Brooke Monk Knows How To Go (& Stay) Viral (2024)

Brooke Monk got her first-ever cellphone when she was 16. That same year, she hit a million followers on TikTok. For Monk, instant internet success meant a lot of things: new opportunities, potential sponsorships, and the realization that she’d have to tell her parents about her account. “My parents were stricter, so I was dreading telling them — my dad, specifically,” she says. But they handled Monk’s rising internet status surprisingly well, only warning her to be careful.

Nearly four years and one cross-country move to Los Angeles later, Monk’s follower count is at 28.7 million (and her parents are still OK with it). Her rapid success on TikTok is an example of what the app does best: taking someone’s seemingly random video and putting it on the For You pages of millions. It helps that Monk, now 20, embodies the TikTok beauty standard: symmetrical features with fluttering eyelashes, brighter-than-bright white teeth, glowing skin, and long, shiny hair (she swears by Aveda’s heat protectant). But her look isn’t the only reason for her growth.

Most of her day — besides her daily workout — is dedicated to content. “While I'm getting ready, I scroll through TikTok and find six or seven ideas,” she says. She strategizes for a bit, often with her boyfriend and fellow content creator Sam Dezz, 20, before filming from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. She posts three TikToks per day on average, then moves onto Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram. “It’s a well-oiled machine now,” she says of her day-to-day.

Monk isn’t exaggerating her busyness. When planning our interview, I hoped to do it in person, even though we’re based on opposite coasts. When her team mentioned that she'd be in New York (my coast) a day after we were scheduled to speak, I jumped at the opportunity to meet in real life — only to find out she’d be in and out of the city in under 24 hours, only flying in for a quick sponsorship trip.

But Monk’s schedule wasn’t always so booked — and she wasn’t always so meticulous about her content, either. When she first started posting, she’d film videos at midnight in her parents’ basem*nt in Colorado, after she finished her schoolwork. At the time, TikTok wasn’t a job prospect as much as it was a creative outlet and a way to connect with people. “I was homeschooled, so I didn't have anyone to talk to,” she says. The middle child of five girls, Monk hints at wanting something just for herself. “When you have a bunch of sisters and you're home all the time, you kind of fight for your own identity a little bit.”

There was no rhyme or reason to her first posts, which ranged from painting videos to POVs about how girls look at someone they’re crushing on. “Oh my gosh, it was so cringey. My perception of high school was solely based on Disney movies that I had seen,” she says, defending the latter. But she doesn’t need to. It was her first viral post, gaining 4 million views in the span of 24 hours.

It didn’t take Monk long to learn the formula for virality, and now, her TikToks (most of which have at least 1.5 million views) look as if they were AI-generated for optimal performance. It’s a skill that got her invited to the legendary Hype House, though she only stayed for a month and a half. “We were moving in different directions, and the content didn't really align,” she says.

Scrolling through her page, you’ll see clip after clip of Monk acting out relatable scenarios and POVs, like one she filmed with Dezz, pushing him away before pulling him in. (She captioned it, “When I’m overstimulated but remember he’s the love of my life.”) Each video is edited to the algorithm gods. “I will film as many takes as needed to make the video perfect. I'm neurotic about it,” she says about the content in question. “If it’s not perfect, I have to do it again and again. Sometimes I feel like I'm just a little machine that's pumping out content for people.” Daily, it takes her about an hour and a half for her to film these three videos, which are usually only 15 to 30 seconds long. That’s about 90 seconds of content, compared to the 5,400 seconds she spends shooting.

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Each facial expression is done just right; every trending sound is picked strategically; her videos meld together like one amalgamation of what your parents think TikTok looks like: pretty people acting out scenarios and trying out new filters. In June, she tried out the viral “My Red Flags” filter, laughing when it accused her of “catfishing people.” But that’s just Monk’s main handle — her spam TikTok, @notbrookemonk (a popular username format for these types of accounts), is a completely different story. Like other great TikTok spam accounts, Monk’s is full of unfiltered videos, posted at random, sometimes up to seven times per day. Unlike most, hers has 10 million followers.

When asked about that — if having so many followers defeats the purpose of having a spam account in the first place — Monk says she doesn’t see it that way (perhaps because 10 million followers is approximately a third of what her main account boasts). “My main performs really well with me being more strategic about it,” she points out. “So, my spam is just Brooke. I don’t put pressure on it.”

“Just Brooke” looks like a lot of different things: Gone are the perfectly-angled videos with ring-light lighting. “I don't even re-watch the videos half the time. I just record and click post,” she says. The videos range from sharing her Notes app grocery lists to defending how often she cleans her bedroom mirrors to nitpicky commenters. Unlike the rest of Monk’s social media, this not-so-riveting content isn’t designed for maximum engagement, yet it still has her followers enthralled.

