If you saw Dutch de Carvalho hopping on the bus to his nannying gig, he might not seem any different than the thousands of 20-somethings navigating the hustle of New York City. But in between working multiple jobs, the 24-year-old professionally-trained modern dancer has a bustling world all his own when he gets home to his apartment and opens TikTok. There, @Dutchdecc, as he's known by fans on TikTok, has more than half a million followers and over 12 million likes.
Those numbers are made even more impressive by the fact that he only joined the platform in April to combat quarantine boredom. "It just seemed like something fun to do," de Carvalho explains. Before that, his social media presence didn't point toward TikTok stardom, with just a small following on a private Instagram account. However, in the world of social media, things can literally change overnight.
On a platform where dances and challenges reign supreme, de Carvalho takes a different approach by embracing the mundane. Back in early August, de Carvalho, who had 300 followers at the time, uploaded an anecdotal video detailing memorable times he was "minding his business" while out and about in New York City — and it went viral overnight.
It was overwhelming, but also exciting ... to see so many people relating to the content.
"It really only takes one video," de Carvalho says. "The next morning I woke up to 10,000 [followers]." His Aug. 2 video, which included an encounter with a woman selling empanadas in the "Mystery" section of a Barnes and Noble, has more than 1 million views.
Admittedly, de Carvalho says he couldn't believe a video about his day-to-day life caught people’s attention. "I didn't think people would actually want to listen to what I had to say," he says. "It was overwhelming, but also exciting ... to see so many people relating to the content."
That realization helped influence his popular video series: "Minding My Own Business In NYC," "Reflecting From The Tub" (an idea he got from calling his friends from the bathroom to avoid disturbing his mom who works from home), and "Day In My Life: NYC Edition."
In these videos, a fast-talking de Carvalho entertains viewers with his daily happenings. Take this Oct. 19 reflection in a tub with over 5.6 million views for example, which features de Carvalho fully clothed in a dry bathtub as he tells the story of how he set out to do laundry, only to be thwarted by three unsuccessful attempts to buy soap at CVS, and many other LOL-inducing setbacks along the way, including slipping on a leaf and falling.
It's in de Carvalho's vivid descriptions of his day — “My back leg goes flying like I’m a figure skater: Michelle Kwan, circa 2004, Olympics" — where his authenticity shines through. And that genuine approach might be most evident in his day-in-the-life videos as he pushes against an "unrealistic" version of how people live in the Big Apple.
People love to see you being vulnerable or relatable.
"They go out to brunch, they go to pilates ... [but] it never shows them working, or taking the train, or missing the bus," he says, noting that most of his viewers are close to his age — between 22 to 26 years old — and also live in the New York or Tri-State area.
In the series, de Carvalho joyfully narrates videos of his typical day, complete with songs he’s listening to, his skincare routine, his bus ride to work, Chinese takeout, late-night laundry, and CVS runs — and any mishaps that happen along the way. "People love to see you being vulnerable or relatable, talking about when things don't go well or a struggle that you've had."
If de Carvalho comes off as being genuine AF in his videos, it's because he is. He says he doesn’t overthink it by scripting out an entire video. Instead, he usually ad libs his videos on the spot, and impressively, he gets it right after one or two tries.
When filming posts about politics or social issues, however, de Carvalho spends a little longer (30 minutes to an hour) to get his specific message across. He’s also been adding his own closed captions to make his videos more accessible.
When coming up with ideas, the dancer will sometimes jot down notes of funny moments from his day, but most ideas generally happen "organically and kind of randomly" — and his focus is never on going viral. “I aim to put out something that I'm proud of,” de Carvalho says.
Part of the 24-year-old’s success comes from piggybacking off content that seems to be clicking with viewers and harnessing those features in future videos. “What was it about this video that people liked? ... Was it relatable? Was it funny? Was it insightful?” he asks himself.
His No. 1 tip for TikTokers? Don’t fake it. "This is so cliché, but really be yourself," de Carvalho stresses, adding what draws him to new accounts is when “there’s something I haven’t seen before.”
If you have a platform, the bare minimum you can do is talk about issues that are affecting so many people.
With power comes responsibility, and de Carvalho is particularly vocal about social issues related to the LGBTQ+ community, gentrification, politics, mental health, and the Black Lives Matter movement. "If you have a platform, the bare minimum you can do is talk about issues that are affecting so many people," he says.
In addition to sharing his own experiences as a gay man, the 24-year-old says he makes a point of referring his viewers to other resources who might know more about a subject than he does. "I felt like I had a responsibility to talk about those issues before having a platform, so now that I do have followers, I think it's that much more important," de Carvalho explains.
The 24-year-old has had his share of pushback, but he’s learning how to navigate the comments section. "The most important takeaway when it comes to negative reactions is defining the line between, 'Is this important criticism holding me accountable for my actions and ... how I'm approaching this video?' Or is this just someone hating what I'm doing?" de Carvalho says.
The best piece of advice he’s gotten is to ignore the comments from people who are “looking for a fight.”
Despite the attention on the app, de Carvalho hesitates to label himself as TikTok "famous" because not much has changed in his day-to-day life. Of course, he does get recognized sometimes, and there was that time Ina Garten referenced his “hilarious” TikTok video of him looking for her in East Hampton while on tour for her latest book, Modern Comfort Food.
Currently, de Carvalho doesn’t rely on TikTok for income. In pre-pandemic times, he worked four different jobs and put his BFA in dance from SUNY Brockport to work as he pursued his goal of dancing full-time. While de Carvalho, who graduated in 2018, had to put his dreams on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic (the dance company he was working at had to temporarily pause in-person performances and rehearsals), he hopes to return when dancers are able to perform again.
TikTok is great because a lot of the people on there aren't putting forward this, like, really polished image. It's much more real.
While TikTok isn’t de Carvalho's full-time job, he is starting to earn money through avenues like the Creator Fund Program (about $7-$8 per day based on his TikTok views). He also recently landed his first paid gig on the app: a Vaseline partnership. However, the New Yorker is selective about what brands he works with and doesn't want his account to become overrun with sponsored posts.
"I hesitate to say I wouldn't ever want to do something like [TikTok] full-time because I never say never, but I don't really see that happening," he says.
Whatever his future looks like on the app, de Carvalho continues to be drawn to it, saying he's found it to be more "real" than other social media platforms: "TikTok is great because a lot of the people on there aren't putting forward this, like, really polished image. It's much more real."
In Elite Daily's Life Behind the Likes series, we talk to the people you know on the internet to find out who's really behind the screens. Read more here.