A day in the life of 24-year-old Audrey Peters, according to her TikTok, is a world free of pain. In the mornings, she makes coffee at her West Village studio apartment but will probably buy an $8 iced version later. She might have a business meeting and then dine at a trendy lunch spot like Mercer Kitchen, where the lamb costs $49, after which she may get a cosmetic procedure (Botox, filler, lip injections) or a lymphatic drainage massage. She will, at some point, take what she calls a “hot girl walk,” because in her world, Uber should only be used while drunk. After dinner (expensive), she’ll head to one or several of the great many events that publicists hope she will attend — and, of course, feature on her TikTok.
I am inside said West Village apartment, where it is decorated in the stylish avant-basic aesthetic and where she tells me most of those “day in the life” videos are lies. Well, not lies, exactly, but she films most of them over the course of several days. Nevertheless, this sort of shameless, semi-ironic grandeur, alongside videos like “What I assume about you based on your favorite Manhattan neighborhood” and “Places in NYC that are cheugy” has gained Audrey a following of 400,000 and the role of ur-example of a particularly maligned archetype on the internet right now: the privileged-and-not-exactly-shy-about-it NYC-based TikToker.
Over the past year, mostly in the six months that New York City has begun to fully reopen its bars and restaurants, the citizens of TikTok have come together to make fun of this villainous character. What “NYU girls” were to the city back when I was one of them nearly a decade ago, NYC TikTokers are now — seen as gentrifiers and transplants, but worse than that, annoying.
An example: Last year, Jezebel published a story about Peters entitled “Who Is Audrey Peters, TikTok’s Wannabe Carrie Bradshaw, and Why On Earth Do We Care?” It was during a time when she’d gotten some media backlash for attempting to hire an unpaid intern to act as her assistant and is the first link that surfaces when you Google her.
When I ask her now what her reaction to the article was, she pauses. “You know what?” she says. “I loved it. I was like, these two 50-year-old women care so much about me that they’re willing to write all this? They may think I’m cheesy or stupid, but I’m doing something right.”
Peters is no stranger to people disliking her. While at the boarding school she attended in New Jersey, she experimented with a fashion blog, inspired by early outfit bloggers like Chiara Ferragni. “Of course I got so bullied,” she says. When she started seriously posting on TikTok at the beginning of the pandemic, a few of her friends questioned it on the grounds of, well, how would she explain that to a guy she was dating? “I immediately became so infuriated,” she says. “I was like, ‘Not only do you not think I can do it, but you think it would be embarrassing to have something I’m passionate about?”
It was after she reached about 100,000 followers, many of whom had come from a viral video she made about “what your favorite fashion house says about you,” that brands started approaching her for sponsorships. Though she won’t tell me her typical rate — most influencers don’t discuss their finances publicly — she says she has about 30 companies emailing her about deals on a busy month, and posts about one advertisement a week. In June, she’d saved enough money to quit her job and create content full time.
We, alongside her 19-year-old pal Davis Burleson (follower count: 360,000), are headed to a party hosted by @TheVIPList, an account run by two other early-20s blonde women notorious on the app for reviewing scene-y restaurants in raspy, rapid-fire voiceovers, who’ve shut down a restaurant in Little Italy to host a party for the TikTok creator crowd. “This is about to be so much socialization,” Audrey says darkly in the Uber there, wearing a polka-dot wrap dress and ballet flats.
Inside, there are custom cocktails, an enormous DJ booth, and between 25 and 50 people, many of whom know each other from other VIP List events. Audrey introduces me to a carousel of beautiful early 20-somethings, among them Lauren Wolfe (follower count: 531,000) and Sophia Lacorte (579,000). Upon learning I’m a journalist, no less than three people bring up a recent article in the Cut on Victoria Paris, another NYC TikToker who they swear is super sweet IRL but who came off in the piece as slightly obnoxious. The subtext here is: Please be nicer to us!
