TikTokers Who Made It BIG
Here are the craziest TikTok success stories you won't believe!Money
To many people, TikTok is nothing but an app for silly dances and weird memes. But however silly TikTok seems some individuals make serious money as a result of popularity on the app. TikTok’s most viral videos have turned some lucky folks into overnight millionaires. Here are the unlikely people who Beatboxed, Boogied, and Skated their way to fame and fortune, in the craziest TikTok success stories to date!
Back in September 2020, Nathan Apodaca from Idaho Falls was driving to another normal day at work at the nearby potato factory. As Nathan drove down the highway, his old SUV started to break down, coming to a stop on the side of the road. Nathan was still 2 miles from work, so, he was forced to go in the trunk, pull out his longboard, and skate his way there instead.
As Nathan skated down the highway, he decided to pull out his phone and film a TikTok, recording himself swigging on a bottle of Ocean Spray cranberry juice, while singing along to "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac.
The video was short and unassuming, but Nathan’s laid-back attitude clearly resonated with a number of people, because when he uploaded the video onto TikTok, it garnered millions of views overnight. By Christmas that year, it was the second most-watched TikTok of 2020, and the video had pushed "Dreams" to Number 1 on the iTunes music charts, 43 years after its release.
All this attention threw Nathan into the limelight, and before long, giant brands started to approach him with sponsorship deals. Unsurprisingly, the first brand to do so was Ocean Spray, and in October 2020, they gifted Nathan a brand-new truck, loaded with all the cranberry juice he could drink. He was also offered a string of media opportunities, including starring in commercials with Snoop Dogg himself.
These deals caused Nathan’s fame to grow even further, and today, he has over 7 million followers on TikTok and 3 million followers on Instagram. The lucrative brand deals secured by his popularity have given him the means to move out of his RV and buy himself a five-bedroom house in Idaho Falls.
It’s fair to say that TikTok, and Fleetwood Mac, made Nathan’s dreams come true, and it’s unbelievable to think the incredible story only occurred because his car happened to break down one September morning. Thank God he didn’t walk to work instead!
TikTok and music have always had a close relationship. The app’s dances and challenges are closely associated with their backing tracks, and as we’ve seen, a viral TikTok like Nathan Apodaca’s can propel a song to the top of the charts. Despite this association, TikTok isn’t all about audio, and incredibly, the world’s biggest TikToker took over the app without making a sound.
For those of you who don’t know, Khaby Lame is a TikToker from Chivasso, Italy, and his 162 million followers make him the most followed person on TikTok, however, it wasn’t always this way. Back in 2020, the internet superstar was a construction worker, spending his days creating houses instead of content.
Khaby’s life was pretty mundane, but this all changed at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic when he was struck off from work and forced to move back in with his parents. As Khaby sat around the house, he decided to download TikTok and upload some short comedy videos. He soon started reacting to other people’s videos, focusing on content in the lifehack genre.
Khaby rightly satirizes these lifehack videos, which often try to go viral by featuring blatantly ridiculous ‘hacks,’ getting propelled in TikTok’s algorithm as people comment their anger at the stupidity.
Khaby’s reactions united the internet over their hatred of these dumb lifehacks, and before long, he’d amassed millions of followers, rapidly growing into TikTok’s most-followed creator. Khaby says he owes his success to the fact that his facial expressions are relatable to everybody, regardless of their nationality or language. As a result, the life of this silent voice for the people has become more glamorous.
His social media success has allowed him to swap his hard hats for designer clothes, partnering with Hugo Boss for their 50-year anniversary campaign. Khaby has rubbed shoulders with the stars and appeared on billboards, and he might just be the first human to shrug, frown, and roll his eyes to genuine celebrity status.
Khaby’s journey from laid-off construction worker to fully-fledged celebrity is pretty impressive, but he isn’t the only star who made a drastic career change to become a TikToker. You might not know who Bella Poarch is, but if you spend any time on TikTok, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the video below.
Strange as it may seem, back in 2020, this short, slightly creepy TikTok took the world by storm. Bella’s bizarrely hypnotic expressions and camera-tracked head movements were soon propelled to the 5th most watched TikTok of all time with 730 million views. This video, and more in a similar style, established Bella Poarch as one of the most popular TikTokers in the world.
However, back in 2019, she was living a very different life, serving as an Aviation Ordananceman in the US Navy. An Aviation Ordnanceman is responsible for inspecting, maintaining, and storing the weapons on a ship or navy base, handling mines, machine guns, and missiles on a daily basis.
