The Untold Truth Of Khaby Lame

The year 2020 marked the beginning of Khaby Lame's lightning-fast ascent to stardom. For those not on TikTok, Khabane Lame is the most-followed person on the platform (at the time of writing, at least), with nearly 162 million followers. Indeed, as the numbers continued to grow, his platform swiftly overtook Charli D'Amelio and her 151 million followers in a matter of months.

Unlike the videos of some of his peers, Lame's TikToks are low-budget, mostly silent videos. His schtick involves stitching a video of an absurdly complicated "how to" with a video of himself performing the same task in a much more straightforward way. For example, one 2021 clip depicts someone demonstrating how to open a box of milk by cutting into the tab multiple times ... only to spill the liquid all over their stovetop. Lame responds by giving the box one quick snip and easily pour the contents into a glass and hitting the camera with a deadpan expression. He has what The New York Times calls a "universal exasperated everyman quality."

There's a lot more to Khaby Lame than his wordless comedy, though. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the man who is on his way to become the biggest influencer on TikTok.

The humble beginnings of Khaby Lame

Before he became a TikTok supernova whose videos, as Yahoo! Finance noted in 2021, had already garnered over 1.5 billion likes, Khaby Lame came from the humblest of beginnings. Lame was born in Senegal but immigrated to Northern Italy along with his parents and brother at the age of one. He grew up in public housing in a small industrial town called Chivasso, located northwest of Milan. In the summer of 2021, Lame still lived with his parents in the same small apartment, and he even continued to share a room with his brother, but by that fall, he'd relocated to his agent's place in Milan, per CNN.

Lame's upbringing wasn't lavish, but he isn't resentful. In fact, he credits his success to where he was raised. "[Public housing is] a place to which I owe everything," he said when speaking to an Italian newspaper in 2021. "They taught me education and allowed me to cultivate many bonds." And as he shared in a Q&A for Google (via Italy24News), "My blood family is made up of 7 people, but in the extended one, that of public housing, we are 40."

Khaby Lame's path to success was unconventional

Khaby Lame ultimately found celebrity on a whim. Before he became a social media sensation, he took on a wide assortment of gigs — but those gigs were not related to the entertainment industry. As he told la Repubblica (via Ruetir), "I started doing a thousand jobs. Waiter, bricklayer, window cleaner, I did everything to make money."

Eventually, he landed at a factory in his hometown of Chivasso, Italy. But much like the rest of the world, 2020 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought on a lot of change for Lame. As The New York Times noted, at the beginning of 2020, when rising COVID numbers began to shut down most of Europe, he was laid off. After that, the soon-to-be-famous social media star holed up in his room and created TikTok after TikTok, and the rest is history. Lame told the outlet he wasn't seeking fame and success when he started producing his videos.

As the saying goes, do what you love, and you never work a day in your life. Now Lame is a full-time content creator who's found wealth and fame from simply doing what he loves to do.

Some of the TikTok star's content has raised eyebrows

Khaby Lame is now sitting comfortably atop an empire of well over 100 million TikTok followers — 161.9 million at the time of writing, to be exact. With all that fame comes increased scrutiny, though. In August 2021, he came under fire for some resurfaced videos that fans are calling sexist and offensive, per Dexerto.

In one video posted that January that has since been made private, Lame stitches a clip of an attractive woman walking through a mall with a video of himself smirking and nodding. As soon as the woman passes the camera, his expression changes to a frown when he sees her from the front. 

Fans were quick to condemn the video. "Wow I can't believe I supported you," one disappointed follower commented on the post. Another wrote, "Body shaming at its peak." Lame has yet to address the criticism at the time of publication, though this isn't the first time he's come under fire for sexist content. According to The New York Times, Lame also faced backlash for a stitched video showing a woman asking, "If you had 24 hours with me, what would you do?" He responded to the apparent sexual innuendo by stitching a video of himself listing the various parts of the house he'd like her to clean. Yeesh.

