As an immigrant kid growing up in northern Italy’s public-housing estates, Khabane Lame wanted nothing more than to make people laugh. When a global pandemic shut down Italy, and then the world, in March 2020 he found his stage. Posting as @khaby.lame on TikTok, the then 20-year-old laid-off factory worker from Senegal started spoofing the platform’s overly complicated “life hack” videos with simple, commonsense solutions. His exaggerated facial expressions, comic timing, and a memeable everyman shrug earned him tens of thousands of new followers with every clip.
On June 22, he became the most followed TikToker in the world, with nearly 150 million fans. And he did it without words. “Body language is universal,” he said from the Milan apartment he shares with two friends. “By staying silent, I am understood. Everybody can laugh alongside me.”
This year the content creator is estimated to earn around $10 million.