The world's most popular TikToker is pivoting from lip syncing to making her own music, and she already has Taylor Swift on her side

  • With more than 40 million TikTok followers, 17-year-old Loren Gray is the most-followed person on the buzzy social media app. 
  • She started her growth early, back she was 13 and the app was still – now, she's ready to move into mainstream entertainment and make music her main focus.
  • Gray has been releasing singles since 2018, and she talked to Insider about what it's like to balance content creation on rapidly changing social media platforms with studio time.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

In the music video for Taylor Swift's latest single, "The Man," there's a brief moment when the camera switches from Swift – who is dressed in almost unrecognizable male drag, beating a tennis racket into the ground – to a brunette teenager standing in the corner, rolling her eyes with an impressive range of split-second emotion.

As Swift later pointed out in an Instagram caption, that "aStOnIsHiNg" eyeroll belongs to 17-year-old Loren Gray, the most-followed TikToker who scored the cameo as part of the pop star's efforts to make "The Man" a viral TikTok hit. Scroll through Gray's TikToks and you'll see she has had plenty of experience making faces into a camera.

With over 40 million TikTok followers, an audience Gray has been growing since she was 13 and the app was still, there's no doubt her influence comes in handy for Swift. TikTok trends have become one of the biggest drivers for success in the music industry, and Gray made her own gender-swap TikTok to promote "The Man," getting nearly 3 million views and almost 400,000 likes in the process. 

It's also a great trade-off for Gray, who told Insider she's making music her "main focus," rather than the platform that birthed her viral success. The teenager has more followers than "@tiktok" itself, although there are new competitors like 15-year-old Charli D'Amelio creeping up quickly behind her.

in honor of the release of the “man” music video ( which I may or may not have a lil cameo in ) directed by taylor swift i present to u ##theman

"I personally haven't met her, but I support it and I think the Hype House is kind of paving the way for the new generation of TikTok and social media," Gray told Insider, referencing the TikTok-famous collective that D'Amelio and her older sister are a part of. "I don't have enough friends for a Hype House."

Numbers on social media aren't nearly as important to Gray right now as putting together "some kind of body of music" is. A cursory glance at her latest TikToks shows she's still trying to keep up with the new generation of TikTok trends, like the dancing videos epitomized by D'Amelio and her crew's daily uploads. 

"Content and social media will always be a part of my life, and that's always gonna be something I'm passionate about, but my main focus is working on my music, getting it to where I want it, and putting it out into the world," Gray said.

Lip dub videos on built Gray her fame, and she's had to evolve to the TikTok trends of today to stay relevant

At 13, when Gray first started posting to, the landscape of short-form video on the app that would become TikTok in 2018 looked completely different. At that point in time, Gray's emotive lip dubs to popular songs made her a top "Muser" – what stars were called between 2014 and 2018. 

She's still putting out content that reflects her lip-sync talent, which is no easy feat. A recent TikTok she posted shows Gray lip-syncing along to Nicki Minaj's entire "Bottoms Up" verse, which she smiles, mouths, and acts along to with total precision. She can also recite "The Office" character Dwight Shrute's entire "perfect crime" monologue, which she dubbed from behind the steering wheel of her car in what seems to be a parking garage.

pov : you’re a bartender & your friend from school is famous now. she seems to really like u. maybe a little too much. (idk who started this so creds)

But TikTok, unlike its lip dub predecessor, is more of a combined with Vine combined with something new entirely, and Gray has had to adapt to the changing viral environment by mastering new trends. 

"I actually took a break for a little while, cause it went through this weird phase where everyone was confused as to where it was going," Gray said. "I see a lot more comedy and a lot more original content. It's definitely very different and it took me a minute to get the hang of it, but I think I get it now."

Her TikTok content now is a mix of videos that reflect her old style, along with collaborations with newer TikTok stars like Brittany Broski, along with a lot of dancing videos. Gray seems to have mastered this transition smoothly. TikTok comments on big creators' videos can be cruel, and there are a lot of bad faith D'Amelio comparisons. 

i’m back in my lane✊🏻👸🏼😳😳🥳

But there are also a lot of positive comments, like "I feel like the hype is moving to you now" and "da real loren is back," especially when she dyed her hair back to blonde from the brunette style she embraced for a few months (and in Swift's video).

@brittany_broski vibes on vibes

Social media popularity is fickle, and it makes sense that Gray, who got bullied in real life in the sixth grade after becoming popular on, would keep her circle of friends small and cast her ambitions elsewhere.

"Everything I do is based around what's fun for me," she told Insider. "I used to put a lot of pressure on it and now I kind of do things when I want to. Social media has been my stepping stone."

With former social media stars like Shawn Mendes as examples, Gray is hoping to transition fully from to her own music 

Gray has been releasing singles since 2018, and her two most popular songs thus far are "Anti-Everything," featuring the DJ duo Lost Kings, and "Queen," which has more than 13 million views on YouTube. They're catchy pop hits that play in stores like H&M and Hollister, and it's easy to see how Gray could become a pop mainstay.

She's inspired by artists like Shawn Mendes, whose song covers on Vine turned into global superstardom and Grammy nominations. The trend of TikTok elevating songs like "Old Town Road" to record-breaking hits echoes the rise of social media stars to major recording artists, from former YouTuber Troye Sivan to Tumblr icon Halsey. 

"I have to work a little bit harder to have good music that's respectable, because I don't want to just put things out for views," Gray told Insider. "It's harder, because you have to gain the respect of people listening. But it's not impossible."

Gray is candid about her journey as a young artist so far, and says the older she gets, the more life experience she acquires, making her a better songwriter and musician. 

"I didn't used to be good at it, once I kind of let go it was a lot easier for me," she said. "With music you have to have a distinct sound and an identity as an artist, what you stand for, and that took me a little while to figure out, because I started so young."

At age 17, she's already witnessed the rise and fall of social media platforms that gave her peers a global audience. She's also graduated high school and spends most of her day in the studio, developing the next phase of her career. She missed going to prom, but she doesn't mind the trajectory her life has taken. 

"I'd much rather be here than in Pennsylvania," she said of her hometown of Pottstown, where 20,000 people live. "I feel like I have a different perspective than a lot of kids, and I also spend a lot of time by myself, watching and observing. I feel like I still have a pretty good grasp on reality."

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