Balancing Fame and Going to School: An Interview with a Tik Tok Star
By: Priya Patel, Loyola Senior
Hours upon hours of screen time have been spent by millions of users swiping and loving these 15 second videos. Now imagine the other end as a creator. Learning dances, filming promotions, and building your influencer account can take time. The eyes of thousands of young people are watching you every day, and brands are looking for advertising in return for products and for monetary payment.
Sai Reshma Balakrishnan, 21, is an undergraduate student at Loyola University in Chicago majoring in finance and information systems. Originally from Cedar Rapids Iowa, she is now known and followed by 23.4K followers on Tiktok. Its goal is to spread trust through words, hence its username. @hottestbrowngirlever.
Reshma started posting daily in her early 40s because she was bored in Iowa. After her first viral video, she got the majority of her followers and the rest came after posting regularly. This led her to her position as the representative of the Tik Tok campus in Loyola in the spring of 2020.
* The interview has been edited for length and clarity
PP: What does the Tiktok Campus Representative position consist of?
RB: Through a marketing company called Fuse Marketing, I was sent TikTok products and I was in charge of getting the TikTok name. TikTok was a brand primarily for high school students and my job was to make TikTok more appealing to students. I would post videos about the school in Loyola, my favorite places to study on campus, etc.
PP: It’s super exciting! So with that, how did you balance being a finance major and a TikTok influencer with other organizations you’re a part of?
RB: Tiktok is more of a hobby than a source of income for me. With that in mind, dancing and creating content is more of a hobby activity than a job. I always put my academics first, then my involvement in the organization, and then Tiktok. Think of me and a girl who does TikToks instead of watching Netflix or drawing to relax from stress.
PP: Do you support all brands or a small amount? What brands have you refused / accepted?
RB: I do not support all brands to maintain the authenticity on my page. Some brands that I have agreed to vouch for on my TikTok are Dilmil, nordVPN, and a family owned jewelry business. Some brands that I have denied are Shein because their values do not match mine. One positive thing this provided me with was the opportunity to work with professional brands, which gave me an entrepreneurial experience as a student that matched my career goals well as I am a major in business. .
PP: Does the financial side of TikTok currently look like a future career?
RB: Currently no. I’m not making a lot of money because the Creator Fund drastically diminishes my point of view. I also don’t post for a specific niche or audience. My followers fluctuate a lot depending on what stage of publishing I’m in. I also don’t schedule much like other TikTokers, so my content tends to be inconsistent. I also don’t make a lot of money with TikTok itself, but more with the brands I publish for.
PP: What’s your favorite and least favorite part of Tiktok / Instagram?
RB: The part I like least about TikTok is the news misinformation, especially social justice. But, it’s also one of my favorite parts; I am able to express my views, likes / dislikes, opinions with everyone. I think it’s important for young viewers to know what they’re watching and the implications behind some of their TikTokers they admire.
PP: What’s the scariest part of TikTok?
RB: Knowing that my friends and the people I go to school with are judging me. I had a few friends who came to me and said, ‘OMG, this is so embarrassing’, and things like that really weakened a person’s confidence. There have been a lot of points where I thought about making my account private, but I realize it’s fun for me and just because a few of my viewers don’t like it doesn’t mean everything the world hates them.
To see more of Reshma Balakrishanan, follow her on Tiktok @hottestbrowngirlever and Instagram @reshma_balakrishnan