It’s hard not to notice the impact of the video-sharing app TikTok. It’s become the virtual space for people to upload short videos of comedic skits, dancing, lip-syncing and other talents. It’s the birthplace of popular dance routines to songs like “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion and “Lottery” by K Camp.
Now that the app has become a worldwide sensation, it’s turned some Baton Rouge natives into viral stars, too.
Cale Saurage has more than 2 million followers on TikTok. He had already gained popularity on Instagram and Twitter for dancing videos and comedy skits as Cowboy Cale. He joined the app in January 2019, which then sent his follower count through the roof.
The 22-year-old is a full-time social media influencer now.
“My ultimate goal is to make people laugh,” Saurage says. “I’m just having fun and riding the wave.”
A TikTok video of him and his friends singing their breakfast order at a local McDonald’s drive-thru in February 2019 has more than
8.6 million views. Another one of his hit videos was a skit where Cowboy Cale pretends to be a Chick-fil-A employee and dances for a customer in the drive-thru. It has more than 8.8 million views.
Saurage’s videos have led to unique opportunities like being flown to California to appear in rapper Tyga’s Western-themed music video for the single “Goddamn.”
Baton Rouge native and TikTok up-and-comer Landon Romano also got to work with celebrities after being discovered on social media. In 2019, he was invited to the Hustlers premiere where he got to spend time with Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Keke Palmer and the rest of the movie’s cast.
He talked with them backstage, took photos and was shocked when he learned that Cardi B has watched his videos. He also had a supporting role in the 2020 comedy movie Rent Due with rapper Machine Gun Kelly and comedians B. Simone, Shiggy and Haha Davis.
The 25-year-old first started posting short comedic videos on Vine in 2013. After the app was discontinued in 2016, Romano shared videos on Instagram and rebuilt his following. He posted for fun at first, but after he learned he could make a career out of social media, he decided to use the platform to make a name for himself in the entertainment industry. He dreamt of one day acting in movies, making music, writing a book and starting a business.
Now he lives in Los Angeles, where he is a full-time social media influencer.
He is most known for cheeky videos where he talks directly to the camera, giving the audience advice as if to one of his friends. His on-screen character usually wears mismatched heels, striking outfits and a baseball cap.
On Instagram, he has more than 1 million followers, including music artists like Brandy and Megan Thee Stallion. This year, he started sharing his videos on TikTok and gained more than 200,000 followers in only a few months.
“Without Baton Rouge, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Romano says. “A lot of my videos are inspired by my upbringing. Had I not grown up in the environment that I did, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
Some rising TikTok stars didn’t start using the app until this spring’s stay-at-home order for the coronavirus. New Orleans Saintsation and LSU alumni Dylon Hoffpauir used his newfound free time to post dance videos.
As a professional cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints, he wanted to share original choreography and videos doing trendy dance routines to popular songs on TikTok for fun. Since the 28-year-old started posting on the app in March, he has gained more than 5,000 followers and has been offered job opportunities to coach cheerleaders around the country. For now, he plans to continue using the app for fun, but is open to business collaborations in the future.
“TikTok is not just something to mindlessly scroll and look at,” Hoffpauir says. “You can also join in on someone else’s TikTok or come up with your own creation. It’s almost like Twitter, Vine and Instagram all combined in one.”
The app may have gained more popularity during social distancing, but it’s continuing to provide a creative outlet and even professional opportunities for these Baton Rouge natives.
This article was originally published in the June 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.