I'm a Mom and a Viral TikTok Star: Here's How I Did It (Without Doing Any of Those Dances)

When we show our courageous vulnerable personality, we can make a huge difference in people's lives, no matter the platform. Brooke Lacey explains how she's touched the lives of more than 40 million people on TikTok.

An image of a woman recording a video for Tiktok.
Photo: Illustration: Kailey Whitman.

TikTok is for dancing. It's not for moms. It's for kids, teenagers, and cool relevant people; it's not for Gen Xers and people who have jobs and responsibilities. That's what I once thought too.

I am a 44-year-old mom of a teenage boy. I'm not good at dancing, I'm not "cool," and I sure got a lot of responsibilities and adulting to do every day, so how did I end up a viral TikTok star?

I didn't amass a following of 300,000 followers and 40 million video views in less than a year by pretending to be a Gen Zer dancing around to trendy songs, or by doing a bunch of ridiculous millennial pranks. I didn't jump on every TikTok challenge, follow every influencer, pay, beg, or borrow any attention. I didn't dedicate myself to some weird niche or box. I don't have time for that, and that's not who I am.

Instead I spoke my truth. I was relatable. I made people laugh. I kept it real. And I already knew how to do all this because it's what I had been doing all along. Prior to becoming "kind of a big deal" on TikTok, I started a successful podcast about living successfully with mental illness. I didn't come at this from a psychiatric angle, I just wanted to share my experiences—what had and hadn't worked for me. I also wanted to give others who were struggling, or just wanted to understand, a glimpse into what it's really like to live successfully with mental illness, not just despite it. I wanted to relate to people, and make friends for life.

So when TikTok came out and the pandemic forced me to have to face my triggers and symptoms in a way I'd never anticipated before (the walls truly felt like they were closing in on me), I realized that I had a much bigger audience reach with TikTok and began making funny clip videos, and kept it real. Here's how.

Just Get to Posting

Once upon a time, I was a single mom in her 40s scratching my head and asking, "What the H is TikTok?" (and spelling it wrong the first 100 times just like the rest of you). I got started by being curious, downloading the app, playing around with it, and figuring out how it worked. Now there are so many tutorials and workshops (ask me how I know, wink) available but nothing beats just getting in there and hitting "post." Just do it. I promise, it'll be fine and you'll get better and better the more you create.

There's No Perfect, Just You

You know one of the things I love about TikTok? There is no perfect. People don't hop on TikTok to see perfect. They want to see real people, warts, bad brow threading, and quarantine hair. They want to see people they relate to so they want to see you doing exactly what it is that you do. They want to be entertained by you, laugh with you, and cry with you just like you are one of their best friends. You see, we aren't starved for perfection. We are starved for genuine. And that's how I jumped right in, and that's how I grew my following. The world is full of polished, produced, perfect images and people, and we don't need anymore of that. We need you.

The world is full of polished, produced, perfect images and people, and we don't need anymore of that. We need you.

Somebody Out There Needs Your Story

The truth is we need other humans. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it's that connecting with other human beings isn't just a nice thing to do, it's a must. And when we don't get it, things start to get weird. Whatever your story is, somebody out there needs you to tell it, so they know that they aren't alone. They need your perspective, your opinion, your crazy thoughts and strange ideas—all of them (OK maybe not all of them but you get the idea). They need to know that somebody else gets what it's like to be Generation Xer, or an empty nester, or a tweener stuck at home doing online high school.

You've Got to Do the Work

I already said that TikTok isn't about perfection, it's about being genuine. And that means you're going to have to do the work. There's no work around, nobody you can hire, nobody you can pay off or buy to grow real followers and views. Sure, there's a strategy for everything (I love teaching people about TikTok!) but it's one of those things in life that you are just going to have to do the work to get better. Engage, share, comment, be a part of the community! There are no shortcuts.

Your Niche Will Find You

I'm going to sound like a video on loop, but when you are genuine and creating with the intention of connecting, you're going to find your niche, because your niche will find you. So talk about what you know. Do what you love. Show people what you love, and the people that love that stuff too, will find you. Don't chase trends, challenges or metrics, entertain and enjoy yourself, and your people will find you.

Brooke J Lacey is your best friend, the real deal. A futurist informing on new trends like crypto and utilizing TikTok to build her brand (without dancing or using trends). As a woman in tech for 27 years, she's faced doubt and criticism and moved through with empathy. She simplifies complex topics like technology and mental health so that everyone can relate to her. She has a unique ability to understand challenging topics like cryptocurrency and web development and simplify them for the masses so that they get educated and feel confident with the challenges they're facing.

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