In two years, Charli D'Amelio has moved across the country and become the most followed person on TikTok. But for her, it still all comes back to family.

By Beth Ann Mayer
June 22, 2021
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An image of Charli D'Amelio on a colorful background.
Credit: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

Two years ago, Charli D'Amelio was a dancer and frequently injured field hockey player living in the coastal, unassuming city of Norwalk, Connecticut. She signed up for TikTok, which was gaining popularity as a cool video-sharing service at the time, and started fun dance videos.

They went viral-over and over again. Today, Charli, 17, has more than 118 million followers, making her TikTok's most-followed person. It's landed her deals with major brands, including clear braces alternative Invisalign, which she's currently using herself.

Charli's older sister, Dixie, 19, is also TikTok famous. She has more than 52.3 million followers and scored a record deal with HitCo Entertainment last year. By contrast, singer Ariana Grande has a "mere" 25 million followers.

And, move over Kardashians, because this family will take their lives from your mobile device's screen to the small screen when their Hulu show, The D'Amelio Show, premieres this year.

Mix in a global pandemic, and it's all been a whirlwind for Charli.

"The last couple of years have been the weirdest years of my life," says Charlie. "Although two years may seem like a long time, it goes by in a flash. It happened very quickly, so the fact that it's already been two years is insane."

Charli says that her meteoric rise to fame brought her closer with her family, including her sister, Dixie. She knows the spotlight can bring out the worst in people, but the two sisters have never been the jealous type and are always quick to forgive. "We're not the type of sisters that fight and don't get over it in five seconds," says Charli.

A big reason for that: They've always done their own things, even when they were together.

"We've always shined in our own way," says Charli. "Before all of this, she was an amazing field hockey player. I was on the field hockey team but never played a game in my life. I was the best cheerleader. I was there to root everyone else on."

These days, Charli's videos are known for being more upbeat, while her sister's are in the sad-girl pop genre. In real life, Charli says she tends to be the shyer one, while her sister is more outgoing. "We go hand-in-hand with literally any TV show ever-we fit those personalities," says Charli. "She's very protective. It's the whole book."

And now their own TV show will showcase their unique personalities. But it also means the line between work and life is blurring. "That was difficult," Charli admits. But she says that having her parents on the show has helped.

"Their number one job is to protect me, and they will protect me through everything," she says. "They tell me all the time that, 'We want you to know you don't have to do this if you don't want to.' I feel like the fact that they let me be in control of what I do in my life and don't push me to do anything makes it easier for me to do normal teenage things like go get ice cream things or go get dinner."

But Charli isn't trying to prove she's just another teenager with this show. She's actually not trying to prove anything at all.

"I don't want to try and change people's minds on me," she says. "I just want to share my life. I've learned to be OK with being confident enough in myself where I don't really need approval from other people. I think that's a really powerful thing to be able to learn."

And that's the advice she has for parents and kids when they sign up for TikTok. Don't try to become famous. Just be yourself, accept yourself, and enjoy the ride.

"It's a place to have fun," she says. "If you want to go and do a dance, I think that's awesome. It's really whatever you love."