In August 2019, Brittany Tomlinson uploaded a TikTok of herself trying kombucha for the first time.
Her face whiplashed back and forth between utter disgust and thoughtful contemplation that it might not be all that bad, a reaction that had all the makings of a global meme. Tomlinson became known as “the kombucha girl” and found herself flooded with new fame and followers. She also found herself out of a job.
Tomlinson worked at a bank in Dallas with no intention of becoming a content creator. But her boss, clearly more concerned with perceived professionalism than Tomlinson’s natural comedic timing, practically made the decision for her when she handed Tomlinson her pink slip less than a month after going viral.
“It was like, well I guess I have to make this lucrative somehow ’cause I have bills to pay,” says Tomlinson, who relocated to Los Angeles and goes by “Brittany Broski” online. “I knew that we were on minute 14:59 of my 15 minutes of fame, and so I was just pumping out other content.”
POV: you listen to me bitch about my mate who slept wif me boyfriend. What a slag
Not wanting to be a one-sip wonder, Tomlinson started to gain an even bigger following with her gonzo skits, spot-on British accent, and literal bathroom humor (she has frequent dispatches from her toilet).
“When I get comments that are like, ‘I’ve been following you for so long,’ a lot of the time it’s not the meme that they talk about,” she says. “It means a lot that people have stuck around, because I can make as much as I can, but it really comes down to, are the people still eating it up?”
And they’re not just eating it up on TikTok.
It’s common for new creators to struggle growing their platforms outside of the one that made them famous. But in less than two years since going viral, Tomlinson currently has 6.4 million followers on TikTok, 967,000 on YouTube, 861,000 on Instagram, and 478,000 on Twitter.
She’s not just repurposing her content from TikTok: Each platform has a life of its own but one that’s still unmistakably Tomlinson. “You have to have the creative capacity to adapt short-form content to long-form content to interpersonal content to, one day, live content. It’s maintaining a semblance of self through all that and not just becoming a chameleon to who you’re around,” Tomlinson says. “I know who I am, and I know what makes me giggle. And I think I know what the girls want, but at the end of the day, it’s about me, ’cause if I’m miserable, I’m gonna make all y’all miserable!”
Now Tomlinson is aiming to bring her followers—or, better yet, create new ones—to her latest venture, Violating Community Guidelines, a podcast she’s cohosting with Sarah Schauer, her roommate and frequent collaborator.
Violating Community Guidelines will delve into the weird and taboo sides of the internet, including firearm sales on Facebook Marketplace, deep fakes and AI influencers, the underbelly of fan fiction, and more.
“We were like, what is the relating factor between us and then what we do? And it is that we have been online to a fault,” Tomlinson says. “We have been online so much that it has affected who we are as people and how our brains work.”
Tomlinson, who’s 24, is in the category of Gen Z who not only grew up being immersed in internet culture but also who are old enough now to truly reflect on what the impact of that has been.
“For those who were not unfortunate enough to grow up with Tumblr and Chatroulette and Reddit as a young teenager, we wanna share that experience,” Tomlinson says. “A lot of my followers are 17, 18, going into college. So not necessarily kids, but they’re still a little bit too young to know. And I’m like, do I have a story for you guys!”
For Tomlinson, Violating Community Guidelines also serves as another step toward venturing out of social media.
“I would love for [my audience] to follow me into the other things that I try, whether that’s animation, whether that’s voice acting, whether that’s music, whether that’s traditional acting, stand-up,” she says. “I don’t think being a digital creator is a sustainable career for a long time given the volatile nature of these platforms and how much the cultures change.
“It’s how do you make that an IRL relationship instead of this strange parasocial relationship between creator and fan?” she continues. “I’m not afraid of a stage or a live audience—that I can do. My only reservation is, how does this translate? Only time will tell. [But] the worst thing you can do is not try.”
That said, Tomlinson isn’t in a rush to abandon the communities she’s built across her platforms. She’s fully aware of the reach she has with her audience that’s mainly younger than 25, and women and LGBTQ+.
“I used to struggle a lot with [feeling] like I don’t deserve this. There is not one human that is better than another human to the point where you deserve 50, 60 million followers. Never in the history of time have we had that sort of reach to other people,” Tomlinson says. “So I try to keep all that in mind when I post some bullshit online. I’m trying to spread joy and have a good time myself, and if other people by proxy are having fun with me, then that’s all I really can do.”