In her hugely popular TikToks, Cincinnati native Caroline Ricke plays an over-the-top, self-proclaimed “Ohio Socialite” with an eclectic fashion sense (think Cher Horowitz meets Lizzie McGuire). Since joining the platform in March, Ricke, already a popular YouTuber, has amassed more than two million followers.
You first gained popularity on YouTube last year with your videos “Harvard Acceptance Reaction” and “A Day in the Life of Harvard Biomedical Engineering Student.” Why did you decide to pretend to go to Harvard?
I had like 400 subscribers at the time I made that [Harvard Acceptance Reaction] video, so I said, OK, I need to figure out where I am and what kind of videos I want to make on YouTube so I can start having a theme on my channel. And my younger brother was like, Harvard acceptance reactions are coming out tomorrow so you should just make a video on that. And I did, and it started getting views and I was like, Should l just pretend to be a Harvard student now? Because people love watching college day-in-the-life videos, and I was at Ohio State when I made that video, I think I was on Christmas break, and when I went back to school I just kept pretending that I was at Harvard. It’s funny because my brother goes [to Harvard] now … I stole his thunder.
I created this fake rich girl persona [and] a lot of people believed it. It’s kind of snowballed; every video I get deeper and deeper into this character and I didn’t even mean to. And that’s the character I use on all my socials now. It just kind of happened.
How did you get started on TikTok?
I was at Playlist Live [the annual YouTube and TikTok creator convention] this year because of my YouTube channel, and I was meeting up with all of my friends from social media. When I got to the convention I was like, I don’t know who most of these people are. Because I didn’t even have TikTok at the time. I was there with my younger brother—he’s the same one who told me to do the Harvard videos—and he was like, Caroline, [TikTok] is the way you’re going to grow, you should just try it.
I downloaded the app while I was there. I made one video and it did pretty well, and I just kept making videos, kind of in my character but it wasn’t really my ‘rich girl’ persona [yet]. With COVID and quarantine happening it made sense. That was a really good time [to start].
You’re known in your videos for your ’90s and 2000s inspired fashion and frequent costume changes. How did you develop your sense of style?
When I was in high school I didn’t really have style. I went to St. Ursula, so I was always wearing a uniform. [My junior year] I went to the thrift store with my friend and I loved it, and ever since then I’ve been thrifting everything. I’ve always been obsessed with the ’90s and early 2000s vibe. A lot of the stuff I wear, I wear it because I think it’s funny.
Over quarantine, I started making my videos more Lizzie McGuire-esque because I got a Disney+ subscription. I started looking at the outfits along with how they film and how they deliver their lines and just every aspect of that show, and I started incorporating that into my style. Nobody really dresses up for their TikToks. I wear so many different outfits in my videos and I feel like it just adds to the actual video itself. I thought, OK, if I can’t be on a TV show I’m going to make my own TikTok a little TV show with costume changes and everything. I really like the Y2K style, but not the trendy one, like Paris Hilton, but the Disney character one.
For the last five months you’ve been living in Las Vegas with six other TikTok creators, crafting videos in a mansion dubbed The House Nobody Asked For. What’s it like living with six other TikTok creators?
I knew absolutely no one [before moving in]. I didn’t even know the kid who asked me to be in it. I was a week late because my flight got cancelled [and] everybody else already knew each other. They had seen my content and were kind of, not scared of me, but they all thought I was kind of a brat. They didn’t know if it was really a character of just my real personality.
[Now] we’re kind of like a family. Because we’re not in LA, we don’t view it as, Oh, we’re like a Creator House. We’re just like, We’re a group of friends who make videos together.
I think it’s hard to compare us to [other content houses like] Hype or Sway House just because we’re comedy. We don’t post as often, a lot of our videos are more thought out, and we don’t do TikTok dances. We have a meeting every morning at like 9 a.m. to script and to plan and figure out our day.
What do your hometown friends think of your TikTok success?
They’re not on social media at all … and I love that because at this point, I like social media, but it’s definitely my job, so it’s kind of nice to have my friends have no idea what I do. My friend the other day called me and she’s like, How’s your hype house? I’m not in the Hype House. They have no idea.
What’s next for you?
I think about this a lot. This is something I get nervous about. I’m doing my last year of college still; I took this past semester off. Once I finish this last year, online hopefully, then I can have more free reign over what I want to do. Honestly TikTok won’t last forever, I knew that going into it. I have my own jewelry website that I started in college [Spicy Girl jewelry] and I want to expand that and have my merch on there. And I’m doing my podcast [Don’t be Ugly] again. In January I’m moving back to LA and I’m going to get everything rebooted.
I try to plan it out, but it stresses me out so much that I’m like, OK, I’ll just take it day by day.
Keep up with Ricke on TikTok @richcaroline.