Addison Rae's growth on TikTok came as a complete shock to her.
In PEOPLE's exclusive preview of her appearance on the Emergency Contact podcast, the multi-hyphenate opens up about her unexpected rise on the social media platform. Rae, who joined the app in 2019, says she was initially hesitant to take part in creating TikToks.
The 20-year-old tells podcast co-hosts Simon Huck and Melissa Gray Washington on the podcast that, at first, she wasn't really into TikTok.
"The sophomores or freshman would be in there doing it and I'd be like, 'Eh, OK.' I just wasn't really into it because I was about to graduate, I was obviously focusing on other things," Rae says.
The "Obsessed" singer continues, "I remember one of my friends who was younger, she was like, 'Oh, be in these TikToks with me.' The video literally [still] exists on the internet right now. I'm doing the craziest dance moves in it because I was like, 'I don't know what this is.' [People] just turned to TikTok from Musical.ly. People were just starting to get it that were, like, in high school. The older crowd was starting to get it a little."
Rae had a change of heart while on a family vacation, however. She posted — and later deleted — her first-ever TikTok featuring her dad, Monty Lopez.
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"I was like, 'You know, let me try this out. I feel like I could do this. Let me try this out.' So I got on the app, [I] literally didn't know what I was doing at all. I was like, 'This is embarrassing. This is embarrassing to my family,'" she recalls. "I posted a video of my dad for my first video ever, which no one really knows. Definitely no traction there. … It was, like, the dumbest, weirdest video I could have posted ever. I got, like, literally one like."
She adds, "I was like, 'Ah, this is not for me, I guess.' So I deleted the video and I was like, 'Alright, I'm not going to post in this app because I don't know what I'm doing.'"
Despite failing to gain attention with her first TikTok, she ended up creating another one where she lip synched alongside a friend. "The first day I posted it, my friends had liked it. So it had, like, 15 likes or something, and I was like, 'OK, I'm getting the hang of this. I'm figuring it out,'" she says. "Then the next morning, I woke up and it had 92,000 likes."
From there, the overnight sensation chose to continue posting on the short-form video sharing app. "I kept posting and kept posting and then a video of my mom [Sheri Nicole Easterling] and I went viral. It had, like, 300,000 likes," she said, noting that her first video to hit 1 million likes also featured her mother.
The social media influencer added that her success on TikTok "shows me that this app is bigger than I thought it was."
Rae has since amassed more than 79 million followers on the popular app. She's used the success to pursue other career endeavors, including launching her clean beauty brand, Item Beauty. She created a successful YouTube channel and began co-hosting a podcast with her mother, titled Mama Knows Best. Not only is she gearing up to make her film debut in the upcoming She's All That reboot, but she also dropped her first-ever song and subsequent music video for "Obsessed" last month.
Forbes reported late last year that Rae is TikTok's top earner, having accumulated an impressive $5 million through the app in 2019 alone.
Outside of Rae's many career highs, she previously said that "staying mentally healthy" is also something that she is proud of.
"There's so many times that I've been like, 'This is a lot, maybe it's mentally challenging,' and then wanting to give up," she told Glamour U.K. in its February 2021 issue. "But then I remember that I got where I am today, and that I should take every opportunity I can to just accomplish everything that I dreamed of."
Check out the rest of Rae's interview on the Emergency Contact podcast, which is now available on all podcast platforms.
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