From Student to Star: a spotlight on Carmel Dill-Cruz’s TikTok fame

TikTok has become a huge part of practically every teen’s life, with its viral dances and challenges, to the countless comedic videos and memes. Everyone has imagined what their life would be like if they became the next big thing: the next D’Amelio’s, but very few genuinely get their moment of fame. CHS junior Carmel Dill-Cruz is one of the few who got to experience what is only a wish for most.

Like many Dill-Cruz uses TikTok purely for entertainment—she even downloaded it as a joke. Since then, she has been watching comedic relief videos, which create the perfect way to unwind and relax, procrastinate homework, and even learn new things. However, Dill-Cruz has had a unique experience with the app that started when one of her videos blew up. The video is a duet with another account, comparing the Marvel character Doctor Strange’s signature power move to a popular dance move on the app, done to the song “Rake It Up.” The video was posted in late December and has currently earned 514 thousand likes and 5.7 million views over the past few months. In addition to that, Dill-Cruz has gained 14.2k followers on the app.

“I was out running errands with my mom, and I don’t have notifications on for TikTok, so I didn’t know until my friend group chat started blowing up, because my friends were screaming that it started to get a lot of likes,” Dill-Cruz said. “By the time I checked, it was at like 4,000 likes and it just kept going up and up. … It didn’t ease until like three days later. … I started off with like 28 followers, and then it just grew into 14.1K. … I couldn’t believe it; it was crazy.”

Although Dill-Cruz originally posted the TikTok a few months ago, it continues to earn likes and views on a daily basis.
“[After] a few thousand views I was like ‘Woah, this is insane,’ but it just hasn’t stopped,” Dill-Cruz said. “It was weird; I went public like a week before because I was bored. I was like ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’”

Although life in the spotlight often comes with its downsides, knowing she has a large audience has not affected the way Dill-Cruz views social media.

“It’s fun to say that I have a following on TikTok, it’s just that it’s something I never tried for,” Dill-Cruz said. “I never put myself out there in the sense of trying to make a video that will blow up and get on the”‘for you” page. … When it comes to posting however, I am a little bit more hesitant now. Millions of people have seen my face; that’s crazy to think about. … In the back of my mind I’m like ‘Oh, people are not gonna like this, or whatever. … Since I have this situation, I try to not care about what other people think, and just be myself.”

Many would see Dill-Cruz’s position as a possibly life-changing opportunity. Nowadays, it is not unusual for teens to make a living off of TikTok content. However, she does not see it that way, and has not let the online fame go to her head.

“When it comes to growing my account … I mean I wouldn’t mind growing it, but it’s definitely not a goal of mine,” Dill-Cruz said. “I don’t want to feel that pressure or stress, or like I have to do something. … I don’t want to feel degraded just because of views or likes. I truly don’t care about that. … This is so cool, but it’s not something that I need—I don’t need followers or views, I’m just doing whatever I want.”

Another factor that comes with being in the public eye is hate and or jealousy from viewers. And unfortunately for Dill-Cruz, that has come along with her unexpected fame.

“I have definitely gotten some hate comments, but honestly I just…laugh at them,” Dill-Cruz said. “The vast majority of them are positive. … But people are gonna hate on you no matter what you do; no matter what you do you’re gonna be judged, so you might as well do what you want.”

Despite the few negative comments, she says that her experience on the app has been positive, and she enjoys knowing that people like her content.

“I know that ‘becoming Tik Tok famous’ is a joke among our age, so the fact that I was actually able to become ‘Tik Tok famous’ for a little bit is definitely something I think is really cool.”

With TikTok fame being something many teens think it would be fun to experience, Dill-Cruz is honest about the element of chance that is involved.

“It’s a concept many people think it would be fun to achieve … but with [being on] the “for you” page honestly it’s luck,” Dill-Cruz said. “People can blow up for the littlest things: a popular dance, a terrible joke, or like, a puppy!”

But she also thinks that originality is well-received on the app, as it is meant to be a creative sharing platform.

“I think the thing that blows people up the most is being unique to yourself, and putting out original content,” Dill-Cruz said. “ I feel like people should just have fun with the app and try to be themselves. I know that sounds so cheesy, but everyone just be yourself! … Individuality is something people like to see…and it’s more fun being yourself too.”

You never know, perhaps a 15-second video can lead to at least 15 minutes of fame if you just “be yourself.”