Isolation has seen many of us taking to social media as an outlet to amuse ourselves and provide comic relief (laughter is the best medicine, right?). From people recreating looks using household items using the hashtag #HomeCouture to the viral Pillow Challenge which has seen everyone, including Anne Hathaway, fashioning a dress out of a pillow and belt, it seems that social media is primed for social distancing. For Singapore fashion personality Willabelle Ong – better known to her over 160,000 followers on Instagram as @willamazing – TikTok is her M.O. in this age of quarantine.
For the uninitiated, the eight-year-old app was created in 2012 by Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Yiming and is known as Douyin in China. Best described as a hybrid of Instagram Story-meets-Snapchat-meets-Vine-meets-Giphy, the app has given ordinary folk their 15-second of fame with videos layered with music, soundbites, and special effects that are made just for gags. Along the way, it has given birth to a list of social media comics/entertainers, beauty talents who specialise in makeup transformations, and E-girls.
Its content borders on the silly and entertaining. In essence, it’s a hell lot of fun and the perfect platform to ride out the Covid-19 pandemic which has made close to one-third of the world cooped up at home. Last Sunday, The Guardian reported that when the lockdown was enforced in the United Kingdom on March 23 March, TikTok installations surged by 34 per cent.
Ong jumped on the TikTok bandwagon almost two weeks ago, during the same time the circuit-breaker was imposed in Singapore. As of press time, she has 34 clips online. Her videos are campy and hilarious. Think a quick-change video synced to Lil Mama’s Lip Gloss or drinking tea to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. What makes her video stands out from the rest here is the strong fashion element present in her TikTok antics. Her outfits are always styled as though she’s ready for a fashion editorial and her videos usually give a peek at her wardrobe that is packed – among other things – with orange Hermes boxes, an immense shoe collection, and fur coats. Could Ong be Singapore’s answer to American fashion stylist and blogger Chriselle ‘Your Rich Mom’ Lim who is a major TikTok star?
The casual and anything-goes nature of TikTok appeals to Ong who posts between one to two clips a day. “My TikTok profile is where I let loose and just have a laugh at myself, compared to my Instagram feed that is definitely more curated. But I truly feel they complement each other in different ways. Instagram is all about beautifully curated feeds and visuals, while TikTok captures the more light-hearted moments in my life.” Having said that, it takes Ong an average of two hours to create a 10-second video for TikTok.
According to The Guardian report, the popularity of the app during the coronavirus lockdown is understandable because of the platform’s absurdist and anarchic nature. Kenneth Goldsmith, the author of Wasting Time on the Internet, told the newspaper: “Surrealism is embedded into the DNA of the internet. The only response to an existential situation is absurdity and humour. (TikTok) brings us back to the darker side of surrealism.”
On what makes a good TikTok account
“Something relatable with a side of humour, and a catchy soundtrack that helps catch an
audience’s attention immediately.”
On her TikTok skills
“I’m not a TikTok pro yet so I’d rate effort level 7/10. There is a sense of flexibility where
the content does not have to be as well filmed and edited (compared to Instagram
videos), but it still takes time and a rough plan (for example, the song choice, transitions, outfits,
props, background) to execute it properly.”
On her TikTok persona
“I wanted my TikTok to have some ‘stay home, stay glam’ moments, inspired by
circuit-breaker. So my sense of style is definitely more extravagant in some of these
videos and it’s meant to be taken lightly and for fun.”
On why TikTok is so popular now
“There is a frivolous and humorous side to TikTok which is exactly why I started using TikTok. I previously assumed it was about dancing and lip-syncing videos. I love that majority of its content is light-hearted and entertaining – and I enjoy the display of creativity on the platform.”
Favourite TikTok accounts to follow
“Currently, I watch @bigorangecat on a daily basis, but @realadamrose never fails to
crack me up.”
On Her Favourite TikTok Clips… So Far
@willabelleofficialCategory is.. Bring it to the runway 🙌🏻 ##categoryis ##bringittotherunway ##outfitchallenge ##fashionchallenge ##tiktokfashion ##rupaul ##dragrace♬ CATEGORY IS… Social Distancing – jordandoww
“I’m a huge fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race (watched every season) so this is one of my favourite videos. It features the RuPaul clip, ‘Category Is… Social Distancing’ and had me channelling household items eleganza. Should I lip-sync for my life now?”
@willabelleofficialFour B&W looks. Hope you like it 🙌🏻 ##outfitchallenge ##outfitchange ##fashion ##fashionhacks ##tiktokfashion♬ No Face No Case – Vinny West – madi.claire
“I’d never gotten the chance to wear this OTT Moschino suit from the brand’s Spring/Summer 2019 out, so I thought being at home is the best opportunity to take it out from resting. The video I created is titled ‘Four B&W Looks’ and this is definitely made for a party look.”
@willabelleofficialChoose your favorite show’s style, which one did you pick? 😂 ##stayathome ##fashion ##tiktokfashion ##outfitchallenge♬ Super Smash Bros Melee Remix (#chooseyourcharacter) – Jim Walter
“I grew up watching fashion-themed shows, like Gossip Girl, Sex and the City, and The Devil Wears Prada, and this was just a fun way to play with some of the iconic looks on those shows. Of course, Tiger King is a train wreck and the last outfit is just for laughs.”
@willabelleofficial1,2,3 or 4? My favorite ways to style black leather pants 🙌🏻 ##fashion ##outfitchallenge ##outfitchange ##stayathome♬ Lip Gloss – Main Version – Lil Mama
“There was a point in my life where I wanted to wear black leather pants every single day, and here I styled them in four ways. You can take the looks to a party, meeting, shopping or even for a casual day out.”
@willabelleofficialI like shoes 💁🏻♀️👡 ##stayathome ##shoes ##ilikeshoes ##wardrobe ##closet ##shoecollection ##shoecheck ##foryou ##foryoupage ##fashion♬ I like shoes – heartthrobert
“I love shoes… I do! I knew this audio – I Like Shoes by Heartthrobert – had to be part of my first TikTok video. The concept was for me to be ‘working out’ using heels as weights, and with a straight face.”