Bella served for 3 years, before leaving the military at the end of 2019, moving back home, and creating a TikTok account for fun. After posting her viral video in August 2020, her near-instant popularity prompted her to focus on TikTok full-time and shift her career from hauling mines to miming pop songs.
Her follower base continued to grow, and today, she has amassed over 92 million followers, making her the 3rd most followed person on the platform. The size of Bella’s fanbase means she can earn a reported $30,000 per sponsored TikTok post, with brands and companies paying her to feature their products.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Bella has also used her fame to build herself a career as a popstar. After sharing her real singing voice on TikTok, she signed a record deal with Warner Bros, releasing a string of singles in 2021, and her debut EP in 2022. From soldier to singer, Bella is one of TikTok’s most truly unbelievable overnight success stories.
Jamie Big Sorrel Horse
TikTok hosts a wide array of content, from magic tricks to doing gross things. However, since the app’s inception in 2016, the platform has been ruled by one single genre of video: dancing.
Several of the world’s biggest TikTokers have danced their way to notoriety, however, Jamie Bigg Sorrell Horse has a unique claim to fame, after uploading a video that swiftly became the most-viewed dance on TikTok by a landslide.
This short dance might not seem like much, but incredibly, it’s the 7th most popular TikTok, boasting over 431 million views. Jamie’s restroom routine clearly resonated with a lot of people, and before long, other famous TikTokers started to recreate the video, getting their groove on in their own bathrooms at home.
As Jamie’s TikTok went viral, his newfound fans started to watch his other uploads, and today, Jamie has amassed over 100 million likes on the app, sharing his famous dances and content with over 7 million followers. Not bad for a little bathroom boogie.
Jamie’s viral TikToks may crown him as the King of the dancers, however, since boogying into popularity in 2019, the category has been ruled by 2 Queens: Charli D’amelio and Addison Rae.
For Charli, life in the limelight always seemed to be on the cards. The TikToker has danced competitively since she was five, and when she joined TikTok in 2019, she became one of the first people to make waves dancing on the app.
As Charli’s videos started to get picked up by the algorithm, lots of her viewers attempted to learn the dances she was performing, watching her TikToks over and over to learn each independent movement.
This allowed Charli’s views to skyrocket, and before long, she became the face of TikTok, amassing over 151 million followers and establishing herself as the second-largest creator on the platform.
Charli has managed to turn this viral fame into a huge amount of success, appearing on and winning the 31st season of Dancing with the Stars, and starring in her own reality TV show on Hulu, alongside her sister Dixie. At just 18 years old, Charli’s success is incredibly impressive, and online sources estimate it’s already earned her upwards of $20 million.
However, she isn’t the only TikToker who’s danced their way to genuine celebrity status. Today, 22-year-old Addison Rae has starred in movies, modeled on billboards, and amassed over 88 million followers on TikTok.
However, her life hasn’t always been so glamorous. At one point during Addison’s teenage years, she was living in an RV with her entire immediate family, while being teased at high school for wearing knock-off shoes and second-hand clothes.
Addison had a pretty tumultuous childhood, but when she went to college, her life completely changed. Addison started studying Broadcast Journalism at LSU, and in July 2019, the aspiring cheerleader started uploading dances onto TikTok in her spare time.
Just 3 months later, her TikTok account hit 1 million followers, allowing her to strike up some lucrative sponsorship deals and collaborations with fashion retailers and brands.
According to Forbes, Addison had already earned an impressive $5 million from content creation by August 2020, allowing her to drop out of college, and move her entire family to LA. This move led her to break into the mainstream by appearing in movies while continuing her TikTok success. Not bad for a college dropout!
Dancing might be TikTok’s most popular category, but the app’s army of movers and shakers is closely rivaled by another, powerful faction: the singers. Singing has always been a real staple of social media, but the power of singing on TikTok became pretty clear back in 2021 when the world was taken over by a very specific genre of music: sea shanties.
For a period of time, these swashbuckling songs took over TikTok, chat shows, and the music charts, resulting in a full-blown cultural phenomenon that was allowed to one man, a 26-year-old mailman called Nathan Evans.
Back in 2020, Nathan divided his time between delivering mail in his hometown of Airdrie, Scotland, and singing, as he uploaded covers of pop songs onto TikTok. Nathan had a pretty small fanbase, until December 2020, when he released his version of a 19th-century sea shanty called 'Soon May the Wellerman Come.'
The tune is extremely catchy. As Nathan’s video spread across TikTok, other musicians started to layer their own harmonies on it, allowing Nathan to form a virtual choir and eventually, an entire band.
