Creators On The Rise: Colt Paulsen is “the bootleg Kardashian”

By 03/15/2023
Creators On The Rise: Colt Paulsen is “the bootleg Kardashian”

Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.

It’s not every day that being a super fanboy can land you a hosting gig for E! News, but for Colt Paulsen, that’s exactly what happened.

Paulsen, aka Gay Man with a Spray Tan across the web, jokingly introduces himself as “the sixth Kardashian sister”–a title he gave himself based on his encyclopedic knowledge of the sprawling reality TV family.


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For Paulsen, who’s 27, the Kardashians were somewhat of a lifeline while he was growing up. He’s from a small, rural Nebraska town of just 4,000 people–and, as you might suspect, that’s not exactly the friendliest place to grow up gay. As a kid, he’d see the Kardashians on TV, and in magazines, and online, and find himself wanting what they had.

“[Seeing] the Kardashian family unit for me was like, ‘Oh my god. I wish I could talk about random stuff with my mom and she wouldn’t get mad at me if I made a dirty joke,’ or my siblings had my back no matter what,” he says. 

Back then, Paulsen’s interest extended to other celebrities and reality TV stars too. Naturally, E! News was a big staple of his media diet, and an instrumental part in his decision to go to journalism school.

@gaymanwithaspraytan Replying to @3eckaa_ #greenscreen #icespice #thekardashians #kardashians #kimkardashian #petedavidson ♬ original sound – Gay Man with a Spray Tan

Paulsen specialized in broadcast journalism and, once he’d graduated, moved straight out to Los Angeles in hopes of finding a hosting gig. He didn’t–at least, not right away–so he supported himself with a job at Bloomingdale’s.

Then TikTok happened.

The way Paulsen describes it, the platform’s rise was a sort of perfect storm. It was too new for the Kardashians to have established their own presence on it, the way they’d done on platforms like Instagram, so Paulsen feels he was able to get the jump at creating a “Kardashian safe space” on TikTok. He became one of TikTok’s most prominent Kardashian-focused creators–and that’s how E! News found him and offered him his dream job.

We’ll let him tell you the rest below.

@gaymanwithaspraytan #greenscreen #northwest #kimkardashian #kardashians #thekardashians #selenagomez #kimandnorth ♬ original sound – Gay Man with a Spray Tan

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tubefilter: For people who maybe don’t know who you are or haven’t seen your videos, can you give me a little rundown about you, where you’re from, and how you got started?

Colt Paulsen: Yes. My content is Kardashian-driven. I cultivated the Kardashian safe space because I was just so over all the negativity when it came to the Kardashians, and anyone that was reporting on them really had no Kardashian knowledge. I was the one that came in to give all the fun facts and like, okay, this happened, that didn’t happen. Really just a ride-or-die Kardashians fan account.

I think I was one of the first. There are other fan accounts, but I think I’m the most successful one in the sense of, from TikTok, getting to grow the following, getting to meet the Kardashians. It’s been this whole process of building my super fandom into reality. That’s been fun to document. And I’m from Nebraska, a super small town of 4,000 people.

Tubefilter: Oh, that is very small.

Colt Paulsen: Yes, I went to school in Omaha. I graduated high school, then went to college in Omaha for a journalism degree. Then as soon as I graduated college, I just moved straight to L.A. in the hopes to be a Kardashian. Four years later, we’re here and I’m officially the sixth sister.

Tubefilter: I didn’t know you went to journalism school.

Colt Paulsen: That’s the thing that I think helped me the most with TikTok. I wanted to make it a little different, and it was the who, what, when, where, why. Every news station reports on the same story, but it’s who’s going to report on it in a new way, in a new light, and make it entertaining. I think me being a super fan, that was my superpower, was just being able to know that whoever comes to my account, they know what they’re going to get. They’re going to get someone that’s positive, someone that loves the Kardashians, and it’s just straight to the points, no bullshit, no negative opinions, and it really did help to guide me into figuring out my lane on TikTok.

Tubefilter: When you moved out to L.A., did you go straight into making content full-time or what was your setup?

