Mountainside's Kacie Schmidt becomes TikTok star
Kacie Schmidt started her own TikTok account as most teenagers do, without the intention of becoming famous.
TikTok is a social network for sharing user-generated videos. Users can create and upload their own videos where they lip-synch, sing, dance, or just talk. You can also browse and interact with other users' content, which covers a wide range of topics, songs, and styles.
An avid chef with a sly sense of humor and an assortment of interests ranging from softball to cooking to music and engineering, Schmidt figured the social media platform would be a good way to engage with friends, stay connected with the latest trends, tend her inventive side a bit. International notoriety was not a goal. Schmidt's TikTok handle is even @ihavetiktokiguess, a lukewarm ode to a social media soapbox she reluctantly joined at the urging of a close friend. The Mountainside High School senior's first 13 or so videos were met with positive reaction and a healthy number of views. But in the world of going viral, all it takes is one smash hit to start a firestorm.
In her now lionized breakthrough, Schmidt walks into her family's bathroom with her phone in hand, holds it up in the mirror with the camera rolling, looks into the reflecting glass and uttered the now famous phrase, "I've never posted my feelings on a Snap Chat story and I live by that," before throwing up the peace sign and exiting the washroom. The video is just 14 seconds long but the reception it got blew up. Schmidt's self-reflection set off 171,000 views. Her next clip, a hilarious dubbing debunking the myth about only certain girls wearing crop tops, amassed a whopping 1.7 million hits. But that was just the start. Schmidt was collecting TikTok followers by the thousands, racking up five-figure view counts with each post. Her messages resonated with users of all ages. Her career-high? An eye-popping 3.7 million views on a video of Schmidt fixing homemade Gnocchi from scratch.
In just three months Schmidt went mainstream viral, becoming an overnight social media sensation. She's generated 1.2 million "likes", garnered 42,000 followers and piled up nearly six million views on just 41 TikTok videos in only four months since uploading the app on her phone at the urging of best friend and hype man, Abigail Phillips.
"I totally did not expect this," Schmidt said with a laugh. "I downloaded the app just a joke like everybody does. Then you start making your own videos. Then, you get addicted."
Schmidt is skyrocketing toward social media influence status. Initially, Schmidt said she found TikTok videos "annoying" when they would pop up on her Instagram feed. But upon installation, Schmidt found the quirky program to be quite the entertaining diversion during the mundane days of school and homework. And when the coronavirus pandemic shut down school and caused the OSAA to postpone the start of spring sports, TikTok offered Schmidt a creative outlet that also warded off the mind-numbing boredom of quarantine
The videos are light-hearted, funny, informative, satirical at times and far-ranging. From team-wide dances on the softball field to sarcastic quips on modern-day trends to side-splitting observations Schmidt doles out to acted out spoofs on anything from boyfriends to The Bachelor and everything in-between, there is something for everybody. But Schmidt's bread and butter content, where she gets the most joy and the most views, comes in the kitchen. Whether it's banana bread, strawberry pancakes, pretzels, cinnamon rolls or lemon and lavender scones, Schmidt can whip up just about anything. The videos are fast-paced and well-edited, always with music playing in the background. The clips are a minute-length at most as Schmidt takes her audience through the most important paces of the recipes through visual instruction. Schmidt said the scones were a personal favorite because she was able to experiment with lavender, a small finicky yet crucial component to the recipe. Too much lavender and the scones "taste like soap", Schmidt said. Too little lavender and it has little impact on your palette. So, Schmidt ended up making a lemon scone with lavender icing, a clever loophole that creatively incorporated both fixtures.
The viewer comments, always a lightning rod for controversy on any social media medium, came in droves. One of Schmidt's loyal followers mimicked the Gnocchi video step for step from Schmidt's t-shirt to her outfit to her mannerisms to the red sauce Schmidt mixed in with her noodles. An Australian friend texted Schmidt out of the blue, letting her know she saw her TikTok 8,000 miles away. However, the savvy Schmidt is a reluctant leading light when it comes to these telecasts. She's not doing this for attention or even others' entertainment.
"I don't want to sound ungrateful, but my viralness doesn't matter that much to me, it's just something that I really like to do," Schmidt said. "I like to cook, so I like to document it. And, if other people like it, then other people like it and that's cool."
Schmidt is not your typical one-sided social media big shot. Schmidt is a star pitcher on the Mountainside softball team who's been confined to her house the past couple weeks because of the COVID-19 caused quarantine that halted both school and spring sports. She hasn't been able to practice or pitch because most of the athletic facilities are locked up. On the side, Schmidt has coached a handful of young pitchers in the South Beaverton area during the regular season and twice as many in the summer for the past two years. Schmidt started her sessions with one or two kids after a Mom in her neighborhood inquired about teaching her daughter. Since then more and more hurlers have joined the group, as Schmidt's first pupils showed marked signs of progress in the circle. Schmidt is now the official pitching coach of South Beaverton Little League, a program that started up two years ago and went to the Little League World Series in 2018.
"People didn't really expect a high schooler to be a pitching coach, but I love coaching, pitching and the game a lot," Schmidt said. "When girls come to me, it's because they're struggling or need to fix something. I love their reactions when they finally accomplish their goals. It just fills my heart with so much happiness to see them do so well in the sport they love so much. And, I get to give back to the softball community that's given me so much over the past decade. I'm really thankful for that."
Due to the COVID-19 caused quarantine that halted both school and spring sports, Schmidt hasn't been able to practice or conduct in-person sessions for her students. But using her savvy video skills, Schmidt has been putting out pitching and conditioning tutorials for her students, in order for them to stay in shape during this extended hiatus.
"This break is going to define whether they start or ride the bench if the season comes around," Schmidt said. "I'm trying to set a good example by keeping up my work ethic and staying in shape, so that they know they need to do that as well."
Schmidt said only the most popular TikTok creators make money off their efforts. For the most part, TikTok doesn't offer creators a way to make money on its platform. There are ads on TikTok right now, but none run directly on creators' videos and offer a cut of the money, like on YouTube. Schmidt pinned her Venmo account to the top of her TikTok page in case any of her loyal followers want to contribute to her cause. But in all honesty, Schmidt says, this craze won't carry her much longer. Schmidt is playing softball at Oregon Tech in the fall and wants to become an engineer someday. Schmidt's cousin pitched at Oregon Tech, as did two former pitching coaches who all went on had success in Klamath Falls. The chance to play early on in her career, earn an engineering degree while receiving a scholarship to help pay for school all made Oregon Tech Schmidt's school of choice. The senior actually plans on deleting TikTok when she gets to Oregon Tech in order to eliminate distractions and focus on school and softball.
"I'm so thankful to have this opportunity to play there," Schmidt said. "I'm really excited about it. My major is really important to me. School is really important to me. I value softball and school and will continue to do so for a long time."
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