To say that a lot happened this year is an understatement, but alas, a lot happened this year, especially for TikTok. The video-sharing app did everything from inspiring viral recipes, becoming embroiled in controversy (it was almost banned in the U.S.!) and launching trends that took over the world.
TikTok has been around for years but saw an explosion of popularity during the pandemic as people bored while in lockdown flocked to the app. In Seattle, it was no different. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, local TikTokers saw a rise in time and creative space to do interesting things and carve out their niches online.
Meet these six Seattle-area-based TikTokers who went viral in 2020, and find out how they got started and where they plan on taking their video-making ventures.
The Comedy/Politics Guy — Rohan Ramdin (@rohanramdin)
Ramdin, 19, just started his first year at the University of Washington and also makes music; he released his first album this August.
Follower count (as of December 2020): 291,000
When he joined TikTok: Ramdin posted a few videos with his sister last year but didn’t start posting seriously on TikTok until this past May.
“I remember seeing some video that said something like, ‘I’ve cracked the TikTok algorithm, all you have to do is post stuff nonstop!’ And I thought, ‘Huh I wonder if I could do that?’ ” says Ramdin. “I just started posting as many times as I could per day to see if anyone would follow me, and I guess it worked.”
What he’s known for: A mix of comedy and politics, his biggest videos cover everything from skewering weird things about the American high school experience, to meta-commentary about TikTok.
How it’s changed his life: “I’ve been making videos, music, graphic design and photography for almost six years and I never had a real audience prior to this,” says Ramdin. “The fact that people follow me for me and my content now is incredibly wild.”
With this new audience, Ramdin also thinks TikTok will open new doors for him: “I’ve always made jokes and made comedy, but I never considered it something that I could pursue. So seeing support for that on TikTok has been so gratifying.”
His goals for the future: Ramdin has recently been channeling his energy into his photography and music, working on a new EP. In the near future, he wants to create as much content as possible.
“I don’t want to fade into obscurity, because I still have a lot left to say.”
A Photography Whiz — Brian Bosché (@brianbosche)
Bosché, 30, co-founded software startup Slope, and moved to Seattle six years ago from Detroit.
Follower count (as of December 2020): 320,000
When he joined TikTok: Bosché’s professional background revolves around working with creatives and making videos, so he says he started posting on TikTok in summer 2019 as a “sort of research project.” On his daily work commute to the Eastside, he’d check the app to see what was trending, and make TikToks filming the sunset or other things he saw on his bus rides.
What he’s known for: “I started doing creative tutorials on photography, videography, editing, how to take photos with your phone, and that’s when things really started taking off,” says Bosché. “A lot of people don’t have access to expensive equipment, but they still can create great things even with their phones, and I was inspired to help people be visible and share their work.”
How it’s changed his life: “It’s surprised me how much I’ve learned from TikTok, like once you get into its niche corners, there’s science TikTok, there’s literature TikTok, there are all of these things you can get into,” says Bosché.
He’s also likes how it’s connected him to the city.
“Seattle’s a very creative city, and seeing that community on TikTok is really cool. This city has much more relaxed vibes, versus a lot of other places where there’s a lot of fame chasing,” he says.
Some of those community connections have popped up in unexpected ways.
Bosché recalls a time he was doing a TikTok livestream overlooking ferries going by on the Seattle waterfront, “One of my followers commented on the stream, ‘I’m on one of those ferries right now!’ and he drove out and waved to me from his Jeep as it went by. That was pretty crazy.”
His future goals: Bosché says that he wants to stick to using TikTok as a fun side gig and inspire others to find new ways to express themselves.
“I want to help people understand that they can create and do things on their own without fancy equipment,” says Bosché. “Having creative outlets outside of work is so important, and good for your mental health.”
Your Washington Foodie Friend — Teena Thach (@teena_thach)
Thach, 28, grew up in Tacoma, and does social media work for a coffee company.
Follower count (as of December 2020): 37,000
When she joined TikTok: Working in social media, Thach had her eye on TikTok for a while but found herself spending more time on the app at the beginning of the pandemic.
What she’s known for: Thach’s most popular TikToks highlight locally owned food spots around Seattle and Tacoma. Her signature video intro is, “Hey Washington foodies!”
“I try to find spots that people wouldn’t typically see or try unless they were hyperlocal,” says Thach. “And I want to tell you not only about the food, but also the story and people behind it. I’m like your digital foodie friend that can give you the rundown in less than a minute.”
How it’s changed her life: After posting a TikTok reviewing Mangosteen in the Chinatown International District, Thach said the restaurant’s owner called her later to say that people were showing up to the restaurant, showing him the TikTok and ordering the same food that Thach had.
