Laid-off worker unseats Charli D’Amelio as top TikTok star with 142.8M fans

From the factory floor to the top of TikTok.

A former factory worker has become the most followed star on TikTok — two years after he created an account on the social media app after losing his job during the pandemic.

Khabane Lame, 22, became the world’s top TikToker on Wednesday, officially overtaking American sensation Charli D’Amelio, 18. As of Thursday afternoon, Lame has a staggering 142.8 million followers. D’Amelio is close behind with 142.3 million.

“THE KING IS NUMBER 1 ON TIKTOK,” one fan exclaimed beneath Lame’s most recent clip after he surged into the top spot.

Lame — who bills himself as a comedian and shares humorous clips that mock clout-chasing influencers and their over-the-top videos — has yet to comment on the milestone moment himself.

Lame bills himself as a comedian and shares humorous clips that mock clout-chasing influencers and their over-the-top videos.
Getty Images

Lame was born in Senegal in 2000 before he immigrated with his parents to Italy the following year.

After high school, he began working as a machine operator in the northern city of Turin before he was laid off in March 2020.

“The pandemic had just started, and I was bored with a lot of time on my hands so I started making videos on TikTok,” Lame told Forbes in an interview this past March.

"The pandemic had just started, and I was bored with a lot of time on my hands so I started making videos on TikTok," Lame's astronomical rise to fame has been organic and unexpected.
“The pandemic had just started, and I was bored with a lot of time on my hands so I started making videos on TikTok”: Lame’s astronomical rise to fame has been organic and unexpected.

The young man began to parody TikTok clips in which creators showed off their “simple” hacks for things such as cleaning dishes and cutting their bangs.

Lame — who is currently learning English — rarely speaks in his videos; his clips rely on visual humor and are accessible to viewers around the world.

“I would describe myself as a simple person, but full of ideas and inspiration,” Lame said. “Making people laugh has always been my biggest passion in life.”

Lame was born in Senegal and immigrated to Italy with his parents when he was a year old.
Lame was born in Senegal and immigrated to Italy with his parents when he was a year old.

The New York Times attributed Lame’s success to his “everyman” quality in a profile published last year.

“His work lacks the polished production value associated with the most famous TikTok stars of today … His rise has been entirely organic,” the paper declared.

“He almost represents this authenticity over production,” one social media expert added. “I think that’s very appealing at scale to people, this feeling of someone not trying too hard. It’s something that feels authentic.”

However, he told Forbes that, while his videos appear simple, he puts a lot of thought into creating them.

“Every day, I spend at least three hours looking for the right video to parody,” he explained. “I always try to be careful to not offend anyone with my videos, and I always prefer to joke with light-hearted parody.”

Lame is now one of the most influential young people in the world. His rise to fame has been entirely unexpected and organic.
Lame is now one of the most influential young people in the world.
TikTok/khaby.lame

Lame’s videos have clocked up an astonishing 2.3 billion likes in total, and each of his videos is usually watched by tens of millions of people, giving him incredible reach and making him one of the most influential young people on the planet.

However, the star said he is still shocked by his unexpected rise to fame — and is soon hoping to move to Hollywood.

“I started doing this for fun and I never expected anything of this,” he said. “My background and journey give me the strength to believe in my dreams and to move forward, because with commitment and perseverance, they can come true.”