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Ben of the Week: How TikTok’s wonder kid plotted superstardom

Even for kids born in the 21st century, who are the very definition of “digital natives,” knowing what it takes to be a social media star is not something that comes easily.

That was not the case for Ben De Almeida, aka Ben of the Week, who at the age of 10 knew that he wanted to be a famous YouTuber but also understood it was imperative to “build a brand” to stand out.

Now, at 23 years old, his hard work has paid off. Not only does he have 11.6 million TikTok followers and almost 6 million subscribers on YouTube, but De Almeida has just landed a dream gig on Nickelodeon as the new host of Nick News.

In the new job, he’ll take the helm of the revamped show, which focuses on particular global topics to help the network’s young audience understand and engage with them.

When he was growing up, other kids his age were probably dreaming of becoming pro athletes, scientists or actors. But the Canadian-born De Almeida started making online content before he was even allowed to have social media.

“I had a camera that was given to me by my dad when I was about 10 years old, and I would just record these videos and put them on DVDs before I was even allowed social media access,” he told Newsweek.

He said that he learned how to use professional video editing tools before getting his first YouTube account when he was 12.

“They were very rough Minecraft Let’s Play videos that no one ever needs to see,” he joked.

Taking a break from content creating until middle school, he realized he need to build his online brand identity if he was going to make it as an influencer.

Things moved slowly for De Almeida, who eventually got his first viral hit in 2018 on TikTok, then a still burgeoning social media platform.

But his success on TikTok was no accident. The digitally savvy teen saw the short-video platform’s potential, especially after its predecessor, Vine, bit the dust.

“Vine left this void, especially for Gen Z people in terms of funny content and having a good place to find a laugh,” De Almeida said. He also saw a gap in the market for making comedy because TikTok was still all about viral dance trends at the time.

He has become best known for his short-form storytelling, documenting his adventures around the world, such as the time he visited North Korea.

This was a skill that he honored after much “trial and error” and because he “saw a gap that I could fill and that’s why I swept in and started making, hopefully, funny videos.”

While dropping out of college to become a full-time influencer did raise some eyebrows in his family, De Almeida has had his parents’ full support. He admits that being a social media star is no walk in the park, often working long hours, seven days a week.

“For TikTok, it’s about a week’s process to kind of, like, get the stimulus or the original idea for what could be funny,” he said. “And then it’s maybe a day of brainstorming. Writing, then filming could take anywhere between an hour or could be three or four days of, like, going into different locations, filming different things, for whatever story I’m creating and then editing and doing like a voice-over. And sound effects is usually about half a day’s worth and that’s for TikTok alone.”

But that’s just for TikTok alone. The young star is juggling many projects, including his YouTube channel, whose videos can take longer to make. He also hosts a podcast called drama mom and, along with his newly announced role at Nickelodeon, he is an ambassador for the Gen-Z for Change. The nonprofit empowers young people so they can lobby for change in the world, all while using the power of social media.

“I feel you’d be careless and not use my platform for good,” he said. “I think it’s important to create content or even just spread information to inform people.”

De Almeida’s star is definitely on the rise, and he has collaborated with major brands such as HBO Max, Life Is Good, Tinder, Amazon and Converse.

But he dreams of getting into longer-form storytelling so he can “be behind the camera a little bit.” He wants to pay tribute to the “relic YouTubers” or Vine stars who helped inspire him to become an influencer and “catch up with them and see how they are.”

“I just love telling stories. Like, that’s truly my passion,” he said.

Even for kids born in the 21st century, who are the very definition of “digital natives,” knowing what it takes to be a social media star is not something that comes easily.

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