GlamDemon2004 on riding the line between authenticity and shtick
Plus: Why Brooklyn media people use this one mom's HBO login.
Password Sharing Is Caring
A new Netflix test threatens to eliminate one of the only human things about streaming.
During peak HBO television time—when shows like Game Of Thrones and Big Little Lies would make Twitter unusable on Sunday nights—a small collection of Brooklyn media people were all tuning in to the channel using the same login. It belonged to one NYC writer's mother. I won’t get more specific, because I don’t want to blow up the spot of anyone still using this account to watch whatever HBO content hasn’t moved to HBO Max, but I am almost certain that neither the mother nor the writer is aware just how far the password to that account has traveled.
The writer's then-boyfriend was the first one to piggyback on the account. After they broke up, he would continue sharing the login with anyone in his orbit who wanted it. Soon, people who had never even met the writer were using her mom’s account to get their fix of The Sopranos.
My own mom is a similar kind of benefactor. Not, as far as I’m aware, to that scale. But for a while I’d log onto her Hulu and see, to my surprise, that the last thing she (?) put on was The L Word. Her “Keep Watching” section was filled with Easter eggs from various friends of the mine, and I’d often play a guessing game as to who watched what, texting the friend in question when I thought I had figured it out.
Eventually my family called a spade a spade and added an additional user to our Netflix and Hulu accounts specifically for interlopers, so their choices don’t mess up any of our family recommendations. But now, Netflix is considering cracking down on this type of password sharing. Eliminating this charmingly human aspect of streaming makes me feel weirdly defiant. These people are my (mom’s) guests—only I get to say when they can leave! —Kate Lindsay
GlamDemon2004 Lets Us In On the Joke
"Sometimes I'm in a mood where I'm just like, I want to start some shit."
It's hard to imagine a TikTok For You Page that’s never featured Serena Shahidi. The 21-year-old Fashion Institute of Technology student, who appears on the internet under the screen name Glamdemon2004, has enchanted the app with her distinct voice and unflinching opinions on things like fashion and dating, which can sometimes veer into the controversial, depending on how seriously you want to take her that day.
“I like to ride the line between authenticity and just fucking around and having a shtick,” she tells me over Zoom.
When Shahidi isn’t skewering people who believe in astrology and making self-deprecating comments about her mental health, she’s working in talent management at the financial media firm Bullish—on top of getting her degree in fashion business. A lot of these career moves were thanks to TikTok, which she downloaded with the rest of the world at the start of the pandemic.
“I was living in an illegal nine bedroom apartment in Tribeca, living the dream,” she says. Her growth was steady, and around May, it became clear that she’d really blown up. Now she sits at 380,000 followers, which she’s parlayed into brand deals with companies like the dating app Iris, as well as a podcast, Let Me Ruin Your Life. A recent episode began with her singing “happy cancellation to me” to the tune of “Happy Birthday” after viewers accused one of her videos of being classist and ableist.
The controversy ultimately centered around Shahidi’s tone, and how much of her content is meant to be comical and how much is meant to be taken at face value. The creator isn’t quite sure herself. —KL
Is there a difference between your online persona and you in real life?
I don't think there is much of a difference, which is probably concerning for me. I try to keep things a little more cohesive online just because I feel like we're all complicated people, we're all hypocrites. So I don't want to say, “Oh, I hate this thing,” and then, you know, in another video I'm like, “Oh, I love this thing.” Not because I actually care about my brand image, but just because people will be so goddamn annoying about it. I would say that's the biggest difference, along with, just, there's things that just don't translate on the internet. I feel like most of the jokes I make in real life would seem wildly insensitive on the internet just because that's how the internet versus real life works.
Have you noticed a certain type of video that performs best?
The fucking millennial videos. It's nothing crazy, but every time it has the most insane reaction. Obviously a couple of them actually legitimately blew up, but it's also what [has] gotten the most attention from the media. I think that's really interesting.
When you see that a certain subject does well, it’s natural to be like, “Okay, I'm going to do more of that.” But I also imagine that you don't want to get stuck on one thing and you want to be able to be yourself. How much of your content is dictated by what you think will do well?
I don't really gear my content towards what's going to do well. Sometimes I'm in a mood where I'm just like, I want to start some shit, I know this is going to get a reaction from whoever. But for the most part, I don't really think about it too much. I've never really had a calculated social media presence and it's working okay.
I’m also interested in your username, GlamDemon2004. What was the thinking behind that?
I've had this username for a few years now. Before I think it was just my name and I had seen a few Instagram usernames that were just funny—like there was one that's @bloatedandalone4evr1993. So I liked the format of something funny and then a number. So I would just use an adjective, “glam,” and then “demon,” and then 2004, just because I love the year.
For a second I thought maybe you were born in 2004.
My commenters, they either think I'm 30 because of the ... everything about me ... or they think I'm 16.
Another thing about you that stands out in your voice. Were you aware that you had a distinct way of speaking before you got on TikTok?
I had gotten some comments on my voice before, like guys at bars have commented on my high school speech and debate coach, that kind of stuff. But I’ve never gotten the reactions that I get on TikTok. And I'm sure that my voice is more performative or distinct when I'm recording a video—just unconsciously, you change your voice because you are performing in some sense. I feel like TikTok is very good at identifying those types of things and every comment section and community is so ... everyone's so contingent on each other's opinions. So those observations and opinions can go very far. Even if it's not the first thing people notice about you in real life.
