Making a name from TikTok fame

Three UTD students share their experiences going viral on TikTok

Nandika Mansingka
Mercury Staff

Famous isn’t an inaccurate description of finance freshman Karthik Veduruparthi. College student by day and TikTok star by night, he boasts six hundred thousand followers and counting.

He, as well as computer science sophomore Tisha Arora and marketing sophomore Neha Dharma, are popular creators on the acclaimed video-sharing platform who have garnered considerable fanbases with their daily content. Arora currently has around twenty-five thousand followers, and Dharma is nearing forty-five thousand.

TikTok’s For You page makes it easy for people to go viral, as rapidly increasing interactions with users’ videos put them on the map and quickly gains them new followers. Maintaining and increasing these followers, however, is a different story. Among the three students, each has their own niche, posting singing and dancing videos and short comedic skits that go along with current pop culture trends.

“TikTok was the only way I could kind of portray my passion for singing, dancing and acting without a huge audience with a lot of judgment,” Dharma said. “Instagram, it’s hard to keep it casual. YouTube was a lot of effort, especially for me as a student. TikTok was the perfect balance: it was like ‘oh, I have this burst of creative juices, let me make a quick video.’”

For all three, it was one or two viral videos that initiated their rise to fame. For Dharma and Arora, though they mainly create dancing videos, their breakthrough moment happened after they made comedic skit videos on the antics of “brown moms” in early fall 2019 and July 2020, respectively. Veduruparthi said he created his own choreography back in July to a song that he liked and decided to film it and post it impulsively. He said that the response to his virality was overwhelming.

“Back in the middle of July, I did a dance to an Akon song called ‘I want to love you,’” Veduruparthi said. “And that video got 15 million, maybe 16 million views. And a lot of people started duetting that video. Soon huge creators like Noah Beck started doing the dance as well. And that’s really where it started going up.”

Dharma said that she doesn’t want to take TikTok too seriously. She tries to put things out there that people want to see, but she still posts random videos with her and her friends. She doesn’t see herself as the type of person to stop posting certain kinds of videos because they don’t get as many views or interactions. As for Veduruparthi, he said he posts whenever he feels like it.

“I won’t try to predetermine things; when I’m feeling a certain audio or video then I record it in the moment,” Veduruparthi said. “School’s the priority and I want to focus on it. I’m not thinking about TikTok all the time. I’m doing it for fun, not like a job.”

Gaining so many followers in a short period of time doesn’t come without its challenges. Dharma said that she’s aware that there are lots of young, impressionable girls following her, and her family and friends see what she posts as well, so she’d never want to post anything they wouldn’t be comfortable sharing amongst themselves.

Arora also said that she tries to maintain TikTok as an outlet for her creativity rather than think of herself as an influencer. She said that she tries to manage her mental health by keeping this mindset and limiting her exposure to negative comments.

“There’s this feature on TikTok where you can block certain words or comments,” Arora said. “So I’ve put in the words I used to get a lot, and now I don’t get those comments anymore. It helps me keep my mental health in check, so I’m not as affected anymore.”

All three have content that partially caters to the “brown community.” Veduruparthi said that he is happy that TikTok has allowed him to build more positive recognition for brown people.

“I feel like I’m providing confidence to other Indian boys because from personal experience growing up, I’ve seen how we’re kind of the side characters,” Veduruparthi said. “So I feel happy that I can give a boost of confidence to them that they deserve. We’re defeating stereotypes.”