I found the TikTok—or, more accurately, the TikTok found me—on my For You page during a late-night scroll. The TikTok algorithm is notoriously strong, and so it was only a matter of time before a video like this, seemingly created just for me, appeared in my feed. Let me try to describe it to you: A cowboy in high heels and white socks twirls through a parking garage, arrives at a skateboard with a beer sitting on it, flips the beer into the air off of the skateboard, catches it one-handed, pierces the can with the point of one of his stilettos, and then shotguns it. The whole thing is set to “Neon Moon”—a perfect song—and takes place in less than 30 seconds.
I committed the old-person TikTok crime of downloading the video and posting it to my Instagram story, where every single person I know from Texas replied to it, sending marriage proposals to the cowboy via my DMs. We all agreed; it is a perfect TikTok. I watched it almost daily, hummed “Neon Moon” to myself for weeks (not a bad thing), found myself twirling to and fro throughout my house. Like a tune you can’t shake from your brain, I eventually figured the only way to shake my fixation on the TikTok was to recreate it myself.
The beauty of the TikTok, I think, is in its smoothness and simplicity. There are no ring lights, no fancy transitions, no YouTube-esque video cuts. It’s just a cowboy, a skateboard, a beer, and “Neon Moon.” But things are rarely as simple as they seem; just ask any magician. To get to the bottom of the creative process behind the divine clip, I spoke to the only man suited to discuss it: The creator—Coronacowboy69—himself.
“So it all started when I woke up,” Coronacowboy69, who requested to be quoted as Coronacowboy69, told VICE. “I had plans to see my buddies in the evening, so once I put in my time at work, I ripped 120 kph on the Gardiner [Expressway] and met up with them in a parking garage we like to go to. We were all together, listening to ‘Neon Moon,’ buzzing, drinking beers, etc., and then it was clear to me that I needed to chug one. Luckily, I had my heels in the back of my Volvo so I busted a hole in the can and the rest is history.”
This was a nice story with beautiful, descriptive scene work, but what I wanted to know, specifically, was: How long did it take to produce this TikTok? AKA, how much time did I need to plan on investing myself? Even if what Coronacowboy said was true, that seemingly makes him a rarity among creators. I’ve seen a multitude of TikToks showing teens practicing their TikTok dances in public, and video captions talking about how “this took forever don’t let it flop,” etc. The time investment on TikTok can skyrocket, is what I’m saying. That Coronacowboy seemingly captured magic on his second try is an exception to the rule.
“Two minutes lol. Took me two attempts,” Coronacowboy69 said. “I think the best ones happen when there isn’t a lot of planning. At least for me.”
I felt sure it would require more than two attempts on my part. I wanted to try and recreate his TikTok, both because I was, and am, deeply impressed by it, but also as research into the belly of the TikTok beast: If you wish to compete in the TikTok duet economy, how much of your time, resources, and soul will it take?
Part 1: Materials
In terms of money spent, Coronacowboy said all he had to buy for his TikTok was the beers, some of which he gave to the friendly cowpoke who helped him out by filming everything. I had the high heels and hat, but had to acquire the skateboard. An online search revealed that the cheapest skateboard available nearby was this Maple Popsicle 31” skateboard for $14.99 from Academy Sports + Outdoors.
Since I was out of beers, I also purchased two six-packs of Lone Star Rio Jade (total: $14), the only decent Lone Star that’s available in a regular can, and not a tallboy. (I’ll save the debate over whether Lone Star Light is worth drinking for another time.) I figured 12 beers would provide plenty of target practice for my high-heel spearing attempts.
Here’s the breakdown of the money I invested in total:
- Cowboy hat: Borrowed from my stepdad
- High heels: Borrowed from my mom
- Light-wash jeans: Already owned
- T-shirt with a woman’s face on it: Free gift from Marfa Public Radio, which I’ve written about on this website before
- Skateboard: $14.99, plus tax
- Lone Stars: $14
- Yee-haw attitude: Free
My grand total was a modest $30-ish. On the high end, based on my math, one could spend as much as about $300 recreating this. That’s about $9 per second of film time.
Part 2: Rehearsals, or: wasting a lot of beers
After acquiring my board and beers, I asked Coronacowboy for any last-minute advice he might share, in terms of making this thing a success.
“Make sure you don’t put the beer too high on the nose of the board, or it will smack you in the face,” Coronacowboy said. (He added that he’s “a pro,” so this never happened to him, but he did see it happen to someone who duetted the video on TikTok. He also saw this chaos take place in another duet.) “You gotta make sure you have a stiletto heel, be confident in your spin, and pop that beer up, aim, and give 'er. People were giving me shit for not opening the can like a true shotgun, but, well, whatever lol.”
With this in mind, I began rehearsals on my mom’s backyard patio.
My first session lasted only about 15 minutes. First I practiced popping the beer up into the air wearing a pair of Crocs, planning on graduating up to heels after a few successful attempts. It took about six tries for me to get the trajectory just right, and I never did hit myself in the face, thanks to Coronacowboy’s gracious advice. This achieved, I put on my mom’s pair of Cole Haan leather stilettos, under strict instructions to avoid “effing up the heel on the beer can!”
