By Ahmad Muto
If it was not for the Covid-19 pandemic, chances are high Senegalese TikTok star, Khaby Lame (@khaby.lam) would never have considered joining TikTok and would still be working with some Italian factory doing menial jobs. However, he has now received an invite to the 78th Venice International Film Festival as a special guest courtesy of his spectacular rise to fame that still fascinates the international media.
The internet is awash with photos of him donning tuxedo on the red carpet, sporting a cocktail of his characteristic deadpan face with an ear-to-ear smile.
He attended the first screening of the French film Illussuions Perdues. The festival started on Wednesday, September 1 and ended on Saturday, September 11 2021. It is the world’s oldest film festival held every year covering Italian and international art, architecture, dance, music, theatre and cinema held on the Island of the Lido in the Venice Lagoon.
Living in Italy, Lame lost his factory job after it closed because of Covid-19. That was when he discovered TikTok where his hand gestures and deadpan face without speech, reacting to daily life challenges started going viral.
According to Lame, he now wants to study cinema and become a movie star like Hollywood’s Will Smith. You might think he invested heavily into his craft, but no, he revealed that all he uses is a smartphone and facial expression. And, well, with TikTok, he said ‘you do not earn what they say you do’.
As of Monday, September 13, 2021, Lame had 108 million TikTok followers. He became the second most followed person on the Chinese video sharing app in August 2021 after he surpassed 100 million followers, having joined in March 2020. He is edging closer to the most followed person, Charli D’Amelio (123 million followers) who has occupied the position since March 2020 after overtaking Loren Gray. Born in 2000, Lame’s parents left Senegal for Italy when he was one. He is the first person in Europe to hit 100 million followers on TikTok.
In Uganda, not many accounts have hit the one million follower mark on Tiktok. Actress (Vivian Kaitesi (@goldviv1) has 1.9 million followers while some of the most followed celebrities are singer Spice Diana (@spice_diana) with 201.2k followers and media personality, Lynda Ddane (@lyndaddane) with 169k followers. Many content creators are yet to consider joining the platform.