Colt Paulsen: I was in high school and I was on Vine and I had 70,000 followers on Vine at that time, but I stopped posting in college because I was like, content is too much. I’m the type of person, I was on Vine 24/7 watching content. If you consume enough content, then you know what to create, and I think I just replicated that for TikTok. I think I always joke that it’s like I knew what I needed to do, I just wasn’t ready to do it because it meant isolating, just scrolling for hours, just really getting to know TikTok to figure out what would land and what wouldn’t.

I just took the jump into TikTok, but when I moved to L.A., I did not focus on TikTok or any type of social media. It was just random accounts. I posted random posts on Instagram, but I definitely moved to L.A. to pursue on-camera hosting. I was in a workshop and I was really building the name out with the Gay Man with a Spray Tan brand in the sense of celebrity interviews, reality TV, but I wasn’t focused on the Kardashians. I obviously love them, but my dedication wasn’t to them. It switched when TikTok came around. I was like, “No, my dedication is the Kardashians.”

@gaymanwithaspraytan #greenscreenvideo #greenscreen @kimkardashian followed me! 🤩 I don’t think I will recover! 🙈 #thekardashians #kardashians #kimkardashian #gaymanwithaspraytan ♬ original sound – Gay Man with a Spray Tan

Tubefilter: What makes them so appealing for you as a subject?

Colt Paulsen: I love this question because it’s like, how do you answer? Because what makes them so appealing is that everyone is drawn to something–and that’s the most appealing part about them, is that it doesn’t matter who you are, you love the Kardashians. You can say you hate them, but you know there’s something about them that you love, and I think that’s what draws me. I think being from Nebraska as a gay kid in the closet, the Kardashian family unit for me was like, “Oh my god. I wish I could talk about random stuff with my mom and she wouldn’t get mad at me if I made a dirty joke, or my siblings had my back no matter what.”

I think the idea of a Kardashian family unit was what kept me going. It’d be like “One day, one day, one day” to just get through the struggles of like, I’m in the closet, I’m not really myself. I think it was an escape for sure, but definitely the lifestyle too. I’d love to say that I am the sixth sister now, but I definitely moved to L.A. wanting to be a Kardashian.

Tubefilter: How old are you?

Colt Paulsen: I just turned 27.

Tubefilter: Ah, okay. I just turned 30, so I figured once you said Vine, you couldn’t be that much younger than me.

Colt Paulsen: What an era Vine was. I just turned 27 in January, so I am taking this next step, being an adult. Once I was off my parents’ insurance, that was a struggle.

Tubefilter: The insurance thing is definitely a step. Definitely makes you feel more independent, for better or worse. How have things shifted for you, because now this is your full-time pursuit, I’m assuming?

Colt Paulsen: Yes. It’s crazy because TikTok has only been one full year of posting content, and it completely has changed in one year. December 3rd, 2021, I posted every single day. I’ve still posted every single day. I’ve never missed a day on TikTok, but the shifts came– and this is the wildest, I never thought it would lead to this, but I was posting on TikTok working at Bloomingdale’s, and my main goal was to just be the Kardashian korrespondent–with a K. I was just like, “This is my job.”

Even on the clock at Bloomingdale’s, I’d go to the back stockroom and be back there for hours just filming and running out whenever something broke. I remember Kanye West stormed in on Chicago’s birthday party and I was at work, and I had to go to the back stockroom film a video. I was like, “You guys, I’m at work right now, but I have to talk about this!”

I think that’s what was fun. Then it all just really snowballed to where E! News found me on TikTok, and they have a new show on their YouTube channel, Kards Katch Up, that they were casting for. I auditioned and got the role of one of the co-hosts. I think that was like, “Okay, you’re on the right path.”

I think I quit Bloomingdale’s the week before the season finale of season one. I was doing TikTok every day, working a nine-to-five, and then once a week filming with E! News. I was doing all three, and then it was just too much for me, so we decided to just– not we, I say we, because me, myself, and I decided just to quit, and now luckily, I have E! News still. We’ve filmed 40 episodes and we’re renewed for another 20. I’m excited to continue to keep up with the Kardashians.

That was a big step, but I’m happy I had the E! News of it all, because I don’t think I would’ve been able to make that choice if it wasn’t for a job. I just need that little security of like, “Okay, I have something every week I need to do. I’m getting paid to be here, I’m hosting.” That was, I think, a blessing for me to be able to content creation full-time.

Tubefilter: You said you’re filming with E! once a week, but what does the rest of the week look like for you in terms of producing content?

