These are the Canadian creators transforming social media one bite-sized video at a time. Check out the full 2023 Power List here.
MORE: See who made the 2023 Maclean’s Power List
1. Kris Collins, the former hairdresser who is one of Tiktok’s biggest talents
Click here to find out why Collins gets the top spot
2. Josh Richards is an Ontario star breaking into Hollywood—and big business
There is no arguing that 21-year-old Josh Richards has a face that belongs in front of the camera. But it’s his work behind the scenes that sets him apart from his pretty-boy brethren—that and about 26 million followers, a TikTok fanbase that fell in love with his shirtless lip-synchs and pranks on friends. Richards, born in Cobourg, Ontario, has leveraged his popularity into movie roles (a first-look deal with Amazon), product lines (a dog food brand, an energy drink), a production company (in partnership with Mark Wahlberg) and a VC firm that raised $15 million in first-round funding and recently invested in technology to bring back the woolly mammoth.
Based in L.A., Richards walked the red carpet at the recent Golden Globes, but not before posting a TikTok video where he pondered outfit options—while shirtless.
3. Celina Myers shares bone-chilling thrills and adventures in sleepwalking
Sharing a last name with one of horror’s most notorious villains is fitting for the 29-year-old TikToker, who has built a devoted audience based on her preoccupation with the paranormal. “It started in her childhood home in Woodstock, Ontario, which she says was haunted after being built on land previously owned by one of the town’s founding families. Her experience with the supernatural later led to a job as a ghost hunter. She launched The Haunted Estate podcast in 2015 and started posting on TikTok to connect with her community.
@celinaspookyboo♬ original sound – CelinaSpookyBoo
Celina’s hilarious sleepwalking videos have earned her a massive TikTok following
She produces day-in-the-life content, often with a side of spooky (shopping for haunted dolls, the odd séance), but Myers is best known for sleepwalking videos. Footage showing her unconscious adventures (fridge raiding and flipping off cabinets) gets tens of millions of views and sparked a broader TikTok trend.
4. Luke Davidson is the boy next door turned comedy star
His bio reads “just a 19-year-old trying to put a smile on people’s faces,” which should seem like false modesty for such a popular Canadian creator on YouTube, except Luke Davidson might actually be that guy. He’s got the quintessential boy-next-door vibes, complete with the occasional on-screen pimple, and truly goofy “reaction videos” in which his characters are regularly outraged by everyday occurrences. His repertoire includes bewildered movie theatre employees and snappy teachers, capturing the hilarity in daily conversations. Davidson’s entertaining relatability has pushed his multi-platform audience into the millions, including 13.7 on TikTok. If the jokes have a certain dumb-dumb appeal, there’s nothing basic about his hustle: he has posted new content almost every day for the last two or three years, and recently bought his dream home in Calgary.
5. Linda Dong has bold skits and unfiltered content
Her signature messy-nerd character is a trope straight out of an ’80s movie, but her content—loud, in-your-face, charmingly hammy—is about subverting Western portrayals of demure Asian women. Linda Dong, who is Vietnamese-Canadian, spent almost a decade creating comedy skits on YouTube, appearing as a more poised, polished version of herself. When she moved to TikTok in 2020, she became known as Leenda Dong and embraced a low-maintenance vibe (she looks like she actually woke up like this) and a self-deprecating sense of humour. Even though she never takes herself too seriously, the same doesn’t apply to her career.
@yoleendadong♬ LMAO THE VIDS – ✨ ILikePotatosOnCheese ✨
Already collaborating with major brands like Disney, Amazon Prime and MAC Cosmetics, Dong signed with power agency WME (home of Matt Damon and “Weird Al” Yankovic) in November and recently relocated from Vancouver to L.A. to pursue acting roles.
