Thousands of young Egyptians have turned to the popular Chinese app TikTok to share stories and reveal some of their talents.
It is now time to give the stage to the ladies as they make equally strong waves on TikTok.
Sarah Osman, improvisation and speed
“Sudden popularity guarantees quick success,” Sarah Osman says confidently before adding as she smiles: "It's the TikTok effect."
“The mentality of our generation is different, we are the generation of the virtual world, the iPads, iPhones, etc. Everything has to happen quickly, out of the blue and with no rules to follow."
With sudden popularity the doors of a career open, and success becomes easier. Photography and modeling have always been her dream fields. Her mother, a university professor and her father - a sea captain - never opposed her dreams nor her videos.
“Their advice was to take all necessary precautions, especially with regards to privacy,” Osman who prior to TikTok had already explored YouTube, comments.
She started experimenting on TikTok during the confinement. “I lip-synced an English song. On the first day, I was surprised to have 9,000 followers. After a week, their number had passed 37,000.”
Indeed, lip-syncing has become a TikTok fashion. Yet, Osman posts also other videos. “One in which I was doing yoga was very successful," said Osman. "Success on TikTok is much faster than on YouTube and TikTok is not all about dance and humor; it also touches on other spheres, I find it to be a positive space where people support each other and I am in awe of the love I receive," she added.
Osman comments on her fans’ posts using ‘Franco’ (method of typing Arabic words using English lettering) or in English. According to her, writing in Arabic is more difficult and takes time. "Latin letters are easier to write on the keyboard," she explains, stressing that it is not a desire for Westernisation, but that she simply was educated at an American school and feels more comfortable this way.
Sarah Osman’s mother asked her to take a break and concentrate on her studies. The tiktoker believes however, that her activity on the platform could help her build a career as an art director.
But what if TikTok stops existing or is banned? "I'm sure a new app will emerge and it will be more successful, this is the era of full speed,” she concludes.
Zeina El-Soly and self-mockery
17-year-old Zeina El-Soly already has over 130,000 followers and over a million likes on TikTok.
The character of Zaytoona created and played by Zeina has become one of the best known on the teen app. In a dialect of Gulf countries, Zaytoona allows us to discover her daily life via TikTok.
“I never thought my videos would be so popular,” El-Soly comments adding that she finds TikTok to be a fun app and that now she’d not know how to live without it.
This social network is definitely more in line with Generation Z. According to El-Soly, Instagram users show the best of themselves, embellish the posts with filters, and create special staging. On TikTok, the users are not afraid of being self-depreciative, showing all their imperfections.
“My parents' generation is more the YouTube generation. This generation could follow a programme or an episode for an hour on YouTube. For us, it is impossible," she admits.
“My first video was a challenge called: Wrong Answers Only. It's about asking a question and giving an answer that has nothing to do with it. This one-minute video got 500,000 likes in two weeks.”
El-Soly's success on TikTok has resulted in her being invited to several restaurants and amusement parks to be filmed and advertised there. “Why not? Going out and getting to know people… it feels good! Plus, it's great to be famous and meet your fans!” she commented.
El-Soly wishes to study Mass Communication, a field that she loves and that is not far from what she is doing at the moment.
Seeking new ideas on a daily basis, she did not hesitate to share videos shot with her mom, her little brother or even her father.
“My dad was a little embarrassed at first seeing me surrounded by fans but little by little, he started to discover my videos and understood that I was not doing anything abnormal: no insults, no improper dances, etc."
Interacting with your fans is an important elements of TikTok, while the language used in the messages seems to be an identifier. "The Cairenes often write in English, the provincials in Arabic or Franco," El-Soly points out with pride of havings fans from all over Egypt.
Rola Khalil bets on humor
In each of her videos on TikTok, Rola Khalil portrays a different character as she caricaturises many stereotypes. By just being herself, Khalil provides a good dose of humor, enough to make her one of the best Tiktokers to follow.
"Since I was a child, I loved television and was known to those around me for playing certain characters, especially those who make people laugh. On my Facebook account, I shared several of my videos, but only with my friends. They encouraged me to go public and share my videos on TikTok, which is more fashionable," Khalil comments to Al Ahram Hebdo.
Within hours after posting, her first video on TikTok gained 20,000 views. “I was amazed! I am not trying to collect followers and likes. The proof is that among my followers there are those who also became tiktokers and now have more followers than I do. TikTok is a pleasure for myself and others.”
Khalil takes her job seriously. She looks for a character to play, prepares her costumes and does rehearsals. “It's true that TikTok requires specific content, meaning that a classic Instagram story will not gain interest on TikTok,” she comments.
Being 19-years-old and just starting her studies of Mass Communication at the American University in Cairo, Rola Khalil was not prepared for this sudden rush of fame.
“My parents convinced me that I better study in a quieter field, one that would ensure that I could find a job easily. They are not conservatives, but they find it difficult to have a life that revolves solely around the entertainment area and they are right.” Khalil has some experience in arts though. She used to take ballet classes, and now attends theatre drama workshops.
Today Khalil's follower count has exceeded 114,000 followers and she has two million likes. She is also planning for more serious projects and is looking for volunteers to help film and edit her.
“It's time to switch to YouTube, to make longer and more serious content. The topics would tackle the condition of women, sexual harassment, etc. I am very interested in subjects related to women. I will discuss them through documentaries.”
Check also Egyptians star on TikTok (Part I): Hassan Piso, Farouk Elgohary, Ziad Salem.
*This article was originally published in Al Ahram Hebdo, in French, 6 January 2021 edition. Additional edit: Ahram Online.
For more arts and culture news and updates, follow Ahram Online Arts and Culture on Twitter at @AhramOnlineArts and on Facebook at Ahram Online: Arts & Culture