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From 21-year-old redundant factory worker to full-time TikTok star

(Source: Getty, TikTok/@khaby.lame)
(Source: Getty, TikTok/@khaby.lame)

Khabane ‘Khaby’ Lame gets tens of millions of views on each of his TikTok videos…. Yet he never says a word.

And that’s the secret to the success of this 21-year-old man based in Italy and born in Senegal: his viral videos involve him silently reacting to other people’s ridiculous or silly TikToks in an exasperated way, transcending language barriers with his facial expressions that he has described as a “global language”.

The TikTok star now has more than 100 million followers from all across the world, and has amassed more than 1.5 billion likes through his videos – and his formula is simple.

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In one recent video, which has been viewed 95 million times, Lame is seen shrugging and pulling a face at a man’s poor punching technique, before silently demonstrating the proper technique for punching.

In another video that has been viewed 111.5 million times, Lame reacts to a man who chops up his iPhone because it doesn't fit into a larger-sized case.

Lame is seen doing the same with his own phone – except instead of cutting up the device, he simply pulls out a new, smaller phone case, and pops the phone in.

His exasperated reactions, deadpan expressions and shrugs have become something of a trademark in his reaction videos.

But the reason why the Italian TikTok star began creating videos at all is a humble one.

Lame was working at a factory before being made redundant at the beginning of the pandemic last year.

Armed with hours of spare time, Lame started to spend more time on TikTok, mocking some popular but absurd ‘life hack’ videos with his straightforward yet expressive reactions.

Yet his videos aren’t polished or over-produced; they’re a simple cut-and-stitch job, and you can see he’s plainly filming his popular videos from home.

“It’s my face and my expressions which make people laugh,” Lame told New York Times.

A mural by Khaby Lame is seen on the wall of a building in Gaza City on July 26, 2021Khabane Lame, 21-year-old Senegalese origin and resident in Italy, has become famous with his short comic skits and a few days ago he became the second most influencer TikTok account. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Khaby Lame has fans all acros the world. A mural of hiim is seen on the wall of a building in Gaza City on July 26, 2021. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In fact, it’s perhaps because his videos aren’t over-produced that has helped with his virality: his reactions aim to communicate common sense and practicality.

“His content almost debunks or mocks the overproduced trends that happen across social media, whether it’s life hacks or other things like that,” said creator economy expert Samir Chaudry.

“He almost represents this authenticity over production. I think that’s very appealing at scale to people, this feeling of someone not trying too hard, it’s something that feels authentic.”

Since rising to fame on TikTok, work opportunities have poured in, including collaborations with famous YouTubers and pasta brand Barilla – but he’s choosing to make money ‘steadily’ through TikTok’s Creator Fund, and aims to buy his mother a house when he’s made enough.

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