6. Tate McRae’s TikTok breakup ballads get billions of listens on Spotify
Tate McRae’s first brush with stardom happened young, at 12 years old, when she got pulled on stage to dance during a Justin Bieber concert. Now with 4.5 million followers, she’s harnessing the power of social platforms to achieve global popstar status. Last year, the video for her hit song “don’t come back” became the first ever to debut on TikTok and was even shot vertically to fit the app’s dimensions. Her 2020 breakup anthem “you broke me first” quickly gained traction on TikTok too, where it went mega-viral with over one billion streams on Spotify. By the next summer, the Calgary teenager was performing at Lollapalooza.
@tatemcraebts of my performance tonight at the junoooosss♬ original sound – t8
Tate recently performed at the 2023 JUNOs
Her 2022 album i used to think i could fly debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard chart, and she’s earned nine Juno nominations in total, including a nod for Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2021.
7. The Bee Family is an ABC sitcom come to life
Embarrassing dad, eye-rolling mom, precocious children who are now navigating teenhood—the Bee family’s content has all the hallmarks of a Modern Family cold open, with fewer series regulars and more views. This family of four has roots that go all the way back to the Vine era. Back then, they were part of an early wave of PG vloggers promoting good, clean fun for big-brand partnerships. And while Vine is no more, the Bee family (dad Andres, mom Rosanna, daughter Gabriela and son Roberto) have transitioned successfully to YouTube and TikTok, where their following ballooned from two million to 12 million over the course of the pandemic. The kids aren’t really kids anymore, but that just means fresh storylines, like a recent driving lesson that raked in more than five million views, involving a quick prayer, a hilariously nervous dad and a very relaxed daughter.
8. Che Durena is bringing stand-up to our phones
Lockdown forced stand-up comics to hit the brakes and so, like any performer with an endless arsenal of fart jokes and no one to share them with, Che Durena threw his efforts onto social media. Since then, the former scuba instructor, who got his start doing stand-up in Playa del Carmen, has attracted a global audience who love his mix of current-events commentary, brutally honest “yo mama” jokes and, yes, still a lot of body humour. He released his debut comedy album in 2020, fittingly titled Tales From My Butthole, which led to a gig hosting the MostAmazingTop10 YouTube channel. His sets have also been featured on Just For Laughs, SiriusXM and Comedy Central. Last year, he relocated from Toronto to New York to get back to his comedy club roots, but he won’t be abandoning his online audience—more than 7.8 million followers—any time soon.
9. Jet Bent-Lee is making gourmet food fun
Most Canadians know that Iron Chef Susur Lee can create edible poetry out of top-shelf ingredients, but it turns out he can do the same with greasy fast food and frozen TV dinners. Susur barely knew what TikTok was when Jet, his youngest son, approached him to collaborate on a series of food makeover challenges, which have now been viewed tens of millions of times by five million followers. Jet is the disaffected Gen Z partner who issues the challenges and edits the material after the fact, while Susur (who cooks in his home kitchen in socks!) shows a more relaxed version of his superstar self. Come for the culinary master class (that TV dinner became chicken dumplings bathed in a corn crème fraîche, topped with chives and shaved truffle). Stay for the surprisingly charming father-son dynamic and plenty of Chinese parenting wisdom, which Susur offers from behind the stove.
10. James Jones is shedding light on Indigenous culture through dance
One of the pandemic’s earliest TikTok challenges invited users to create dances to The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights”—a fun distraction for millions of amateurs. But for Cree hoop dancer James Jones, based in Edmonton, it was the beginning of a new career. Over two million people watched the former So You Think You Can Dance Canada contestant’s mesmerizing performance with half a dozen giant hoops. He’s earned shoutouts in Vogue, a giant billboard in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square and a massive following that currently totals 3.8 million.
@notoriouscreeDancing is food for my spirit♬ original sound – James Jones
James Jones uses his platform to place a spotlight on Indigenous history, along with his incredible dancing
A steady stream of dance posts (sometimes to pop songs, mostly to Indigenous artists like Apsáalooke rapper Supaman) is broken up with quick hits on Indigenous history (“a few facts about The Indian Act”), and comedic cultural commentary, like a reaction video called “When Natives see the Pope receiving a headdress he didn’t earn.”
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.