For so long, I thought that if I ever downloaded TikTok, the end was near. My time? Non-existent. My plans? Canceled. I used to be one of those people who only watched TikTok videos if a friend sent them to me or if I saw them on Twitter. A few months ago, I caved in. Yes, my screen time history did go up, and I still have zero regrets.
TikTok obviously has its trolls and childish-unwarranted drama. But beneath all the mess is a balm — a safe corner of TikTokers that craft each video like a FaceTime call with your best friend. Those friends you call to gossip, to know what we’re wearing tonight, to feel inspired, or to hear some hard truths.
TikTok is a platform with so many niche community bubbles: NativeTok, CrochetTok, QueerTok, FashionTok. But when you're just starting out, like I was, it can be hard to find authentic gems in your “For You” page (FYP), which is populated based on what's trending as well as who you follow and your past interactions. Follow these creators and like their inspiring content — and see your FYP blossom.
The Content Creator Taking Internet Misogynists Down A Peg
If you’re not following Drew Afualo, do yourself a favor and join the 7.5 million people already benefiting from her content. Famous for her clapbacks against garden-variety internet misogynists and defending other creators from hate-filled trolls (not to mention her distinct, infectious laugh), Afualo feels like the protective older sister the internet desperately needs. Learn more about the 26-year-old content creator in her interview with R29 here.
The Foodie Who Has A Story Behind Every Dish
Joanne Lee Molinaro, also known as The Korean Vegan, makes sure you know the person behind the recipes. Molinaro cooks vegan Korean dishes like kimbap, oi (cucumber) kimchi, hwachae (punch), while sharing thoughtful stories about her life. Over a steaming pot of budaejjigae, or “army stew,” Joanne tells her 3 million followers how it might not be easy to follow your dreams when you’re born from an immigrant family, but that your dreams still deserve a fighting chance. In other videos, she talks about women’s rights, body image, the immigrant experience, and racial justice. She also has her own cookbook.
The Clapback Queen Who Puts Ableists In Their Place
Twenty-year-old Calgary-based TikToker Erin Novakowski does not sugarcoat her disability for the comfort of others. Not only does she say it like it is, but she’s also hilarious in calling out ableism on the platform and for Cripple Media as a writer and social media editor. Under all the witty sarcasm, is a relatable message of self-love and acceptance. “My main goal has always been helping disabled people, making content for disabled people, and just being a little bit of representation on my little corner of the internet,” she tells Refinery29.
The Indigenous TikToker Who Spotlights Her Community
Willow Allen is an Inuvialuit model that spends half her time overseas modeling for brands like Prada or Elle, and the other half in Tuktoyaktuk, Canada. Through her TikTok, Allen shows the warmth in the coldest places. You’ll see clips of what it’s like living in the Northwest Territories, hunting, fishing, and spending time with her family. One of her most viral videos shows a typical day in Tuktoyaktuk during the summer when there are 24 hours of sunlight. And after two years of the pandemic, her “Arctic community” is thriving. Through living a double life as a young adult in the Arctic and modeling overseas, Allen is now prioritizing a career in social work, like her mother, according to the CBC.
The Hilarious TikToker Who's Behind Your Fave Viral Sounds
You can find Mikhaela Jennings in a car or lying down in bed, ready to spill some type of tea or share her cultural commentary on anime or celebs. Both are unmatched in entertaining you. She posted her first video in August 2020 and became viral with her iconic catchphrase, “The girls that get it, get it. And the girls that don't, don't.” Since then, the viral sound has been used by celebrities and influencers, without giving Jennings her flowers. Unfortunately, this is a pattern for Black TikTok creators. With more than 480,000 followers though, Jennings is still taking over the platform with her sharp tongue and viral green screen moments. She tells Refinery29 that she’s her favorite TikToker. And if you don’t get that, well, that’s on you.
The Beauty TikToker Who Keeps It Real
Who’s not into BeautyTok? There’s always that one friend who knows what product to buy, what ingredients to avoid mixing like retinol and vitamin C, and the best alternatives to high-end brands like La Mer and Biologique Recherche. But also lets you know that you won’t heal your acne overnight by just drinking water. On TikTok, and elsewhere, that friend is social media strategist and influencer Madi Prettyman — Taurus, manifester of clear skin, and acne prone skin bestie. Prettyman makes content for the girls who need uncomplicated tips about skincare, without getting into the whole science of it. She also doesn’t shy away from sharing her cosmetic treatments, like that one time she got Dysport instead of Botox.
The Hot Take Expert Who Knows What She's Talking About
Run, don’t walk to Flex’s feed. Not only does she wear a lot of hats — author, TV/radio host, DJ and CEO of Flex Factory — but Flex aka Lillian Ahenkan provides vibes with substance. The Ghanaian-Australian influencer gives outfit checks, hauls, occasional tarot readings, pop culture reviews, and her tips for proper social etiquette today. Oversized clothing as unflattering? Flex has a theory that body neutrality erases all the fashion rules that forces us to follow what is flattering or unflattering on the body. “Thoughts?” as a conversation starter? Flex says enough of that. Flex celebrates life, where even the small mundane moments count. As she puts it in one video, “Life is too short to have complex thoughts about everything. Sometimes, just moisturize and be cute.” Or buy a bag made out of crocs.
The Queer Parents Whose Home Is Always Open
Join this sweet spot of the internet. As the unofficial gay parents of TikTok, Grey, a gender-fluid Afro-Indigenous 25-year-old, and Grayson, a 24-year-old transmasc, created a space that embraces gender identities, queer visibility, and intersectional queerness. You’ll feel their love radiating through your screen after watching snippets of their life together, from getting ready to making flower arrangements, and listening to Billie Holiday in the kitchen. “[We thought] let's just be the really gay parents [on TikTok], which is what we are in real life to our friends and our communities,” Grayson tells Refinery29. “Our home immediately became the house that all the kids came to, and we want anyone to come and feel safe and feel loved.”