This article originally appeared on VICE US.
"It's me… your rich mom," starts any video from the woman dubbed TikTok's "Rich Mom." At home, "Rich Mom" explains how to look "expensive in your sweats." At the airport, "Rich Mom" drops stacks at Bottega Veneta, stating that "duty-free shopping is the best way to shop." In quarantine, "Rich Mom" picks fruit, sips Champagne, and does the "pass the brush" challenge with her "rich friends." Like the Kardashians and their endless excess, "Rich Mom" would be awful—if it wasn't also knowing. "Rich Mom" isn't exactly real, but a heightened, tongue-in-cheek online persona.
A fashion blogger, YouTuber, and entrepreneur with 1.3 million Instagram followers, Chriselle Lim's career online dates to 2010. Starting in March, however, Lim gained a following as "Rich Mom." Her growth on other platforms had stagnated, but she was a sudden hit with the younger audience on TikTok, where she now has 1.5 million followers. "It wasn't like a plan, like I'm going to be these kids' rich mom," Lim told VICE. "It was literally just by accident. I went viral on Twitter and now I'm TikTok's 'Rich Mom.'"
It started because of a tweet. On February 29, Twitter user @lilithsangel shared a video of Lim styling a monochromatic outfit, captioning it: "i follow this rich mom on tik tok and i’m just obsessed with her outfits like just LOOK." Over 200,000 people liked it, sharing responses like, "Just followed her on [TikTok] and Instagram because she is fyyyye."
Aside from the people suddenly interested in Lim's luxe lifestyle, though, Lilith received many comments and even some mean DMs telling her that Lim was more than a "rich mom." "I only found her TikTok through my [For You] page and her bio said she was a mother of two, so I just assumed she was a rich mom with no idea of her extensive influencer background," Lilith told VICE.
On March 2, Lilith tweeted a screenshot of Lim's Instagram, showing that Lim had updated her display name to include "aka RICH MOM." At that point, the two had exchanged messages. "I was super surprised but really glad she wasn’t offended by my wording as most of the people who replied to my tweet were," Lilith said. A day later, Lim took to TikTok as "Rich Mom."
Posing with her hands on her hips, Lim says in the video, "Hi, it's me… your rich mom. I don't know why you guys think I'm rich, but I do like nice things." She then shows off bags, a Carrie Bradshaw-worthy selection of Manolo Blahniks, a Valentino dress, and a Chanel jacket. As of this writing, that video has gotten over 4.5 million views.
Other "Rich Mom" video are similarly popular. In a video of breakfast, Lim makes the same statement, before panning to a bougie selection of vegan yogurt, assorted pastries, and an egg white omelette, all served on gilded plates. It's so ostentatious that, combined with Lim's disclaimer, you have to laugh.
In these early videos, it wasn't clear whether Lim was joking or not, especially since designer clothes, first class flights, and trips to Paris Fashion Week are all her reality. But when she made a video pretending to be the out-of-touch mom from Parasite, stating she needed a housekeeper and an art tutor, it was clear that Lim was in on the joke that people had already been making about her.
"Technically, I was playing the rich mom on TikTok before it even went viral, because of Parasite," Lim said. When Lim first joined late last year, she and her husband Alan would post videos doing dances, and she would get responses comparing them to Parasite's Park family. After Lilith's tweet, she realized she could play up the "Rich Mom" persona with Parasite's influence. "It was definitely kind of a perfect storm."
In a time of glaring wealth disparity—when the Gal Godot-organized celebrity cover of "Imagine" earned criticism for being "far from inspiring in a time of crisis," per the New York Times—it's a bit surprising that "Rich Mom" has landed with such success. "Rich Mom" videos aren't an indictment of wealth or a commentary about capitalism. But they are at least self-aware, especially compared to trends like "My Best Friend's Rich Check," in which teens flex the fancy cars, closets, and decadent homes of their wealthy friends.
While Lim now lives a more charmed life than most, she says it wasn't always like that. "It's not because I'm an heiress that just has all this money," she said. "It's poking fun at the life that I do live because it's quite fabulous, but it's also educating them that this is my life but also I've worked very hard for it."
"Rich Mom" remains just a fraction of Lim's online content, but it's something she's having fun with. "'Rich Mom' definitely has a bit of faff and she has a big personality and she loves fabulous things," Lim said, "whereas when I'm acting like myself, I think people can distinguish those two different personalities." It can feel like she's doing the same thing over and over on other platforms, but TikTok—where the "Rich Mom" audience is excited—is a place she can be more creative.
Though it's changing now, Lim followed the trend on Instagram and YouTube of making everything seem "super polished and perfect." On TikTok, she can take herself less seriously, she said. "Especially my old followers that are now transitioning over to TikTok, they're like, 'Whoa, where's the personality coming from?' I've always had this personality—I never got the opportunity to show it to you guys."