The heels, with their pointed toes, provided an additional physical challenge. I kept pressing down on the skateboard with the empty space between my toes and the end of the shoe, which didn’t provide nearly enough leverage, and resulting in a sort of beer just rolling to the ground situation. Then I overcompensated, shooting the beer way behind me, nearly crashing it into the glass on my mom’s backdoor.
Piercing the can was by far the most difficult part. I underestimated the angle of the heel on the shoe. I don’t have access to a protractor, but I thought it’d be more like 90 degrees, when in reality, it’s closer to a 60-degree angle. In practice, this meant I needed to lift my leg up higher and bring it in closer to my body than I initially planned, making it somewhat difficult to balance on the standing leg. The force with which to pierce the can would have to come entirely from the arm holding the can, rather than the leg, or else I risked falling over completely and making an even bigger ass of myself.
As luck would have it, the second can I tried pierced beautifully, after going through, admittedly, a small amount of structural damage via denting. So at the end of day one, I was down only one beer, with another pretty badly dinged up from flying across the patio. Not too shabby. Perhaps, I thought, I may end up with a whole six-pack left. Boy was I wrong.
Part 3: The big show
Like many of the cowboys who explored Texas and drove cattle across this fine land, I’m not one to let the grass grow under my boots. The day after rehearsals, I intended on shooting my TikTok.
I ran a few dress rehearsals, going through three more beers, really wanting to make sure I could nail the stiletto-piercing in one take when the time came. The casualties of showbiz! Since this was happening while I was technically/theoretically “working,” I didn’t fully chug any of the beers, but chugged only about one-third/one-half of each one, for style and effect.
In my rehearsing and planning, I realized I had already strayed pretty far from Coronacowboy’s general ethos of letting the magic come to you. This, I figured, put me more squarely in the range of the average creator, who may spend hours preparing, filming, and editing a TikTok before posting. While the resulting TikTok dances we see appear seamless and easy, they are the result of entire YouTube tutorials.
Unlike Coronacowboy, who lives in Toronto, I also simply don’t possess the chill attitude of someone who lives in a country with free health care, a handle on the coronavirus pandemic, and a former president who didn’t recently incite an insurrection. I had to do things my way, in other words. I rehearsed for about half an hour and then called my mom out to the yard to film the real deal.
The first five attempts were just no good. There were a few noteworthy failures. On take four, I pierced the beer successfully... a little too successfully, because my heel became affixed to the can and fell off of my foot. And then on take five, I pierced the can but it must have been shaken up or something, because it exploded in my face. I tried chugging it anyway and now I know what it’s like to have beer fire-hose-blasted into your throat.
Take six was where the magic happened. I twirled with ease (Be confident in your spin! I said to myself, reciting Coronacowboy’s words), flipped the beer can right into my waiting hands, pierced the can smoothly. Where things went a little awry was on my attempt to chug. After chugging some amount of eight beers already that day, I couldn’t handle the torrent of beer coming into my mouth, and, regretfully, spit it right out. All in all, rehearsals included, this took about two hours of my day.
Part 4: Reflections and observations
Before filming this video, I had five followers on TikTok, had never posted before, and only used the app for browsing (hence how I found the TikTok that started this whole quest). A few hours after I changed out of my beer-soaked clothes, hosed down my mom’s patio, and sobered up with a cup of coffee, I edited and posted the video to TikTok. Within 24 hours, it had over 10,000 views; at some point, it made its way into the elusive TikTok algorithm, and I was bombarded with comments like, “what in the hillbilly shit is going on here,” “it’s the socks for me,” and “u r a true definition of pure natural beauty.”
As of this writing, my TikTok has over 40,000 views—small, compared to the truly viral videos, but huge for me, someone with zero TikTok experience. The attention being thrown toward my TikTok was a bit overwhelming. Was I meant to interact with these people? Should I have thanked the user who said I am the definition of pure, natural beauty? Should I be offended by the implication of hillbilly shit?
At some point, I was even tagged in another user’s attempt, which got me worried that people thought I was the original creator behind this micro trend, even though I tagged Coronacowboy69 in the caption. (He also commented “perfection” on the TikTok, which I take as a full-throated endorsement of my attempt.) This had me worried all the more about the ethical implications of stealing someone’s golden idea. If my meager TikTok was monetized, made it into the Creator Fund stream, or whatever it is that happens on this app, did I owe that money to Coronacowboy? The ethics of TikToks are murky to me, a millennial who isn’t really supposed to be using this app, and I have concerns that they may be murky to many of its regular users.
If Coronacowboy was at all ticked off that my video saw a tiny percentage of the success that his own did, he didn’t let on. If anything, Coronacowboy69 seems pleased at the response to his TikTok and others like it.
“The reaction was awesome, I think people really took well to the video because the overall vibes were in check,” he said. “Good music, good moves, good company, high heels, and cold beer.” And what more to life is there?
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