Will Smith and Eddie Murphy are Khaby Lame's idols

Social media apps like TikTok, Vine, and Instagram have launched many careers, and Khaby Lame sure is on such a trajectory. That said, as he told The New York Times, Lame "doesn't treat TikTok like a competition," adding, "I'm happy to be the first in Italy and all, but I didn't start TikTok for this." While he may not be competing with his fellow content creators, it does sound like he has dreams of Hollywood stardom (more on this below). He said in the NYT that while he did launch his TikTok account "to make people laugh," he would like to be as famous as his comedic idols Eddie Murphy and Will Smith. Considering that Lame already has about 90 million more TikTok followers than Smith, we'd say he's off to a great start.

Additionally, Lame has more international followers than Italian followers, something he credits with this unique and universal style of comedy. He dubbed his silent overacted facial expressions a "global language," which anyone could understand and relate to. "It's my face and my expressions which make people laugh," he said to the NYT. 

He may not be hanging out with Smith or Murphy just yet, but he is already being compared to other comedic performers. For example, in 2021, Insider likened Lame's deadpan faces and timing to the "Are you serious?" look that John Krasinski regularly hit the camera with in "The Office."

Khaby Lame's net worth has skyrocketed

Khaby Lame has come a long way since losing his factory job at the start of the pandemic. He was able to make content creation his full-time career, and is now the most followed influencer in Italy, per the Daily Mail. It's got us wondering, what exactly does Lame make? In an interview with Fortune, Lame's manager, Alessandro Riggio, revealed that his TikTok earnings per post went as far as $750,000 and made the $400,000 mark on average in 2022. Lame was set to clock an accumulated revenue of $10 million that year alone.

Despite the high fees, there's never been a shortage of brands who want to work with him. To grace Milan Fashion Week at a Hugo Boss showcase, for example, the company had to part with a whopping $450,000, per Fortune. In a similar fashion, a Hollywood production company paid $750,000 for a promotion by Lame.

Even though he should be smiling all the way to the bank, Riggio disclosed that Lame wasn't entirely on top of his finances since money isn't his point of focus. "He was poor, and he doesn't know how much he has in the bank," he told the publication, to which Lame cut him short, saying, "I like making people laugh. I love my family. I love my company."

His girlfriend also has an internet following

In the style of literally every other mega influencer on TikTok (looking at you, Charli and Dixie D'Amelio), the person Khaby Lame is linked to happens to be a fellow internet personality: Italian social media influencer Zaira Nucci. Lame even has a saved highlight reel on his Instagram page dedicated to her, and a quick scroll through reveals the off-grid moments of happiness the two share. They evidently enjoy shopping, hiking, and wearing semi-matching outfits. In his 2021 New York Times write-up, Nucci was only mentioned casually as Lame's girlfriend, but other outlets claim the pair is engaged.

Like Lame's comedy, his relationship with Nucci is endearingly simple. According to Ruetir, he once said that they initially connected over social media, but things didn't get started until they "met by chance in Chivasso" and hit it off. "We got back to talking until I asked her out," he recalled. "The first time was beautiful and simple at the same time." As for their first date, that was understated too. "We went to McDonalds. We've been together for almost two months now," he shared.

Khaby Lame has a tight-knit group of friends

Any famous person will tell you that the key to staying grounded in the face of celebrity is a good roster of friends, and Khaby Lame has made sure to surround himself with a solid group. Lame credits his buddies with keeping him humble and describes them as the most supportive and accepting group of pals anyone could ask for.

In recent years, there has been an increased amount of press coverage concerning issues of racism in Europe, especially Italy. Italian soccer star Mario Balotelli spoke openly about the topic on "Quelli Che Il Calcio" in 2019 (via ESPN), describing the racism he'd experienced in Italy as worse than anything he's seen in either France or England. "In Italy, it is really extreme," he said. And in 2021, the Daily Beast wrote, "Italy stands out in the football world for its racial ignorance."

Lame, however, told The New York Times "he has had a different experience" — a testament to his close buds, he says. "My friends have always been protective of me," he shared. "I've never had such a problem. No one has ever dared insult me because we were a united group and had a lot of respect."

