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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Q&A | TikToker Brittany Broski talks artificial intelligence, lessons learned as an influencer

The social media star spoke to The Daily Iowan ahead of her lecture at the Iowa Memorial Union on Thursday.
Cody Blissett
Brittany Broski salutes her fans during a lecture hosted by the University of Iowa Lecture Committee in the Iowa Memorial Union on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. Broski has amassed almost 1.5 million YouTube subscribers and nearly eight million followers on TikTok.

TikToker Brittany Broski drew droves of students to the Iowa Memorial Union Thursday for a lecture she delivered to a packed ballroom. Ahead of her debut at the University of Iowa, she sat down with The Daily Iowan to talk about her path to Tiktok, her top advice for 20-year-olds, social justice, and her fears and curiosity about artificial intelligence.  

With 7.3 million followers on TikTok and nearly 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube, Broski is a leading social media influencer. She creates content from comedy sketches to her podcast, “Broski on Repeat,” which launched in May. 

Learn more here:

Read the DI’s interview with Broski below. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Daily Iowan: I know you’ve talked about this online, but for anyone who doesn’t know, what’s the story of you and your journey to and through social media?

Brittany Broski: I have had a device in my hand since I was about 11 years old, so my brain has rotted since then, and I think there was really no other end for me with all of this. I think, from even growing up on Tumblr, playing Neopets on Webkinz, and Club Penguin, it’s like I was already kind of plugged into kids online when I was young. And then as the internet will have it, you kind of grow up a little too fast. And so it primed me for what happened with the viral video to happen, because I’ve been online long enough that I knew how to handle it, and I knew that at a certain point, the internet is going to pigeonhole you into one thing, especially as a woman. They’re gonna make you “the blah blah blah girl” and it’s like I’m so much more than that. And that is just the most terrible sort of end of such high. So I made a concerted effort around that time to start diversifying the content and doing accents and impressions and skits and characters and kind of showing range. Yeah, I can make Jim Carrey faces but look at all this. And then I started making art history videos. 

Then 2020 happened, as fate would have it, and Tik Tok became this sort of platform for social justice and I pushed myself way too far on that end. I would say, and I kind of turned from a comedy account into solely a social justice account, and then quickly realized I’m way over my head. I never signed up for this. I am not honestly an informed source. I was 22 years old, I really had no position to be talking about some of the things that were happening in 2020. But I took it upon myself because I cared a lot and I wanted to help but that’s the dangerous part of having the platform. And then you learn sometimes. You put your foot in your mouth and then you learn and then I’ve landed on this balance now that I know that my purpose online and what brings me the most joy is a healthy balance. I make the comedy stuff because of course I love it and it’s what I would be doing anyway for my friends. And the fact that I get to share it with a larger audience is a blessing. But also the social justice stuff does mean a lot to me, you know? Like the drag bands and the threat on trans and gay lives in southern America, all over America, and all over the world is something very important to me, and I’m gonna talk about it when I want to talk about it. That’s kind of what I’ve landed on. 

I think that’s the personal journey. Because I know people know the story of Kombucha girl to whatever I do now. It’s the sort of personal side that has been very much a learning experience. So it’s a cool place I’ve landed on.

DI: You’re a part of Generation Z, and you’ve grown up in this new age of being chronically online. What is your biggest advice to social media users, especially at a college age? 

Broski: The best piece of advice I can give is that number one, it’s not real. And really that’s the simplest sort of truth to it, but we always forget. When did it turn into us performing who we are? That’s crazy. And for me as an internet personality, it’s a little different because I am myself. It’s just kind of like a roided-out version of myself for the Internet, but at its core, it is me. I’m not performing. I’m just making a lot of videos and I probably wouldn’t make that many videos if I just did this for free. The flip side of that is just the normal sort of 18 to 24-year-old online is you are performing the version of yourself that you want to be that kind of doesn’t exist. Who are you trying to impress? It’s a bottomless pit and it’s an empty void. That will never bring you fulfillment. And I think that’s the easy thing to be lost in is that it’s not as serious as you f***ing think it is. That’s my advice. 

