Portland TikTok Star Alyssa McKay Is Staying Home and Getting Famous

“I stay home, I work from home, and I do school from home. Most people I know are partying and traveling to L.A.”

At just 20 years old, Alyssa McKay made a national brand and living for herself on the social media app TikTok—she has more followers than comedian Jimmy Fallon.

As a guest at Techfest 2020, she discussed what that feels like: relief.

"[TikTok] was an outlet for me, but I started on YouTube," McKay says. "I used it to express my feelings. It relieved a lot of the stresses on me."

McKay joined TikTok in 2018 as a senior in high school. She's always been interested in video creation and even wanted to be a musician as a young girl, plus she has a background in acting that has all combined to create her popular online content. But that's not the only reason she started.

She films herself on her iPhone herself rapping for 30 to 45 seconds. She writes short songs to educate people about things that matter to her. For example, she rapped about the importance of taking COVID-19 seriously. Oftentimes, her inspiration stems from her personal frustrations.

"My mom works at the hospital, so we try to be careful," McKay says. "I stay home, I work from home and I do school from home. Most people I know are partying and traveling to L.A."

How did she gain 6.1 million followers in two years? Consistency. She posts one to three videos per day, she says, and maintains a niche. That lane? Mainly rapping—and, more recently, she's been waging rap battles with her friends.

She profits from brand deals and promoting products, songs and apps. But she warns not to let brands take advantage of you, and to know your worth.

"Once you hit 100,000 followers, you can start profiting," McKay says. "Have a rate in mind, research it and don't let brands step on you or take advantage of the fact that influencing is new."

One thing many people may not know about her is that she was put into a foster home at age 9, but her difficult upbringing didn't stop her from pursuing her dreams. She is attending college at Portland State University getting her BA in communication.

"With hard work and dedication anything is possible. Don't let adversity stop you from achieving your dreams," McKay says. "I love what I do. I get overwhelmed sometimes, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I'm so passionate about this."

TechfestNW, WW's three-day celebration of the entrepreneur in all of us, has moved to its natural home: online. Originally scheduled to host its ninth year in the spring, TechfestNW is now a virtual event starting today and continuing through Dec. 4. Go here for tickets and details.