As these TikToks went viral, Nathan’s original amassed over 20 million views, receiving attention from global news sites like CNN. Nathan decided to capitalize on this success, getting into the studio and recording an official version of the song that reached number one on the UK music charts.
Since then, Nathan has released a string of singles, a debut album, and played gigs all over the world, building a career off the back of a song about a ship full of hungry sailors, struggling to hunt down a whale. The Wellerman’s lyrics aren’t particularly glamorous, but for Nathan, this white whale of a hit has completely changed his life.
Our last swashbuckler isn’t the only British singer who’s used TikTok to carve out a career in the music industry. Up until 2020, Sam Ryder from Essex, England ran a Vegan café while singing at weddings to earn some money on the side.
When Covid-19 struck, Sam was out of work, unable to sell his oat milk lattes or find a wedding to perform at. So, he decided to turn to his phone, passing the time by singing some covers of songs before uploading them onto TikTok.
Sam’s hair, beard, and genuinely fantastic singing voice made for a popular trio, and his covers started to rack up millions of views. Before long, Sam also gained some pretty famous fans, receiving a reaction video from Alicia Keys, a repost from Sia, and a supportive DM from Justin Bieber.
With all this support, Sam was able to rapidly accumulate millions of followers on TikTok, and in May 2022 he announced that he’d been selected as Britain’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest.
This yearly singing competition between almost every country in Europe is all about synthesizers, glitter, and original music, so when Sam threw on this bedazzled boilersuit and sang his song ‘Spaceman,’ he absolutely killed it, coming in a close second after Ukraine.
Sam didn’t win Eurovision, but his performance propelled him to the limelight, allowing him to produce his debut album and embark on a sold-out international tour. Now, Sam can be found playing arenas, hugging Taylor Swift, or singing to his 14 million followers on TikTok.
Let’s move from the musically gifted to somebody who achieved viral fame in a slightly less mainstream way, namely, drinking a can of Kombucha. The video below portrays a rollercoaster of emotions, just like the wild ride this TikToker’s life took after that amusing clip went viral.
Let’s rewind a little. Back in 2019, Brittany Tomlinson from Dallas decided to make a TikTok account to entertain her friends, uploading videos of her eating dinner and riding go-karts under the name ‘Brittany Broski.’ Brittany uploaded around 10 videos over the course of a month, including this video of her tasting kombucha for the first time.
In case you didn’t know, Kombucha is a fermented tea that tastes fizzy, tart, and ‘just shy’ of sweet. That description is pretty confusing, so it isn’t any wonder that Brittany had a mixed reaction as she tried to figure out whether she liked it or not.
Brittany made the video for her friends, but incredibly, it went viral, quickly garnering millions of views. Brittany’s face also started being used as a reaction meme, providing endless fun for social media users all over the web.
All this attention was pretty exciting for Brittany, however, it wasn’t all good news. As Brittany’s face went viral, the bank she worked for fired her, claiming that her status as a meme made the company look less professional.
Brittany was distraught, but the situation did give her the opportunity to focus on content-creation full-time. As she started regularly posting comedy skits on TikTok, she grew into one of its biggest stars, accumulating over 7 million followers and 300 million likes as of 2023.
She may have been fired from her job, but her online fame has allowed her countless brand promo deals, as well as the freedom to host several successful podcasts, appear on some of YouTube’s biggest channels, and hug Harry Styles.
Today, Brittany has a net worth estimated by online sources to be between 1 and 4 million dollars. And while online celebrity wealth estimations like these are often fairly inaccurate, there’s no doubt she’s established herself as one of TikTok’s most unlikely success stories, showing that even if she didn’t love that can of Kombucha, buying it was definitely a good life decision.
Let’s move across the pond now, checking out a tea-sipping, crumpet-eating TikToker from the UK who earned his fame and fortune by ‘trainspotting’ with a 360-degree camera attached to his head. But don’t worry, it’s infinitely more glorious than it sounds.
As hobbies go, trainspotting isn’t a particularly glamorous one. But back in 2020, Luke Magnus Nicholson, better known by his online moniker Francis Bourgeois, decided to share his passion for trains by strapping a camera to his forehead and uploading footage of his impassioned trainspotting trips onto TikTok.
As conceptually bizarre as that sounds, Francis’s enthusiasm and unique cinematography made him a viral sensation. Francis started to gain millions of followers on both TikTok and Instagram and "choo-choo-choosing" to upload his videos turned out to be a truly life-changing idea, when Gucci and North Face gave him a modelling contract in 2022, using him as the face of a collaboration between the two brands.
