Addison Rae Easterling, 19, is one of the top TikTok influencers in the world with over 33 million followers on the app.
She began posting videos in July 2019 for fun and by December she decided to go all-in and moved out to Los Angeles from Louisiana.
Easterling is known for her dance videos on TikTok and for being a member of the popular group, the Hype House.
She spoke with Business Insider about her rapid success online and how she is building a larger business with merchandise and lucrative brand partnerships.
Before Addison Rae Easterling had millions of people watching her on TikTok, she was gearing up for her first year of college in her home state, Louisiana.
"I initially found out about TikTok through a lot of young girls at my school and in my dance studio," Easterling, now 19, told Business Insider. "I remember being in a few of them, and after a while I downloaded it, not thinking I was going to post."
She eventually posted a video for fun in July 2019 that landed on TikTok's homepage, the "For You Page," she said.
"I had never experienced that many likes or views," she said, and she continued to upload videos of herself dancing alone, with friends, or with her mom.
In short order, she would experience more TikTok likes and views than nearly anyone on the planet. In only a few months, Easterling has become not only one of the biggest stars on TikTok, but one of the biggest stars across the internet, known to her fans as Addison Rae.
Easterling has over 33 million TikTok followers, 12 million Instagram followers, and millions of views on her YouTube channel. And with her star continuing to rise rapidly, those numbers will no doubt be higher by the time you read this.
What's her secret? Was she simply the one most beloved by TikTok's inscrutable algorithm?
There is always a bit of luck when someone sees the kind of overnight success Easterling did — like when her dance to Mariah Carey's "Obsessed" caught Carey's attention and helped boost her budding fame.
But there are other elements that made Easterling particularly suited to rise along with TikTok.
Easterling has been dancing competitively since she was six years old, which has helped her put a spin on many of TikTok's viral "dance challenges."
She was also able to go all-in on TikTok a few months after her follower count began to catch fire, and her family has enthusiastically supported her online career, especially her mom who appears in a lot of her videos and runs her own TikTok page with nearly five million followers.
Easterling has a knack for connecting with the right people, as well. She has collaborated with a lot of other influencers on videos, like Kourtney Kardashian and her son, and with YouTube celebrities like David Dobrik (16 million YouTube subscribers) and James Charles (18 million YouTube subscribers). And she became of a member of TikTok's first mega-popular group, the Hype House.
All this has led to Easterling turning a fun hobby into a lucrative career — one that is only increasing as TikTok continues to cement itself as the platform of choice for Generation Z, and its homegrown stars move to the forefront of pop culture.
Easterling's rapid rise on TikTok
Easterling grew up dancing and watching Vine clips and episodes of "Dance Moms" with her friends.
She started competitively dancing when she was six and trained in many styles of dance like ballet, hip hop, jazz, and tap, she said.
"Dancing has always been a huge part of my life and honestly, I contribute so much of my TikTok growth to me being raised as a dancer," she said.
While Easterling was in her first semester at Louisiana State University, she was starting to get recognized on campus for her TikTok videos, which she said was "the craziest thing."
"It didn't really bother me that I was doing TikTok and people knew it in my classes," she added.
In the fall, she flew out to California with her mom and filmed a video for the prominent celebrity information site, Famous Birthdays, and that's when she began meeting up with other creators. After that trip, she'd fly out to Los Angeles over the weekend almost every two weeks, she said.
At the end of October 2019, about three months into posting videos, Easterling's TikTok account gained over one million followers. She decided to leave LSU in late November.
"I remember that's when it changed for me," she said. "I knew I wanted to take it more seriously and expand it to other platforms. I uploaded a video to YouTube and got really active on Instagram."
Moving out to Los Angeles
In December, Easterling moved out to Los Angeles and eventually her family bought a house there. They currently split their time between California and Louisiana, she said. Right now, she's quarantined in Los Angeles with her parents and two brothers.
"I'm trying to keep the momentum up while we are all at home, and take advantage of the time I have with my family," she said.
Similar to other top creators, like Charli D'Amelio (48.5 million TikTok followers), Easterling's parents and siblings are all active on TikTok. Easterling said she's close with her family and is happy to have them be a part of her social-media rise, especially since they help keep her grounded.
"You are who you hang out with and these are the people who are impacting my mind and work ethic the most," she said.
"We're always filming," she said. "My house is never boring."
From viral success to a lucrative career path
Easterling is often seen online with members of the popular influencer group (and physical collab house in Los Angeles), the Hype House.
The Hype House is home to some of the most popular creators on TikTok, like Chase Hudson (18.5 million TikTok followers) and the house account itself has around 14 million followers. Recently, one of the members who lived at the house left amid an ongoing legal dispute, and it's unclear what Easterling's specific affiliation is with the group (she declined to comment to Business Insider on any Hype House questions).
These influencer collab groups help bring in deals and business opportunities for their members. In March, Thomas Petrou, one of the Hype House founders, told Entertainment Tonight that members of the group earned upwards of $30,000 to $40,000 for a single brand integration on TikTok.
Easterling has worked with companies like Reebok and L'Oreal on brand deals. She is signed with the Hollywood talent agency WME, and they work to connect her with top brands and other business opportunities like developing a content strategy, sourcing and negotiating deals, and exploring traditional-media opportunities.
Influencers typically make a big chunk of their money through sponsorships and by selling consumer products to followers.
Easterling collaborated with the retail brand iamkoko.la in March on a limited apparel collection. And she will be launching merchandise soon with the popular influencer e-commerce company, Fanjoy, which handles merch sales for top creators like Jake Paul, David Dobrik, and Tana Mongeau.
She's also planning to expand her business by becoming more involved in the beauty and hair space, she said, and brand herself beyond being "just an influencer."
"This is a huge blessing and huge opportunity that's literally based off the people who support me and how much they interact with me," she said. "I've really valued the relationship with my supporters and I always try to comment back to my supporters and put all of my time and energy into that."
For more on the business of influencers, according to TikTok stars, check out these Business Insider Prime posts:
The TikTok metrics that matter for a successful sponsorship deal between an influencer and a brand, according to industry insiders: We spoke with an influencer talent manager and a digital agent about some of the metrics they see brands paying attention to in 2020 on TikTok.
The top 19 talent managers and agents for TikTok influencers who are helping build the careers of a new generation of digital stars: These leaders are helping to build businesses for the top TikTok influencers in 2020.
Inside the rise of Fanjoy, from selling music T-shirts to dominating influencer merchandise with YouTube star clients like David Dobrik and Jake Paul: Fanjoy is one of the top influencer merchandise companies, creating products for digital stars like David Dobrik, Tana Mongeau, and Adelaine Morin.
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