Colt Paulsen: The best part about being a content creator is getting to just do whatever whenever. I think with the Kardashians, I’m never on a set schedule, because I could be asleep and I wake up to a scandal of all scandals. I remember when Chloe and Tristan announced that they were having a baby via surrogate. I was literally getting my hair cut and I was like, “Oh my god, I have to go film this right now, it’s just too much for me.”

I never have a set schedule other than I have to post and film every single day. I just wait for the Kardashians to do something scandalous or have a headline where TikTok wants to know my opinion, but I definitely think I’m excited to branch out into more personal content and create more things that are more my personality and have more fun creating instead of just waiting to create.

@gaymanwithaspraytan What ever Kim does I do! #kimkardashian #thekardashians #kardashians #skims #gaymanwithaspraytan ♬ original sound – Gay Man with a Spray Tan

Tubefilter: That leads right into my next question, which was, do you ever struggle to find enough to make up for a daily video?

Colt Paulsen: Never.

Tubefilter: Never? Okay. There’s always something going on.

Colt Paulsen: That’s the best part about the Kardashians. It’s the easiest content job in the world because there’s so many of them. They post every day, there’s always something new. When you really think about it, as a super fan from the very beginning, I’ve been following, the amount of controversies, the amount of scandals, the amount of stuff that happens in the Kardashians’ lives is insanity.

To be able to have that as my storyboard, I’m so lucky because I could not imagine having to sit down and really think, “What am I going to post today?” I also think my vast knowledge of Kardashian makes it so easy because if it’s just Kendall Jenner posting something on Instagram, I can make a video about, “Oh my god, this picture reminded me of this,” or random things like that. I think that’s definitely a benefit to being a super fan when talking about a specific celebrity or family.

Tubefilter: Can you talk a little bit more about wanting to go into more personal content?

Colt Paulsen: Absolutely. Gay Man with a Spray Tan, the handle, was a safety mechanism. One, it was straight-up, no questions asked. I’m a gay man with a spray tan. I think, as a queer content creator, being a part of the LGBT community, that’s always something in the back of your head, that people are going to be like…The first negative thing they’ll say is about you being gay, which is the stupidest thing the entire world.

It is a fear, and you have to overcome that. Me being able to be under the handle Gay Man with a Spray Tan, I didn’t have to worry about it. It was never ever questioned because it was right there in front of their faces, seeing my content. For me, that was a benefit. I definitely think it started off as just posting about the Kardashians, and now the fear of going further is, “Oh my god. When anyone has anything negative to say about me, it’s just based on their Kardashian connotations.” It’s never really towards me.

Now taking the step of like, “Okay, no, a lot of people do follow solely for me.” I have so many people say, “I don’t even like Kardashians. You just have such a way of creating content and I love your personality.”

I think now that I’ve heard that so much, I owe it not to myself but to my followers to give them a glimpse of who I really am, because this is literally just the tiniest percent of my life. I’m excited. Scared, too, but definitely excited, because I want to document this. I think TikTok has been such a blessing in my life, and I’ve accomplished so much that if me documenting my life and telling people, “Here’s what I did, how I did it, and we did this together,” I think that would be helpful to the next gay boy in Nebraska that wants to make something out of his life.

Tubefilter: When you say you want to expand into personal content, are you thinking short vlog-style content? What are you thinking?

Colt Paulsen: I think day in the life videos everyone always wants to know what my day in the life is. I think definitely working for E! News, that is something that is a dream job for so many to be able to document. That would be epic for people to get to see behind the scenes.

I definitely think just because I do think I’m funny and I do think I’m a comedian. I do want to create funny videos because I think sometimes when I post videos about the Kardashians, I’m doing it in a humorous way, but it comes off as my real, real opinions because that’s what people are coming to me for is Kardashian news. It’s like, “No this video is Kardashian humor.” I’m joking the entire time.

It’s hard, but I definitely want to showcase more, and I think getting a broader audience for myself was the best solution ever because I am niching so down. It’s so ironic because everyone is like “Niche down, niche down, niche down.” You do that and then they’re like, “We want more, we want more, we want more.” You can never really win.

Tubefilter: That’s exactly how it is. It’s always a ping-pong back and forth between “more of you, but more of this.”

