Rags to Riches: The Inspiring Rise of Khaby Lame, TikTok’s Most Followed Creator

January 14, 2023

While most of us were talking to our friends on Zoom in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic, Khabane Lame was using social media to set up his empire. Khabane Lame (or Khaby as he’s like to known) is now the most followed person on Tik Tok with over 153.1 million loyal fans as of December 2022. He has overtaken the one time number one Charli D’Amelio who has 149.2  million followers as of December 2022.

The 22-year-old has cut out his own style of unique videos that his fans adore. His TikToks are low-budget, mostly silent videos. It usually showcases complicated “how to” videos of himself performing the same task in a much more user-friendly way. His videos almost always end with his signature deadpan expression and the shrugging of his shoulders.

Lame was born in Senegal but immigrated to Northern Italy along with his parents and brother at the age of one. Although he doesn’t speak in his videos, his captions reveal he speaks Italian and English. The social media star lived with his family in public housing (housing provided for low income earners subsidized by public funds) in a small industrial town called Chivasso, located northwest of Milan. Lame is thankful for his humble beginnings.​​​​​ “[Public housing is] a place to which I owe everything,” he said when speaking to an Italian newspaper in 2021. “They taught me education and allowed me to cultivate many bonds. My blood family is made up of 7 people, but in the extended one, that of public housing, we are 40.”

What makes Khaby Lame’s rise in the entertainment industry so fascinating was that it wasn’t planned. He told la Repubblica: “I started doing a thousand jobs. Waiter, bricklayer, window cleaner, I did everything to make money.” Just before he started making TikTok videos, he was working in a factory in Italy. But when COVID hit he was made redundant. Stuck at home living with his parents, Lame began making TikTok videos to pass the time and slowly grew a following who loved his kind of content.

“I came up with the idea because I was seeing these videos circulating, and I liked the idea of bringing some simplicity to it,” Lame told CNN in a recent video interview.

“The type of gesture came by chance, but the silence didn’t. I thought of a way to reach as many people as possible. And the best way was not to speak.”

Lame is engaged to Italian social media influencer Zaira Nucci. Both are devout Muslims. The pair initially connected over social media, but made things official after they “met by chance in Chivasso” and hit it off. “We got back to talking until I asked her out,” he recalled. “The first [date] was beautiful and simple at the same time. We went to McDonald’s.”

Khaby has more than 180 million followers among all the social media platforms. He has made most of his earnings and income comes from brand promotions. He is thought to have a net worth of above $13 million. This year Khaby signed a multi-year partnership with BOSS and was featured in the #BeYourOwnBoss campaign which includes Hailey and Justin Bieber.

But even though he can afford his own place, he currently lives with his manager in Milan. His biggest purchase since he became famous is an iPhone 12, so he can shoot better videos for his eager audience. “I’m not buying anything crazy,” he said.

Khaby Lame Before Famae

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