TikTok's Flo Simpson talks about how weight-loss videos led to social media fame
‘Hi, my name’s Flo and I am trying to fit back into my jeans.’
Those are the words of TikTok sensation, Flo Simpson, which have introduced every one of her 60-second videos documenting her weight loss.
What started out as a welcome distraction from the stresses of lockdown has transformed into social media fame for Flo, with some of her videos getting millions of views, thousands of likes and some fans even stopping her in the street for a picture.
Flo, from Portsmouth, smiles and says: ‘I find it absolutely crazy that people want to watch me. You grow up watching influencers on social media and now I’m getting millions of views on a video – it’s insane.’
The Chinese video-sharing app, TikTok, is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos which people can like, comment and share with their friends. During the past couple of months, TikTok has rocketed into a league of its own with reports of record growth as mobile use soars throughout lockdown.
What Flo posts on TikTok is simple. She wanted to fit back into a pair of jeans she loved and to keep her motivated, she documented the food she ate and activities she did everyday in a 60-second video.
But the ‘overwhelming’ response she has had has changed her life for the better. Flo, 20, explains: ‘My one year relationship ended during lockdown and I had put on a lot of weight. Like a lot of people, I had probably been drinking and eating too much. I found this pair of jeans which I wore two months before my relationship ended and I wanted to get back to that place.
‘I love TikTok. It’s like a time vacuum – you think you’ve been on it for a little while and then three hours have been lost.
‘It was quite hard going through lockdown and then I was upset about my ex-boyfriend. Posting these videos gave me a distraction.’
Today, her following on Instagram stands at 25.8k, with 18.8k followers on Twitter, and another 526.2k on TikTok. The collective amount of likes on her TikTok videos is an astonishing 10.6m.
Flo, who has recently graduated from Solent University, says: ‘When I posted my first video on May 5, I started to get really positive comments and the attention just grew. Now I will get likes and comments within seconds. I never expected it to be like that.
‘The positive comments definitely kept me going. I felt like I had to stay on track because people wanted to watch my videos. It was a good type of pressure.
‘I have tried Slimming World and it worked. But I just wanted to do this my way. I am a size 22 and hoping to get down to an 18 – maybe even a 16 one day.’
What is so incredible about Flo’s social media growth is that she gained an impressive number of followers and likes within a matter of days. Some influencers work for years before seeing the numbers Flo has on her own platforms.
But with overnight fame came pressure while Flo was already trying to manage her university work. She says: ‘I was juggling a break up, the final year of my degree and weight loss. It could be quite overwhelming.
‘I wrote my dissertation on the Domestic Abuse Act. I really enjoyed writing it and it’s a subject I am passionate about.
‘I am now looking at doing my masters in Law and Corporate Government at the University of Portsmouth. My eventual goal is to become a company secretary.’
And with pressure came inevitable internet trolls, who share unwanted opinions, which can sometimes be too much to take. ‘I’ve realised you can’t please everyone. You’re always going to have people saying you shouldn’t do this or that. I’ve always said I am doing what works for me,’ explains Flo.
‘I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and have quite hairy arms. It never bothered me but people were commenting about it a lot on my TikTok videos. I addressed it in one video and said this will be the only time I address this.
‘Some people mentioned it in school but I never thought about it too much. It blew my mind how many people commented about it.’
Some people have also suggested that she should be annoyed that others have copied her idea of documenting their weight loss on TikTok. ‘I’m not bothered if people want to copy me. They’re doing it for themselves,’ says Flo, who advocates body positivity. ‘I love it when people tag me in their videos. I always want to support others who have been inspired by my journey.’
But in spite of trolls and hate, Flo says she’s ultimately had a positive experience. She says: ‘I went to Tesco and a woman came up to me saying that their granddaughter wanted a picture with me because I’m famous. It’s so surreal.
‘I have had people from school who I haven’t spoken to for years congratulating me. My family and friends have been great. Like me, they just can’t believe what’s happened but I can’t thank them enough for their support.’
Flo laughs and says: ‘My mum calls it “tiky tok” and always asks if it has gone online yet.’
On June 9 – just more than a month since her first TikTok – Flo fitted back into her beloved pair of jeans. The video which she posted telling her fans she had achieved her goal has 3m views, more than 600k likes and nearly 60k comments. Flo smiles and says: ‘My main highlight is obviously fitting back into my jeans.
‘I always tried them on first thing in the morning and when they fitted I ran downstairs to my mum. I was so excited. I’m still going to continue my weight loss journey because I would like the jeans to fit a bit better, but I am very happy I met my goal.’
Looking to the future, Flo plans to continue inspiring people and has recently set up a YouTube channel which will focus on body-positivity.
‘I want to show people you can lose weight in a healthy way. Like with every platform, there are videos of people showing that they eat just carrots and hummus. It’s not only unrealistic, it’s unhealthy and damaging,’ explains Flo.
‘I’ve always used my platform to promote body positivity and I plan on continuing that.’
She smiles and says: ‘The positivity I have had from it has inspired me so much. It’s overwhelming but I wouldn’t change how it happened. I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason.’