When COVID-19 struck, Khabane Lame, then an industrial worker in Chivasso, Northern Italy, became one of the many people who got laid off worldwide as a result of the impact of the contagion on businesses and the global economy.
At the time, TikTok was gaining currency, and against the advice of his father to look for a job elsewhere, Lame spent hours posting videos on the social media platform, Khaby Lame. His gamble has paid and today, he has gone from being unemployed to earning six figures from his thriving social media career.
Lame has nearly 100 million followers and at the rate at which his numbers are increasing, he could soon be the most followed account on the Chinese platform which has global appeal from millennials and Gen-Z.
The Senegalese moved from his country of origin to Italy when he was only one year old. Now 21, Lame speaks Italian, but he is not recognized as an Italian in Italy despite living in the country from age one and attending Italian schools. He got laid off as a factory worker during the height of the pandemic.
In an interview with the New York Times, Lame revealed his successful social media career started when he spent several hours posting comedy clips on TikTok and the clips soon went viral. His most-watched video has over 158 million views.
The clip mocks a fellow TikToker who cut himself free from a car door shearing through his T-shirt. Lame makes the same video but instead of reaching for scissors to cut himself free, he simply opens the door to free himself and shrugs.
According to the New York Times, Lame’s earliest posts were in Italian although he sometimes spoke his native language. “But it was the wordless, expressive reaction clips — poking fun at forks transformed into spoons with tape or defending the sanctity of Italian pizza from a video that proposes Sour Patch Kids toppings — that have catapulted Mr. Lame to international stardom,” according to the New York Times.
His rise on the social media platform has been entirely organic and his videos lack professional touch compared to other famous TikTok stars, some of who have been approached by Hollywood. His content turns to mock or debunk overproduced content across multiple social media platforms.
“He almost represents this authenticity overproduction. I think that’s very appealing at scale to people, this feeling of someone not trying too hard, it’s something that feels authentic,” Samir Chaudry, a founder of The Publish Press, told the New York Times. The Publish Press focuses on covering the creator economy.
Lame told the New York Times that the success of his videos was due to the fact that he speaks a “global language.” “It’s my face and my expressions which make people laugh,” he added. According to him, he has a huge following in Brazil, the United States, and Senegal.
He said he is more followed abroad than in Italy even though he recently surpassed Gianluca Vacchi as Italy’s most-followed TikTok personality.