the digital age
Victoria Paris Wants to Big Brother Her Life
The most important thing you need to know about Victoria Paris is that she’s not in the business of mystique. After growing nearly 1 million TikTok followers in less than four months by posting 20-30 times a day, the 22-year-old New School student believes the world still hasn’t seen enough of her. “You know the show Big Brother?” she asks me over drinks in the East Village. “I want to Big Brother myself.” She starts explaining a dream device that would be able to stream her life to the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And as I sat back and listened under the emerging April sun, I sipped my rum punch and happily let her convince me that I was in the presence of a streaming visionary, two weeks away from graduation.
EMILY SUNDBERG: Where are you from?
VICTORIA PARIS: I grew up in New Jersey for 10 years, and then North Carolina for the other eight.
SUNDBERG: So what made you start on TikTok?
PARIS: I’ve lived in the city for three years now. My junior year of college I made one video on TikTok, just as a joke, when it was cringe, when nobody liked TikTok.
SUNDBERG: When Charli [D’Amelio] was just—
PARIS: Yeah, yeah, before she even blew up. I remember the first video I posted. I made one video of me and it was a thirst trap. I was flexing my body and shit. And it blew up. It got 20,000 views. I was like, “Guys, I’ve peaked. I’ve peaked. That’s insurmountable.” I deleted the app, and I was like, “I’m never going back on it. I peaked on my first video. I’m one and done.”
And then I got really into running and marathon training, and I just totally purged social media for six months during corona and all that stuff. And then I was working at a finance startup, and I ended up losing my job to corona and I needed money. So I was like, “Why don’t I try to plug my Depop via TikTok and make all these thirst traps flexing my fashion and shit, and then push all the traffic that way?” And then I started making videos and they just were an instantaneous hit. This was five months ago.
SUNDBERG: So, December?
PARIS: This was December, yeah. And I was still home for the first month of my TikTok, so I was just making totally green screen videos. And everybody was eating it up and stuff. And I was like, “You know what? I’m not going to do this for the money at all. I see something here.” And I was like, “While I still have the luxury of not having to worry about money, I’m going to give this my all.”
SUNDBERG: So what do your friends and family think of all this?
PARIS: Oh, my friends have been telling me to do this for a long time. My brother works in finance and he’s been telling me to do this for forever, and I’ve always been very anti-influencer culture. I’ve never been involved in this, ever. When I was a kid, I was a nerd. I played Minecraft and did stuff by myself. I was never a girly girl. I was never that popular. And then my friends were like, “You should start a podcast. You give amazing advice. You have a crazy life.” And I was like, “I don’t really want to put my shit out there like that.” Not that I’m scared of people, it was just nobody’s business but my own.
And so I think that since people have been telling me this for so long, I was like, “Fuck you. I’m not going to do it. I can be a female in finance, no problem. I can be a personal trainer. I can do wherever the fuck I want.” But I kind of got to the point where I’m about to graduate and I’m like, “Maybe I don’t want to work a nine-to-five.” So they’re not surprised. They’re not surprised at all.
SUNDBERG: When I say cancel culture, you say…
PARIS: Cancel culture doesn’t foster the ability to rehabilitate your image. There are certain things that are irredeemable, like actually egregious crimes. You should never come back from those, you should fucking go and hang your head for the rest of your life. The thing is, I believe that people can redeem themselves and provide clarity from a point of distance. You have to distance yourself if you do something really fucking bad— like David Dobrik, he needs distance. If he comes back tomorrow, I’m going to be questioning his actions. But with cancel culture, it doesn’t allow people to own their mistakes and claim their actions and provide that they’re a bigger person than what happened, and it totally just cuts off somebody’s humanity. You’re stunted. You’re not allowed to grow past this one event that you got canceled for, which is wild.
SUNDBERG: Is there anything your followers don’t know about you?
PARIS: There’s things that I forget all the time, that I’m like, “Oh, don’t they know that?” And they’re like, “No.” Like, I was at a shoot and the stylist didn’t know that I don’t have my ears pierced, or that I have a lip tattoo, and all these random, weird things. But there’s tons of things people don’t know about me, like experiences or encounters. It’s all about catching people up on who you are and what you’re doing.
SUNDBERG: I feel a lot of potential energy around you. It’s a little scary.
PARIS: That’s why when I talk to managers, I’m like, “What are you actually going to do for me?” They’re constantly like, “What do you want to do?” I’m like, “You’re not thinking bigger than who I am now, and I am. I’m plotting like ten moves in advance.” There’s no value added.
I think that there’s a lot of people doing out there who are doing it like me, but are scared of what I’m doing. They don’t like it at all. Even some brands are hesitant to work with TikTokers or stuff like that. There’s a stigma.