Fans think this TikToker is refreshingly relatable

Khaby Lame's friends may have provided the supportive foundation for his success, but a lot of credit should go to his simplistic TikTok videos, which represent a significant departure from the hyper manicured and choreographed clips of other prominent content creators.

"I think that the problem that people are starting to see with big influencers is that they set certain standards of how to look, what's cool and what's not," a teen TikTok creator told The New York Times. "Then, Khaby comes and he's just a normal dude. It's been refreshing to see. It's a lot easier to relate to him than most big influencers."

If you need proof of this hypothesis, look no further than the fact that Lame is now the most popular influencer in Italy. As the NYT noted, he "surpassed Gianluca Vacchi ... a fabulously wealthy scion of a plastics magnate." Speaking with the outlet, an industry expert said of Lame's fame: "This opportunity to connect with someone who is unaffiliated, underproduced, and feels very real is a juxtaposition of what we're seeing in the social media space."

Khaby Lame wants to help his parents out

Much has been said about Khaby Lame's humble lifestyle and his international fame. After growing up in public housing, working in a factory, and then becoming famous at such a young age, you'd think he would be eager to spend his ducats on flashy cars or luxury condos, but not so. When speaking to The New York Times, Lame shared that he's been growing his income "steadily" and hasn't been shelling out on big purchases. "The secret is endurance above all," he told the outlet, crediting his achievements to his unparalleled work ethic.

Considering his living situation — from residing in the small factory town of Chissovo in his parents' apartment and sharing a sparsely decorated bedroom with his brother, to moving to his agent's Milan home — his money isn't exactly burning a hole in his pocket. But Lame did tell the NYT that there is one thing he's eager to blow some cash on: a house for his mom.

As for his parents, they couldn't be prouder of their son for turning something crappy (losing his job during COVID) into a comedy empire. "Like me, my parents did not expect all of this and are delighted. I hope to continue like this," he said in the Corriere del Sierra.

He became an Italian citizen

In her 2020 documentary "Miss Americana," pop culture juggernaut Taylor Swift opened up about feeling obligated to keep her political beliefs to herself for most of her career, so as not to alienate members of her fan base. In the flick, we see her decide to go public with her views, saying, "I need to be on the right side of history." Being outspoken when you're an immensely famous musician is one thing; speaking about social or political matters when you're an up-and-coming star is a totally different hurdle. But Khaby Lame has addressed a hot-button issue that's impacted him personally: citizenship.

For a long time, Lame fully identified as Italian, having spent every year but one of his life there. However, he wasn't officially an Italian citizen, as he was born in Senegal and has no generational connection to Italy. He didn't let the lack of paperwork affect how he viewed himself. "Sincerely, I don't need a piece of paper to define myself as Italian," he told The New York Times in his 2021 interview, adding that the law wasn't on the right side. At the time, he was hoping to use his influence for a review of cases such as his.

Unsurprisingly, Lame didn't have to wait too long. In August 2022, he was granted Italian citizenship. He pledged loyalty to his beloved country in the presence of a registrar at the municipality of Chivasso. "I am very proud," Lame expressed, per la Repubblica. "... I feel a great responsibility for the oath I took, they are not empty words."

Khaby Lame wanted to be a track star

As a child, Khaby Lame saw himself as a future athlete. He was fascinated by eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt and put in the work in the hope of being an even better sportsman. "I did it because I wanted to become faster than him," Lame disclosed in an interview with Vanity Fair Italia. "I trained like a madman. I told myself that I would win twice as many medals as him." Sadly, Lame's track ambitions never materialized because of a lack of funds. He had to abandon his goals to fend for his family, as he shared in an interview with Mashable.

Years later, when he became a familiar face, Lame had the chance to briefly meet his childhood idol. It was a surreal moment. "I hugged him, told him, 'Thank you for everything,' and let him go," Lame told Vanity Fair Italia, adding that had he started an actual conversation, he may have eaten into racing time.

Of other athletes that Lame holds in high esteem, Inter Miami CF's Lionel Messi makes the list. Lame posted his encounter with the soccer legend on TikTok, terming it as another dream he'd crossed off his bucket list.

