What’s Really “Up” With That TikTok Dance

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S1: If Addison Ray was talking to us right now, what would you say to her?

S2: Oh, I don’t know. I feel like that Maya would have some words for.

S3: Hi, I’m Rachel Hampton,

S1: and I’m Madison Malone Kirchherr, you’re listening to I see, why am I?

S3: In case you missed it, Slate’s

S1: podcast about Internet culture.

S3: And speaking of the Internet Madson, did I just see that you accidentally tweeted something that was supposed to be reported?

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S1: I know how to use Twitter. Please listen to this Internet culture podcast. Yeah, I did. OK, it was a mistake. I thought I was replying to someone and instead I just contextless tweeted No.

S3: Oh, yeah, welcome dissy. Why am I where at least one of us understand how Twitter works? But today we’re not going to be talking about Twitter for like once in our lives. We’re going to be talking about the latest controversy on a different platform. Tick tock. So, Addison, Ray Easterling is a white tick tock star who has a whopping 79 million followers, a burgeoning pop career and a starring role in a forthcoming reboot of She’s All That because clearly we cannot make a movie that is not a superhero movie or a reboot in 2021.

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S1: No last detected

S3: last week, she performed a dance, The Khateeb Up, which is the current number one song on the country and an absolute Bangar, if you haven’t heard it at the up

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S4: and up and up and up and up

S3: and up. She performed this dance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, that is.

S2: I’m so happy to have you on the show here in studio. We appreciate it. Thank you so much for for for for doing this. And thank you for teaching me the tick tock dances I tried.

S1: I mean,

S3: but the thing is, it’s not actually her dance. It’s true. Creators are two black Texas teenagers who were just sitting in class when they learned what to take talks. Very biggest stars had gone viral with something that they had created

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S1: in the segment. Jimmy Fallon is standing on stage holding a giant cue cards with the names of various TIC dances written on them, while his house band The Roots plays covers of each dances corresponding songs. And when each song plays, Addison begins a new dance, including the up dance. If you are having deja vu hearing this, that’s because this quite literally has happened before, a little over a year ago, Tacs actual biggest star, because believe it or not, having how many followers did you say she had? 79 million. Having seventy nine million followers does not make you the most followed person on the platform. Charlie DeMello, Tic Tacs biggest star, came under fire for popularizing the renegade dance without ever crediting its creator, a black Atlanta teenager named Julia Harmon. Julia only got credit after an online uproar, which is exactly what’s happening now to Maya Johnson and Chris Cotter, the two kids behind the up dance.

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S3: So much for the backlash. Kind of started when the SIDE-BY-SIDE video started going around Twitter. I don’t know if you’ve seen the side by side. I have seen

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S1: the side by side video. If you listener have not seen the side by side video, we will put it in the show notes because we’re going to do our best to describe it. But honestly,

S3: you got to see it. So on the right side, you see Addison Ray with Jimmy Fallon kind of bopping offstage, doing what Jimmy Fallon does, doing this dance. And then on the left, you see Maya and Chris doing this dance with significantly more talent, energy, commitment, any number of synonyms here that just describe the fact that they’re doing this dance so much better than her. The sidebar is created by a Twitter user whose handle is accurate. Underscore Janelle. And can I just say that you you’ve done a public service, Carol.

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S1: We thank you. Also carries video has been viewed 16 million times. But obviously the way the Internet works, everybody steals everything, which is why we’re here today, frankly. So like so many people have seen this this comparison video at this point.

S3: So this side by side has been getting compared to bring it on an absolute classic of the early odds, which, if you like, Madison, haven’t actually seen.

S1: I’ve seen parts of it and we can watch it together when we’re both vaccinated. Can’t wait.

S3: But the general plot is that these white cheerleaders are gaining championship titles by stealing the routines of black cheerleaders.

S4: Like every time we get some here,

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S1: y’all come try to steal it and some blonde hair on it, calling it something different.

S3: But today, we actually have my own Chris talking to us about the experience of watching your work go viral without you.

