
Kim said that she loves sharing her experiences as a BU student with her followers and said her role as a BU student is “integral” to her videos.
Although Kim participates in paid campaigns, she said she still wants TikTok to be “something fun to do” rather than a full-time job.
“I don’t want to make it my sole source of income,” she said. “It also just makes it less authentic if I do that.”
Can you feel the magic?
Henry Di, a junior in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said he started learning magic tricks when he was just 12 years old, inspired by an old magic trick his grandfather taught him.
In Di’s senior year of high school, he decided to make magic videos on TikTok for a school project. Now, Di performs anything from card tricks, to optical illusions to mind-readings on his TikTok account, @enriquethemagician.
Over the years, he has amassed 480.5k followers, a collective 9.7 million likes on his videos and requests to create content for big companies such as Google.
His most popular TikTok, in which he asks viewers to choose a card from the deck and subsequently guesses which one they chose, has 73 million views.
“On TikTok, people like to be engaged by like…the way I talk,” he said. “Most of the time, you have to make short form stuff so that people are engaged the whole time and watch the entire thing.”
Although being in college has not changed the type of content Di creates, it has made keeping up with his account “a lot more challenging,” he said.
“Over the summer I was posting like two videos a day almost everyday, whereas now that I’ve started school…there’s been a couple days where I haven’t been posting,” Di said..
Di said TikTok fame has “opened a lot of doors” for him and he hopes to one day “create a living off of [social media].”
“I feel like I have the potential to do stuff with this,” he said, he’ll “keep growing, keep posting and reaching out to different companies, things like that, (and) I’ll be able to eventually make this a full-time thing.”
The international vlogger
For Russian international student Masha Yuzhakova, a sophomore in COM, social media fame did not come instantly. Yuzhakova began her Youtube channel at age 13, when there weren’t many Russian social media creators out there.
In the beginning of her YouTube career, Yuzkahova said she would post “anything that was trending” at the time, such as “room tours” and “what’s in my bag?” videos.
Yuzhakova said she now mainly posts vlogs in Russian, taking her 530k subscribers along with her for everyday activities.
“I think the best part of my blog personally is that I’m trying to be myself and I never post when I’m not in the mood,” she said.
Her growing popularity has allowed her to turn a hobby into a job and she said she works with worldwide brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Sephora and Victoria’s Secret.
Yuzhakova said that moving to the U.S. last year gave her the opportunity to share new experiences with her followers.
“I would say that moving here is one of the reasons why people are interested in my content,” she said. “Not everyone has the opportunity to study abroad, and I’m very grateful that I was given a chance to experience all of this.”