The merging of online & mainstream fame

TikTok creates larger accessibility into mainstream fame

TikTok influencers walk the same red carpet as award-winning mega-celebrities. 

Months ago, TikTok star Addison Rae walked the same Met Gala carpet as award-winning actor Lily James, supermodels Karlie Kloss and Kendall Jenner, and Grammy winner Lizzo. Does Rae meet the same calibre of success to be here? 

In 2021, the world of celebrity gossip took a turn when influencers who were previously confined to online fame made it to the Met Gala. The old guard of YouTube and the new stock from TikTok had representatives with Lily Singh, Emma Chamberlain, the D’Amelio family, and Addison Rae on the guest list.

This revelation sent the internet into a tizzy as people questioned these influencers’ right to be there, and in turn, influencers fought back to defend their spot at the prestigious event. This is old news, of course; since then, online influencers have been making appearances in television and films, on red carpets, and at charity events like the Met Gala at an increased regularity.

What’s interesting about this phenomenon is the mentality behind this backlash, and what influencers on red carpets signal for the entertainment industry.

Part of this shift from exclusive online fame to prestigious mainstream fame comes from the increasing power of platforms like TikTok and YouTube. Both platforms are free and accessible worldwide, with the unique feature of allowing pretty much anyone to upload content. So, both platforms are filled to the brim with thousands of different types of videos catering to audiences—big and small, niche and mainstream. 

It makes sense: Hollywood looks at online influencers and sees their platform and, more importantly, their audience, who they can now cater to. While prestige and nepotism gatekeep much of Hollywood, money is still what makes it run.

Online celebrities having better access to fame and prestige has less to do with their talent and everything to do with a simple numbers game—with how many eyes they can bring to a screen.

On the other hand, part of this shift is deliberate on the part of influencers. Online fame is lucrative, and it can get very lucrative very quickly, but one of the downfalls is the lack of stability in being an independent online creator; it’s not a space that affords the guarantee of longevity.

So, we’re seeing a bigger deliberate shift in which some of the biggest influencers are trying to achieve mainstream success, posting less on the platforms they cultivated in favour of more typical TV and film roles. Look at Addison Rae and the much panned He’s All That Netflix film, or The D’Amelio Show, a reality TV series on Disney+.

Given this shift, the question remains, are they worthy enough for such prestige?

Maybe no—a lot of them, like Addison Rae, don’t have the same kind of acting or singing skills as more prestigious celebrities. Or, maybe yes—most influencers have a more hands-on approach to their work than traditional celebrities. But editing and creating videos on a large scale is still a lot of work.

Ultimately, whether prestige is earned doesn’t matter—at least to Hollywood.  While some influencers are genuinely skilled and deserving of all the accolades they receive, Hollywood doesn’t care about who deserves prestige or not; they care about who brings in the most money.

What does this all mean? In our media landscape, fame is more accessible than ever. We see it every day, as ordinary vloggers walk red carpets. However, while people are growing to have a more inclusive idea of celebrity, this doesn’t mean Hollywood is changing drastically, or lowering their standards.

It means it’s easier to bring in money on less prestigious spaces, like TikTok. Money still talks.

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