The TikTok star 'didn't do so well at school'

Khaby Lame carved an unprecedented path for himself that's undoubtedly successful, but when it comes to traditional schooling, he wasn't as lucky. Lame partly blamed it on being a bit restless when he was growing up. "[I was] very agitated ... very messy. I failed in fourth grade for this," he divulged in his interview with Vanity Fair Italia. He may have picked things up from the third grade, but his eighth-grade scores weren't impressive at all.

Lame was sent to a school in Dakar, Senegal, and although his demeanor afterward was more laid back, he was still challenged by school. "I didn't do so well at school. I am dyslexic and dyscalculic and I have never even had a teacher to support me," he told the publication.

At the Word Influencers & Bloggers Awards ceremony in 2022, Lame, who did an impressive job at delivering an acceptance speech in a second language, revealed that he was working on polishing his English with the help of a professor.

Khaby Lame's collaborated with other celebrities

Since Khaby Lame gained a superstar status, other celebrities have joined in the fun. In an amusing 2021 TikTok, Lame and Ed Sheeran took the complexity out of a chocolate dominoes sketch by having the "Thinking Out Loud" hitmaker simply drop one bar of chocolate in a cup of milk. The pair ended the short clip with Lame's signature closing-hand gesture that verbally translated would mean, "See? Easy!"

In another fun, outdoor setting, Lame went head-to-head with "Grown-ish" actor Yara Shahidi in a 2022 soccer challenge that saw the latter crush it. He further showed Inter Miami CF co-owner David Beckham his free kick prowess, all while hilariously mimicking a Cristiano Ronaldo pose. "No... he's not a new signing," Beckham wrote on Instagram, alongside crying-laughing and soccer ball emojis. "Great fun working with you @khaby00. Welcome to La Familia @intermiamicf."

Lame has undoubtedly lived his best life while creating content with other celebrities. "Drop It Like It's Hot" rapper Snoop Dogg gifted him the iconic Death Row Records chain at a studio shoot that same year, and last but not least, as if he were playing Pokémon Go, Lame and actor Idris Elba combined forces to promote the movie star's 2022 film "Beast."

He is making his filmmaking dreams come true

Even though his athletic dreams hit a wall, Khaby Lame is slowly tapping into another vision he had as a child: filmmaking. Having taken a liking to the craft through comedy idols Will Smith and Eddie Murphy when he was growing up, Lame had an inspiring visit to the 2023 Academy Awards. His Oscars journey and early start on TikTok were put together in the short autobiographical flick "I Am Khabane," which launched at the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily that July. "Over the course of a few minutes we told an entire life until now ... it means a lot to me," he said of the brief film in a chat with Deadline.

Lame has been making waves on both the big and small screens. In September 2023, he joined the judging panel on Season 13 of the hit television series "Italia's Got Talent." Lame had previously been announced as a juror at the pioneering Cannes Film Festival TikTok Short Film contest. 

The TikTok star maintained that he was eyeing an Academy Award in his conversation with Deadline. It's a goal he is hoping he'll achieve, one movie at a time. "I want to make films. This is my main objective," Lame told the media outlet. "I've wanted to make movies since I was a child. ... One day I want to be on the stage at the Oscars."

Khaby Lame made a video game debut

In his quest to conquer the entertainment world, Khaby Lame has left no stones unturned. He surprisingly got his start in the gaming world on "Fortnite." Lame's self-titled character made his debut on Chapter 4: Season 4 titled "Last Resort," and was tasked with joining the Battle Pass to assist the heist team in overthrowing vampire Kado Thorne.

While Lame's fans were likely thrown off by the move, he'd been playing the game long before he was in it. "I started playing five years ago and sometimes I posted videos on YouTube or tagged 'Fortnite' in stories. I was thrilled about this game," he shared in a September 2023 interview with Variety, adding that he loved the Black Knight skin.

Lame's star status played a part in how he landed the exhilarating opportunity. Epic Games, the company behind "Fortnite," contacted him about a partnership a year prior. "My reaction was pure excitement," Lame told Variety. "Who doesn't want to be an action hero in a video game? It sounded so fun!"