No.1: Kris Collins
READ: The Power List: TikTok top 10
It was October of 2022 and Kris Collins—a.k.a. KallMeKris, a.k.a. the most popular Canadian TikTok star on the planet, with 48 million followers—hopped a flight from Vancouver to Iceland. After two and a half years of non-stop writing, producing and starring in her own quick-hit comedy skits, she longed to go somewhere where she could get away from it all. She was travelling solo but wanted company, so she signed up for one of those sightseeing services. Her tourmates were mostly older travellers who had no idea of her online alter ego. When they met in the lobby, there was a bang on the window from outside. First one fist and then several, all belonging to teenage boys whose muffled screams were unmistakable: “Kris! Krissss! Are you KallMeKris?”
MORE: See who made the 2023 Maclean’s Power List
To an increasingly large corner of the internet, Collins is Cameron Diaz meets Carol Burnett meets Amy Schumer, only none of those women carved out their careers while still living at mom and dad’s. Before she became one of TikTok’s most successful creators, she was a hairdresser, seeing clients in her salon in her parents’ basement in Abbotsford, B.C. When the pandemic put her work on hold, she spent endless evenings watching TV with her family. One night, Collins called out her brother Jacob for zoning out on his phone, and he told her she should have a look at TikTok. At that point she associated the still-newish platform with viral dances, but once she learned people were using it for comedy, she was keen. Her first video used audio from the movie Step Brothers to joke about how adult children react when their moms ask if they want anything from the grocery store. It only got a few views, but Collins was enthused by the challenge and found that the creative outlet helped with her mental health struggles.
@kallmekris McCain is giving one lucky Canadian the chance to have the DistractiFRY at their next family gathering, complete with tons of McCain fries, full catering, and other additional prizes like Philips air fryers! Go to @mccaincanada to enter #McCainDistractiFRY #ad ♬ original sound – Kris HC
The hilarious character Janet is one of the ways Kris Collins built her massive TikTok following
A few weeks in, she decided to “grow a pair” (her words) and write original material. Her first character was a Boston mom named Janet, based on the many, many moms who were her clients at the time. Then came Riley, whose tiny plastic hand Collins ordered off Amazon ($2 for a pack of four); a bro-ish brother (Chad); and a grandmother (Nona). She hit a million followers on her 24th birthday in July of 2020, and by the end of that first pandemic summer, her audience was already around two million. Still, when salons were allowed to reopen, Collins went back to work. “I just wasn’t convinced that TikTok could be a real job,” she says. That August, she expanded to YouTube (where monetization is based on audience engagement) and signed with an agency. She scored her first significant brand partnership with the Vancouver-based waterproof-shoe company Vessi and, toward the end of the year, decided it was time to leave the salon behind. But not until after the holidays, when her clients needed her: “These women take their hair and lashes very, very seriously.”
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It is this ability to clock the absurdity of everyday quirks and behaviours that makes Collins’s content so popular. While a lot of the laughs on TikTok can feel alienating to anyone over 30, Collins’s skits are familiar comfort food. “I think of my humour as saying the things that everyone is thinking but doesn’t want to say,” she explains. Her radical candour is played for laughs (“doesn’t everyone look in the toilet after they’re finished?”), but it’s also how she talks to her audience about mental health, sometimes making her anxiety the punchline of a skit and other times just filming herself during low points.
@kallmekrisMy VL0G is 0VT on ¥0VTVBE😊♬ original sound – Kris HC
Kris’s TikTok stardom brought her all the way to Iceland
Being relatable may be a struggle as her life becomes less and less so. She emerged from lockdown to find that people at the grocery store knew who she was. Now she can’t even find anonymity in Iceland. In 2021, she bought her own house on a mountain near where she grew up, furnished with a soundproof recording studio. She attended the Streamy Awards (YouTube’s Oscars) last fall. But her stories still name-check places like Costco, and Collins says her frugal upbringing steers her away from extravagance. “I am very aware that this could all go away. I want to set myself up.”
@kallmekrisDidnt even have to pay Chad to say that. Exclusive interview with Nickelback on CBC Music’s TT Monday!♬ original sound – Kris HC
Kris and Nickelback are using TikTok to capitalize on their friendship
To that end, she has entered brand partnerships with Amazon Prime, Lionsgate, Lifetime TV and Google Pixel. Forbes reported her 2022 income as $4.75 million and last year she signed with A3, a talent agency out of New York that specializes in content creators. She plans to start working with an acting coach and hopes to land some roles in traditional media. In the fall, she had a part in a Nickelback video, where the concept was an impromptu concert on a college campus. Collins is a huge fan of Nickelback, though she was in diapers when the heartland rockers were at their zenith. Having her in their video (and appearing in her behind-the-scenes TikToks) is a way for the band to reach millions of Gen Zers. For Collins, it’s a form of diversification as she breaks into new industries. She certainly has the talent to be her generation’s Cameron Diaz. To 48 million and counting, she already is.
Check out the full 2023 Power List here
This article appears in print in the March 2023 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Buy the issue for $9.99 or better yet, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for just $39.99.