Meet Khaby Lame, the deadpan creator who’s set to overtake Charli D’Amelio as the most popular TikToker of all time
In one of Khabane Lame’s most recent TikToks, he reacts to a clip of someone using scissors to open a container of milk. To show how it’s done, Lame simply peels a milk carton open and pours the liquid into a glass while smiling goofily at the camera.
It’s a simple act, something most people do every day. But the video has over 6 million likes.
This week, Lame, 21, surpassed Addison Rae to become the second-most-followed TikToker in the world.
Lame is a 21-year-old Senegalese-Italian creator based in Italy with over 87 million followers and 1.2 billion likes on TikTok at press time. He began making TikToks under the handle “Khaby Lame” after he lost his job working in a northern Italy factory during the pandemic, The New York Times reported.
When The Times spoke with Lame in June, he was bubbling around 65 million followers on TikTok. Within a month, the creator vaulted to 84 million, overtaking the penultimate spot from Rae, who now hovers around 81 million.
If Khaby continues at this pace, he will soar past Charli D’Amelio — who is currently at the top with nearly 120 million followers — and become the most popular TikTok creator of all time.
Lame breaks the fourth wall in his videos
Lame’s earliest videos, which date back to March 2020, were a mix of dance parodies such as doing the “woah” while soaping his hands and random meme skits, like pretending to DJ with pieces from a chess set.
He became famous for his comic expressions and reaction videos, which often show him gazing into the camera with a peculiar look or sarcastically providing an easy answer to a difficult issue. By looking at the camera, he breaks the fourth wall — almost like TikTok’s version of Jim Halpert from “The Office,” who served as the sitcom’s straight man.
“It’s my face and my facial expressions that make people laugh,” he told The Times, adding that he thinks his facial expressions offer a “global language.”
One video shows a person using an extravagant clipping device to grasp a cherry and remove its stem. Then, it switches to Lame sitting on a train with two cherries in front of him. He grabs one, looks into the camera, and yanks the stem. He pops the cherry into his mouth while shaking his head slowly, as if to say, “How easy was that?”
The video has 113 million views.
Another video, which has 50 million views, begins with a clip of a fast-food employee dashing to a car to deliver a heaping tray of drinks and meals. The man crashes into the window, spilling the platter everywhere. After, the scene cuts to Lame, a few fries stuck to his cheeks, shaking his head at the camera with a stony expression painted over his face. He swipes the fries away, glares, and then slowly scrolls the window up.
In addition to making TikToks, Lame said he’s a passionate soccer fan — his favorite team is Juventus F.C., a club from Turin, Italy. He also named Eddie Murphy and Will Smith as two of his biggest inspirations, telling The Times he’d like to reach their level of comedy one day.
Lame offers an antidote to the professional polish of TikTok’s top stars
One main reason for Lame’s startling success seems to be how his videos are in contrast to many of the videos from top creators like Rae and D’Amelio.
Where many big video makers use high-quality cameras, intoxicating music, and carefully plan their lighting, Lame ditches those influencer trappings. His videos are often quiet and alluringly realistic. Instead of flexing ultra-smooth dance moves or entrancing transition skills, Lame frequently just sits in front of the camera. He doesn’t bother to optimize the lighting, use color filters or edit his videos at all, which lends an air of authenticity.
Lame’s fame has become so wide-reaching that fan compilations titled “Khaby Lame BEST TikToks” and “Funniest Khabane Lame Compilation” have each reached over 10 million views on YouTube. He has Instagram fan accounts with tens of thousands of followers. There’s even a Reddit forum with almost 1,000 members devoted to sharing information about him.
Lame may become the most-followed creator of all time
According to the social analytics website SocialBlade, Lame’s current follow rate is nearly eight times faster than D’Amelio’s: he garnered 37 million new followers in the last 30 days, while the latter gained only five million new ones in the same period.
If his account continues to grow at this speed, Lame could pass D’Amelio and become the most popular TikToker of all time by mid-August. Still, Lame told the New York Times that he doesn’t think of video making as a competition.
“I’m happy to be the first in Italy and all, but I didn’t start TikTok for this,” he said.
Lame did not return a request for comment for this article.