“I was like, ‘whoa, this is creating foot traffic in a time where businesses really need help,’ ” Thach said. “I have years of social media expertise, and I realized I wanted to be able to help people like this. It brings me a lot of joy.”
Her future goals: Thach hopes to make longer-form food content on YouTube, being able to dive deeper into where the foods came from, test out recipes and explore more of the Pacific Northwest.
The Chiropractor — Dr. Daniel DeLucchi (@chiroseattle)
Originally from Las Vegas, DeLucchi, 32, is now a practicing chiropractor in Seattle.
Follower count (as of December 2020): 443,000
When he joined TikTok: DeLucchi says that he started casually posting on TikTok a few years ago, but when the pandemic hit and he couldn’t see patients in person, he suddenly had the time to start posting three to four times per day.
What he’s known for: Posting short, straightforward tutorials on how to do various stretches and strengthening exercises.
“The first thing I think about are, ‘What are the most common issues I see with people?’ ” says DeLucchi. “With a lot of people working from home, I focus a lot on neck and back pain, and I try to find stretches people can do while sitting at their desks.”
How it’s changed his life: “Initially I was just trying to reach a bigger audience in the Greater Seattle area, but now I’m getting emails from all over the world,” said DeLucchi.
Even though he makes little to no money for posting on TikTok, DeLucchi says the viral fame has helped grow his business Tuttle DeLucchi Chiropractic & Massage. He typically gets two to three in-person patients per week who found him through TikTok.
His future goals: “TikTok has been fun, but I’m not looking to get rich off of this. If I can help more people on the internet that’s great,” DeLucchi says. “I love my job way too much to ever give it up. I love being around people.”
On top of finding new patients, DeLucchi also hopes to connect with other local TikTokers.
“I’m trying to do more collaborations with other creators in Seattle, and help build up a local community of people on TikTok.”
The Singing Comedian — Kalia Castro (@kuhleeuh)
Castro, 26, works part time as a program assistant at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, and models under SMG Model Management.
Follower count (as of December 2020): 923,000
When she joined TikTok: In 2016, bored and still living in Bellingham after graduating from Western Washington University, Castro was clamoring for a creative outlet, so she turned to the app musical.ly (which merged with TikTok in 2018) where she started posting videos of herself singing.
What she’s known for: Having started on TikTok before it was even TikTok, Castro’s known for being a kind of “OG creator,” propelled by her singing and comedy videos.
How it’s changed her life: “Going to a small school in Kirkland, I used to be really quiet; I was a shy kid,” says Castro. “TikTok has really helped me get out of my shell and I’ve gotten to meet so many people around the world.”
Castro says she’s loved going to events where she can meet other people, including one from this year that happened right before the pandemic: TikTok flew her out to Los Angeles for its Black History Month event, where she got to connect with 100 other Black TikTokers and got to meet celebrities including Terry Crews and Tracee Ellis Ross.
“I totally cried,” laughs Castro.
Her future goals: While she isn’t necessarily aiming for A-list celebrity fame, Castro says she hopes to hit 1 million followers soon, and is still finding joy in making music and connecting with others both online and in-person.
“I’ve gotten recognized a few times in public. It’s really awesome especially when I see little girls come up to me and say things like, ‘You inspire me to sing!’ Like that’s just a really good feeling,” she says.
Highlighting her culture — Sarah Park (@sarahseyoung)
Park, 23, graduated from the UW last summer, and is in the tech industry.
Follower count (as of December 2020): 607,000
When she joined TikTok: Like many, Park was looking for something to do during the pandemic and started making videos in March.
“I’ve always been interested in social media, and content creation. I grew up watching [makeup artist] Michelle Phan on YouTube,” says Park. “I never felt any hesitation to put myself out there.”
What she’s known for: “The videos that started gaining a response were ones that highlighted my multicultural background,” says Park. “And it’s really cool, I love talking about my Korean background.”
Most of Park’s videos involve her speaking in Korean, or lightheartedly talking about the mix of her American and Korean upbringing.
How it’s changed her life: On top of connecting with new people online, Park said being on TikTok has also expanded her connections with her own culture.
“I grew up in a pretty small town, there were no other Asians in my school. Growing up, I was bullied for being Korean, and now it’s been so crucial to my success; the transition took kind of a hit on me,” said Park. “It made me a little angry at first, because this has always been my culture. It’s always been my language and food. And NOW people decide to think it’s cool? But over time I’ve come to accept it, and I’m happy I can share these things. I don’t have to hide or be ashamed of my culture anymore.”
Her goals: “I really don’t have any,” laughs Park. “I don’t think I really consider myself a ‘TikToker.’ I just get on the app to have fun! Hopefully I can keep making a lot more internet friends.”