TikTok’s Corn Boy is doing great

“It’s corn!”

With just two words about his favorite food, Tariq has attracted millions of people.

“For me, I really like corn,” he said in one video, has been viewed more than five million times on YouTube. Tariq describes corn as “a big lump with knobs,” noting, “It has juice.” “I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful thing,” he said.

Perhaps you’ve heard the jingle, or know him by the name “Corn Kid”. Offline, Tariq has just started second grade, where his slightly too young TikTok classmates have no idea he’s spent the last few weeks of summer becoming an internet hit.

He likes to take breaks and study math. (Second, he rationalizes using the uncomplicated intellect that comes with being 7: “Because, like, I’m good at math,” he explains.) He has three sisters. girls, each one is counted on the tip of one finger. His favorite color is “all colors”, his ideal adventure would be a visit to a crowded water park and he is not a fan of flying insects, like those humming around the beehive in Domino Park on the Brooklyn waterfront, where he just sat down in a chair to discuss his recent brush with internet fame.

Then, a few screams from both the reporter and the subject, we moved. “I didn’t really step into him, he walked into me,” said Tariq, safely away from the bees, of his star chance encounter with host Julian Shapiro-Barnum. internet program”Respite therapy“In the presence of Mr. Shapiro-Barnum Spontaneous interviews with children in New York City.

Tariq was with one of his sisters and grandmother at Smorgasburg, a weekly food festival in Prospect Park, when Mr. Shapiro-Barnum came to him for an interview this summer. On that day, Mr. Shapiro-Barnum, whom Tariq calls Mr. Julian, was making an episode of favorite things.

The answer to Tariq is simple and convenient, already at hand: an ear of roasted corn.

In the video, Mr. Shapiro-Barnum edited the crunching sound every time Tariq bites for dramatic effect. “I hope you have a stressful day,” Tariq said. Beside him, his grandmother couldn’t help but giggle. “What? It’s just a pun about corn.” Boom!

“A pun is like something you create to make people laugh,” Tariq later explained when asked to define a pun.

Tariq said a missing front tooth made it a little harder to eat his favorite starchy vegetable, but he remained undaunted. He said, the tooth fairy didn’t come when it fell off. “She abandoned me. She thinks I have a terrible family.” Tariq’s mother, Jessica, sat next to her son, pretending to gasp and laugh.

Tariq’s tooth fairy theories aside, his family really managed to do the impossible: maintain Tariq’s normal, safe, and happy appearance while he ran out of fame. (Tariq’s family requested that they be identified only by their first name, in an effort to maintain their privacy.)

The Respite Therapy interview went international before Jessica, 33, even found out her son was going viral. “I got a text with a video from Europe and they said, ‘Isn’t this Tariq?’, Jessica said of a text she received from cousins ​​abroad. “They were like, ‘He’s on TikTok!'”

This confused Jessica, who at the time was not using the app. (She said her daughter texted her to make sure it was okay for Tariq to talk to Mr. Shapiro-Barnum in the park.) Texts, links and emails began to flood in from friends and family. strangers from all over the world. “And then I realized, ‘Oh, my God, my son is on the internet,'” she said.

Reservations from TV shows began to reach out. The family quickly found a lawyer. Tariq met him once via Zoom, his mother said, but he doesn’t recall the encounter.

He recalls a trip to Los Angeles for the premiere of “Pinocchio.” A red carpet interviewer asked Tariq if he was excited to meet Tom Hanks. “Who is Tom Hanks?” Tariq replied. On “The Drew Barrymore Show,” Tariq sample different corn foods: baby corn, corn soda, dessert corn and Quorn, the brand of meat substitute Miss Barrymore is mother director.

On the Internet, the video “Retreat Therapy” has exploded like kernels in a pot of hot oil. It’s the perfect recipe for virality: part cute kid plus part delicious food, with a series of healthy, mouth-watering sonic bites perfect for inferring.

