Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted

Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Kris Collins is surrounded by rubber ducks.

It started last summer when fans began sending her ducks. The bath toys arrived by the hundreds, then the thousands. At first it made for good content, but eventually the gag ran its course and now Collins is stuck living with what she figures is around 5,000 rubber ducks.

“I don’t know what to do with them,” she says. “Honestly, I have some on my counter right now. They’re everywhere.”

This is the surreal life of the Abbotsford native and TikTok star @kallmekris, who has become the most famous Canadian you’ve never heard of.

In April 2020, Collins was stuck at home unable to operate her hair styling business in the early days of B.C.’s COVID-19 lockdown. Her brother suggested she download the video app and within days she was hooked.

Collins’ first video, which poked fun of herself for living unemployed at her parent’s home, was posted April 9. She kept it up and was soon updating her feed with a new video every day.

Nearly a year later, Collins has over 23-million followers, posted almost 1,000 videos and is building a new career as a social media comedian.

And if this sounds bizarre, that someone would find stardom while locked down in their parent’s basement suite, then it’s also not lost on the 24 year old.

“If you told me this a year ago I would have slapped you across the face,” she says. “But it’s grown. I’ve created these characters and accumulated this community. It just feels like family now.”

Collins’ timing turned out to be impeccable. Her brand of sketch comedy, which relies on simple but well-written re-occurring character, has thrived within the one-minute limits of TikTok videos that viewers have become addicted to during the pandemic.

American comedian Sarah Cooper went viral with her lip-synching of former President Donald Trump, which led to a Netflix special. Brittany Broski found fame as a meme after posting a video of herself drinking kombucha for the first time. Even Hollywood stars such as Will Smith have embraced the app.

Online personalities finding mainstream success is not a new phenomenon. Canadian Lilly Singh launched a YouTube channel in 2010, which has led to a bestselling book and a late-night talk show on NBC.

Darren Blakeborough, an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Fraser Valley, says the accessibility of online platforms and stories like nine-year-old Ryan Kaji, who was YouTube’s top earner in 2020 with $29.5 million, are a seductive to people who want fame and the wealth that follows.

That’s easier said than done, but Blakeborough thinks Collins has found success because her comedy is genuine at a time when viewers need a laugh.

“We’re all looking for an escape from whatever this is that we’re doing right now,” he says. “The thing I love about comedy is it’s not just an escape. It can be an escape, but it can also joke and critique and interrogate those things that are giving you anxiety.”

Collins’ comedy relies on characters she thinks her viewers will relate to.

There’s Janet, the tired mom of precocious Riley, and Katrina, who Collins says is inspired by a tough Russian woman whose hair she used to cut. Noisy neighbour Deborah, a more recent addition, is based off an incident when Collins says her real neighbour caught her filming from the roof.

Each character also has a signature prop. Chad, for example, wears a pair of wraparound sunglasses, while the kids each have their own toques to use with a pair of tiny hands. Collins says most of the props she uses have been sent by fans.

“I had an optometrist send me like 50 pairs of recycled glasses one time and somebody just knitted me like 20 toques,” she says. “I think that’s so fun that I can use the stuff that my followers think I could use.”

Her fans haven’t just sent props.

In September, Collins was doing a livestream when a fan asked if TikTok was her full-time job. It wasn’t, she was still working as a part-time stylist, but that night donations started flooding in, which led to a thank you video the next day from a visibly stunned Collins.

By December she had enough income to quit cutting hair. TikTok is now her career — and it’s a lot of work.

A typical day for Collins starts with meetings (she recently started her own merchandise company), followed by time set aside to brainstorm ideas. Then she spends hours writing scripts for the videos, which she films and posts every day.

And that’s just for TikTok. She’s also started a YouTube channel and has begun streaming on Twitch as well.

“I always looked at people who did this kind of stuff and was like, ‘That’s the easiest job ever.’ This is the hardest job I’ve ever had,” she says. “It’s the coolest job I’ve ever had, but it’s all you. You’ve got to put the effort in if you want to succeed. It’s a crazy day that sometimes doesn’t end until midnight, but I’m so happy doing it.”

Whereas YouTube and Twitch allow creators to monetize their channels, TikTok doesn’t offer that option in Canada.

Creators can, however, make money with sponsorship deals. Collins has worked with shoe and makeup brands and is open to more partnerships, but she’s also leery of advertising that will turn away her audience. It has to feel authentic, or she’s not interested.

“I understand a lot of creators need to make money and I completely respect that, and viewers should respect that as well. But there is a point where it’s just like, OK, are you on here to make money or are you on here because you enjoy it and you actually like doing this. That’s where I try to draw the line.”

Her audience has also respected when Collins has drawn more personal lines as well.

Collins is frank about her mental health, both in conversation and in her videos. Comedy, she says, is a coping mechanism. Sometimes that makes her depression and anxiety the punchline of a video. Other times, she has filmed herself simply feeling it.

That’s led to an unexpected connection with her fans.

“I have now 23-million people looking at me, waiting for things, hoping that it’s going to be good enough,” she says. “I put that pressure on myself. I’ve made posts where it’s just like, ‘Hey guys, I’m not doing that great,’ and everybody’s like, ‘Take a break.’”

But until the pandemic ends, and Collins can actually meet her fans, she has a difficult time make sense of her burgeoning fame.

There’s no autograph signings, no red carpets, no obvious trappings of her success. Is Collins famous? It probably depends on who you ask, and what apps are on their phone.

“I feel like I’m just a weirdo in my basement making videos and people are enjoying them,” she says. “I think Angelina Jolie is famous. I think I am internet famous.”

READ MORE:

VIDEO: BC teen tackles 3 world records solving Rubik’s cubes while hula hooping

West Kootenay clothing store rockets to TikTok stratosphere

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

social mediasocial media influencers

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As part of Earth Week, Ucluelet Rotary Club member Ryan Wackett will be handing out free Clean Up Packages with grabber picker up tools at his shop Westcoast Connect from April 10 to 23. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet Rotary honours Earth Day with week long community clean up

“Let’s spring into action and clean up our beautiful communities!”

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour closures coming to Hwy. 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino-Ucluelet

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song and performance

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Ucluelet locals Rachael, Caroline and Tom enjoy refreshments on a sunny Monday afternoon at a picnic table dining area set up by the District of Ucluelet to help residents and visitors support local businesses while staying outside. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Ucluelet chamber launches bingo contest to support local restaurants

Four Ucluelet Co-op shopping sprees are up for grabs in #Ukee2go competition.

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read