And also, honestly, the percentage chance of having success online as a creator is kind of slim. It’s all about angling and what you do with that 15 minutes and you have to be prepared to have your body torn apart. Everything that comes out of your mouth is torn apart and you have to have skin thick enough to be able to deal with that. So it’s not for everyone. People have kind of come up and disappeared because they couldn’t handle it. The minute someone says, “Why is your body shaped like that?” Some people can’t handle it. So I don’t know, it’s also like, it’s almost becoming impossible to detach from getting your news from social media and getting just entertainment from social media. It all kind of became this weird, intermingled thing. And we’re victims of misinformation, too. We think that because we grew up with a device in our hand that we could tell the difference between a deep fake or whatever. There’s some really scary stuff online that I have believed and found myself like “Oh yeah I kind of blindly believe that.” I don’t know, I think it’s just a matter of being careful. And everything you say never goes away. Yeah, that’s probably number one. Remember, forever and ever. 

DI: So with all of that, when it becomes too much and you need a break, what do you do or what do you recommend for kids to do? It’s easy to get overwhelmed by such a big thing such as the internet.

Broski: Have a freakout, that’s usually what I do. Have a freak out, say that I want to delete all my accounts and I never want to do it again. And then 12 hours later be like “I was being dramatic.” Honestly, the only thing that I found that really really helps is like, twice now I’ve done it in the four years that I’ve been doing this as a job, is just I f*** off to the mountains in California or wherever. 

I spent a month in Austin last year because Austin’s my happy place and I want to move there eventually. I just rented an apartment by myself for the month and it had no TVs and it didn’t even have a f***ing microwave. I had to cook every meal and the mundane activity of using your hands and not DoorDashing every meal and not having all the luxuries of living in LA. To remove myself from that really, really helped because I was bored. I used my phone as an iPod, like that’s the only thing I gave myself. I was like if I don’t have music, I might actually jump, so I used my phone. And it was the best thing. It was so healing and I got on social media and I was excited and had some good ideas. I made a little stop-motion film thing that I wanted to do for a long time. It was just great. I’ve found that the root of creativity is being bored and I haven’t been bored for four years, which is a cool thing, but it’s also dangerous That your brain never gets a rest. So yeah, that’s the only thing that’s worked so far. But it’s hard to take a week off. You miss opportunities and with this job if you say no to something you don’t know if you’ll get another opportunity. It’s all about connections and staying relevant and if you say no people forget about you. That’s all social media work. So it’s dangerous and scary, but I don’t know. It’s a necessary evil.

DI: So on the brighter side, there’s so many good things that come out of social media. You have talked a lot about different parts of the internet, but what is something that you want to learn more about? What are you exploring right now, what side or niche of the Internet?

Broski: Bi***, AI. AI edits on TikTok and how AI interacts with media that we consume. There’s probably enough of my voice online that someone can AI something of me saying some really incredibly offensive things and people will believe it because they have enough vocal samples to make it real. That’s so scary. I’d like to learn more about it in the sense of how to be cautious with it. And also how to be able to point it out, if you even can, when it’s not real, you know? Like it’s very, very scary, but it’s very interesting and it’s cool. 

DI: Whether it’s meeting fans or a specific encounter, what is your favorite memory that relates to your time on the internet?

Broski: I think all that I have to include from what I’ve done online that’s translated into real life is meeting Harry [Styles]. That was like, never in a million fu**ing years did I think that would be even on the table. Meeting Matty Healy, meeting Rosalia, meeting all these people that have quite literally changed my life, to being in a room with them having a conversation is f***ing crazy. Especially that TikTok was the vessel to get me there is just — it seems dystopian, I think. 

That’s sort of a career highlight of a WTF moment, but on the personal side, I have these little moments because “Broski Nation” is a joke, but it’s also very serious. They ride, bi***. I’ll have a moment like once or twice a month where I’ll post a video, and it’ll be 3 a.m. and I’m tweaking, and I’m going through the comments and they are so funny — they’re so funny. I posted something the other day at 1 p.m. And I said “Good Morning Vietnam. I’m heatin’ up a Taco Bell leftover soft taco. This is gonna be the only meal I have today. Have a good one.” Or something like that. And someone commented, “This is the broski nation bugle call,” with a trumpet emoji, “RAAA,” with the eagle “Mobilize! Troops!” And one thing I love is committing to the bit. I love how committed they are to this fake empire of creativity and it’s very funny, but at its core, it’s so wholesome and it’s so genuine that a community has managed to rally around the bulls*** I post on the forums internationally. That is crazy. So I’m very, very thankful for that because you can be successful online and be funny, but you keep your audience at arm’s length. I’ve kind of jumped headfirst into that, for better or worse, and they can be very invasive, but for the most part, they’re respectful. This community that I just have so much fun with and I know they have fun with me is great.

