Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where—in partnership with global creator company Jellysmack—we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.
We’ll never say that Ariana Lee Bonfiglio isn’t the star of her own TikTok account…But we will say that Kuzac, her very fetching cockatoo, is certainly close to seeing his name up in lights.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Kuzac has played a key role in the rise of 22-year-old Bonfiglio’s presence on TikTok. She launched her account during the summer of 2018, and like most users, didn’t start posting videos with any kind of content strategy in mind. She just took clips of her everyday life: her family, her boyfriend, and, of course, her pets. These videos netted a few thousand views each, but never really took flight–until Kuzac came on scene.
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Some of Bonfiglio’s most popular early videos featured the charismatic bird dancing to in-vogue tunes, playing peek-a-boo, headlining his very own remake of The Lion King. Bonfiglio often posted clips of Kuzac participating in TikTok hashtags (the dancing vid above was from the “#petheadbop” trend), and together, these clips–including one particularly viral where he got caught in 4K–helped her account catch on. By mid-2019, her videos were attracting not just a few thousand, but a few hundred thousand views each.
Of course, not all these videos featured Kuzac. Bonfiglio’s library of content traipses through all sorts of niches, from DIY (rock tumbler, anyone?) to pranks to sharing everyday moments and big accomplishments, like buying her dream car.
@arianalee99I wanted to see what kuzac would do 😂##foryou♬ original sound – Ariana Lee🦋
Bonfiglio’s viewership grew steadily through 2019 and 2020, and then experienced a major surge in April of this year. Why? She points to one video: a 20-second clip of she and her friends setting up a massive 280-square-foot, luxury tent that comes with five rooms, 13 windows, four power stations, a screening room, and enough space to sleep 20 people. The video (embedded below) has accumulated more than 50 million views to date on TikTok, Bonfiglio says, and spawned numerous articles about her content and the tent itself (which, by the way, costs a cool $380).
In the five months since that video went viral, Bonfiglio hooked up with managers at The Network Effect, and has worked with brands including iDesign, Lululemon, Lovesac, and Layla. Her TikTok account has grown to 12 million followers, and she nets 30 million views per month, according to data from The Network Effect. She’s also expanded her presence to other platforms: her TikTok videos often direct people to her Instagram account, where she has 921,000 followers, and she recently launched a YouTube channel (66,000 subscribers) where she crossposts her TikTok content to YouTube Shorts.
For Bonfiglio, having a growing presence on social media is a chance for her to achieve the kind of fame she dreamed about as a kid–and to share the spontaneity of her daily life with her followers.
Check out our chat with her below.
Tubefilter: Tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What did you get up to before joining TikTok?
Ariana Lee: Hi! I’m Ariana Lee. I come from a really, really small town in northern California, so small that the population is about 300! Before TikTok, I was in college studying to become an elementary school teacher. I’ve always loved working with kids!
Tubefilter: When and why did you join TikTok? Did you join kind of knowing the sort of content you wanted to make, or did you discover your niche along the way?
AL: When I started my TikTok channel, I had no real intentions of becoming “famous.” I was bored one summer and just filmed whatever fun stuff came to mind in real-time. Then I posted a video of my bird pooping in slow motion, and from there, my channel just took off! Who would have guessed it!
Tubefilter: A lot of your content features people in your life, like your sister and your best friend. Why is it important for you to make videos about them?
AL: I definitely feature my immediate family and my closest friends in my videos. The content I post on TikTok reflects my real life, and I love making content with the people I love!
@arianalee994 course meal challenge @davidrosenberg @meganrose.ee♬ Everywhereigo – Babyxsosa
Tubefilter: Walk us through what goes into an average video. Do you script? How much editing do you do? How do you choose filming locations?
AL: Honestly, when I produce content, I come up with concepts off the the top of my head and immediately film right away (so I don’t forget it). All my BEST videos are when I get an idea and execute it right away! For filming locations, I choose any spot that looks pleasant to the eye and of course has great lighting.
Tubefilter: Your following on TikTok has seen some major growth lately. Is there any one video that really popped off and drew in a big audience? Or has your growth built up across numerous videos?
AL: Generally speaking, my library of videos on TikTok have collectively done well! But…with that said, I had a video that I did with my friends about us putting together a 20-person/five-room tent, and that went super viral! It has almost 50 million views and 10 million likes!
Tubefilter: What do you hope people take away from your content?
AL: What I hope people take away is to be yourself and to not care what people think about you! Keep doing what you love no matter what people think! I’ve had to overcome a lot of this, and I want others to know that people’s opinions of you don’t really matter in the long run.
Tubefilter: Was there a specific moment where you realized that TikTok could be more than a hobby for you? How has being on TikTok changed your life?
AL: I specifically remember being in one of my college classes and thinking, Wow, I could totally turn this into a real career. I just kept pushing and grinding out videos, and now it is my full-time job! TikTok has really changed my life in so many ways, including supporting my family!
Tubefilter: How has your personal brand grown over the past few months? Have you gotten any cool sponsorships or other opportunities thanks to your digital presence?
AL: I am focused on diversifying my short-form content and audience across all platforms, including Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube (where I’ve recently partnered with The Network Effect on my channel strategy). I’ve had amazing opportunities to work with numerous brands, including Lululemon, Lovesac, and Layla. One of my favorites was partnering with iDesign, where every room in my new house was professionally organized!
@arianalee99My sister is so beautiful 🥺❤️ @analeeselb♬ You Are Enough – Sleeping At Last
Tubefilter: Due to your recent growth, do you have any new plans or goals for your content career? Do you think content will be a full-time pursuit for you long-term?
AL: Yes, I definitely plan to be a full-time contact creator! It’s funny, I always told my mom when I was younger that I wanted to be famous. She would ask me, “What do you want to be famous for? Do you want to be an actress? Do you want to be a singer?” I always told her, “NO, I just want to become famous.” I definitely feel like being a content creator is my dream come true!
Tubefilter: What’s your favorite part of making content as a whole?
AL: Getting to do what I love!
Tubefilter: What’s next in the immediate future for you and your channel? Where do you see yourself in five years?
AL: I am kind of a go-with-the-flow kind of girl, and I take opportunities as they are thrown at me! 🙂 In five years, I am hopeful to still be making content and to continue modeling.
Jellysmack is the global creator company that detects and develops the world’s most talented video creators. The company’s proprietary video optimization technology and data drive social audience growth, unlocking new revenue streams and amplifying monetization.
Currently home to over 150 influential Creators including PewDiePie, MrBeast, Brad Mondo, and Bailey Sarian, Jellysmack optimizes, operates, and distributes creator-made video content to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube. Jellysmack-managed content boasts 10 billion global monthly video views and a cross-platform reach of 125 million unique U.S. users, making it the largest U.S. digital-first company in monthly social media viewers.
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