Balancing Fame and Going to School: An Interview with a Tik Tok Star

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By: Priya Patel, Loyola Senior

Hours and hours of screen time is spent by millions of users swiping and liking these 15-second videos. Now imagine the other end as a creator. Learning dances, filming promotions, and growing your account as an influencer can be time consuming. The eyes of thousands of youngsters watching you every day and brands reaching out for advertisement in returns for products and monetary payment.

Sai Reshma Balakrishnan, 21, is a senior undergraduate student at Loyola University Chicago majoring in Finance and Information Systems. Originally from Cedar Rapids Iowa, she is now known and followed by 23.4K followers on Tiktok. Her goal is to spread confidence through words, hence her username. @hottestbrowngirlever. 

Reshma started posting daily at the beginning of quarantine because she was bored in Iowa. After her first viral video, she got the majority of her followers and the rest came after posting consistently. This lead to her job as Loyola’s Tik Tok Campus Representative Spring of 2020.

*Interview has been edited for length and clarity

PP: What does the Tiktok campus representative job consist of?

RB: Through a marketing firm called Fuse Marketing, I was sent TikTok merch and was responsible for getting the name of TikTok. TikTok was a brand mostly for high school students and my job was to make TikTok more appealing for college students. I would post videos about going to school at Loyola, my favorite study locations on campus, etc.

PP: That’s super exciting! So with that, how did you balance being a finance major and a TikTok influencer along with other organizations you are in?

RB: Tiktok is more of a hobby rather than a source of income for me. Given that, dancing and creating content is more of a pastime activity rather than a job. I always put my academics first, then my organization involvement and then Tiktok. Think of me and a girl who makes TikToks instead of watching Netflix, or drawing to wind down from stress.

PP: Do you support all brands or a small amount? Which brands have you denied/accepted? 

RB: I do not support all brands to maintain authenticity on my page. Some brands that I have accepted vouching for on my TikTok are Dilmil, nordVPN and a family owned jewelry business. Some brands that I have denied are Shein as their values do not align with mine. One positive thing that it did provide me was the opportunity to work with professional brands which gave me entrepreneurial experience as a student which aligned well with my career goals as I am a business major.

PP: Does the financial aspect of TikTok currently look like it could be a future career?

RB: Currently, no. I do not make much money off of it as the Creator Fund decreases my views by a lot. I also do not post for a specific niche or audience. My followers fluctuate a lot based on what phase of posting I am in. I also do not plan much like other TikTokers so my content tends to be inconsistent. I also do not make much money off of TikTok itself but more from brands that I post for. 

PP: What is your favorite and least favorite part about Tiktok/Instagram?

RB: My least favorite part about TikTok is the misinformation on the news, especially social justice. But, that is also one of my favorite parts; I am able to express my viewpoints, likes/dislikes, opinions with everyone. I think it is important for young viewers to know what they are watching and the implications behind some of their TikTokers they look up to. 

PP: What is the scariest part about TikTok?

RB: Knowing that my friends and people I go to school with are judging me. I’ve had a couple friends come up to me and say, “OMG that is so embarrassing,” and things like that really put a person’s confidence down. There have been numerous points where I’ve thought about making my account private but then I realize, it’s fun to me and just because a couple of my viewers do not like it does not mean everyone hates them.

To see more of Reshma Balakrishanan, follow her on Tiktok @hottestbrowngirlever and Instagram @reshma_balakrishnan

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