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S1: I am so excited.

S3: Same I mean, it’s really one of cultures, all the stories playing out on one of its newest frontiers. And y’all are actually going to get to hear it straight from the source.

S1: So the update is all over. Tick tock, you honestly cannot scroll through your for you page without seeing somebody dancing to it.

S3: And we’re talking with the dance’s creators today, Maya Johnson and Chris Cotter, I. Thank you so much for joining us. We’re so excited that you’re here.

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S4: Thank you for having this.

S1: Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourselves?

S4: Yes. My name is my I’m 15 years old. I was born in Texas and I am a freshman in the ninth grade. I’m my influencer and I do French trick. Yes. Just a little bit about me.

S2: I’m Chris Cotter, 13 years old. I was also born in Texas. In Houston, Texas. Actually, I’m in eighth grade and I play baseball.

S3: So how did you guys create the dance? Like, when did you choreograph? How long did it take? Just kind of take us through the process of how you can create this extremely viral dance.

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S4: Yes. So we first made this dance about a month and a half ago, and we just knew that we were going to link the next day. So we seeing our rooms on face time and we we’re big fans of Cardi B, so and her song was popping at the time. So like, hey, we should totally like first figure out which part of the song we’re going to use and we just like we like the beat and everything. So me and Chris came up with our own dance moves and we put them together and we created that one dance. And then we linked up in downtown Houston and we just made it happen. I know that’s

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S2: why I came up with this first part, because I think we, like all of us, would be like doing want to do for

S3: the one, two, three, four. And being this kind of punch right, left, forward punch right, left, down.

S2: Yeah. And then we both just like kind of did our own thing from there. And then once we came back to each other with our own things, we kind of just combine them together and we saw how they worked with each other. And then we we lost the I think the hardest part about it was probably the two beats. We’re like we had to, like, jump in touch because I was like, yeah,

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S1: the jump and touch being the part where you jump from the ground, bring your knees up to your chest and touch your elbows to your knees like I like broken ankle. Just describing that. Yeah. When did you notice the challenge was starting to go viral on Ticktock?

S4: I feel like we’ve got a lot of people to share our posts. When we first post today, we posted on all platforms. I know Khateeb has reissued our challenge twice on her story on Instagram and she posted it on her. So that has helped a lot. And then I just think, like our challenges is really good. Everybody wants to do these people. That’s younger, even adults. I like teachers. Everybody’s doing a challenge. This is crazy.

S3: What is it like seeing Kylie reposted?

S2: Oh, we were excited. I remember I was lying in my bed and my have based on me and she’s like, Chris, Chris, Chris, can’t you just toss it up on Instagram? And I was like, no way. So then I went to go check it out. And then she actually did ended up and posted this on Instagram. And I was talking about it to all of my friends, just I saw her friends and I was just like everyone was excited and it was crazy.

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S1: So obviously, your dance challenge blew up this week for a totally different reason. Aside from it just being excellent. When did you first find out about Addison Rae performing your dance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon?

S4: I don’t know, because I forgot how long maybe two days ago. I don’t know. Maybe the exact day that she performed, people were tagging me on my Instagram like, dang my your challenge is really, really that big. Like it’s on TV. People are telling me. And I’m like, wow. So my first response was like, dang, like, that’s crazy. Like I’m happy and like I’m like, she’s really doing awesome that we came up with. But then when you sit down and think about it, it’s like everybody’s time is going to come. I start to like feel like it should have been our time to do that. And even the other dancers that she has before that we should have went up and performed our own dance. I just felt like for us that would have been our time to shine and all the other dancers, too. I’m pretty sure that the creators of those dances would have wanted the same.

S2: I was actually in school and I remember Maya had severe posts and it was like the main post everyone was talking about. And it was like whenever they put me in Maya’s video next to the video of Addison actually doing the dance. And I saw it and I looked at the comments and like I was just like amazed that she went on national television and actually did our dance. And then it was like I felt so bad at the same time because she was getting a lot of backlash. And I feel as if she shouldn’t have got that much backlash because I feel I could be hard to discredit somebody like in the middle of a show. So it was like I was happy. But at the same time, I didn’t want one. I didn’t want me and might be going up while. She was getting brought down.

