TikTok videos of North West hanging out with Ice Spice a few weeks ago set fire to the internet. The viral sensation teamed up with Kim Kardashian’s firstborn to create the kind of content we have all grown to expect from the famous family.
Despite North’s father, Ye, being against his four children using social media, Kardashian and her daughter launched a joint TikTok account in 2021. They have been sharing videos of them together using viral sounds, showing North’s moments with her younger siblings, but mostly displaying the child’s boundless creativity. They are currently sitting at more than 15 million followers on the app (which pales in comparison to Kim’s 349 million on Instagram), and the Ice Spice videos alone have racked up more than 100 million views. Kardashian has disabled the comments on the page to protect North.
Psychotherapist and writer MJ Corey runs the Kardashian Kolloquium TikTok and Instagram accounts in which she shares informed and academic takes on the family and how they use media and social platforms to heighten their influence. Corey also launched the Kardashian Data Koalition along with data scientists to track online information and insights about the family to back her theories.
While Complex initially reached out to Corey to discuss the meaning of Ice Spice’s appearance on North’s page, the expert dove deeper into a theory that has been floating around the internet—for the first time in a long time, the Kardashians may be struggling to keep up. While fans have been chasing the trends they set on Instagram and beyond, Gen Z seems to have one-upped the famous sisters by shifting their attention toward TikTok—a place they have yet to claim as their own. (Except Kylie Jenner who has more than 52 million followers on the app.)
“Some part of Kim’s major relevance and eventual dominance can be attributed to the fact that she was an early adopter of Twitter and Instagram, and she really knew how to use those forms as they were really dominating culture,” Corey tells Complex. “The dominance of Kim Kardashian is very parallel to the dominance of social media itself and her uses of those forms.”
Selena Gomez recently knocked Jenner from the top spot as the most followed woman on Instagram with 400 million followers (that’s 50 million more than Kardashian if we’re keeping score). Before Kim and North’s TikTok account, the reality star family didn’t have much presence on the app aside from Kourtney Kardashian and her kids’ videos. Corey believes that North’s videos are a way to help the family cut through the noise and assert their presence on the platform, by any means necessary.
While the way the Kardashians used Instagram became the standard for how most people currently use it, they have not had the same impact on TikTok. “People are saying they’re struggling because their brand isn’t defining the aesthetic of the app the way it did at peak Instagram,” Corey adds.
One way they have attempted to stay relevant is by aligning themselves with people who are already popular on social media, and that’s where someone like Ice Spice comes in. While some believe it was just a way for Kim to flex how connected she is or perhaps a way to hint at a possible Skims campaign collaboration, Corey believes that it’s all premeditated and based on data pulled from analytics that shows them who is of relevance that they could benefit from—even if the person in question doesn’t see the same benefits in return. (Like the video they shared with Mariah Carey, who had a trending sound on TikTok at the time.)
TikTok is more appealing to a younger demographic that the famous family could have trouble tapping into, but that is where the children come in. And now that they don’t have a direct connection to Black culture, specifically after Kardashian’s divorce from Ye, North might be their bridge to reach a younger Black audience. “North seems to be fulfilling in their narration of their family the role that Kanye once played as far as Black culture goes, but also the ‘brilliant, creative, unpredictable artist in our sphere,’” Corey says.
Complex caught up with the mind behind Kardashian Kolloquium who thoroughly explains why she believes the Kardashians are failing to stay relevant and how their children are helping them connect to TikTok users in ways they alone can’t.