Colt Paulsen: My favorite thing ever–it’s so mean to say, but when other content creators tell me what I need to do for the personal set of content. I just sit there and I’m just like, “How lucky am I that I built this platform where people come to me for my own opinions on my personal content.”

I don’t have to really branch out because my page right now is doing amazing and I have no complaints. It is just funny when people want to give advice and it’s like, “Okay, that’s the best part about social media is not taking advice and just doing what you feel like your audience wants to see.” No one can write a rule book. If you would’ve told me, “Cole, you are going to have a million followers from just obsessing over the Kardashians and just fangirling every aspect of your life. Every second you post is about them.” I would be, “You’re joking. That’s too good to be true.”

Tubefilter: It’s funny how things work out, though.

Colt Paulsen: Yes. I am happy, though, that it is this way, because now when I do branch out to personal, I already have the facial recognition. People do already have an idea of who I am and the curiosity. I think I’m in a good lane and I’m excited to see the growth that I can do. It’s just now putting in the time and work because let me tell you, the Kardashians have been working overtime and I need a vacation.

Tubefilter: Some beach time?

Colt Paulsen: Yes!

@gaymanwithaspraytan #greenscreen #thekardashians #kardashians #kimkardashian #khloekardashian #krisjenner #kyliejenner #kourtneykardashian #kendalljenner ♬ original sound – Gay Man with a Spray Tan

Tubefilter: I’m really curious, do you find that you have a sizable queer audience?

Colt Paulsen: Oh my god, now that you say that, I think being a queer creator, especially a gay man, you do not really get the support from the entire LGBT community. In person, I think when I meet people, it is a vast amount of people, and it’s gay guys, it’s queer women, it’s straight women. I don’t really know. I think some straight men probably like my content because they’re secret Kardashian lovers.

My audience is 97% women. I think a lot of people when they think like, “Oh, Gay Man with a Spray Tan, you must appeal to the gay men.” It’s like, “No, the gay community is not obsessed with the Kardashians as much as I am.” That percentage of men, the majority of them are gay. I think that’s what’s exciting about creating more and doing more is to widen my reach and hopefully be more of an impact to the LGBT community and make more of a statement and things like that.

I do think that’s my purpose in life, is to just be your authentic self with no apologies. A lot of women love the Kardashians. I always joke that I’m like the bootleg Kardashian, so if brands want to work with the Kardashians but can’t afford them, they just hire Gay Man with a Spray Tan, because it’s the same audience.

Tubefilter: That’s such a good quote. “Bootleg Kardashian.”

Colt Paulsen: As long as I can say I’m a Kardashian, that’s the coolest thing ever.

Tubefilter: I definitely feel like having a surge in prominent queer creators is one of the best things that’s happened in the past five years. I feel like there has been a real growth in queer creators.

Colt Paulsen: It really is. I do think TikTok has made it so much more approachable. I do believe that the queer creators on TikTok, the amount of support they get just shows how far we’ve come. I also think TikTok is such an authentic app that no matter what content a queer creator posts, it’s changing someone’s life because it is their truth. That’s so powerful to be able to post your real authentic self on an app because you don’t have the pressure that Instagram does. You don’t have the pressure Facebook has.

TikTok really made me feel comfortable, and to be able to express the smallest aspect of my life as in being a Kardashian superfan. I just need to get back in that mindset of, “It’s going to accept you no matter what.” I think that’s the biggest fear of all content creators is, “Will I be accepted?” When you get the traction and the following, you are accepted, but then it comes with the haters.

Then now I’m trying to figure out how not to get all these hate comments. You just have to just look at your audience and say, “Thank God I’ve built this platform and I have such a following behind me.” Without them, I think so many creators would just stop.

Tubefilter: I wanted to go back to your production really quickly. I’m curious how much time goes into your videos behind the scenes, because they’re a balance between polished journalism and TikTok’s lo-fi style.

Colt Paulsen: Yes. I think the best part about TikTok, and since working for E! News, is I do understand the pressure news outlets have to release a story, or with TikTok, they can’t just have someone do a video like I do on a news outlet, because they have to go through so many things of approval and this and that. I do think the content I create is basically just my brain in a video form. I think that’s the funniest part is getting to create the ideas and have people engage with it so well and are such, I don’t know the words, but they just really embrace my content. I never ever script out a video. Everything is always off the cuff.