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S3: It’s not just about the credit, though, I mean, obviously the credit in terms of like Addison, it would have been hard, I guess, for Jimmy Fallon to have. I don’t I mean, I don’t know. And some people wouldn’t

S1: have been, Jimmy. They could have been very polite. It would not have been hard for Jimmy Fallon to give credit to you to the choreographer’s.

S4: Not only that, but Ed is saying she’s a big she plays a big role on six o’clock. People look up to her and of course, people know who created the challenge. I mean, like part of you supposed to be is going crazy.

S3: I mean, I think what a lot of people who aren’t I think that understand is that it also translates to like money. Right? Like partnerships and sponsorships. And so, I mean, we can’t really talk about the kind of dynamics of this happening without talking about the racial dynamics on ticktock where which are the racial dynamics of America, where black creators are creating, like, amazing content that goes viral with like a largely white face. And so I’m curious as to how you’ll feel about that, having a been on to talk for like years at this point, kind of seeing this cycle go every few years and now, like being at the center of it.

S4: Me and Chris, we’ve always Platonist and we’ve always seen people such as our friends, even Evangelia and the girl that made the Renegade. We personally knew her before. She’s what she blew up before we knew her before we negate. So we see the whole her credits getting stolen. And we we felt so bad, like hoping that never happens because, you know, so it’s crazy. But then on top of that, it’s like a lot of people that are not my race. They like to, you know, take our, you know, stuff and water it down. But it’s like, why not give credit to the people who make the dance? And that even leads to such things as opportunities, just like Edison. And she’s got that big opportunity when I feel like that that could have been us.

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S2: I definitely feel like it’s like much easier or the beauty standard, which is like really sad that people have set the standard to be Caucasian, blond hair, blue eyes, whatever it might be. And they go out here and they steal content from hardworking black creators like Nehemiah and they just completely. What what people like to call whitewash it. I remember whenever we saw Julia and we saw her create the Renegade and then we saw Baalen, Tick-Tock, Charlie, Emilio, Addison, all these other people that got famous or that dance, basically because everybody thought it was like their dance, because they did it all the time, never tied Julia. And we just felt like really, really bad for her. And then whenever she finally got that moment, whenever she flew out to L.A., collab with people, was performing every work on the Ellen Show, got their fight again, followers. We were so, like, happy. We were so deep. And I was actually about a year ago now, and I remember the entire time that everything was happening. We were just like praying that it didn’t happen. And now it’s like actually happening to us.

S3: I mean, this keeps happening on Tic-Tac specifically. I mean, it’s happened for centuries in America. But Tecktonik specifically, do you think that there’s something that the platform could be doing to make this better? Or I’ve noticed, I guess, since the kind of renegade Julia controversy happened, more people are crediting dance creators than they did a year ago. And like that kind of change is happening or no.

S2: OK, I do have something to say. Yeah. So it is crazy that people did not they never, ever gave credit to any type of dancers until that whole entire thing happened and they started receiving backlash for it. Then same thing here with the Jimmy Fallon show. Nobody ever gave credit until everyone Jimmy Fallon and somebody started receiving backlash for it. And then they go ahead and decide to give credit when it should have been done in the first place.

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S3: Kind of speaking of the backlash and they’re now giving credit. Have you heard from Jimmy Fallon or from Addison in kind of light of everything that’s happened over the past week?

S4: So myself, I haven’t heard from Edison, but I’ve known that she has contacted Chris, but I know they showed they just them probably at two something today. So they want us to be on the show. He is finally getting somewhere. Yeah. Me and Chris to fly out there. So we’re going to see how that goes. We’re just now getting in contact.