The deal thrust Francis into the mainstream, allowing him to subsequently strike a book deal, and star in his own trainspotting TV show, guest-hosting other famous faces. For most people, getting their own TV show would be a dream come true, but for Francis, these luxuries are just a bonus, as he says the most exciting and important part of his newfound fame is all the free train rides he gets to go on.
All that being said, his somewhat geeky ways have been decried as little more than a false persona by some online. Skeptics use some re-discovered old images of Francis looking disappointingly normal, depending on who you ask, as evidence of the alleged falsehood.
However, Francis refutes this claim, insisting that the version of himself in those photos was itself disingenuous: merely a prior attempt to fit in, concealing the true, train-loving nerd that’d always been present below the surface. It’s only now, thanks to TikTok popularity, that the true Francis has the confidence to shine publicly.
Urban Rescue Ranch
From one success story to another, let’s move on to a TikToker who lives in an abandoned chop shop in Texas, with over 80 different wild animals. Given that chop shops are, by definition, a place where stolen vehicles are dismantled so that the parts can be sold or used to repair other stolen vehicles, you may be thinking, this guy doesn’t sound all that successful.
However, TikToker Ben Christie is actually the owner of the Urban Rescue Ranch, a non-profit that cares for a wide range of abandoned and unwanted animals including Ostriches, Capybaras, Prairie Dogs, Emus and a kangaroo named after rapper DaBaby.
Ben documents this work on his TikTok account, OstrichPlug, showing how he cares for and plays with all of the different animals on the ranch.
Ben’s passion for animal care started back in college when he bought a family of chicks and ducklings and kept them in an old shed on campus, selling their eggs to his fellow students. When Ben graduated, he got a job in sales at the software company Oracle.
Despite working a 9 to 5 job, Ben continued to care for animals, bottle-feeding baby deer while making sales calls, and keeping feral hogs in his small backyard. Ben didn’t hate his job, but he soon realized that animals were his true passion.
So, he started uploading videos onto TikTok in late 2019, documenting his attempt to turn his love of wildlife into a full-time career as the owner of a legitimate animal rescue and rehabilitation ranch.
Before long, his TikToks started garnering millions of views, as people rushed to look at his strange collection of animals and hilarious approach to content creation. He used the success of his TikTok to start a popular YouTube channel, which eventually allowed him to earn enough money to quit his job and buy an old abandoned chop shop on a large parcel of land in Waco, Texas.
With the internet’s monetary support, he converted the location’s old dilapidated buildings and trash-filled green space into a fully-functional ranch. Today, Ben has 4.2 million followers on TikTok and over 2 million subscribers on YouTube, allowing him to expand the ranch and care for over 80 different animals, while simultaneously posting some of TikTok’s most educational, entertaining, and bizarre content!
Ben Christie isn’t the only TikToker who experienced an extreme career direction change thanks to TikTok. In 2019, Kris Collins was a college dropout, working as a hairdresser in Vancouver, Canada. Kris enjoyed her job, but unfortunately, she was laid off during the pandemic of 2020, leaving her stuck at home with little to do.
Her 17-year-old brother convinced her to download TikTok, suggesting that she could watch some videos to entertain herself. In April 2020, Kris downloaded the app and started scrolling, and within a few days, she was hooked, going from a viewer to a content creator as she started uploading her own comedy skits.
Kris went viral almost immediately, and within 3 months of downloading TikTok, she’d reached 1 million followers. Just a few weeks later, she hit 2 million, and by December 2020, she reached a staggering 15 million followers! This upwards trend continued, and as of 2023, Kris boasts over 49 million followers on the platform, as well as a whopping 9 million subscribers on her YouTube channel.
Unlike other TikTokers, Kris isn’t too concerned with trending dances or challenges. Instead, she produces scripted sketches, playing over 30 recurring characters with long-running storylines.
Each of these videos requires a long planning and brainstorming process, but all Kris’s hard work has definitely paid off, as she’s turned her lockdown hobby into a full-time career by striking up partnerships with brands like Amazon Prime and Lifetime TV.
According to Forbes, these sponsorships, combined with YouTube ad revenue, earned her a reported $4.75 Million in 2021 alone, a small fortune that’s only set to grow as Kris’s follower count increases. Kris’s newfound fortune truly showcases the power of TikTok, bringing a woman out of unemployment, and turning her into a millionaire over the course of a single year.
Let’s hope the future continues to be as successful and lucrative for Kris, as well as the other TikTokers we’ve investigated. Given how new Tiktok is, we can only guess what the future holds in the long term for the rapidly-accelerated careers of its biggest stars!
If you were amazed at these TikTok success stories, you might want to read our article about TikTok mysteries the internet wasn't prepared for. Thanks for reading!