Tubefilter: Oh, really?

Colt Paulsen: The only thing I do is, since I film green screen, I will get the pictures that I’m going to be talking in front of, and that is my map with how the story goes. If I’m starting off, obviously you have to have the, “OMG, Chloe Kardashian and Tristan Thompson are having another baby!” That’s the ringer to get people to watch. Then it’d be like, I have this picture of Chloe and Tristan, I have a picture of her giving birth on the show. Then I know what I’m going to talk about. I think the best part about TikTok and my way of filming is since it is just me and I’m in my place all by myself, I don’t have any pressure or any like, oh my God, what if I say this or what if I say that?

I will say, I will film an entire video and I will watch it probably three or four times all the way through and just clip out clips. If that adds nothing to the value of the story, it’s gone. Even if it’s four seconds of me just being like, Chloe’s hair looks amazing in this, if that doesn’t add value to the story, it’s gone. I think having the news package mindset when creating one-minute videos is a talent because you really only have a short amount of time.

I’m very grateful that I had that journalistic college degree because at the end of the day, my content is not about me. It’s about the person watching and for the person that’s watching.

@gaymanwithaspraytan Replying to @thekarjennersupport #greenscreen #thekardashians #kardashians #kyliejenner #airewebster ♬ original sound – Gay Man with a Spray Tan

Tubefilter: Did you focus on broadcast when you went to journalism school.

Colt Paulsen: Yes. It was broadcast journalism with an emphasis in creative media. I never changed my degree. I stayed with it all four years. I just wanted to be an E! News host, and look at me now.

Tubefilter: Are you working on any projects right now? Do you have any goals or plans for this year? Anything cool you can talk about? I know you said you just got renewed for another 20 episodes.

Colt Paulsen: What I’m most excited about this year is just laying low in the sense of, I’m not putting pressure on myself. I don’t have to be the first person to report on a Kardashian scandal. I’ve built such an audience that whenever I do post the video, people will still come and watch. I think that is amazing, and a lot of creators would kill to have that. I definitely want to just prioritize my time a little bit better and really just see how far I can go. I’m already at a million on TikTok in one year, and I’m excited to branch out.

I look at my life as a reality TV show. I feel like this year was just the pilot episode. It wasn’t even a full season and so much has happened. I’m excited for the next season of life, because if this was just the beginning, oh my god, everything is going to be iconic. I just can’t wait.

Tubefilter: You’re feeling less pressure these days to be immediately posting about things.

Colt Paulsen: I definitely feel less pressure to be posting right away, but I also feel it’s because I’m on the app all the time and I’m always posting. If I took a few days off, I’d be like, “Oh my god, I need to post.” Because I have a video up every day, it does alleviate that feeling. At least I did something. I’m like, “I did something today, I can take a little breather.” But when it goes down, I’m the first one there for sure. It’s fun and it’s also stressful for sure.

Tubefilter: Do you have anything else that you would want me to know, or want readers to know about you?

Colt Paulsen: I think the only thing that I can think of that I would really like people to know is when I started TikTok, the Kardashians were not on the app at all. There was no Kardashian presence. There was just people reporting on them. I think because Keeping Up With the Kardashians ended and they took that little hiatus before the Hulu show, it was the perfect catalyst to have someone like me just come in and be the face of the Kardashians on TikTok before they were ready to do so, because there was no content.

I think it’s changed now that the Kardashians are on TikTok. Even I’m questioning, they posted a TikTok, do I make a video about the TikTok on TikTok? When before it was just, “Oh my gosh, paparazzi pictures are news story.” I was a place for people to go to learn. I do think everything in my life has happened for a reason. Because the Kardashians were not so quick to hop on TikTok, it allowed me to really just build my brand and become a part of the Kardashian brand.

Because of that, Kim and North follow me, Kim Kardashian follows me. I get invited to all the Kardashian events. I really am the Kardashian influencer. I like to say I’m the “Kim-fluencer” because I influenced Kim. Just yesterday, she did a video with Mariah Carey. In my video I said, “Kim, your stitches and duets are off. Mariah’s going to get more views than you.” Twenty minutes later, Kim’s stitches and duets are on. It’s insane that it’s like, “Oh my god, Kim watches my videos and takes my advice.” It’s so cool.

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