Flying from Asia to Europe to America was Asta Darling's life for six years until 2020 when an injury forced her to leave her flight attendant job.
Then she took a chance on TikTok.
"I know it's very cliché to say, but TikTok seriously changed my life," said Darling, 32, who lives in the Memphis area. "It's an amazing platform, I love it."
After posting a TikTok of her Victorian widow character, Darling garnered more than a million views. Since then, she has acquired 2.6 million followers with 51.2 million overall likes within two years of posting on the app.
"It's so much fun," Darling said. "I kind of wake up every day and go, 'How is this my life?' — like it's just been this incredible experience and my followers are great."
@asta.darling I love this challenge so much. #thedesignervsthedesign #disneycosplay #disney #halloween2022 #disneyprincess ♬ original sound - <3
'It just went viral'
Darling, who was born in Memphis but was raised in Singapore, grew up cosplaying as her favorite characters. When it was time to pick a college, Darling's friend encouraged her to move to London and attend Wimbledon College of Arts where she earned a bachelor's degree in costume design.
After college Darling could not find a job in her field, so she became a flight attendant for Emirates. She spent 2014-20 flying around the world, checking out fashion museums wherever she could. In 2020, not only did Darling suffer an injury that forced her to leave aviation, but also the COVID-19 pandemic began.
@asta.darling OK it’s the year 1880, which outfit are you wearing? I’m torn between Mrs. Steal your Spouse and Fresh out of Mourning myself 😉 #gildedage #costume #victorianfashion #victorianera #sewing #sewingtiktok #halloweenfits #halloweenlook #halloweencostume #cosplay ♬ cant hold us many - guymusic
Darling headed to the Memphis area where her family lived and proceeded to quarantine as businesses around her shut down. Looking to fill her time, she began focusing on activities that made her happy, including Victorian-era costume-making.
"I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, flying wasn't an option anymore," she said. "I got on TikTok and was like, 'OK maybe I'll share some things that make me happy,' and it just went viral."
'My most popular character'
Since first posting her Victorian widow TikTok, Darling has developed the character into what she said, "is my most popular character."
Darling's Victorian widow videos show her dressed in an all-black outfit topped with a hat, poking fun at the character's dead husband or the proper etiquette of a widow.
"It's become my first TikTok character," she said. "Which is like newly exciting, one, to develop my character but two, the fact that everyone is super into it anyway is just really fun."
Darling said her followers "are the best" and continuously tag her in audios to use, comment their ideas, critiques and questions, which she is responsive to.
Some costumes featured on Darling's TikTok include Cinderella, Snow White, Corpse Bride and characters from "Bridgerton." She said she makes each piece of her costumes by hand, sewing and sketching out her corsets, petticoats and "lobster tail," also known as a bustle skirt.
@asta.darling “Oh Detectives! Mrs. Peacock was alone with my husband in the library with the candlestick” 🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺☹️☹️☹️ For legal reasons this is a joke 😇 Who would you invite? #richvictorianwidow #victorianwidow #victorianmourning #victorianfashion #gildedage ♬ naughty wackus bonkus - king of bling
Her favorite era to make costumes from are is the 1880s. Some outfits take three days to make while others can take a week.
She keeps every costume lined up in her closets, sometimes reusing them and other times mixing them with other outfits. Currently, she has more than two dozen costumes.
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'TikTok is one of those cultural revolutions'
Darling's account attracted attention from not only regular TikTok users but also companies including Netflix and HBO.
She created costumes based on characters in series on Netflix and HBO. Her "Bridgerton" costumes became fan favorites with each video gaining about a million views.
"I think TikTok is one of those cultural revolutions," she said. "For example, I used to Google recipes, now I'm like, 'Let me TikTok this recipe.'"
Darling said her proudest moment is making it on TikTok's Showbiz list, a list of creators who have started meaningful conversations. The creators are chosen by the TikTok community.
The list shows Darling started a conversation on historic eras and showed what life in another decade was like.
"It was amazing to be singled out for my work," Darling said. "It inspired me to keep working harder and harder. I'm always telling people to just post, you never know what's going to happen. It could change your life."
Dima Amro covers the suburbs for The Commercial Appeal and can be reached at Dima.Amro@commercialappeal.com or on Twitter @AmroDima.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: TikTok's Asta Darling on costumes, Victorian widow character and more