That’s exactly what Michael Gregory did when he turned Tariq’s interview into a song on TikTok. Mr. Gregory is a quarter of the Gregory Brothers, a musical group that has made a name for itself converting viral videos into catchy tunes. The group’s biggest hit to date may have been “Bed Intruder Song,” an auto-tuned interview that became the most viewed video on YouTube in 2010 and ranked on YouTube. Top 100 charts.

Sitting at the keyboard, Mr. Gregory played a tune with one finger and sang the backup for Tariq. TikTok videos have been viewed 76 million times, and audio has been used by other creators on the app in over a million videos.

The team then reached out to Mr Shapiro-Barnum and Tariq to collaborate on a larger project, creating a long haul using footage from a follow-up interview between Mr. Shapiro-Barnum and Tariq. The song has been released on Spotify and the revenue is being split equally among the three parties. Tariq is said to be both a writer and a performer.

Splitting the profits with the theme of viral videos the brothers turned into music has been part of the group’s business model since their first hit,”Double rainbow song,” said Mr. Gregory. “We said, ‘This is a good opportunity for people who are going viral to really benefit from said viral moment. help him register as a musician so he can get the proper royalties.)

Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota proclaimed September 3 “The Official Corn-bassador Tariq Day.” “Meanwhile, South Dakota is one of the top corn producers in the nation, providing a source of nutrition for people globally, but especially for Tariq, a 7-year-old boy who recently discovered corn is real,” preface of the magazine executive statement. As official corn growers, Tariq and family visited the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD The trip was sponsored by the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

“It’s the size of a real castle,” Tariq said. He notes that the Corn Palace isn’t literally made of corn: “It’s made of metal that looks like corn.”

Tariq also joined Cameo in late August, a platform that allows celebrities to record personalized video messages for fans for a fee. Since joining, he has been the most viewed profile on the platform, a Cameo representative wrote in an email. Tariq’s current price for a personalized video is $220. Through Cameo, he’s also been hired to shoot brand ads, including a video for Chipotle that is currently the company’s best-performing TikTok since before until now.

But given his popularity, there’s also plenty of criticism, Jessica said. On Twitter, some users theorized that Tariq was being used by the family to make a quick buck. Others worry that he will fall prey to an all-too-common online model in which young Black creators did not receive proper compensation and credit for their work.

Jessica said: “I don’t read negative comments. “Before it really got to me because people were saying really mean things like, ‘He’s being taken advantage of,’ ‘He was forced to do these things.’ But anyone who knows Tariq knows he loves cameras. He loves to talk. And this is what he always wanted.”

In fact, Jessica initially tried to keep her son away from social media. It found him.

“I always say, ‘No, you don’t get a YouTube channel,’ she said.

Jessica, Tariq and Tariq’s father discuss every opportunity that comes their way. They’re selective about what they reveal, Jessica says, and the final decision is always Tariq’s. “If he’s in the mood to do it, we’ll give it a try. If he doesn’t really feel like doing it, I won’t force it,” she said. Jessica turned off his Cameo request when school reopened to ensure Tariq could focus on her studies. She said she has no plans to turn them back on anytime soon.

“People online are saying, ‘Oh, this family is living off of him.’ Listen, he’s well taken care of. Both his parents work and he lives in a family that has a lot of love for his siblings and his parents,” Jessica said.

Jessica tried to keep Tariq’s private life private. On her first day of school, she met with her son’s principal to explain his new situation and set some ground rules.

“As soon as I went to see the principal, she knew who he was,” Jessica said. “They really respect my wishes when it comes to his privacy. And there were no images, except for a small boo that happened. “A staff member at the school asked Tariq to take a selfie. “I said yes,” Tariq said, grinning.

Jessica recently allowed her son to join the social network. With the help of her mother, Tariq set up a TikTok account that now has nearly 600,000 followers. He posts under the handle @KornBoyOfficial. Someone pretending to be him used the name @CornKid.

Tariq hopes people will eventually stop asking him about corn. “I really want to go to the park, but I can’t until I’m done with this,” Tariq said when asked what he would like to discuss instead.

While climbing a tall metal slide, Jessica spotted several parents showing up to watch her son Corn Kid. Tariq doesn’t know.

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