The Gen-Z-centric app’s algorithm is deft at cozily placing users in front of the content they want to see: long, neon-green acrylic nails, tie-dye tutorials, peanut butter brownie recipes, D’Amelio dancing. While captivating and time-sucking, the app has also been accused of arbitrarily censoring certain community voices. Last year, it was alleged that the company was quietly suppressing the reach of anyone it deemed could be vulnerable to cyberbullying, including queer and disabled users (a spokesperson for the company said that while their “intention was good, the approach was wrong”), and has since discontinued the practice.
During the Black Lives Matter protests, users complained that the #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd hashtags had turned up with zero posts, despite being widely used. The company apologized and explained the incident was a “technical glitch.” And TikTok’s seismic 800 million users (according to one estimate; it will almost certainly be higher by the time this story runs) and its corporate opacity have prompted alarm from world leaders concerned about its rumored ties to the Chinese government. On August 6, President Trump issued an executive order that would essentially ban TikTok in the U.S. in 45 days unless the app is acquired by a U.S.-owned company. The platform issued a statement in response to the president’s order, but it remains unclear what TikTok will look like in the immediate future. (As of August 20, no sale of the app has been finalized.)
Meanwhile, D’Amelio is mostly excited, if not a bit flummoxed, about the platform. “It comes naturally to me,” she says of the rigorous posting schedule and impossible algorithm. In one video, D’Amelio eats cake. In the next, she dances in a crop top and sweats while holding a large coffee. When controversy surrounds her, D’Amelio turns to Instagram Live and Twitter to speak candidly with her fans.
D’Amelio’s more recent move into the beauty space feels inevitable. On July 20, the D’Amelio sisters announced their collaboration with Morphe’s new sub-brand Morphe 2, followed by the partnership with Orosa. The 16-year-old’s relatable presence online and multiplatform brand partnerships offline have become emblematic of the future of influencer marketing. Whatever D’Amelio (who has reached mononymous status because everyone under a certain age knows who you mean when you say “Charli”) posts instantaneously becomes relevant to the lives of millions of young people around the world.
“What’s next?” I ask imagining the possibilities at D’Amelio’s neon fingertips.
“I’ve been a competition dancer my entire life. I know a lot of people don’t know that I study dance outside of TikTok, but it is something that I definitely want to do more of,” she says.
Whatever it is will definitely require a Dunkin’ Donuts cold brew with whole milk and caramel. Caffeine will be necessary.
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