RELATED: TikToker, podcaster Brittany Broski to deliver lecture at the Iowa Memorial Union

DI: What have you learned from your followers? Is there anything that a fan has taught you? I’m sure the social justice is also a part of that.

Broski: Probably that. I’ve done ad campaigns. I’ve done brand campaigns where I’ve said yes because it’s a certain amount of money and the deliverables were a TikTok and an Instagram story for X amount of money and it’s the most amount of money I’ve ever seen in my life. Because I used to make $40,000 a year, and it’s like, I still operate like I make $39,000 a year where it’s like, “Can I afford that?” And so, with that philosophy, I was saying yes to brand deals during the pandemic, with just no real reservations at all. I posted one and the comments just about ripped me a new one. They were like, “Awesome that you support child labor and Taiwan. No, that’s really, really sick.” It was this sort of holding up a mirror to me of like, yeah, absolutely. Like, get me. I never once stopped to ask, “Are the ethics of this company something I align with?” It’s just money. You know, by the time it gets to me, I’m an influencer. It’s just money, but that’s not true. And I was embarrassed and kind of humiliated that I even put myself in a position that my audience would be disappointed in me. When my job is to be a f***ing billboard for these companies, to ever put myself in a situation where I’m promoting something that is not good. Crazy. 

It happened another time with a mental health service. And that was crazy because there’s nothing more vulnerable than discussing mental health. And for me to promote a brand that doesn’t have the best reputation for something so sensitive is so stupid, but it’s a learning opportunity because not every creator is an informed consumer themselves. And on top of that, they’re not going to have an audience that is informed consumers. So in that sense, it’s annoying sometimes because it makes the job a lot harder, but it’s a lot more rewarding. Because saying no to those and supporting companies that actually, I’d like to support. It’s rewarding and it makes me feel like I’m making a difference because in the grand scheme of things, what am I doing? You know, like I’m just making videos on the toilet. It’s not really life-changing stuff. So they’ve definitely made me be better and it’s a blessing and a curse to have come to a head or I guess a real exponential jumping-off point in my career during the pandemic where emotions were at an all-time high. Everyone was angry and me, and a lot of other creators were easy targets because my business was thriving during the pandemic because everyone moved stuff online. And so it was like, holy sh**. It was very, very emotionally charged. But I learned a lot. And that has sort of informed all my decisions going forward.

DI: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when doing your job? 

Broski: You know what’s going to be really upsetting is they’re all white men. And I hate to say it and we hate to give a white man flowers. Cody Ko is one of my number one inspirations. Robert Downey Jr., Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds. Those people were inspirations for my early comedy. And then as far as managing a platform, it’s going to be Cody Ko and Rhett and Link. They are people who have taken success from a viral video on the internet and made it into a media conglomerate. Wow. And there’s no women who’ve done that. And I don’t know what elements or factors have made that that way, but it’s upsetting. And I thought Emma Chamberlain was gonna be the next one, but she left YouTube. Jenna Marbles also left YouTube of course. And so why hasn’t there been someone on that level? So I have every intention of sort of taking what I’m building right now and just further and further making it a business, and then in the next 10 years, investing in the next Brittany Broski. The next generation of creators who are really doing cool stuff online and creating a very positive, happy space that is inclusive, and that’s ethically conscious. So that’s kind of the goal. 

DI: Do you have anything else you would like to share with our university and Iowa City community?

Broski: Stay in school, and don’t drop out. That’s honest to god my advice because especially with the rise of social media it is so tempting if you get one viral video to be like, “Am I the most famous person on the planet?” No, you’re not. And then they feel like that, but it’s like, it’s so easy now to get a video on TikTok to get 15 million views. That means nothing, you know, in 2019, you were Charlie D’Amelio if you got 15 million views. That’s crazy. But now that could be just a video of a dog playing with a fake turd or something like that. I really think there’s no real structure for the content anymore. So I know it’s tempting. Especially since it’s easy to make money online, but stay in school, because the backup will always be that you have a college degree under your belt. And that in today’s standards is like having a high school degree. A college degree is the bare minimum you should have. That’s my advice. 

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About the Contributors
Julia Rhodes, Reporter
Julia Rhodes is a first year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications and minoring in Dance. She loves writing as well as presenting that work on screen and is hoping to be equally a Daily Iowan reporter as well as a DITV reporter. She enjoys writing about all topics from crime and politics to arts and public health.
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.