How this Kansas City Chiefs fan became a TikTok superstar
Don’t think for a second that social media superstar Tabitha Swatosh, who grew up in small-town Missouri, doesn’t understand and appreciate everything that has come her way in just 23 years of life.
A staggering 14 million people on TikTok, more than 2 million on YouTube and nearly 2 million on Instagram, including Kansas City Chiefs heiress Gracie Hunt, follow her.
They watch videos of Swatosh, based in Los Angeles, applying her makeup, running on a beach, doing Pilates, making breakfast smoothies, discreetly slipping on a bra in the backseat of a car, lip-syncing to Doja Cat, eating Dippin’ Dots with friends at Silver Dollar City and getting a vampire facial. (More than 1.4 million people watched that bloody procedure.)
And she gets paid good money for it.
Followers tell her they appreciate her sharing not-so-sunny moments with brutal honesty, from bad hair and skin days and fake eyelash mishaps to the anguish of losing family members, boyfriend drama and taking mental health breaks because some days it’s just too hard to get out of bed.
As the self-proclaimed “big sister” of the internet, Swatosh has — deep breath here — lived in a mansion in Los Angeles, competed in the Miss California USA pageant, attended premieres of “Barbie” (she shed her giant pink fluffy gown in 90-degree heat) and Patrick Mahomes’ “Quarterback” documentary, recorded music in Nashville and sat six rows from the field at the Super Bowl as a guest of the Kansas City Chiefs.
She posted from the Super Bowl in Arizona: “LITTLE ME IS SCREAMING IM SO HAPPY TO BE HERE. WHAT A GREAT DAY TO BE FROM MISSOURI. I AM CRYING. MOM & DAD LOOK AT ME.”
Chiefs Kingdom will get to know Swatosh over the coming season as she works with the Super Bowl champs to promote the team to her growing internet audience.
On Thursday before the season opener, Swatosh will appear at the “World’s Largest Tailgate Party” outside GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, alongside “Saturday Night Live” star/Big Slick co-host Heidi Gardner and Donna Kelce, mother of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
“The Chiefs are a definite priority for this year,” Swatosh told The Star this week. “Especially since my parents have drilled into me that it’s important to stick with your roots. My entire fan base adores my Midwestern content.”
She’s working out her game plan for how to hype the Chiefs and doesn’t want to give away too much. She’ll be talking to fans, maybe doing some live stuff.
The instructions from team reps were simple: “You do you and we’ll film it.”
She’ll be coming to Kansas City with new teeth.
In one of her latest TikToks she got her teeth shaved down and fitted for veneers. She confessed how self-conscious she always was about her teeth, rarely smiling, hiding her mouth with her hand when she laughed. “Since I’ve gotten my new teeth I have not stopped smiling,” she said in the video. “Having a smile that I’m confident in has truly changed my life.”
Actually, a stick-on bra that fell off her breast changed her life.
In 2019 she was looking for bigger pastures than her hometown of Lamar, about 120 miles south of Kansas City and known for being the birthplace of President Harry S. Truman.
She made it as far as Springfield, 76 miles from home, where she enrolled at Missouri State University studying media and marketing.
“It’s super funny,” she said. “I was literally going there so I could (eventually) go to NFL games and film Chiefs games on the sidelines with one of those big cameras.”
But then she wound up in the university president’s office, asking the school to sponsor her in the Miss Missouri USA pageant, when she felt one of her stick-on bra cups come loose under her dress. Wrapping up, the president suggested they pose for a photo.
That’s when the bra cup decided to free itself and slide out from under her dress and onto the floor. “I kicked it under his white sofa,” Swatosh laughed.
She related the story later to one of her media teachers who told her she needed to get an app called TikTok. Swatosh had never heard of it. Her parents — “they are strict” — had not allowed her to be on social media. So her teacher coached her through it, and she posted the story about the runaway stick-on.
The following week people recognized her on campus.
“Hey, you’re that sticky bra cup girl!”
In just days the video had gobbled up 30 million views, and more than 200,000 people were following her on TikTok. Fame came fast. People clicked with Swatosh’s storytelling and self-deprecating humor. She’s not afraid to mock herself.
“I wouldn’t say bad luck follows me, but very crazy, ironic things have happened,” she said, adding that when goofy things happen to her she thanks God for giving her a storyline.
Her most memorable is another of her first TikToks about a stranger at the convenience store who offered to buy her gasoline if she let him take a picture of her feet. He was serious. She wasn’t.
Filming in her car, she joked that she told the guy she hadn’t worked out the “rate” for pictures of her feet and that his final offer was $80.
She held up four $20 bills, laughing.
The video earned 50 million views in just four hours.
Life of an influencer
A troll taking a potshot on TikTok last month: “She’s just a small town girl from Missouri who dropped out of college … what’s she gonna do???”
Tabitha: “Do it, leave your small town.”
Her fans: 506,000 likes.
“I don’t ever think it feels like work,” she said of life as an influencer. Living in Los Angeles, “I’ve met probably everyone I’ve ever been a huge fan of, except for Adam Sandler.
“The opportunities are endless. I went to the ‘Barbie’ premiere. It’s cool that I can make work out of it.”
Her current manager was the first to reach out to her when she got popular in 2019, offering to bring her the kind of brand deals that make it possible for the most successful influencers to make a living from their posts.
As a full-time college student, Swatosh also worked two jobs, making about $230 every two weeks. He got her a deal with a tooth-whitening product that paid her $250 for just one video mentioning the product.
She quit those other jobs and eventually left college, too, something she has shared with her followers.
Today she works with fashion and beauty companies — “Coach sends me their bags, which is super cool” — Dick’s Sporting Goods and several other brands. In a few days she’s going to model in a runway show for Jovani fashion house.
“For every ounce of my body there’s a sponsorship somewhere,” she joked. ”We’re a walking billboard.”
One thing her followers don’t get to see much of is how people live in Los Angeles, where Swatosh joked that “everyone has a big old mansion.”
“The thing about L.A. is it’s very, very transactional,” she said. “I think it is a really draining place to live because every six months you’re moving, every six months you have a different group of friends.
“It sucks to say, but a lot of people you think are friends are looking for something. I understand it because everyone out here is trying to make it, and are willing to sacrifice everything … to get into the spotlight, willing to throw everything away for money and fame.”
Her time in L.A. has magnified the importance of her family back home.
“I haven’t felt at home one time in the two years I’ve been here,” in L.A., she said.
She’s thinking about buying a house in Missouri.
Chiefs tailgate party
Hours before the game kicks off at 7:20 p.m. Thursday, the Kansas City Chiefs will hold the World’s Largest Tailgate Party” for fans outside GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium and elsewhere.
The party begins at 4:30 p.m. and will be streamed live. The team promises live shots from Chiefs bars around the world.
Along with Swatosh, it will be hosted by Kansas City natives Veronica Jo Merrell-Burriss and Vanessa Jo Merrell-Vaughn (better known as the Merrell Twins), and feature Heidi Gardner and Donna Kelce.
People who want to watch can go to chiefslive.com and leave their name and an email address to reserve a “virtual seat to attend this unique show celebrating the start of the football season.”
Fans can watch on their phone, tablet or computer.
This story was initially revealed September 7, 2023, 5:30 AM.