S2: Yeah. As actually after the entire thing, she actually ended up following me on top, which is like really strange. Like I was like and took my dance and now you’re following me. I was like, I mean, I guess. And then she didn’t follow Mya. And then I was like, that’s really weird. So it was like she followed me and she contacted me and she wants to actually link up with me and Maya and like do a collab and like group dance and all of that stuff. And then same thing. What I was saying, they found each other the DNA. Yeah.

S1: I’m curious how you two became friends.

S4: We both were big smash influenced influencers. And so we got Instagram and we did each other like, hey, like, you know, we’re both good dancers. We started becoming friends.

S2: So I posted on my story that I was at Chick fil A, actually. And so I was like, oh, I live right by that chick below. And I was like, wow, really? Like, we should think of some

S4: time, which is crazy. So we really did meet each other through online. And then we did our first we first linked in person at the outlet mall. When people see that we posted a video together, they were like, oh my God, like Chris, OMYA just really linked up and did this. Ever since that we’ve always we always do linkups

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S2: now, it’s been like a monthly thing kind of or like a bi monthly thing, because we just like everybody thinks that we dance really, really good together and we just go together. So we have ended up picking up a lot of times now.

S1: What are your friends think about your online fame?

S4: It’s crazy. So a lot of them, they don’t really look at me as like famous. But other people, like when I go to track meets or I’m going to the mall, a lot of people come up to me and say, hey, can we take pictures? And we just Six Flags. And it was so many people that want to take pictures of me. It was crazy.

S2: I’ve been friends with all of my friends before I was an influencer, but like, it was cool for them because they’ve got to watch me grow my platform more and more and more over the year. And then people come up to me and say, Oh, are you Chris from Instagram? Do you want to take a picture doing a second video

S1: when you say growing your platform? Because that sounds like such a like Internet professional term, is that something you, too, are thinking about?

S2: Yeah. So whenever you like your platform, a lot of things you can do is you can link up with other people that have platforms and you can go up together. You can just like work on dances. Dancing definitely gives you a platform, but that’s what me and my I have been doing and that’s what got our platform up in the first place.

S1: Earlier you brought up the side by side video. And I’m I’m curious, how do you think Addison did with your choreography?

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S2: She completely changed. Like what what we did and just started doing her own little thing. And there was this like, I don’t know about that.

S1: If Addison Ray was talking to us right now, what would you say to her?

S2: Oh, I don’t know. I feel like definitely Maya would have some words for her, but I personally sense like she follows me and stuff like that. Now, I’m probably just like I would just like talk to her and ask her, like when she wanted to like go to L.A. and like Link-Up and and stuff like that. I definitely like Maya. When I really have the same attitude,

S4: I feel like my ex would be the same, even if she if she was to follow me or wasn’t to follow me, I still wouldn’t let her know how I feel about it just because I feel like we make the dance. So I would not know that, you know, just straight up so and then call it that. And I would I wouldn’t mind making it. It’s you know, it’s not that I don’t like her. I like your I love Addison. I’ve watched her take it on. So, yeah. I’ve been you supporting her.

S3: Yeah. Does it make it hard, I guess when things like this happen, I mean, Addison, we have like what, seventy million followers on tech talk. Like when someone who’s so big on the platform, does it make you kind of like hesitate about how you react to something like this,

S2: how we handle it the same way we handle it for anybody? Yeah, followers don’t do that at all.

S4: I just let it tell you, you know, hey, I hope you know, we made that.

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S1: I know. That’s right. That this conversation was so much fun. I’m so glad we were able to talk to you together.

S4: Fame. You’re welcome, thank you for having me and giving me this opportunity, and I had so much fun talking to you guys.

S2: Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m so glad I had the chance to get to speak with you guys. Up, up,

S1: up, up, up,

S4: up, up, up.

S3: So I just have to say, I just had Whitney’s greatest love of all playing in my head throughout this interview, like I believe the children of the future. We don’t even to teach them. Just let them lead the way.

S1: Honestly, I’m excited to see them on Phalen.

S3: Oh, same if they’re not on Foulon. We’re looking at flights to L.A. and we are personally fighting Jimmy Fallon in a studio parking lot.

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