Khaby Lame: from factory worker to famous TikToker

Estimated read time 3 min read

In a world of talkers, it’s silence that catapulted this content creator to the peak of success.

Khaby Lame, a former factory worker in Italy, is the most followed content creator on TikTok and has amassed over 251.9 million followers on his social media accounts. In 2022, he was listed in Fortune’s 40 Under 40 and Forbes’ 30 Under 30. He reportedly earns $4 million from TikTok and $1 million from Instagram annually. He is estimated to be worth $13 million.

He rose to fame and fortune when his comedic videos went viral during the Covid-19 pandemic, launching his TikTok career from his modest public housing complex in Italy when he lost his job. At the 1 Billion Followers Summit in Dubai in January, Khaby shared his success story, while delighting the audience with pregnant pauses complemented by his trademark hand gestures and witty replies.

“When I started making videos during Covid-19, the idea was to make people smile. There was no strategy. I would wake up, eat, and make a video. I did not have any special camera, just a very bad phone. I did not have special lighting, so I used to open YouTube on the computer. The white backlight of the website provided me with the lighting I needed for my videos,” Khaby says.

His simple but unique videos mock complicated “life hack” videos, and stand out due to his funny, silent responses and facial expressions, which have become his signature style.

He unwittingly uses non-verbal communication to connect with his fanbase worldwide. “Silence is a universal language. Anyone from Spain, Japan, or Dubai can understand. Grown-ups, kids, people of all ages,” he says.

When asked whether his growing popularity demands a change in technique, Khaby replied: “I do not have a strategy. I am just being myself on social media.”

His advice to young and aspiring content creators? “Be you, be original, and just start. Don’t harbor doubts in your mind. Don’t think, ‘What will people say?’”

Khaby says he isn’t bothered by trolls. “These are people hiding behind their phones. They do not mean anything to me. Khalaas,” he says.

Since becoming a multi-millionaire, he has purchased a multi-million-dollar luxury home for $6 million, which he says is one of his achievements in life. He also owns a fleet of luxury cars, including a Lamborghini Huracan. He shares that he remains grounded despite his enormous success.

“I have always been happy. I was happy when I was a factory worker in Italy. I was happy in my home country, Senegal. We were all poor but happy. I am happy now. Money and success don’t change anything,” says Khaby. ICA/Expat MediaA condensed version of this story also appears in the Expat Media Special Edition magazine

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