Written by by Staff Writer
Spend a little time on the video-sharing platform TikTok and you’ll find people from all over the world chatting and lip-syncing to music.
It’s the world’s second most popular mobile app after YouTube, with 300 million monthly active users across the globe.
But it’s hard to find a whole lot of activity on TikTok, which mainly attracts young people with quirky talents. One user, however, is quickly climbing the charts. His video features 16 taps and barely more than 30 seconds of footage.
“What did you guys have for breakfast?” he asks.
“Waffles!” replies the person in his video.
“Oh cool,” says the man in his video. “Only 16 taps.”
His name is Wolf. And he doesn’t say a word in his video.
Wolf is the most popular male on TikTok. His video’s in the top slot on the Music, Drama, Dance, Music and Interview sections of the app. He had 20 million views when CNNMoney spoke to him on July 31. (TikTok does not reveal any user data.)
CNNMoney interviewed Wolf in front of dozens of people watching him perform on the app. His girlfriend was there, but he did not give her a lot of screen time — because he didn’t want to encourage her to keep up the same routine.
What he does
Wolf started on TikTok in late 2017. He says he would start each day by doing some sort of energetic dance to pre-recorded music, sometimes breaking into fitful laughter. (He is self-conscious about his giggle.)
His mother would come by, sometimes even joining him in the selfies Wolf posts on the app. She told CNNMoney she was happy about his ascent as a global star.
“I’ve been telling him, ‘Why are you doing that?’ and he’ll just say, ‘Mom, you’re right. I’m being silly, but I want to show the world what I can do,'” says Wolf’s mother, Elizabeth Tatro.
Wolf spends most of his day either preforming on the platform or avoiding it. “I can’t really beat boredom,” he said.
Wolf’s fans, meanwhile, seem happy for him. But it can be a challenge for other TikTok users to find him.
“Everyone’s really good, but he’s better than everyone,” 13-year-old Jasmine L. says. She’s talking about Wolf’s contagious smile.
“We were pretty upset when we found out he’s not going to talk, so we missed him,” adds 12-year-old Jena A. “We want to know his name,” Jena adds.
CNNMoney asked Wolf’s family members who his biggest fans are.
“He’s like everyone’s favorite uncle — wherever he goes, he’s going to have a blast,” Tatro says.
Wolf says his closest TikTok fans are the young Japanese girls he watches for tips about proper moves. They say they’ve followed him because of their love for the “rebel dancing” he shows off on the app.
Wolf says his biggest worry now is that his total soundless videos will confuse younger viewers. “I just don’t want it to get boring. Kids need to see what’s out there.”
Although his videos have an incredibly low starting rate, they are full of viral popularity. He’s been dancing “the old school way” since he was four or five, and he gets critiques from parents and teachers about his dancing.
“My teachers and parents say that dancing is a lot harder than he lets it look,” Tatro says.
Wolf says he tries to do different dance styles each day, including hip-hop, tae kwon do and wushu — the Japanese martial art. He’s especially obsessed with people who perform hip-hop because he finds it to be “really hard,” although he says it is similar to other sorts of dancing.
“I don’t mean to stop every day and just do the same move,” he says. “Because I think it’s very boring.”
He’s worried about what his fans will think of his silence on TikTok now.
“I have no problem with silence, but I have a problem with words,” he says. “But I don’t care. I do what I love to do. And as long as they give me the love, that’s all that matters.”