It’s easy, though, to be nice to this crowd. “Everyone’s so nice,” says basically everyone when I ask about, well, anyone. “In LA it’s like, ‘Oh, I love your shoes’ and then you turn around and they’re like, ‘Fuck your shoes,’” Sophia says. The TikTokers have a 40-person group text called NYC Babes where they share party invites and other relevant gossip, and assure me that it’s much different than in LA. “People actually have jobs here,” one girl tells me, even though so far most of the people I’ve met do not.
“I work five hours a day and make two times what I made in finance as an intern [$80,000],” says Violet Witchel, who runs a cooking account and has 1.6 million followers. She’s currently an economics major at Vassar, so when I ask what she hopes to do with her TikTok fame, she’s got a plan: “I’ll probably spend four to five years on TikTok, max — any social media platform flattens out — and then after that join an A- to B-round startup, get a fat equity package, become CMO, make a ton of money, buy my first house, max out my 401k, max out the Roth IRA, every tax-free entity you could think of. And then be CMO for five, six years, get the equity, maybe IPO if you’re lucky. And then a few kids, hopefully the husband makes money. So yeah, we’ll see.”
At a crowded and quite loud table in the corner of the patio, I finally snag an audience with the VIPs themselves, Meg Radice and Audrey Jongens of @TheVIPList (follower count: 366,000). Over the past few weeks, they’ve been the target of many, many parody videos that parrot their signature rapacious restaurant review style. Or, as one creator put it, “It’s fucking white NYU girls with cellphones who go like, ‘If you don’t go to Via Carota you should kill yourself.’”
The jokes bothered Radice and Jongens (who are not, in fact, NYU girls, but do somewhat fit the stereotype) at first, but now they’re laughing along. “Our online persona is a complete exaggeration. We would never speak like that in real life,” Radice assures me. Either way, it worked: In June, she quit her job in wealth management at Wellington Shields, and both she and Jongens say they’re making “more than six figures.” Restaurants now approach them about revamping their menu and decor to be more enticing to girls like them, they say; that’s how they scored the location for tonight’s party.
For what it’s worth, they still had to go through the regular channels to get into Carbone, the downtown Italian spot favored by celebrities. “I wish!” one of them says when I ask. “They do not care about influencers.”
No one in attendance seems as though they can believe their own luck or even understand how they arrived here. TikTok fame, after all, is random in the sense that if you are attractive and wealthy you have a much higher likelihood of winning, but it still isn’t a guarantee. Out of everyone in the room, though, Audrey Peters seems the most serene about the whole thing. She’s been lucky her entire life; the only difference is that now she gets to share it with the world.
Lately, Audrey’s commenters have started dragging her for a since-deleted video in which she mentions that she “doesn’t go above 14th Street.” Though she grew up partly on the Upper East Side, which is well north of 14th Street, many users felt as though she was being classist, ignoring neighborhoods that didn’t cater to the ultrawealthy. (For the record, Audrey says she loves Brooklyn: “Two moves from now I would move to Brooklyn. Not the next place, but the one after.”) It comes up in the comments of nearly all of her videos now, though she tries not to spend too much time dwelling on them. “Sometimes when I go to bed at night, and I get sad that someone hates me, I just remember that Hailey Bieber follows me,” she says.
After about an hour, Audrey wants to go see her boyfriend, a 6-foot-2 finance guy who she intentionally keeps a mystery to her followers. I make my exit shortly after, not before two more people bring up the Victoria Paris article. I can tell they’re understandably nervous; the precipice of fame is a precarious place to be, especially for creators who’ve built followings by carefully controlling their own images. I want to be able to assure them that I wouldn’t intentionally make them seem like bad people, but that would be impossible: However lovely they are here among their own, someone will still see them as spoiled grifters out to destroy the city.
What I really want to tell them, though, is to just enjoy the shit out of their lives right now because being young in New York and sort of unaware of the unfortunate realities of existence is a rare privilege. Whether the people who live here like it or not, a very large portion of downtown Manhattan runs on people intoxicated by the possibilities that their wealth and youth grant them. There have always been Audrey Peterses running around the city, believing in themselves in the way you do when most things have gone right in your life.
And when the mean comments inevitably follow, I want to remind them of an Audreyism: “No one’s really that cool unless you have haters.”
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