What’s your relationship like with your following?
I don't really have a cohesive, running joke with my following, but I feel like in some sense everyone's in on the joke, whatever the joke is. I know sometimes when my videos get to a lot of people and a lot of people who are unfamiliar with me, it can cause controversy just because they don't really know what's up. I just seem condescending. Which I guess I am.
You also launched a podcast back in August. Had that been a long-term goal of yours?
I've always listened to podcasts and always been interested in podcasts and I did some standup before the pandemic. So I was missing doing comedy and that sort of stuff. I had a lot of comments asking me to do a podcast and eventually I was just like, “Why not?” Someone I didn't like was starting a podcast at around the same time and that was kind of like the deciding factor for like, "Okay, I'm going to start it this week." 'Cause they were releasing that week. It was out of spite. I always thought I would have a podcast. I didn't think it would just be like this.
Is the podcast growing its own audience or is it in tandem with your TikTok?
It was pretty linked with TikTok but it's also growing its own audience. I feel like a lot of people find me on TikTok and then wind up deleting TikTok or not being on it, which is probably a good decision.
With TikTok and your podcast, have your post-grad goals changed?
My life and career trajectory has been flipped upside down this past year. A bit before TikTok and before the pandemic, I had changed my major. I was originally studying design and then I just decided to study fashion business instead. Then I started working with brands, started getting more into the marketing side of things, and now I'm working at a financial media company. It's nice to get away from fashion. I feel like now my career trajectory is more suited towards my skill set.
Would you ever do social media full time?
There are definitely certain routes that I don't want to take with that. Most social media careers are ones that I would not want to have. But it's definitely something that interests me and that I have fun doing, even if TikTok itself isn't the end game, which I don't think it is. What it's allowed me to do and the platform it's allowed me to build has definitely been a contributing factor in changing my goals.
Despite the pandemic, have you been able to meet up with any other TikTokkers?
Obviously it's different from normal times, so it's a lot fewer than I'm sure I would have otherwise, but the creators that I have met have become very close friends of mine: Marc Sebastian; Audrey Peters; one of my best friends now, her name is Ri, and she runs the Wall Street Confessions Instagram page. She found me on there and now we're really close because of TikTok even though she's not a TikTok creator, so I've definitely made some really good friends.
Do you consider your TikTok friends separate from your IRL friends?
I've definitely been able to integrate them. I definitely consider a lot of these people a part of my friend group. They're not like Sway boys. Like, they have a personality outside of TikTok, they have had a career before TikTok. When you're a normal person on TikTok and you make friends with other creators, if you're talking about TikTok, you're talking shit and you're talking purely shit. So there are people who I feel like I might've met otherwise without TikTok and people who have lives outside of TikTok. So I've been able to integrate that part of my life because they are normal people.
So I’m guessing you’d never join a content house.
Possibly, if it was my friends. My friends have definitely talked about that and I don't know what we would do or what would happen. One of my friends is dating a guy who just bought a house in Malibu and I'm like, tell him to get us a TikTok house. I'll join a content house to avoid Manhattan rent.
How has TikTok changed in the past year you’ve been part of it?
Most generally, the scope of TikTok and the cultural impact of TikTok has gotten incomprehensibly big. A good friend of mine who is not really a TikTokker, his name is Curtis Waters and he wrote the song "Stunnin’" that I'm sure you're familiar with. I literally went to high school with him—like when we were 16 we would text each other when we were depressed or whatever. He's the sweetest person on earth. I couldn't ask for a better person to have blown up. And because that song has been used in so many TikToks, that has completely transformed his life, which is so crazy. It's not even his face, but it flipped his life over. The trajectory of TikTok, the mainstream appeal of TikTok, every marketer now is going over to TikTok. Part of my job now is just like, “Okay, who's making this type of content that we want to work with?”
Has getting big on TikTok helped you professionally?
There's so many markers of success that come from TikTok, even if you're not going to put, like, "Queen of TikTok" on your resume. But now I can say like, "Oh, I've been featured on like Fox News or Buzzfeed. I've collaborated with these brands." The job I have I fully nepotism-ed my way into because of TikTok, like it's these crazy things that never would have happened. Which is so strange to see that that just came from me talking to my phone. That should not be a career.
If I were part of Rachel Hollis’s team, I’d consider quitting. The “inspirational” influencer, who’s written several books despite frequently being accused of plagiarism, threw her entire team under the bus in her latest scandal. After posting a TikTok that appeared to compare her accomplishments to those of Harriet Tubman, Oprah Winfrey, and Malala Yousafzai, she faced intense backlash in the comments, including from people like Luvvie Ajayi Jones and Jamil Smith, who Hollis ignored for four days until finally posting an apology on Sunday. That delay, she writes in the dispatch, was because she listened to her “team” instead of her “gut,” saying they were the ones who told her not to respond. In the 24 hours since the “apology,” she’s lost over 13,000 followers—a number I hope includes members of the team she just used as a scapegoat.
The Fine Print
Thank you Serena Shahidi for telling your truth and [redacted] for sharing your HBO login. Consider following us on Twitter and/or Instagram. We hope you never have to choose between paying Manhattan rent or joining a content house.