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98 Million TikTok Followers Can’t Be Wrong

Collab day at Clubhouse Beverly Hills was scheduled to start at 2 p.m., but that time came and went and the mansion was still as sleepy as a college dorm on Saturday morning. In one of the house’s four living rooms, an enormous oil painting of George Washington loomed over a pale leather couch. A whiteboard listed ideas for future TikTok videos: shooting range, wine tasting, go-karts, Joshua Tree. Outside, by the sparkling pool, the lawn was studded with statues of Greek gods and human-size hamster balls.
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I spoke with Ahlyssa this fall, when much of California was on fire and Trump was once again threatening to ban TikTok. Terms of a potential deal with Oracle got more convoluted by the day. Ahlyssa told me that she wasn’t following the story too closely. She had been on TikTok for only a year and a half, but she was already nostalgic for the old days, before posting was her job, before all of her friends were influencers. Back then, she would scroll through her FYP and see all sorts of different people doing all sorts of different things. Back then, the app had felt like an engine of surprise and delight—anything could happen, anyone could blow up. Now it felt like the same people over and over again: Charli, Hype House, Addison, Sway House. She loved them all, but maybe it would be good if everyone had to start fresh. “TikTok is the platform I started on,” she said, “but I’m ready for the next one.”

How a 16-year-old from suburban Connecticut became the most famous teen in America

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