Molly Riley is a TikTok Star based in Los Angeles, California. Molly started her TikTok account in 2019, with no followers at all, and has grown her following in 2022 to a whopping 98,000 followers. Inspired by pop artists, Molly’s dancing is rooted in a love for hip-hop, and music videos. Dispelling the myth of who “TikTokers” are, Molly Riley is soulful, inspired, and wise, to say the least. It was more than a joy to sit down and ask her everything I was dying to know.
I sat down with her on Zoom at 5pm on a Sunday in New York.
Happy: (1) What made you start dancing at first?
Molly: I think ever since I was little it was just something inside me. There wasn’t anything that I saw that made me start dancing. There are videos of me when I was younger, where there’s music on at a restaurant, or just anywhere, I’m just like bumping to it. So I think it was already just in me, But, definitely watching music videos as a kid, just watching music videos of my favorite songs, definitely bumped it up even more; I think I just gravitated toward hip-hop music in general, so that’s where my dancing evolved is hip hop. That’s basically why I started dancing is hip hop.
Happy: (2) Do you have any one or two people that influence you as an artist?
Molly: As an artist, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber were just people that stood out to me, people that I felt connected with, and people that had similar styles as me. But I grew up watching Hannah Montana and really wanted to be her, so she was number one for sure, for a long time. Until Justin Bieber started getting popular and his style of music: pop music, and the way he sings was similar to me and I loved his dancing and his backup dancers. I’d even watch his movie and stuff like that… Never Say Never Movie is so good. I would just be like, ‘that’s what I’m doing, I need to be a performer, I need to get on stage.’ Both of them [Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber], are just the people I remember feeling very connected to, and they inspired me a lot. But also, I would say, Rihanna. I listened to all of her songs when I was so young on my iPod Nano.
Happy: (3) How much do you feel TikTok has had an influence on dancing?
Molly: I think it’s almost like a whole ‘nother form of dancing that people have never done before, because it’s not… Like if we’re talking about standard TikTok dances that came from like Musically or something like that, they’re just for the screen. And the screen is so small. Actual dancers, they used up as much space as possible. But when you’re doing a TikTok dance, you kind of have to do the opposite and like… that’s not usually what dancers are trained to do. But it’s a whole ‘nother form of dance because you keep it all right here [gestures toward herself], and it’s all just in one place. It’s really sick; I didn’t know that you could bring a whole new genre of dance, which is TikTok dancing: just staying in one place and using a lot of your arms ‘cause you can’t see your feet usually. Some people, obviously, do dances with the whole body, but I think it’s had a very big impact on dance and made different types of dancers do a different form of dance that some people grew up doing, if they were really young on TikTok. I know some dancers that can’t even do a TikTok dance because they weren’t trained to keep it small and do those small dances. They just go all out and move around, when you really just need to stay in place. But I think it’s made a lot of people more comfortable with dancing on camera, because that’s such a big thing on TikTok. Everything is virtual now so you can go to a dance class or you can literally just own TikTok and learn just a whole bunch of dances right off of your phone.
Happy: (4) How did you build your platform?
Molly: So, I honestly was someone who knew that I wanted to be seen on TikTok really badly because I felt like it was just my platform. I thought, ‘this is how I want people to see me and this is where I want people to see me, is on this app.’ I just felt like there’s a lot of personality on TikTok and it’s easy to post and possibly develop a following. So I was already really on myself about getting followers. Like, ‘How am I going to be seen? How am I going to get views?’ And you kind of learn some dynamics off of TikTok. Obviously, it’s following trends… if you do see a dance that you like or that is going viral on TikTok, you should do it within the first couple weeks that you see the first video that is that trend. Trends go by like that [snaps fingers] on TikTok, so quickly. Some last for a really long time, it just depends, but because there are so many, usually they only last for a couple weeks and then they’re done with, and people don’t even do them anymore. So I would say definitely staying on the trends can help build your following. Obviously, being yourself, I think that anything you think of or anything you want to share, you should put on TikTok. It’s become such a sharing app, and people just share whatever they know on there. It’s really cool because that’s how I feel like Youtube used to be; people would get a lot of following on Youtube for just being unique, and just talking their sh** basically. A lot of people do that on TikTok and I see a lot of the videos that are viral and have a lot of likes are where people are just talking about stuff and other people ar ejust relating to it. So, being relatable, talking your sh**, following the trends, and obviously, being authentic and being yourself on the app… people will enjoy that. And if you’re not likeable, then it’s probably not looking good for you. But just being yourself, and whatever your thing is, stick to it.
