“…In India, TikTok isn’t just a teen craze. It’s a livelihood for some people. It has given birth to new social media celebrities, many of them working-class folks, like Rathod, in villages far from India’s cosmopolitan megacities. They’ve used the app to find fame, empowerment and even a path out of poverty. But now, India’s TikTok stars have become collateral damage in a geopolitical flare-up between the world’s two most populous countries.
TikTok is estimated to have been downloaded more than 2 billion times. Before the ban, up to a third of its regular users — some 200 million people — were believed to be in India, analysts say. It was the app’s biggest market, in terms of traffic, outside China.
Unlike Facebook-owned Instagram, which in India supports only Hindi and English, TikTok supports several Indian languages. TikTok’s loyalists are often India’s second-tier towns or villages. Many were first-time social media users, unable to read or write English, drawn to TikTok in part because it’s primarily video and not text-heavy like Twitter or Facebook, according to NPR interviews with Indian TikTok users and analysts.
Here’s a sampling of stars: a goatherd lip-syncing to a romantic Bollywood song from the 1990s; a partially blind man dancing in a field with his wife; a queer makeup artist breaking gender stereotypes.
“Before TikTok, small-town Indians who aspired to showcase their talent had to move to the big city to get noticed,” says Sumit Jain, an amateur dancer who owns a clothing shop in a town 200 miles from Bollywood’s capital, Mumbai. “TikTok lets us do that from home.”
Jain, a skinny 28-year-old with a mop of curly hair, has 3.8 million followers on the app — down from more than 4 million before the ban.”.
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