Opinion | The D’Amelios’ fame is built around appearing ordinary


Monica Schipper, Getty Images | TNS

Charli and Dixie D’Amelio arrive at iHeartRadio’s Z100 Jingle Ball 2019 Presented By Capital One on December 13, 2019 in New York City.

By Talia Spillerman, For The Pitt News

Charli D’Amelio, the most followed creator on TikTok, does not know why more than 124 million users follow her. In a new Hulu series, the star of “The D’Amelio Show” admits that she is not the best dancer on the app, nor does she have any special qualities that justify her fame.

As I finished the third 45-minute installment of the eight-part series, I too agreed with Charli — I did not know why she nor her family are famous. Charli and her sister, Dixie, along with her  parents Marc and Heidi, seem like an average family who happened to become famous through social media — not a family groomed for reality television. Unlike the Kardashians, there is no excessive diva or dramatic dynamic to their family. It is exactly what you would expect if any wealthy, white, suburban family was dropped into the life of a social media influencer in Los Angeles — they fight, laugh and support each other. They are incredibly typical.

Then, it occurred to me. They are famous for that very reason — they appear ordinary.

Just over two years ago, the D’Amelios were another family living in Connecticut. According to “The D’Amelio Show,” both daughters attended high school — playing sports, hanging out with friends and dreaming of college.

Then TikTok came along. Charli posted a video of her dancing on the social media platform back in 2019, which went viral. Since then, she has garnered a following of over 124 million TikTok users. In order to expand her career possibilities, the D’Amelio family moved to Los Angeles more than a year ago, and Charli has since launched both clothing and makeup lines.

Besides the product lines, the elder Dixie has started a music career, releasing singles such as “Be Happy” and “One Whole Day.” Marc and Heidi D’Amelio even have a social media presence of their own, with 10.5 million and 9.5 million TikTok followers, respectively.

The D’Amelios have gone from a family living in Connecticut to social media icons and, now, reality television stars. Plenty of people go “TikTok viral” and have a video or two that gains hundreds of thousands of views and likes, but the D’Amelio family has managed to do what many users dream of — translating their TikTok fame to success in other industries.

The D’Amelios’ origin of an “average” family life provides fans with hope that if they wanted, they too could also be just as successful, feeding off cultural desire that fuels the American dream — the idea that anyone can climb up socioeconomic ladder if they work hard enough.

The reality of both the American dream and TikTok fame is that they are a facade. Nowadays, climbing up the social ladder remains out of reach without certain societal privileges or connections — luxuries the D’Amelios have had throughout their life.

Charli has had dance training since she was a child. Then, when she started gaining a following, her family was able to devote the time and money to growing her brand — a luxury that many people do not have. As Dixie gained followers, she benefited from the same privileges.

Both Charli and Dixie are lucky to be from a home with two parents who provide monetary and emotional support. Their family was able to leave their hometown and move across the country, far away from the life they cultivated in Connecticut. Not to mention the other privileges the D’Amelio daughters were born into — they are both white and able-bodied.

For most Americans, time and money are limited.  A survey from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that one in three American adults admit to having trouble covering their expenses. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 48% of Americans say they do not have enough time to do what they would like to do in their day-to-day lives. The reality is, cultivating a significant social media following is out of reach for many American families.

Now, I am not saying that the D’Amelios haven’t worked hard. If anything, while watching the show it becomes clear how much of a “normal” teenage life both Charli and Dixie have sacrificed in order to excel at their careers. As highlighted in the show, they face hate on a daily basis, which no one should have to incur. Still, the idea that they were just a normal family that stumbled across this life is an illusion.

This illusion is not completely negative. Sometimes, any hope, even false hope of success, can be enough to inspire us that we, too, can achieve our dream life. And maybe that’s the point of the D’Amelios — to inspire us with false hope.

So the next time that Charli, an “average” teenager, advertises her latest business endeavor and you catch yourself wondering why you’re not TikTok famous, remember Charli’s lifelong privilege. But also, let her act of an ordinary teenager achieving success inspire you to take on a new challenge.

Talia Spillerman writes about anything and everything. Write to her at [email protected].