Happy: (5) Do you have a goal number of followers?
Molly: Ooh girl, sky’s the limit! I’m like, ‘give me all of it. Give me anything.’ The thing with TikTok is that you can get so many followers, like Charli D’Amelio has, I don’t even know, like 86 million followers, or something like that. I don’t think anyone in the history of any platform has ever had that many followers, in general, so… That’s why it’s so crazy because it’s a new app, but it’s gone through so many charts of things that have never been done before. So, right now, this year, I’m hoping to possibly double my following that I have right now. I’m almost at 100,000 [followers], so I want to be at 200,000 [followers], by the end of the year hopefully. I’m definitely already doing TikTok a lot more than I did last year. I’m posting like five times a day now. I used to post and I would just get a huge amount of following but my likes would be really low, so it’s hard to tell, you can’t really do anything about that, or do anything to get followers necessarily. It’s kind of just all over the place. But, I think, as long as you keep posting you’ll get followers. It’s still slowly going up, but obviously when you make a viral video is when you get the most followers, because more people are seeing you and will follow you. But hopefully I can double it [my followers] if I stay on track like this, with posting, and being active on the app.
Happy: (6) What advice do you have for other people that want to have a presence on TikTok?
Molly: I would say, don’t doubt yourself; So many people aren’t used to putting themselves out there on an app like this. I feel like the next more popular app is Instagram, and you don’t really post that many videos on Instagram, especially on your feed. And I feel like people use that app to make a perfect persona of themselves, whereas with TikTok, you can do that, one hundred percent, because it’s the internet, but there’s more of sharing your real self. So, I would say you can’t be afraid of showing your real self, don’t be super critical of yourself, or listen to a lot of what other people have to say. To this day, I know a lot of people who are like, ‘oh I could never do TikTok, I’ll never do TikTok because it’s so cringe,’ or something like that. And that’s how they see it; I don’t see TikTok as being cringe whatsoever, I enjoy it a lot and I think people are just being close minded. I think you have to be open minded and keep doing you. And that’s how you can definitely succeed. Start TikTok with that kind of mindset.
Happy: (7) With all of politics, covid, and everything, how do you feel like dance contributes to making the world a better place?
Molly: I definitely think it gives people a release, for sure, because personally when I’m dancing I’m not thinking of any of those things. Obviously, people with ADHD, they have things where they can find a specific activity and zone in and nothing else matters, and that’s how dance is to me like I am not thinking about anything else. So I think for a lot of people it’s like that, where when they’re dancing they’re not thinking about any negativity, and are just completely focused in the moment. I think that’s what is so beautiful about dance and what can make people get away from everything, when they’re dancing. Just staying focused and loving what you’re doing, as long as you’re loving it, I don’t think that you’re going to be in your head thinking about those things.
Happy: (8) What’s the best thing about being twenty-one?
Molly: I definitely feel like twenty-one is an age where you do feel different. There’s a lot of ages where you’re like, ‘oh I don’t feel any different,’ but for me, personally, I felt different when I turned twenty-one. Maybe it’s just because I can buy alcohol now, but I’m learning that your twenties are a hard time. But they’re also just so necessary for growing up. A lot of people think that your twenties are going to be just like being a teenager; you just get to do whatever you want, you know, life is good, but honestly you’re turning into a young adult and you’re realizing a lot of stuff about the world, obviously taking on more responsibilities. What comes with that is freedom, so it’s still good both ways, it’s good out here, you know [laughs]. But I mean twenty-one is great. You work and you party. It’s a yin yang like that. That’s how I feel only being twenty-one for a couple months, but that’s where I am in life right now.