Last week, famous child and TikTok star Charli D’Amelio—and her sister Dixie, by proxy—was dragged across the internet for being sort of mean to celebrity chef Aaron May during a family dinner with Sister Supreme James Charles. As users across TikTok made videos meant to, I believe, shame the tween dancer into acting with some level of respect for service workers, D’Amelio dropped somewhere around one million followers. She never “apologized,” and instead insisted that she was a “good person with a good heart.”
It’s been a week now, and she’s obviously gained it all back.
The Post reports that D’Amelio broke 100 million followers today, becoming the first person ever to reach that pinnacle on TikTok. After the breathy coverage in tabloids across the internet last week, the news might come as a shock, since just about everyone was convinced the final cancellation nail had been driven into this 16-year-old’s fame coffin. But that doesn’t appear to be the case! It took her no time to regain the followers she’d lost, and by the looks of it, she will end this entire debacle with more than she had to begin with.
In “these times we live in,” the gossip press’s often bonkers news cycle has exacerbated the severity of non-events like this. Sure, D’Amelio’s behavior was like any other teen moved across the country by their parents to pursue viral fame in the worst city in the world, Los Angeles, while being cheered on by hundreds of millions of fans, not to mention studio heads, advertisers, investors, tech giants, and all the other poweful people who rule over the vast halls of the internet. But simply put: this was never anything more than a small, somewhat interesting anecdote in the sprawling fame this teen has accumulated for herself, on an app where it is increasingly difficult to hide the worst parts of your personality. An app on which, at any minute, millions of people can splice together just about anything a person says, for whatever purpose they want.
This is not to excuse D’Amelio, of course. Moreso, it is to point out how swiftly this story of “1 million lost followers” disseminated across the internet, like it was a remarkable observation about internet fame. It’s ironic, even, that James Charles happened to be at that fateful family dinner after those same swathes of the internet fervently devoured his own “cancellation” at the hands of Tati Westbrook. (And look how that worked out for Westbrook.)
For some, follower counts might mean something. Like to advertisers or bloggers looking to fill in a narrative about the D’Amelios. In a pandemic, there’s almost no other choice, not when the wasteland of celebrity coverage gets drier by the minute. But for those shaping the app, the actual users, meaningless phrases like “cancellation” amount to nothing. Every second, hundreds of young people cancel each other, or themselves, or celebrities, or politicians or cereal brands or literal points of geographical interest and words and dance trends. The TikTok mill churns, and the passe becomes in vogue again, and the cancellations of yesteryear cycle back into popularity or notoriety, like they were before a 30-second video documented, in excruciating detail, a minor quirk of body language, or “leaked DMs,” or the shady likes on someone’s Twitter account.
It’s disheartening, maybe, that the internet simply moves too fast for something like a celebrity chef kerfuffle to make a meaningful impact on the public perception of a celebrity. There are eras of the internet within recent memory when this would not have been the case. But that was then, and this is now. Charli D’Amelio, whether anyone loves her or hates her, is here to stay, until the next big thing shakes up the content wars, or she decides to pivot to suburban Instagram influencer. These days, those seem to be the only cancellations that stick.