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How the Senegalese Khaby Lame became the king of TikTok

As the TikTok platform explodes, with 1,3 billion users, it is a Senegalese, Khabane “Khaby” Lame, who has become in recent days the most followed TikTokeur on the planet.

“Life isn't all rosy. If I had to tell you mine, ten interviews wouldn't be enough. I simply advise everyone not to stop at the first hurdle”. Khaby Lame is the absolute symbol of the success story. Among the biggest social media influencers, he's the one who has tamed his favorite platform the fastest, simply, thanks to his sarcastic attitude and an original idea.

Khaby Lame is only 22 years old. He is a Senegalese who has spent almost all of his life in a low-income housing project in a disadvantaged suburb of Turin, in northern Italy. He claims to have started working at the age of 19: mason, mechanic, window cleaner, waiter… before the confinement due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he did construction during the day, and plunged it into a restaurant at night.

Today, after overtaking American Charli D'Amelio on TikTok, he has become the biggest TikTokeur in the world, with more than 142 million subscribers. Khaby Lame started publishing on the Chinese platform in early 2020. His rise has therefore generally accompanied that of TikTok.

The Khaby Lame style

Indeed, TikTok has today surpassed 1,3 billion users. Zhang Yiming's video-sharing platform plans to reach 1,8 billion users by the end of 2022, and surpass Facebook by the end of 2023.

The particularity of Khaby Lame is that he has not said a word since his debut on TikTok. However, his passion for videos precedes his beginnings as an influencer. Its concept is simple: Khaby Lame criticizes, with humor, the “lifehack” videos, very popular videos providing advice. He shows the video containing the "trick" for opening a box, or ironing a T-shirt... then a much simpler solution, followed by his gesture — which has become his trademark — of the hands and a facial expression the showing exasperated or astonished.

“I speak a universal language that the whole world understands”, summarizes Khaby Lame to Forbes.

What started as a hobby, during a long-term confinement, ended up shaping a career for the young Senegalese. As soon as the confinement in Italy ended in June 2020, he chained small advertisements. In February 2021, he became one of the muses of Hugo Boss.

A success story and a promising future

Despite his media success, Khaby Lame had to wait until June 2022 to sign his partnership contract with TikTok. Two weeks later, he already dethroned the American influencer Charli d'Amelio, and became the most followed TikTokeur on the planet.

His success, he does not say what he seeks to do with it. Khaby Lame is currently content with a few collaborations with brands, such as Pepsi, Dream11 or the virtual universe of Meta (Facebook), Metaverse. He also receives income from TikTok, which amounts to 2 million dollars a year, and promotes Formula 1 events. His fortune is estimated at 13 million dollars, far from that of other less known influencers, yet.

Apart from that, Khaby Lame travels the world to meet stars: Kendall Jenner, Kylian Mbappé, Neymar, Usain Bolt, Hailey Beiber… everyone is looking to pose with Khaby Lame. With his mainstream humor and his natural sympathy, there is no doubt that the young Senegalese will continue his ascent, and will win partnerships with many franchises.

Read: TikTok, the platform for engaged youth

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