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The Financial Express

No words, only expression: Khaby Lame's silent journey to fame

| Updated: November 14, 2021 17:28:44


Khaby Lame portraying his trademark expression. Khaby Lame portraying his trademark expression.

21-year-old Khabane Lame is a Senegalese-born man who makes TikTok videos for his 114 million followers on the self-titled platform. 

During the beginning of the pandemic, Khabane himself was facing his own personal troubles. After losing his job as a machine operator in a local factory, Khaby was stuck at home with nowhere else to be when he first started posting on TikTok by the name ‘Khaby Lame.’

Today, Khaby’s TikTok following stands at a staggering 114 million, making him the second most followed person on the platform. 

While he initially did post random videos of himself dancing or doing comedy bits, his rise to global fame came from videos of him reacting to life-hack videos. 

Khaby’s audience loved everything about his content; it was always to the point and accurate. He would react to the life-hacks videos on the internet which make even the simplest of tasks appear complex and he would do so with a nonchalant look on his face with his eyes wide open. 

But the one thing that is unique about his reactions is that not a single word is spoken in the videos. 

Almost every single person who is familiar with TikTok or almost anyone using Facebook or Instagram would instantly recognise this man’s face. 

His ever-so-famous hand gesture where he extends his arms with his palms facing upward is what comes to mind when people first hear his name. 

His expressions and body language in fact is the main reason Khaby gets away with never having to talk during his videos because his expressions are genuine and universal. 

When he shakes his head in disappointment, it becomes the perfect demonstration of ‘shaking my head’ or SMH-- a phrase that is frequently used, especially among the younger demographic. 

Through his gestures, he simply speaks what they are all thinking when watching these ridiculously impractical videos and that is a significant driver of his success on social media. 

From his simple eye rolls to shaking his head to display his disapproval and disappointment, and even the hand gesture -- all make him appear as a more relatable individual, something that is becoming a rarity when it comes to social media influencers today. 

While there is humour in his expressions, he never truly makes a joke by putting others down or condescending to the people in these videos. He just simply debunks the silly methods used in most of the videos he reacts to. 

Khaby’s videos are also mostly unaltered and kept natural without over-editing or special effects which makes him appear more authentic. 

Khaby has managed to achieve a massive feat of convincing his millions of followers that communication extends so much beyond language. In a world where language and cultural barriers cause disruptions and conflicts in life, his silence creates room for a fresh perspective. 

He doesn’t have to tell his audience how to feel about things. He just shows them how he perceives things. 

And people across the globe have found their own ways to resonate with an individual living miles away, who speaks a different language but has a very relatable perspective on everyday activities. 

Khabane still lives quite the grounded life and much to his satisfaction, he has managed to stay true to his initial goal of making people laugh through his videos. 

Despite reportedly earning millions from brand endorsement deals, he still likes to maintain a regular lifestyle. And that's where the magic lies when it comes to one of TikTok’s biggest stars-- he does not have to make an effort to be more relatable. 

Khaby doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon nor do people expect him to change his unbothered and expressive personality in exchange for more vocally expressive content. 

And as the famous proverb goes, speech may be silver, but in Khaby Lame’s case, silence really turned out to be gold.

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