Emily Uribe plays a celebrity on TikTok
Meet the 21-year-old staging her own Jimmy Kimmel interviews for 300,000 followers.
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I get more anxious than I should thinking I’ll end up on James Corden's “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts.” —Kate
There is no one more experienced at being interviewed than 21-year-old Emily Uribe. She’s participated in the Wired autocomplete challenge, sat for a Variety roundtable, and taken questions on countless red carpets. Or she has in her imagination, anyway.
Answering questions as if she were a celebrity, Uribe, a film major at Cal State Northridge, is probably getting more eyeballs than the "real" stars whose publicists book them into those popular interview formats. She has over 300,000 followers on TikTok who watch videos with titles like, “me pretending I don’t know the camera is on during the beginning of a press tour interview,” “me pretending Jimmy Kimmel mentions my mom is in the studio audience,” and “me pretending my costar spoiled a major character in the movie we’re doing.”
The videos, which routinely get millions of views, are part of an emerging microgenre on the app. A 20-year-old TikTokker in England, George Louise, makes similar (and similarly viral) videos, suggesting, among other things, the disturbing possibility that Jimmy Fallon is permanently embedded in our collective unconscious.
Uribe began posting on TikTok to participate in One Direction’s 10 year anniversary in 2020, and then had to figure out what came next.
“There's not much news coming out about One Direction and Harry [Styles] is a very private person, as he deserves to be,” she says over the phone. “I thought, well, I still want to use my account and I still want to help my career. So how do I do that?”
Uribe wants to become an actress, so, inspired by Louise’s content, she made her own celebrity-style interview video while in the break room at her retail job. It took off, and now she’s made a name for herself for ... making a name for herself.
Uribe’s videos are absurd and charming, but they're also shrewd critiques of how predictable celebrity interactions with the media have become. If Uribe can make videos that are as compelling as any star's, what exactly is the value of interviewing those stars? That the answer is probably "zero" is part of what makes Uribe’s videos so hypnotizing to watch over and over. We spoke about drawing inspiration from fandom culture and making TikTok her portfolio.
Are there any specific celebrities you’re trying to emulate in your videos?
Florence Pugh. She is so personable. She's very relatable and she's very fun. Scarlett Johansson's interviews are very interesting. She's very, very good. I really like watching hers. Adam Driver is someone very good to watch in interviews. There's very specific things they all do. It's the mouth movements that they do and how they move in their chair.
How did you become so familiar with these tropes?
I think growing up, I used to run so many fan accounts. I used to stay up for James Corden and Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. I watched these shows in real time [up until I was 18]. I think I kind of picked up on the little things, and then you get older and then you start watching the Wired interviews or W Magazine or Vogue interviews. Transitioning from TV to then just watching on YouTube, I think there is where I picked up a lot of the little tricks.
What are some other tropes you try to include?
Directing the question back to the interviewer, some way, somehow. It's a great way of deflection. You don't have to answer the question. I've noticed that they do that a lot. And then I think also, looking at certain things, looking at the camera man, having a conversation with somebody else in the studio. That's really popular in the Wired interviews. They're never directly looking at the camera. They're always talking to everyone around them. And mentioning little things like, "Oh, this was so hard. Oh my God." Like the way that they talk, you pick up on it and then you just do your own spin on it.
What’s your relationship like with your followers? Do they play along?
I do get suggestions and I love when I get suggestions. I have a folder in my notes and literally anytime I get an idea, I just put it in there. And then they do keep up with it all, the facade. I do see that sometimes in comments. One thing I always love to say is like, this is just for fun. This is for entertainment. I'm still a student. I still work in retail up until I'm on a red carpet. I am not doing anything crazy right now.
Why do you think so many people relate to these videos?
I think it fulfills a fantasy. I think we've all imagined at one point what we would do. What would you do if you were in Jimmy Kimmel's chair? How are you going to answer that question? If you've seen any interviews online you think, “If I was in their position, this is how I would act, or this is what I would do.” Some people do it in their bathrooms. Some people do it in their rooms. Some comments are like, “On my way to work, I pretend I'm doing a podcast.” That's really cool.
Do you ever feel trapped by the algorithm into posting these videos?
The algorithm is a very crazy, crazy thing. If I see that something is doing well, I try to post something else to contrast it and see how that's doing. And that way I have a good balance of both. But for the most part right now, the ideas that I have for interview videos sometimes take over just because you want to make sure that you're entertaining the audience and you want to make sure that you are catering to what they want, but at the same time you want to fulfill something in yourself. Post what you want to post.
Do you have any hopes for what you can turn your TikTok into?
I do have a bigger plan and I think using TikTok and then developing that following makes you a more valuable asset to any project. You're going to be bringing in your audience and your followers, and then they're going to hopefully watch. So I've been trying to meet with some agencies and really trying to do self-tapes. My biggest end goal is to become an actress. That would be the coolest thing ever. And I'm trying my very best. It's a very competitive industry.
Well conveniently, you’re basically already media trained.
I know. Hopefully my agent doesn't tell me I need more classes. I'd be like, “Are you sure? Are you sure? Take a look at my portfolio.”