A young blonde woman with red dyed tips leans over the escalator in a busy mall, grabs a handful of fries from a man traveling the opposite way and thanks him. He watches her with a glare, eyes never once blinking. The camera zooms in on the man’s face as he continues to stare at her as she makes her way to the top floor.
This is the beginning scene of one of Kat Curtis’ TikTok videos, captioned “How to get free food at the mall.” It was posted on Feb. 11, and by July, it had amassed more than 10 million views on the social platform.
Between her two accounts, the influencer has 3 million total followers — most of them between the ages of 9 and 17, female and from the United States.
She uses her platform to entertain, while still managing an approachable and exciting tone. She radiates exuberant energy, allowing her to approach serious issues in a light-hearted and exciting way. She portrays herself as whimsical and humorous, yet educated.
Curtis started her journalism career in Minnesota as a St. Catherine’s University graduate who studied communication and journalism at the University of St. Thomas. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue an opportunity at BuzzFeed. She always loved comedy and desired a future chasing her dreams. But she realized no one was going to provide her a stage to manifest her talent, so she created her own.
“You don’t have to have the nicest clothes to get this following,” Curtis said. “You just have to be smart and funny, and you have to really believe in yourself.”
Curtis took the path of social media to express herself, posting entertaining videos on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram; but she didn’t receive a great deal of engagement.
The pieces finally clicked when she posted a video on TikTok that immediately went viral.
For the first time in her career, she noticed steady progress. Her most watched video was the introduction of the word “underfilled,” which she made up when opening a bag of chips that was, much to her dismay, less than half full.
Now, she links the term to more serious issues, such as President Donald Trump’s evident lack of leadership during the pandemic or speaking about the mistreatment of people with disabilities. This word is now her trademark.
“Social media is a tool to do a lot of good,” Curtis said. “Unfortunately, it can also be used for a lot of evil, and I think it just depends on how we choose to use it.”
All fun aside, being a social media influencer is difficult.
Curtis said she always found balancing work and life hard. She makes money off of TikTok now but it’s not enough to quit her job, so she works full time at “Funny or Die,” a comedy company. Her tight schedule forces her to be “super organized and insanely professional,” but she said it’s not an easy thing to do when she’s watching her friends hit other milestones in life, such as marriage, while she is not hitting them.
“A lot of the times I just want to quit; I just want to be a normal person,” she said.
Nevertheless, Curtis understands some paths were simply not made for her. She has a fondness for making content and the dual life she’s living; she doesn’t want to give it up.
“If I’m not experiencing life truly, I can’t make content that’s reflective of that,” she said.