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How ‘Corn Kid’ went from viral TikTok meme to Cameo influencer overnight

Thanks to companies like Cameo, the path from internet fame to monetization has gotten increasingly short.

How ‘Corn Kid’ went from viral TikTok meme to Cameo influencer overnight
[Photo: Getty Images]

In early August, the world met Tariq, an enthusiastic corn lover whose pure joy over the summer vegetable could melt even the most skeptical of hearts. His interview on Recess Therapy, a web series that interviews children in New York City, quickly went viral—and in what seemed like a matter of moments, “Corn Kid” (as he was dubbed by his fan base) was everywhere.

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The Gregory Brothers, known for turning viral videos like “Double Rainbow” into songs, reworked the interview into a catchy (and phenomenally popular) tune, splitting the royalties with Tariq’s family. That video has received nearly 60 million views on TikTok to date, and the song is streaming on Spotify. At the same time, Tariq has become phenomenally popular on Cameo, getting hundreds of requests for personalized videos from fans—and corporations.

@schmoyoho

intro song for any meal/snack with corn ???? – from iconic interview on @doingthings

♬ Corn but it becomes a song and unites world – schmoyoho

“It’s all about capturing lightning in a bottle and enabling creators’ relationships with their fans through one-on-one connections—and also to monetize that,” says Arthur Leopold, president of Cameo. “In these tumultuous times [Tariq] was someone who could bring a feeling of joy to the world. Our team identified that and immediately reached out to Recess Therapy to try to get in touch with his parents.”

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Tariq and his mother, Jessica (who has withheld their last name for privacy reasons), both liked the idea and began making videos for $30 a pop. Demand quickly became overwhelming, though. And before long, Tariq was back in school, so prices increased to temper the demand.

Today, a Corn Kid Cameo will cost you $220. (Prices fluctuate. That rate is $30 lower than the $250 asking price on Wednesday.)

Business videos start at $1,000, and Tariq has made several of those as well. His spot for Chipotle went viral, generating nearly 24 million views on TikTok and becoming the brand’s highest-performing TikTok and Instagram posts of all time.

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He has cheered on the Nebraska Cornhuskers . . .

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Shoe manufacturer Mache Runner enlisted him to unveil its $300 Maize shoes . . .

And he announced a new flavor of RxBar protein bars.

@rxbar

Pumpkin Spice RXBAR is back! Sorry Team Corn fans… To help break the news and soften the blow, we partnered with Corn Kid to help announce the return of your favorite not so basic fall flavored protein bar. We promise… it still has the JUICE! ???? Shop that link in bio and have a corn-tastic day! ???????????? itsitscornrcornkidrcornsongrcorntokhithasthejuicempumpkinspicempumpkinspicelifempumpkinspiceeverythingmpkinspiceseason

♬ Luxury fashion (no vocals) – TimTaj

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If the leap from viral hit to influencer seems fast, that’s a credit to Cameo’s talent acquisition team. A group of roughly 30 people at the company are tasked with finding the next big thing before it has hit that level of stardom.

For the past five years, the Cameo group has scouted and recruited creators and people who have passionate, strong databases. TikTok influencers alone have 80 pages of listings in the company’s talent library of 50,000 personalities. But Corn Kid could be the team’s biggest get to date.

Some 85% of his Cameos have been shared with others. And he has been, in the past week, in the top three people on the platform in terms of page views and bookings.

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“We have a saying internally about how we need to be thinking about how we can capture virality,” Leopold says. “So many people have 15 minutes to 15-day moments of fame. With social media, that time period can elongate, and 15 seconds can oftentimes turn into a full year. Think about the yodeling kid from a few years ago—10 or 15 years ago, that would be something you saw on the nightly news, and everyone would have a laugh and that would be that. Now . . . [the yodeling kid is] headlining festivals.”

It doesn’t hurt that “celebrities” are no longer confined to television, movies, music, or sports. Audiences and platforms are much more specific, which, ironically, has broadened opportunities.

“The definition of fame has changed so drastically in the past five to seven years with the rise of these platforms and reality TV,” Leopold says. “Leonardo DiCaprio is not nearly as famous to a large percentage of talent as the Corn Kid is . . . because he’s not as consistently in front of people.”

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About the author

Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience. Learn more at chrismorrisjournalist.com.

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