Desperate people across the world have resorted to all sorts of activities to bust their boredom during lockdown, doing everything from baking banana bread to binge-watching Disney+.
On a mission to pass time herself, one Gloucester woman started making short-form videos on social media platform TikTok, but didn’t realise she’d make the lockdown lives of millions of people much better.
Celia Tokosi, a mother-of-two and optometrist, centres her hilarious skits around growing up with an African mother and Nigerian culture.
“I joined TikTok in the first place because I just wanted to keep an eye on the girls, just to see what they were doing and make sure they were safe.” Celia said.
“Then, when lockdown happened and I got bored I decided ‘Well, I guess I’ll make a TikTok’. And that was it!’
Celia often gets her two daughters, Lizzie, 13, and Rachael, 12, involved in the TikToks with her.
Her most popular TikTok involves an accent challenge with her daughter Lizzie, where Celia shows how she pronounces words such as ‘balloon’ and ‘hippopotamus’ in a Nigerian accent. The video has gotten 1.5 million views.
“The girls love it! They’re in the videos with me a lot of the time, especially Lizzie. Rachael not so much, because she’s a bit shy. Lizzie likes performing, she likes doing acting.” Celia said.
Celia has also been doing TikToks with her mum, who lives in Nigeria but has been staying with Celia throughout the pandemic.
“My mum loves it. She keeps calling her friends saying ‘Have you seen Celia’s video?’,” Celia said.
“A lot of my videos have actually been really popular amongst Nigerians and other Africans on Whatsapp. I’ve been getting a lot of calls saying ‘I saw you on Whatsapp! My sister sent me your video’.
“People keep saying I’m TikTok famous, but I don’t see it as TikTok fame. I see it as lots of people liked my videos and then they clicked ‘follow’.
“It’s not like I go outside and people are like ‘Ah! That’s Celia!'”
But Celia’s videos are loved by many, with family members, friends, and, more commonly, complete strangers watching her worldwide – with a strong fanbase beginning to flourish in one Asian country.
“I’ve got cousins in Cyprus who saw the videos. I’ve got friends in Portugal who saw the videos, friends in America who saw the videos.” said Celia.
“Apparently, I’m quite popular in South Korea. I just found that out this week and I was like ‘Really?’.
“South Korea is going through a phase where they are really into African stuff, so I think that might be why, but that’s cool.”
Celia started making TikToks to put more positivity in the world – and she seems to be doing exactly that, as lots of her viewers have claimed she has helped them in times of sickness, stress and upset.
“I wanted to do something during coronavirus and I didn’t feel like there was anything I could do – as a family, we were all too scared to go out and do stuff outside. We didn’t have any money to buy PPE because I wasn’t working and I wasn’t getting paid because I’m self-employed.” she said.
“So when I started doing the TikToks and started getting all these comments it dawned on me that this is something I’m doing to help.
“I’ve had comments from people like: ‘You’ve really helped me with my depression’. Somebody said she is pregnant and she’s been having really bad morning sickness, and my videos actually help with her morning sickness.
“I’ve had people sending me messages about how they work for the NHS and they have a terrible time at work, and they get home feeling really miserable and switch on TikTok just to watch my videos.
“There’s so much going on. Not just the virus – there’s obviously all the protests and so many things happening.
“Even though I want to stand for something, I decided I wasn’t going to use my TikTok platform to protest – I wanted to use it to be solely a place where people can go knowing they will get an easy laugh.
“Its just something to make them smile, and they wouldn’t have to see anything political – not that I don’t believe in all these protests, I do. But I just thought, there are so many people out there already doing that.
“I think there needs to be more places where people can just go and chill and relax for a bit.”
Celia does get some negative comments – but very few compared to the thousands of positive ones she receives.
“I do get some nasty comments, not that many to be honest but I have had some and normally what I do is just delete the comment and block the person.
“There was a really nasty comment someone posted and I was going to do a video reply to it, but there’s so many nice comments on my TikTok I haven’t responded to – this negative person doesn’t deserve my time and energy when there’s so many lovely people who haven’t had me reply to them because I just don’t have the time, so why am I gonna make the time for someone who is negative?
“At this time, we all need to laugh. It’s proven that even if you fake laugh long enough, it triggers the right chemicals in your brain and then you will start to laugh.
“Laughter is medicine – and we need some laughter to get through what we are all dealing with right now.”