Comedians, actresses and social media pundits Dylan Mulvaney and Grace Kuhlenschmidt talk TikTok stardom with Barbie Ferreira

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Today is Dylan Mulvaney’s 189th day as a girl. The actress, comedian and social media mogul first took to TikTok in March to document her journey of transitioning as a transgender woman, dubbing her “Days of Girlhood” series. Now, with 7.7 million followers on TikTok (of which Lady Gaga is a part), the series is paying for its transition.

That’s the power of social media in 2022. But it’s not as simple as it seems, Mulvaney warned. Influence also comes from learning to be vulnerable and versatile, battling mental health issues and finding ownership of your voice, Mulvaney said at the 10th Annual. Forbes Power Women’s Summit in New York on Thursday.

Mulvaney joined the stage with comedian, actress and writer Grace Kuhlenschmidt and actress Barbie Ferreira to talk about the power of influence and the economics of creators. All three are standout examples of how to leverage social platforms to break down barriers to entry into mainstream ‘traditional’ media like TV and film, comedy and fashion. Creating content requires finding your niche, but it’s also about discovering ways to diversify your influence, content and revenue streams, the trio said.

“People want to put you in a box,” Mulvaney said. The former Broadway actress says she is now trying to keep her niche broad. “That’s where we are in the industry right now is that we’re watching people do so many different things, and that’s what’s special about these apps and using them at our advantage.”

The multiple caesura seemed to be the theme of this year’s Summit. From creating their own products to co-branding with companies, the influencer-to-entrepreneur pipeline is a natural progression, says Mae Karwowski, founder and CEO of influencer marketing agency Obviously.

“You start working with some of the biggest brands in the world and start launching your own business,” Karwowski said. Forbes in a video interview last month. “It’s just a real path to entrepreneurship.”

Mulvaney and Kuhlenschmidt, along with creators like Addison Rae Easterling, now write and star in movies and TV shows.

“There is no blueprint or guide,” Ferreira said Thursday. “It’s a new way to interact with the world and entertainment in general.”

Launchmetrics co-founder and CEO Michael Jais launched the software company to track data on social platforms for fashion, beauty and luxury brands. He says that TikTok, with its comedy sketches and new dances, is not competing with other social platforms but rather with the entertainment industry. “It will be difficult for influencers to adapt because they are not the same skills,” says Jais. “It’s about comedy, and the music is essential, which is not at all the case with Instagram or blogs.”

Mulvaney and Kuhlenschmidt said they got more auditions since their TikToks gained popularity.

“There are so many people looking at the internet looking for young talent that hasn’t been discovered yet,” Kuhlenschmidt said from the Forbes arrange. “It’s a whole different dynamic of how to get actors; you used to go to the agency and make someone believe and they created your brand. And now you have your own platform, your own creativity, and people adapt to what you want to do and not necessarily this big machine of other people.

And with this new level of autonomy, content creators are able to take more ownership of their brand, social media experts said. For influencers looking to strike deals with bigger brands, the key to maintaining an authentic voice is creating your own content and finding collaborators to work with who appreciate the real you, Mulvaney said. Mulvaney has brand partnerships with Kate Spade, Neutrogena and OKCupid.

“There’s also a level of trust that needs to come from an older generation,” she said. “They have to say, ‘We respect you enough to take the reins or write your own script for publicity’.”

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