How TikTok turned 16-year-old Charli D'Amelio into a global superstar

The 16-year-old from Norwalk, Connecticut, has only been on the app for a year-and-a-half but she has already created her own merchandise. Credit: PA

By Digital Presenter and Producer Amani Ibrahimi

Charli D'Amelio has become the first TikToker with 100 million followers.

The 16-year-old from Norwalk, Connecticut, has only been on the app for a year-and-a-half but she has already created her own merchandise, collaborated with fashion and make-up brands and even made a film debut last year in the animation Stardog and Turbocat.

As TikTok continues to grow in popularity worldwide – it’s seen many creators turn from your average teenager into a global superstar in the snap of a finger.

The opportunities seem endless and while some say that’s just luck, many question how an app could be responsible for reaching such a high level of fame.

The Chinese-owned app was formerly known as ''

What is TikTok?

The Chinese-owned app, which was formerly known as ‘’ is a social media platform used mainly by teenagers and young people. It consists of short videos ranging from 15 to 60 seconds of dancing, lip-syncing or comedy.

But it doesn’t stop there. The content on TikTok varies from tips on how to edit your pictures to videos of people decorating their homes.

When it comes to dancing, the app requires no professional experience. Anyone can takepart and the trend has become one of the biggest on the app.

Just like other teens on TikTok, Charli first began creating dance videos in her bedroom - except not every user’s videos have grown with as much popularity as hers.

There are 800 million users on the app and so standing out in such a huge crowd can be tough.

What’s bad about TikTok?

Just like many things, not everything that glitters is gold.

As there’s no limit on how much and what content you consume on the app, many parents are concerned about what their children are watching.

Some are worried that children may be viewing or even taking part in inappropriate content.

The app has recently launched a feature for parents which allows them to control their teenager’s account and set them to private.

It also enables them to turn off comments and limit who sees what videos their child has liked.

Some users have previously found themselves the target of trolls.

UK Singer Taio Cruz, who was only on TikTok for a short while ended up quitting the app after he was bullied.

He said the app left him with ‘suicidal thoughts’ after receiving so many hateful comments.

Does it get worse?

Although TikTok seems to be transforming the lives of many teens – some claim it’s also destroying some. The dangerous side to TikTok includes a history of allowing overly sexual content by children and glamourising eating disorders.

Earlier this year, ITV News discovered dozens of TikTok videos created by children as young as 13 promoting drug misuse, overly sexual content and general law breaking.

The videos were only taken down by the app once ITV News had made it aware.

Back in May, TikTok responded by saying: "Keeping people on TikTok safe is a top priority and our Community Guidelines make clear what is not acceptable on our platform. All videos that violated our Community Guidelines have now been removed.

"While we're open about the fact that we won't always catch every instance of inappropriate content, we're constantly enhancing our protective measures to ensure TikTok remains a platform for positive creative expression."

TikTok was also slammed for allowing content promoting eating disorders to spread. It saw creators advising other teens to eat less and promoted anorexia and underweight teens.

In August, a spokesperson for the social media firm said: "Keeping our community safe is a top priority for TikTok, and we care deeply about the wellbeing of our users.

"Any content or account that seeks to promote or glorify eating disorders is a violation of our Community Guidelines and will be removed.

"For some, TikTok provides an opportunity to share their experience of living with or recovering from an eating disorder and expression of this nature is permitted within the boundaries of our Community Guidelines."

Most recently, TikTokers created videos encouraging people to eat as part of a ‘Lets Eat Together’ hashtag to help those with eating disorders.

How do TikTok videos go viral?

There’s a reason why popular videos grow and it’s down to algorithms.

The aim of the game is to end up on what’s called the ‘For You’ page – this is where you attract other users and gain a bigger following.

The system recommends content based on the videos which you usually like or share and the accounts you follow.

It also looks at the hashtags and sounds used as well as the language preference and country setting.

As people interact with the content by watching till the end, leaving a comment, givingit a like or sharing – it gets distributed further.

If you’re fortunate enough to gain millions of followers from something as straightforward as a dance video, then you could be dancing all the way to the bank.

How much money can you make on TikTok?

Charli has earned nearly £3 million ($4 million) in the last year, according to an articleby Forbes in August.

Many of the big TikTokers have managed to at least make more than £750,000 ($1 million).

There are few ways in which you can make money - through recording ads, receiving donations from live streaming on the app or even asking viewers to click off the app andonto your own website if you sell your own brand.

Addison Rae, Zach King, Loren Gray Credit: TikTok

Who are the other big TikTokers?

Charli D’Amelio might have the most followers but she’s definitely not the only star of theshow.

  • Addison Rae has 69.9 million followers

  • Zach King has 52.9 million followers

  • Loren Gray has 49.6 million followers

  • Spencer X has 49m million followers

  • Dixie D’Amelio, Charli’s sister has 44.8 million followers

  • Michael Le has 42.3 million followers

What are some useful TikTok accounts to watch out for?

  • British Red Cross: For content on mental health and staying positive

  • United Nations: For content on misinformation over Covid-19 and humanitarian work

  • World Health Organisation: For content on Covid-19 and how to stay safe during the pandemic

Although it’s uncertain how long TikTok’s popularity will remain, it’s still one of theworld’s fastest growing app. It’s seen an increase in people joining as many teensspend their time at home during the pandemic.