If you Google “Bennett Curran,” you will find this: 35.3 million TikTok likes, 1.1 million TikTok followers, 277,000 Instagram followers and 15,200 YouTube subscribers.
But who is the human behind the numbers?
Meet Bennett Curran, influencer and University of Arizona freshman who is no stranger to the spotlight. From tackling the Alcatraz swim at the ripe age of 10 to landing the starring role of Buddy the Elf in one of his very first musicals, Curran has done it all.
“That is when I caught the theater bug,” Curran said. “After that, I did every single show back to back to back, never stopping, never taking a break.”
In March of 2020, he booked his first professional theater production. Due to the on-set of COVID-19, the contract was short-lived, but Curran found a way to keep the magic of entertainment alive.
“When the pandemic started I was like, ‘I'm a dancer, why don't I try a couple of these TikTok dances out,’” Curran said. “So, I would post them, and they would get small amounts of views. But that small amount of views started growing.”
Within the span of 20 days, Curran saw his follower count grow from 100,000 to 300,000.
“In about six months, I had a million followers,” Curran said.
Curran’s “Quarantine Dance Trends” series he filmed at sunset is what caught the attention of so many TikTok users. When evening theater rehearsals started back up again, he had to rewire his typical content.
“I started to transition [my content] into more of me as a human,” Curran said. “[My followers] knew I could dance and wear a funky hat, but I’m also Bennett. And I have a personality, and I’m an actor, and I do theater and I have a cool style. I’ve started to show that essence of myself because, you know, things change in life and people grow.”
Beyond being a social media star, Curran is an actor. At the UA, he is working toward his bachelor of fine arts in acting.
“Everyone [in the BFA program] is extremely talented and extremely good,” Curran said. “They all care about what they do.”
Curran said that being in a BFA program pushes and challenges him every day. He learned this quickly in a project called “The Autodrama.”
“In this project we have to tell a story that has happened in our life that made us into who we are,” Curran said. “The biggest challenge is that you can’t talk.”
While Curran found working on the project daunting, his result was something personal and powerful.
“I took a stack of Post-it Notes, and I went through my comments on TikTok, and I wrote the hate comments on every single Post-it Note,” Curran said. “I played this happy song that had really depressing lyrics while putting [the hate comments] all over the wall. I would say there were probably 50 or so that were on the mirror and probably another 75 that didn't even end up making it. At the very end of it, I had this giant poster that said, ‘Who the fuck is Bennett Curran’ on it. I put it up, and I walked out of the room. I was like outside, but I could just hear the room go silent.”
Curran said that hate comments come with the territory, but he knows what to and what not to read.
“I should not read my comments, but sometimes I can’t resist,” Curran said. “I’ve noticed that my TikTok fanbase is a lot more loving than my Instagram one, so I’ll read those.”
He called learning to be comment-conscious “a learning curve.”
“I just needed to learn where to look and when to stop looking,” Curran said.
Curran is a student, actor and friend, but he also takes on the 24/7 job of influencer, and with that comes a sort of responsibility.
“I see myself as a positive light on the internet,” Curran said. “When people scroll through my page, I want them to see there is no toxicity here. I’m just doing my thing, and I hope that can inspire other people to do their own things.”
It also comes with a small dose of fame.
“I get DM messages that say ‘Hey, I saw you in front of the art building today. I was too afraid to come say hi to you,’” Curran said. “So far, everyone has been extremely nice. I haven’t had any weird instances, but it is always in the back of my head that I may be recognized.”
Influencers are real people. Real people change, and sometimes the internet is not as accepting of watching their favorite stars grow. Take Emma Chamberlain for example. She said that her most common comment on her YouTube videos is, “we miss the old Emma.” She explained that there is no “new” Emma and “old” Emma. There is only Emma.
Curran said that your content shifting and growing with you is how it should be.
“I hope my content grows as I do,” Curran said. “Because if I'm not having my videos, like reflecting where I am, in my current point of life, people aren't going to be interested in them.”
What do influencers want to do when they grow up? For Curran, his mind is open and willing to follow the path life gives him.
“I just see myself entertaining, whether that be on a phone screen or a blog or a podcast, or whether it be on a stage or a TV screen. I just want to be entertaining,” Curran said. “If there's one person that says ‘I am entertained by this boy’ or says ‘this person makes me happy,’ my life is a little bit better.”
As for advice, Curran said it boils down to one thing.
“Be you,” Curran said. “Everyone always says that, but if you really want to go into content creation, don’t put on a different voice, don’t put on a different hairstyle, don’t change anything about yourself. Just be you.”
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