PARIS: Because you could be a model, but you’re a model who came from TikTok, not a model who came from nepotism, or a model came who from—
SUNDBERG: An agency.
PARIS: Yeah, an agency or something like that. It’s like it’s not as accredited. But the thing is, if anything, it’s more accredited, because more people actually wanted you there on TikTok.
SUNDBERG: What do you think the future of the influencer economy looks like?
PARIS: Streaming. 24/7. That’s my thing. I think that’s the future. Not reality shows, not [Instagram] Lives. It’s my life on display. I’ve always thought about writing a book, but I don’t think I would actually capture my essence in its entirety. That’s why streaming 24/7 would be so cool—it’s like there’s actually an account of it. Not that I’m interested in revisiting these things, but if anybody wants to know why I am, who I am, and where I am now, they just watch it. Tune in when you want.
SUNDBERG: Does that scare you?
PARIS: I really want to do that. I would love to partner with Samsung or Sony and make it happen because nobody’s doing it.
SUNDBERG: How do you date with this platform?
PARIS: So, I’ve been seeing someone consistently for the past three months. And my first date with him was when my account really blew up, and it didn’t really go well. I was like, “We’re done now.” You know? A lot of these guys went to Ivys, and he went to an Ivy and has a good family and is from a good town, has money. I’m thinking, “He can’t deal with a girl who thinks bigger than them, or is actually making more money than them in a month.”
SUNDBERG: It’s going to freak them out.
PARIS: A lot of them, it freaked them out. And I’m almost like, “Should I be sad about this? No, I don’t care at all.”
SUNDBERG: Do you think the biggest question about influencers is, ‘How did you get here?’
PARIS: I also think it’s how you make money, because the thing is, no one influencer makes money the same way the other one does. And a lot of them are not transparent about it.
SUNDBERG: Some still don’t make money.
PARIS: I’m talking to people on the phone though, four or five times the size of [my account], and I’m like, the money they’re making! I’m telling them flat out exactly the numbers, ’cause the thing is, why don’t people talk about how much they’re getting paid? That’s how pay discrepancy happens.
SUNDBERG: If you started talking about finance on your Tiktok, it would just be…
PARIS: Oh, I tried. I’ve tried to talk about Robinhood, investing and diversifying and all that.
SUNDBERG: How many phone chargers do you have?
PARIS: What do you mean?
SUNDBERG: How many phone chargers do you have? Are you charging your phone all the time?
PARIS: I just have one. I charge it when I wake up, I charge it before the gym, and I charge it after the gym, and then at bed. I don’t do much. I don’t leave my apartment much. That’s the thing. I don’t go out. I’m not out in the street that much.
SUNDBERG: So do you feel like your friends are down for the ride? Like they’re here for it?
PARIS: I’ve cut off tons of my friends already just because I don’t like the way they’re reacting, and acting, and being leechy. I don’t care. If we can’t grow together, then what’s the point of being friends? It’s not symbiotic. So I’m all down for helping each other out and stuff, but a lot of my friends have been shitty and try to take things. And I’m like, “I’m done.” I have very little tolerance for people who aren’t good to me. I know that I’m a positive force in other people’s lives, and if you’re not going to be the same back, then I don’t have any time.
SUNDBERG: What do you think made you that way?
PARIS: I’ve been like this from a young age. Oh my gosh, in fifth grade, I remember my mom picked me up from school, and I was sobbing. She was like, “What’s wrong?” And I’m like, “I just feel like people come to me when they need something, when they need advice, they want anything. They just take, and take, and take from me and they don’t give anything back. I don’t know what it is.”
And she was like, “You have to understand that from a young age you have to guard yourself. She was like, it’s a mosquito in a fucking—what is it? The light box. They’ll keep coming to you, and zapping themselves, and going away, and coming back. You have to protect yourself because people will take your whole life because you have a lot to offer emotionally, and intelligence-wise. They will just keep taking and you can’t give everybody everything. That’s why I isolate myself a lot. I don’t want to live in L.A. I don’t want a lot of friends.
SUNDBERG: I’ve been thinking about your adrenaline levels. This is my confession.
PARIS: I think that most people underutilize their bodies. I want to do ultra-marathons. I want to do extreme sports. I want to walk across the Arctic. Did you see that guy? The one Joe Rogan Experience podcast I watched was where the guy fucking drags the 300-pound sled across the Arctic, and I want to do that. I’ve never been interested in doing something half-assed. I’d never run before, and I signed up for a marathon.
If I’m going to do TikTok, I’m going to be the best at it. I’ve been preserving energy for this.