How Asher Lieberman ’20 became a TikTok legend


Zoe Holtzman '22 via TikTok

A screenshot from one of Lieberman’s popular videos.

The lighting is set. The wig is in place. The scene is perfectly timed. And then, the red “Record” button is pressed. Action! 

This may sound like the behind-the-scenes commotion of a film or television set, but it’s the everyday life of twenty-year-old TikTok star and Ransom Everglades alum Asher Lieberman ’20. 

With a following of 4.4 million, Lieberman has become a huge name within the TikTok community. From being stopped for pictures by fans on the street, to being paid big money to do brand deals, to having his face on a TikTok party game, Lieberman is living what many would consider the enviable life of the modern influencer. Really, though, he is just a normal twenty-year-old trying to balance having a career in the public eye and getting an education. He is currently a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been able to find this balance, but he has had to work for it. 

Lieberman began dabbling in social media years ago. Before TikTok, there was A similar concept, was a short-form video app. Creators could lip-sync to different songs and sounds. It took the world by storm and sparked his interest. “I did skits of me talking to myself, and five or six times, my sound was featured on the creator page,” Lieberman remarked. 

In August of 2018, was absorbed by the Chinese company ByteDance Ltd. and turned into TikTok. With TikTok, creators had more liberty with the kind of content they could create. Lip-syncing still existed, but creators started talking to their audience in a more informal manner. Any kind of content that you could possibly create within a sixty-second time frame was fair game.  

Lieberman’s first viral video consisted of a dramatic reading of an old song from a viral YouTube clip. He reimagined the “I Baked You a Pie” song from YouTuber TomSka’s channel. “I was not trying to be famous,” he remarked. “I went viral for all the wrong reasons, and people were making fun of me.” Not only was he receiving reactions on the app, but he had to deal with them in person. His classmates at RE started to watch his videos. One day, a random senior came up to Lieberman and told him that he had made it onto an Instagram meme page. That’s when StinkyRatTicTok was born. 

He decided to try to grow this newfound fame. “I was posting three times a day, every day,” he said. “It didn’t matter what idea I had, or whether it was good or not. I just posted everything.” With his new posting regime, Lieberman started to understand the power of the algorithm. The more he posted, and the shorter the videos were, the more views he would get. Soon enough, he started to amass a substantial following.  

With this new fame came different responsibilities and reactions from those closest to him. Lieberman’s account started going viral right around the time he was applying to college. His parents were initially concerned about how his account might conflict with his applications. “I was so afraid that a college would look at his posts and ask, ‘What is THIS?’” said his mother, Andrea Lieberman P’20. As a family, Lieberman and his parents sat down with the College Counseling department at RE and discussed how to approach weaving his account into his applications. To their surprise, his counselors advised him to highlight his TikTok in his essays. “I think that was the turning point for us,” remarked Mrs. Lieberman. “The adults in his life began to appreciate TikTok as a creative outlet and a platform for people to explore ideas, humor, and talents.” 

By this time, Lieberman started taking the creative aspect of his posts more seriously. He started to craft more elaborate skits and video ideas. “I would try to think about what was relatable,” he said. Relatability has always been an important part of his page. Anything funny and relatable that he experienced throughout his day-to-day life would be written down in his Notes app. “I found that if I sat down and tried to conjure up an idea, it wouldn’t come to me,” he said. “It had to be natural.” 

The performing wasn’t difficult for Lieberman. He had a long history in drama classes and improvisational environments. He had a star turn as Uncle Fester in the Ransom Everglades Middle School’s production of The Addams Family, and for two summers, he attended French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in Hancock, New York. There, he took part in mainstage plays and participated in improv classes. Even before that, he had been making home movies and comedy sketches since he was a kid. Comedy was in his blood from a young age, and TikTok seemed to be the perfect platform to hone his craft. 

Today, TikTok has transformed from a pastime into a source of income. Brand deals—including partnerships with Jackbox Games and Pizza Hut—have become a large part of his daily responsibilities as a creator, netting him between ten and fifteen thousand dollars per deal. For a college student, it’s a significant amount of money, but he also explained the amount of work involved. “I’m the creative behind the video, I’m editing the video, and I’m also the person distributing the video,” he remarked. “I am one person doing all the jobs myself that these brands would pay several companies to do.”  

Typically, he will assess the product he is promoting and then see what funny kind of skit he can come up with that incorporates it. Once, he did a promotion with a shampoo company. He proceeded to go to different drug stores and pharmacies and ask random strangers to touch his hair. The process ended in him getting thrown out of one of the stores, but he got what he needed: good content.  

Even though his life has remained somewhat like what it was before TikTok, he has experienced a few “celebrity” moments. During his brand deal with Pizza Hut, they sent him a private car that would take him and a friend to New York City to watch a WWE wrestling match, all expenses paid. He also attended VidCon, a social media convention in Anaheim, California, where he got invited to exclusive creator events and afterparties. Even on campus, people recognize him regularly. “I cannot imagine what I’d be like right now without TikTok,” he said. “It has impacted every single aspect of my entire life, including the friends I’ve made. People will come up to me at college and say, ‘you are the TikTok kid!’”  

Nevertheless, he has found ways to stay grounded and driven. “What helps me calm myself down when I have doubts is that I’m still in college,” he said. “I still have a completely normal life, apart from being recognized.” However, his TikTok career has influenced his interests academically. Due to his love of content creation and media, he is currently a Communications major with a concentration in Audience and Persuasion and a minor in Consumer Psychology. In his classes, he has learned what it takes for something to go viral online and what makes a product attractive. His knowledge of his audience and their likes and dislikes has contributed to a new interest in consumer psychology. His mother, especially, enjoys this conjunction of interests. “I appreciate that TikTok seems to be steering him in a different direction professionally,” she said. “When he went to college, he thought he would do something related to medicine, and now he knows his place is in the creative world.”  

As he continues to gain followers, Lieberman is hopeful about the future of both his own TikTok and the platform in general. Asked what he would tell his pre-TikTok self, he had a simple word of advice. “Don’t doubt yourself. All those ideas that go through your head that you think are funny but you’re nervous to do in front of people… stop caring. Don’t be scared of what people are thinking all the time.”