TikTok Transition: While the theater is on hiatus, the Skaneateles performer goes viral | Entertainment

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After the COVID-19 pandemic virtually interrupted the world of theater, an artist from Skaneateles has taken a new step: TikTok.

Gabriella Whiting, a 2012 graduate from Skaneateles High School, is now living off her success on the video sharing app. His account, @gabiwhiting, has over 368,000 followers and 22 million likes. While Whiting still wants to play, sing and dance in more conventional forms of entertainment, TikTok has given him a safety net as they recover from the effects of COVID-19.

Whiting had been living in New York City for eight years when the pandemic began, with credits that included productions of “Rent” in Orlando and “Legally Blonde: The Musical” on a Caribbean cruise.

But in March 2020, the auditions ceased and Broadway closed its doors. Whiting was stuck inside doing nothing and nowhere to direct her creative energy, she told The Citizen on Friday.

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“I don’t mean my life was taken from me, but it was time to re-evaluate everything,” she said. “I lost my sense of purpose.”

Shortly after COVID-19, Whiting returned to Skaneateles. That’s when she started posting videos to TikTok. She used her theatrical skills, performing, singing and dancing on her own in front of her camera.

At first, the app gave Whiting something to do and put out that energy, but as the pandemic continued she learned to use it more effectively.

“The world of social media is so new. It’s not like you can take a college class on how to be an influencer. So I’m really self-taught,” she said.

Then, in July 2020, Whiting posted a video inspired by the musical “Hamilton” that shared the story of Sally Hemings, the slave with whom Thomas Jefferson had an affair and several children. It went viral, gaining over a million views. His story continued to garner attention that summer with videos inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the death of George Floyd.

Whiting said she was passionate about the issues raised by these protests and wanted to share that passion on TikTok even though she might lose followers.

“I get a lot of hate sometimes, but for me, I prefer to express a message of positivity and speak my truth,” she said.

“I’d rather be authentic with myself and connect with people who are relevant to me than live a fake life and try to please everyone.”

Whiting outdid herself in January, when she posted a video parodying the song “Alexander Hamilton” with lyrics about the attack on the U.S. Capitol this month. It will become his most popular video, gaining over 14 million views. The video also won Whiting the attention of a management group that helped her close branding deals and other creative opportunities, she said.

These branded agreements are the reason Whiting can make a living from TikTok. Last November, she was able to move into a new studio in Los Angeles. His most recent contract with HBO required him to create two videos on the hit show “Succession” and promote them on his account. They can be commercial, she said, but they can be as creatively fulfilling as videos like her “Hamilton” parody.

“It’s cool to be recognized for an original work of art that I created,” she said. “And it’s cool to be able to work with bigger companies.”

While Whiting waits for the theater world to completely return to normal, she is working on original music. She starred in a recently released Amazon Prime movie “Finding Ophelia” and provided the background vocals for a series of concerts. But TikTok can take a lot of its time. She tries to post a video about once a day and keeps a list of ideas in case she runs out of inspiration.

Between Whiting’s creative energy and the engagement she gets from her followers, however, that doesn’t happen often.

“I have made so many friends with TikTok and social media,” she said. “I had no idea it would have that impact on me.”

Lake Life Editor-in-Chief David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or [email protected] Follow him on twitter @drwilcox.



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