TikTok star Charli D’Amelio has become the biggest social media influencer of all time as she became the first to break 100 million followers on TikTok this week. Despite a week of drama and backlash, nothing can hold the younger D’Amelio sister back. So who is Charli D’Amelio, and why is she so beloved?
Charli’s Childhood and Early Career
The 16-year-old younger D’Amelio sister was born on May 1, 2004, in Norwalk, Connecticut. Her parents are Marc D’Amelio, a former Republican candidate for the Connecticut Senate, and Heidi D’Amelio, a photographer and former model. Charli also has an older sister, Dixie, who is another of TikTok’s biggest influencers.
Charli began dancing competitively at age 3, and she showed promise from a young age. Prior to her start on TikTok, Charli spent 10 years honing her dance skills.
Charli’s Meteoric Rise on TikTok
“Meteoric,” is a word oft used to describe the speed with which some social media stars have risen in follower counts and popularity, but it’s more apt than ever for Charli D’Amelio. The younger D’Amelio sister posted her first TikTok video on March 30, 2019. In less than two years, she’s rocketed from obscurity to mega-stardom. D’Amelio’s first big break came in July of 2019, when a side-by-side video she created with another user gained sudden traction.
The then-15-year-old started posting regular content in October, and was credited with creating and popularizing a well-known influencer dance called, “the Renegade.”
A story in The Atlantic dove into D’Amelio’s growth; “As Charli’s follower count grew, her popularity acquired a reflexive quality; essentially, she became a meme for other TikTokers to react to. There was a flurry of I don’t get why Charli is so popular posts, followed by backlash-to-the-backlash videos tagged #teamcharli and #unproblematicqueen. ‘It became a runaway feedback loop,'[tech executive and blogger Eugene] Wei explained. ‘The more controversy there was about why she was popular, the more popular she became.’
By the fall, kids were coming up to Charli and asking for pictures. Her older sister, Dixie, started posting on TikTok in October and promptly gained millions of followers too. (Gen Z stardom is big on siblings, and particularly twins.) Strangers filmed the family when they went out for ice cream. It was an adolescent’s nightmare/dream—everyone is looking at me. ‘Every other TikTok rn is about @charlidamelio, Taylor Lorenz, a New York Times reporter and expert chronicler of Gen Z trends, tweeted last November. That month, Charli switched to an online school that allowed for a more flexible schedule. Soon, Charli, Dixie, and their parents, Heidi and Marc, were traveling to the West Coast nearly every week to hang out with other TikTokers and explore business opportunities. In May, the family—including their four cheerful, extroverted dogs, Rebel, Cali, Cody, and Belle—relocated to Los Angeles.”
2020 Has Been a Year of Super-Stardom for Charli
The D’Amelio sisters are working hard to claim the spot of First Family of TikTok. Although TikToker Addison Raemakes more money, no one has more followers than Charli. The 16-year-old has been invited to perform with Bebe Rexha, collaborate with Jennifer Lopez, and was even praised by Ohio Governor Mike Dewine for encouraging people to safely distance during the pandemic.
Both in collaboration with sister Dixie and alone, Charli has continued to rise higher. The pair has a Morphe makeup line, and the family will have their own reality show soon. The teen has collaborated with Hollister,Disney, and even has her own drink at Dunkin Donuts, “The Charli.” Charlie briefly collaborated with the Hype House content creators but has since split mostly amicably from the group.
And in another first, the younger D’Amelio was the first TikToker to score her own Super Bowl commercial.
An 11th-Hour Scandal
Although D’Amelio has shot unerringly towards super-stardom, it hasn’t been without it’s road blocks. Recently, D’Amelio came under fire for what would be for other influencers minor issues, but because of the teen’s mega popularity, it became headline news.
CELEB explored the so-called scandals last week; “In a new video posted to her family’s YouTube channel on Monday, November 16, Charli, her sister, Dixie D’Amelio, their parents, Marc and Heidi D’Amelio and fellow influencer James Charles were all having dinner together. But when their personal chef Aaron May presented them with the food he made — a Spanish dish called paella — many people felt the girls were disrespectful to him.
‘It’s classic paella, and it’s actually an omen of good luck and fortune,’ the chef explained to the D’Amelio family. But Charli quickly fired back, ‘Liars.’
When Dixie took a bite of the dish — which contained cooked snails — she started gagging and ran out of the room to throw up. After coming back in she explained, ‘I threw up. that was not good.’
Charli then asked her personal chef — who has been showcased on the Food Network and inducted into the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame as a ‘Chef Extraordinaire’ — if she could eat ‘dino nuggets’ instead.
Yikes. But that’s not all. Charli has also been slammed for complaining about not having reached 100 million followers yet in the video. At the time, she boasted 99.5 million, but after coming under fire for her comments, she has now gone down to 98.5 million.
‘Ugh, I just wish I had more time because imagine if I hit 100 mil one year after hitting a mil,’ the social media star said in the vlog.
’95 million not enough for you?’ Charles responded sarcastically.”
It’s clear that outrage over her actions come from people unfamiliar with the behavior and snark of teenagers. While D’Amelio’s behavior wasn’t the pinnacle of grace and thoughtfulness, it was pretty peak teenage snark and wit.
D’Amelio responded via an Instagram live, saying, “‘All of this is happening because [of] a misunderstanding,’ she said as she broke down in tears. ‘I just feel like that’s not OK, and if this is the community that I’m in and the community that I put myself in, I don’t know if I wanna do that anymore. I know that this is gonna be a huge joke to whoever sees it, but like, at the end of the day, just, like, be nice. I feel like it’s not that hard, and you can say whatever. You can say I’m disrespectful, you can say I don’t have basic human decency, but at the end of the day, I’m still a person.’
The dancer added that she did not want her followers ‘to think that I don’t care’ about them as people or view them only as ‘numbers.’ She also took to Twitter, writing, ‘Tomorrow I will be back posting normal content with a smile on my face! At the end of the day i know I am a good person with a good heart and I will never change that about myself. I love you all!’”
100 Million Followers!
Charles defended D’Amelio in the days following the scandal. Per the New York Post, “‘This Charli situation is NOT sitting right with me,’ he vented on Twitter. ‘100M followers in one year & y’all expect her to know how to be a perfect role model? Death threats because she’s a picky eater & made a joke about a milestone? 30+ year olds dragging someone half their age? Feels familiar.’”
As they say, all publicity is good publicity. Despite the setback, D’Amelio blasted past 100 million followers this week, cementing her place in influencer history. The bright teenager with the upbeat content has a tough road ahead. Navigating mega popularity as her parents’ influence begins to wane and she gains more independence is the same place where other child stars have fallen. But Charli has a great support system in both her parents and in Dixie, and the other influencers she’s met along the way who can help guide her through the pitfalls of sudden fame. It’s extraordinary to imagine that, two years ago, no one knew who Charli D’Amelio was. And now she will forever be the first TikTok star to gain an incredible 100 million followers. D’Amelio’s continued career is sure to be bright.