Some of TikTok's Biggest Stars Are 80-Year-Olds

Photo Illustration by Gluekit; Images courtesy of TikTok Grandparents

TikTok is where new Gen Z entertainment stars are minted. Ambitious young people like 20-year Addison Rae and 16-year-old Charli D'Amelio have been able to amass huge audiences on the social media platform (D'Amelio's tops 100 million) by dancing, singing, lip-syncing, pulling pranks, performing skits and whatever else they can think of in short videos, most of which last between 15 seconds and a minute. Overwhelmingly, it's a place for kids."Most social media is youth-oriented," says TikTok star Steve Austin.

But maybe not just kids anymore. Austin, for instance is 82 years old and is known to his 1.4 million TikTok fans as "Old Man Steve" While not quite in D'Amelio and Rae's league (not yet anyway), Austin and several other older social media stars have developed big TikTok followings over the last few years, with fan bases well into seven or even eight figures.

Most of them started out posting just for fun, but were lucky enough to go viral. Some have since turned pro, leveraging their TikTok fame into appearances on other platforms and TV as well as ads and endorsement deals. While they are just as exuberant as their young counterparts, TikTok's seniors brings their own touch of sweetness to the medium.

The folks listed below are some of the biggest older TikTok stars—but they all seem to think of themselves not so much as budding celebrities as virtual grandparents to young followers. "I think that it's a great thing for seniors to be able to be on the internet and communicate," Old Man Steve says "I don't think it's just for the young people."


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J-Dog @its_j_dog

2M followers and 83.6M likes

Jenny Krupa, 88, of Alberta, Canada has become the TikTok star "J-dog" with the help of her grandson, Skylar Krupa. They have been making videos together since August 2019. J-dog is a sassy granny. On Valentine's Day, for instance, she told viewers not to worry about not getting a card. "It's not because no one likes you," she said. "It's probably because you're a loser." Skylar Krupa says, "When we started, she wasn't really like that" but once the J-dog personality became a viral hit there was no turning back. "She liked the attention from it," Skylar says, and now "she's definitely turning into J-dog." The persona hasn't overwhelmed the person, however. Skylar says his grandmother was very touched by the online love and support she got from her followers following her husband's death in July.

Gangster Granny @rosssmith

16.4M followers and 233.4M likes

"Granny", 94, of Columbus, Ohio, loves the support from fans. "No matter where I go, into what little store, someone knows me," she says. (Although sometimes its a little too much attention; she asked that we not use her real name to protect her privacy). She first went viral as "Gangster Granny" on Vine, when her grandson Ross Smith came home from college to find her shooting hoops. He quickly made a video and posted it online. "It kind of went viral, and the rest is history. Nine years later we're still making the world smile," he says. The comedic duo started using TikTok when it was still called They pull pranks together, share life hacks, demonstrate beer pong trick shots, and have featured celebrity guests, including Chuck Norris. Granny says her favorite videos to make are "the exciting ones," such as a recent TikTok where she donned a swimsuit and sat in a bathtub full of cereal. Smith says, "It's been great, it's opened up a new door to interact and make a bunch of new fans."

Old Man Steve @omsteve

1.4M followers and 27.1M likes

Fort Worth's Steve Austin, 82, draws TikTok viewers by joking around and sharing his attempts to cook, dance, or do magic tricks. Bucket hats have become his signature look and Austin says he has now probably collected over 100. Making videos for the internet, he says "keeps my mind active. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning." Austin estimates he has been posting for about 12 years, first on Vine and then YouTube. But it was TikTok where he became a star. "I would make a sandwich or a bowl of cereal and that was me 'cooking.' I guess people thought it was funny, because I started getting followers. Overnight I was getting thousands of people following me," Austin says. His "Cooking with Steve" video series landed him appearances on the Rachel Ray Show, CNN, and Today. "I couldn't believe it. It's been a bit overwhelming." In addition to cooking, he likes doing silly dancing videos and "Magic Saturdays with Steve," where he tries to do a magic trick but usually messes up. "I'm just a ham at heart," he says. "I don't take myself too seriously."


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Charles Mallet @charlesmallet

4.6M followers and 99.2M likes

Charles Mallet of Los Angeles, 85, has been making videos with his granddaughter Basia since March 2019."I was sitting in the ER waiting room with my granddaughter after my wife had a heart attack. My granddaughter wanted to always remember me, so she started to document our time together," he says. Their warmhearted videos range from Mallet doing everyday things to dancing and otherwise being silly with his family. Mallet says he loves TikTok because it gives him the opportunity to make memories with his granddaughter, and he loves eating the food that they make together in their videos. "It is great to be able to be able to fill kids with joy and wholesome videos," Mallet says. "If I can be a grandpa to those who do not have one, or a bonus grandpa, I am honored and blessed."

Grandpa Lou Pickles @ronaldwilliamsofficial

11.7M followers and 122.7M likes

The TikTok account of Ronald Williams, 79, of La Jolla, California, has 11.5 million followers, who Williams called his grandchildren. On March 25, however, grandson Ryan Adams announced that Williams had died. Adams posted a compilation of memories on his grandfather's TikTok account and wrote, "Thanks for the good times. Ronald Williams will never be forgotten, RIP Grandpa." Williams won over the hearts of TikTok viewers with his fun videos, charming personality, and love of jelly fruits. Since his death, TikTok stars and fans alike have shared their love for Williams and posted tributes in his memory.

Granny @youwishiwasyourgranny

216.1k followers and 5.3M likes

TikTok is mainly about entertainment but some elder stars are using it for more serious purposes. Flora Young, 74, of Carencro, Louisiana, makes TikToks with her granddaughter Olivia Savoie to raise awareness about domestic abuse. Young has been sharing her story of leaving her own abusive marriage for over a year now. "I'm so happy that it helps so many women and girls out there," she says. After their very first video went viral, Young says she began receiving comments from online fans telling her that her TikToks had helped give them the courage to walk out on a guy or stand up for themselves. In her favorite video, Young stands at a stove, cooking and wearing an apron. She remembers her husband telling her she would never be strong enough to leave him. She then throws off the apron and confidently walks away. "It really helped me," she says, "and then when people comment about how it's helping them, it really makes me happy, because women were...always put down, always on the back burner."

Grandma Droniak @grandma_droniak

2.1M followers and 45.6M likes

Lillian Droniak, 91, of Shelton, Connecticut, has been making TikTok videos with her grandson Kevin since November 2019. They first started making videos together on YouTube almost a decade ago and originally created a TikTok account as a joke to feature in one of their YouTube videos. Then the account took off, and the two had so much fun with it that they just kept going. Droniak says, "When I was in the eighth grade, they said I was the quietest kid." She certainly isn't shy now. Their videos run the gamut, but Grandma Lill has the confidence of a star in all of them. On TikTok she likes dancing on her deck, responding to fan comments, and especially showing off her outfits. She has what Kevin describes as "suitcases upon suitcases" of clothes, and loves doing different makeup looks and wearing different wigs, especially for holidays and special occasions. For St. Patrick's day this year, she donned a bright green wig. She says she loves spending time with Kevin for their videos. "He makes me younger," she says. "I feel like I'm 65."