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TikTok Star Stacy Thiru Is Making Boss Moves    

TikTok Star Stacy Thiru Is Making Boss Moves

Art by FISK

By Caroline Hatchett

Last February, Stacy Thiru started posting to TikTok from her dorm room at the University of Massachusetts. Her first videos featured generic lip syncing, but she soon found her voice in clips where she mimicked conversations with her Kenyan parents. Everything from watching makeout scenes on “The Bachelor” to discussing false eyelashes to listening to “Mickey Mouse Minaj” was fair game. Stuck at home in the spring, Thiru produced a torrent of videos and amassed 1.4 million followers who connected with her personal, unscripted comedy. 

Things moved fast from there. On February 1 of this year, Thiru flew to Los Angeles to join the first Black TikTok content house, The Crib Around the Corner, a partnership with influencer marketing agencies Whalar and Thirteenth. She’s now living and collaborating with Everett Noble, Oludare Ajibare, Dan Muthama, Challan Fred-Joseph, Layla Qasim, and Meish Moe, all while attending online classes full-time. 

This wasn’t Thiru’s plan, but she’s embracing her talent and newfound influence to bring fans joy, empower fellow and future Black creators, and learn how to be her own boss. Oh, and she’s having some fun, too. 

Why do you think illuminating cultural differences is important to share and also so damn funny? 

I’m first-generation American, and we don’t get a lot of representation on social media. People categorize us as Black creators, but we’re all so different. I feel like a lot of the things I do, because I’m Kenyan, resonate with Kenyan kids and families. But if you go to the opposite side of Africa to Nigeria, they don’t have the same experiences. When you point out the differences and the little quirks in each household, it’s just hilarious.

What do your parents think about your videos parodying them? 

My parents laugh at all the videos. My mom is like, “Oh, I’m the one who made her funny.” Then my dad says, “I made her funny.” I’m like, “No, I’m funny on my own.” It’s kind of hard for them to wrap their mind around the concept of what I’m doing. They came here from another country, and it would never be in any of their wildest dreams for me to end up in Los Angeles in a creator house of all places. But my parents are literally my best friends. They’re the most supportive people I have in my life. They tell me, “Even if you’re making fun of us, just keep going.”

How has your content evolved since last February?

I still create like I always have. I literally roll over in bed, turn on my camera, and start talking about whatever comes to my head at the time. In the beginning, it was just me doing it for me. But now I know people are watching me, and it’s amazing the amount of direct messages I get from kids who say, “Oh my gosh, you keep me going,” or, “You’re the reason I stay on this app.” Now when I have a bad day, I can’t give up because there are these people who are counting on me to make them smile.

What do you want to take out of this experience?

When I first got here, I just wanted to understand how other creators work. Now, I want to get a grasp on how big this field really is and learn how to be my own boss. From there, I can do whatever I want, and, fingers crossed, give back to my parents what they’ve given to me. 

Is there a hierarchy of creators in the house? 

When I got here, I was intimidated. I was the only one without a verification check, and everyone one else has a lot more followers than me. But I could not have asked for a better crowd. They have not made me think any less of myself or my content. In this house, everyone’s on an equal playing field. All of us bring different things to the table. If I’m good at editing, and Dan is good at taking pictures, and Challan is good at fashion, we collaborate and put it all in one video. There aren’t really set roles. It’s more about putting everything we can into that one video. If this is the one video a person is going to see, then we need to make our best first impression.

How does the house function? What are you eating? Who buys the toilet paper?  

This morning, I actually thought, “Who supplies our toilet paper? Who does that?” I don’t know. It’s just always there. Whaler helps us with everything. We have lots of managers, and all of them are really easily accessible to us. If I need something, I just text my immediate manager, Paula Busnovetsky.

Some days management brings us food, but on other days, we’re all young and it’s so easy to just go for a Hot Pocket or something quick. When we actually eat, it’s Layla cooking. Oh my God, that girl can cook. Her parents are from Somalia, so she’s making rice and chicken. It feels like I’m back home, and my mom’s cooking for me. 

How has TikTik fame impacted your mental health? 

I feel like TikTok gave me an outlet to talk and know that people hear me and are going through the same things. I just have to make sure that I stay consistent. My supporters need to know they can talk to me as well. I can’t let my mental health take over and just stay in my bed.

One-on-one interactions are a lot, though. I’m shy and quiet when I first meet someone, so it’s hard when I see people in public, and they say, “Hey, I know you from TikTok.” It’s scary. My heart starts pumping. So far it hasn’t happened in L.A. because we’ve been quarantined in our house, but it’s everywhere in Massachusetts: the mall, the beach, the library, everywhere.

People recognize you with a mask on?

Mask on, hood on, sweatpants, sunglasses. I don’t know what it is, but I literally can’t do anything that would make me not noticeable.

The horror and isolation of 2020 has so much to do with TikTok’s growth and the rise of content houses. Have you begun to process 2020 and the opportunities that have sprung from it?

It’s crazy, because it’s such a dark time. People are losing loved ones. People are losing hope. But it’s also been a blessing in disguise. I never would have expected success to have come in such a distraught time, but it did and it came fast. It’s kind of hard to process. Everyone was locked in their houses. This TikTok download prompt comes on your screen, just try it. Then everything was kind of set up. It worked perfectly for me.

What other growth opportunities are there for you and other Black creators on TikTok?

The Crib Around The Corner is the first step. It’s the first Black creator house. When I noticed the trend of other houses, I never thought to myself that there were no other houses like this. It wasn’t like, “Oh, we should start a Black one.” But now that we’re here, we’re paving the way for people who want to do the same thing. There are these kids back home, little Black boys, who see Dan and Oludare, and might think, “I can do that, too.” So if we can insert that idea into any of their heads and let them know they can be their own boss, follow their dreams, and that those dreams don’t have to be cookie cutter dreams from their parents, that’ll be enough for me.

Besides the composition of your creators, how is The Crib Around The Corner distinct from other houses? 

A lot of people underestimate TikTok houses. And that’s what we reference in our first video. We find out we’re in a TikTok house, and then we all go crazy because everyone’s gonna say all these things about us. They’re gonna think, “Oh my God, another creator house?” But we’re here to differentiate who we are and show that we’re serious. We’re taking racial issues seriously. We’re taking COVID policy seriously. We’re not here to play around or joke around about any of that. So don’t underestimate us. We’re changing the narrative.

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.