4.9 billion likes & counting: TikTok icon Addison Rae is GLAMOUR’S February digital coverstar, opening up on mental health, beauty & cracking Hollywood.
“When I look at negative comments I can’t let it get to me that much and I think, ‘That doesn't define me, and they don't really truly know me in my heart.’
Addison Rae is officially TikTok’s top earner, but as Josh Smith gets the first exclusive cover interview with the social media sensation, he meets the very real woman behind the billions of likes and millions of followers.
There are social media phenomena and then there is Addison Rae. In just 18 months since joining TikTok, the American 20-year-old has amassed 4.9 billion likes on TikTok (to put that in perspective, we’re talking 3.5 times the entire population of China, FYI) and 76 million followers through her addictive array of dance routines, lip syncs and beauty videos.
She has since been named TikTok’s highest earner by Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $5 million, largely thanks to deals with brands ranging from American Eagle to Reebok. That’s before you even take into account Addison’s own cosmetics line ITEM Beauty, which launched in August 2020 selling exclusively online, or the fact that she has also just wrapped her first feature film He’s All That. Addison is taking the lead in the reboot of noughties rom-com She’s All That – opposite Cobra Kai’s Tanner Buchanan and featuring a cameo from her BFF, Kourtney Kardashian (but more on that later).
All of this is made even more incredible when you realise that Addison only joined the fledgling social media app in August 2019, after her career as a competitive dancer stalled. Since the age of six, Addison had been competing in dance competitions across the USA. She grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana with her parents Monty, and Sheri, a former makeup artist and two younger brothers Lucas and Enzo, and was on course to pursue a dance career when a ‘failure’ forced her to change course.
“In my senior year I was trying out for the college dance team, and I ended up not making it,” she reminisces. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. How am I going to continue entertaining and performing without making the team?’ I thought I had to give up on all my dreams, but about four to five months later I started social media and TikTok. All of a sudden – out of nowhere – I was posting all the time and getting likes, views and followers. Social media offered me a really awesome roadway to take. Sometimes the road you didn't think you were going to take is the one that you do, and you're glad that you did.”
Her success encouraged her to drop out of Louisiana State University where she was studying broadcast journalism, and swapped her student digs for TikTok’s Hype House in LA. The Spanish-style mansion – complete with a gigantic pool and big enough to house 19 creators – was also home to fellow mega-creators, Charli and Dixie D'Amelio and Bryce Hall (now Addison’s boyfriend). If you are not familiar, think of it as The Mickey Mouse Club for Gen-Z talent.
Today however, just like the rest of us Addison is in lockdown, now living in an apartment in LA, which it looks as if she’s only just moved in. There are boxes scattered across the bare-walled, high-ceilinged white living room; the only decoration is an indoor palm. But soon after Zooming into her world, I learn why this woman, all sunshine and smiles, has captured the hearts and minds of Generation Z and beyond. Addison, wearing an oversized black hoodie, her brunette hair relaxed and tousled, is more Zen than her TikTok persona suggests, and it’s just like chatting to any regular 20 year old.