Thousands of young Egyptians have turned to the popular Chinese app TikTok to share their stories and reveal their talents.
Hence, a breakthrough of several local names on the platform.
Below we highlight three young men who gained fame on TikTok.
Check also three ladies in: Egyptians star on TikTok (Part II): Sarah Osman, Zeina El-Soly, Rola Khalil
Hassan Piso: The webmarketing pro
Hassan Piso is one of those "content creators" who produce original videos tailored for the platform.
Betting on humour, he gained nearly 600,000 followers and 18 million likes, with brands like Huawei and Edita asking him to promote their products
"It is web marketing," Piso comments to Al-Ahram Hebdo. It is obvious that having studied foreign trade and business administration, Piso has the advantage of his specialisation and shared his understanding of how it all works.
"It is a way to influence others. Maybe change lives?" he says.
Piso has already shot a series of videos, which has caused a stir among young people. Positive reactions flooded his inbox to thank him or explain how his videos impacted their lives.
"They were mostly videos about the English language," he explains. In a few seconds, he exposed his followers to some references for learning English.
"I spent a year in the United States on a student exchange programme. I taught Arabic language in an Islamic association."
Upon his return, Piso was hired in a centre that teaches foreign languages, as he now gives English language lessons.
"I started to discover TikTok last year. Last February, I shared a video, which received 150,000 likes in a single day. It was a video in which I played the character of a young man who speaks English with an Egyptian accent. Then, in March, I posted two videos which dealt with the cancellation of exams. After a few months, I accumulated thousands of followers."
Today, Piso has over 600,000 followers and 18 million likes on TikTok, 80,000 followers on Instagram, and 8,000 subscribers on YouTube.
"You always have to adapt your content to each platform, because the audience changes. Above all, joining TikTok means taking advantage of the platform's rapid dissemination. YouTube, on the other hand, requires more assiduous work and takes longer to accumulate subscribers. However, I expect to have 100,000 at the beginning of June. I am working on it, but it will be a surprise," he reveals.
Playing the roles of a content creator on social networks, a screenwriter, a financial advisor or economist, Piso's choice has not yet been made.
"It all depends on the chances I have. At the moment, I'm managing to balance my talents and studies, which I love," he concludes.
Farouk Elgohary: Actor or engineer?
With blue eyes and curly hair, Farouk Elgohary has won over the Tiktok community, even if he is not originally from the platform.
Having started on Instagram, he decided to migrate to TikTok after the onset of the pandemic.
"I was modeling and I always shared my photos and videos on Instagram. One day, I asked a friend to show me how TikTok works. I played a scene from the famous soap opera La Casa de Papel, and the video garnered 400,000 views in one day! It was really surprising," he says.
A hilarious young man, he creates sketches about situations where he is alone, with family, or friends.
"At first I didn't think about telling my parents I was doing TikTok. But with the growing success, I showed them my videos and they didn't oppose. My parents and I are real friends."
Farouk gained popularity thanks to the video where he played the "cool guy", pronouncing the word "Peanut Butter" with an American accent. The video went viral on all platforms, garnering 12 million views in total.
"It was fun. Maybe my way of pronouncing the words caught people’s attention," Elgohary comments, emphasising that the point of TikTok is to film yourself and make short videos while experimenting "with different filters and effects."
"We are a generation that has very little patience." Elgohary admitted.
Despite his success, which resulted in 700,000 followers on TikTok, Elgohary opted to study engineering.
"Since I was a child, math and science were my favorite subjects. Hence engineering makes perfect sense."
In parallel to his studies Elgohary also trains in beat boxing and volleyball.
"In Egypt, TikTok is not yet remunerated, but it will undoubtedly be useful to me if I ever decide to become an actor. Several companies have called me to participate in advertisements."
However, some of his videos are strongly criticised. "This is the price of fame! But you have to be sure of yourself, and know that it's okay not to be loved by everyone," he comments. Considering himself a "social influencer", Elgohary has a strong presence on almost all platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and of course TikTok.
But the influencers’ lives are not always a bed of roses. "Social networks are one of the main causes of depression in young people: they lead not only to isolation, but also to a refusal of reality, thinking that others lead a better life." Elgohary addresses those topics in quite a few of his videos.
Ziad Salem: Singing and parodying
Having posted his first video on TikTok in early 2020, Ziad Salem immediately began attracting attention, and today he has around two million followers.
Born to a Kuwaiti father and an Egyptian mother, he is the grandson of renowned art critic Lotus Abdel-Karim.
Salem initially used YouTube to post some of the songs he performed, however, when he did not get enough views, he decided to cancel his YouTube channel.
"Some time later, and thanks to my colleagues in high school, I started exploring Instagram. Right after my first video, I had 100 followers, then 5,000 the next day, and after a week, my followers were up to 12,000. This encouraged me to do TikToks."
It was thanks to a video series called Singing on the Stairs that he became successful. In it, he stands on the stairs of the villa where he lives and sings popular songs such as Bad Romance by Lady Gaga, Snowman by Sia, among others. In a matter of days, he became a star.
"Last summer in the North Coast, a lady approached me and asked ‘Are you Ziad the tiktoker? My daughter loves you, and me too!," Salem recalls.
"I am an ordinary person, and not a star as we often say," he comments without hiding his happiness.
His fans have created Facebook pages that bear his name: Ziad Salem Top fans, Ziad Salem biggest fans, or I adore Ziad Salem. But does he see himself as an influencer?
"I wouldn't say that in absolute terms! But I could be, when I make videos giving advice on how to perform songs better, or responding to fans who ask me questions about singing.
However, Salem would prefer to be known as a singer rather than a tiktoker.
"TikTok has had a big impact on my life, but also on my whole generation. During the confinement, we had the chance to open up to different lifestyles,"
On his smart phone, Salem already has 400 unreleased songs. He films himself, then decides if he wants to share the video.
But what if TikTok stops existing? "There would undoubtedly be alternatives. Before TikTok, there was Dubsmash and Vine. There is no lack of apps on the Internet!"
Check also Egyptians star on TikTok (Part II): Sarah Osman, Zeina El-Soly, Rola Khalil
*This article was originally published in Al Ahram Hebdo, in French, 6 January 2021 edition. Additional edit: Ahram Online.
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