“The people who watch my content regularly genuinely are online friends of mine,” she says, without any trace of artifice. Her spam account simply allows her to engage with them more fully. It also gives her a chance to answer their most-asked questions, which often revolve around her beauty routine: Tarte Double Take eyeliner, Urban Decay lip liner in shade “Manic,” and Lottie London freckle tint. Unlike the rest of TikTok, Monk is not the biggest fan of the Dyson Airwrap, which she bought for herself and thinks is “a little bit overrated.” In May, after requests upon requests for a full hair care tutorial, Monk posted a video, explaining her delay. “I would give you guys a staple hair routine. The thing is, I change it all the time. I’m never consistent. I switch shampoos and conditioners based on what’s available.” She promised to share more when she’s figured it out for herself, but she tells me that she’s pretty sure it looks so good because she left it alone for so long, “too lazy” to get it cut or use hot tools.

Likability is an annoying word (and one that’s almost exclusively used to rate women), but it’s the only way to sum up Monk’s mass appeal. She comes across as someone you could befriend at a coffee shop during freshman orientation — the rare person who will actually follow through with your tentative lunch plans that otherwise wouldn’t have made it out of the group chat.

Self-admittedly, she’s a people pleaser through and through. “I hate, hate people disliking me, which I know is a terrible mindset when you’re on the internet,” says Monk, who joined our Zoom call precisely one minute early to avoid any chance of lateness. “When you’re a content creator, it’s like you are the product. And if you’re unhappy with it, your brain turns, ‘This product sucks, I hate it,’ into ‘You suck. I hate you.’”

Monk knows that’s not the healthiest mindset — but she also knows she isn’t alone in feeling this way: “A lot of content creators know what I mean when I say that sometimes you feel a little disconnected from yourself. When you are the product, you feel like you have to keep up with the idea of you versus the real you, a human being that's changing, growing, and getting older.”

It’s an uncomfortable feeling that her spam account helps assuage. Her boyfriend does his part, too. When talking about Dezz, Monk lights up, her eyes becoming even more sparkly than usual. A content creator since high school, he encourages her to take breaks from her phone, especially when things start to get overwhelming. “It's so nice to be around someone who understands my job because he does the same thing, but he’ll also tell me when I need to take a break,” she says.

A tale as old as Instagram, Monk and Dezz met over DM after she sent him “hello sir :)” on a whim in 2020. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, he's really nice looking,’” she says. Dezz is her first boyfriend, first kiss, first love — and the beginning of their relationship was punctuated by that same naiveté that characterizes most firsts. “I'd never kissed anybody before. I didn't know I was a terrible kisser,” she says. “That's the kind of thing I can admit now, but at the time, I'd be horrified.”

She’s grown up a bit since then, both in real life and online, even if her baby face leaves people confused. “People still think I'm 16. I'm like, ‘I'm 20 now. It’s been three and a half years,’" she says. Instead of faulting the hyper-critical culture of the internet, she blames the TikTok algorithm — the way you can see content filmed years apart in the span of two minutes — for that misconception.

There are several Reddit forums dedicated to Monk — specifically, devoted to commenting on and sexualizing her body. Last year, she posted a YouTube video where she read through those pages for the first time. “I guess that’s just what you ask for when you get on the internet, right?” she questioned in the video, after reading a particularly NSFW post about herself.

Monk’s TikTok bio reads “Jesus Forever,” and some people online question that belief system and her recent bikini collab with Blackbough Swim. When she announced the opportunity on Instagram, the response was brutal (not to mention, sexist). “This woman has a bible reference in her f*cking bio,” one guy, who posts shirtless gym selfies, commented. Others questioned if her boyfriend was OK with it and assumed she’d be launching an OnlyFans next.

Disrespectful remarks aside, Monk remains grateful for the “ignorant confidence” she started this journey with. “You couldn't shake me,” she says of her 16-year-old self. She’s willing to dig deeper into it, as long as we keep it in general, third-person terms. “I'm thankful that I got to be that person. She was just so innocent. She didn't know what people could do with pictures of her on the internet.”

Monk’s people-pleaser roots are still there, but she now knows to take the hate at face value. “It doesn't change your life if someone doesn't like you in a seven-second video,” she says. “I had to come to terms with it. I don't think any human was meant to see millions of opinions about them every day. It's not natural.”

After over three years of receiving that kind of feedback, Monk doesn’t get too in-her-head about it. “I'm not going to beat myself up about being cringey or annoying as long as I have a good heart,” she says. On days when she’s feeling particularly sensitive, she doesn’t even glance at her comments section. “I don't want to feed into something that's hurting me,” she says.

For someone that shoots her videos again and again until they’re perfect, our interview is nothing like that: she doesn’t repeat herself or edit out details.

“Are there any creators you look up to, who you wouldn’t mind following in their footsteps?” I ask her, ready to jot down names like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae.

“Not even a little bit,” she says, with no hesitation. “I just want to be myself, and as I get older, I’m figuring out more of who that is.”

This is not the same “ignorant confidence” she credits to her 16-year-old self. It’s something much better — and it only took one take.

Top Image Credits: Molly Goddard top, Bode pants, talent’s own earrings and bracelet, Vivienne Westwood bracelet

Photographs by John Jay

Styling by Dustin Connor Ellis

Brooke Monk Knows How To Go (& Stay) Viral (2024)
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