WKU athletes reflect on their rise to TikTok stardom

Lynda Eernisse, Sports Reporter

Most young adults today are familiar with TikTok and can often be seen scrolling through the millions of clips posted each day. The app that was once known as Musically, allows users to upload short videos varying in time for the internet to see. For a few lucky Hilltoppers, this application has turned into an accidental career. 

Home to many incredible student-athletes, WKU athletics also holds some social media creators who have racked up quite the following on the internet. 

You may recognize these three girls as just members of their respective teams or as regular students in your 8 a.m. class, but to the internet, they are so much more. Each now has follower counts ranging from 200 to 500 thousand and over 10 million total likes per page. 

One of them being sophomore Kenlee Newcom, a soccer player here at WKU. Newcom clocks in the largest following of the three. Her account, @kenleenewcom, currently has 579.4 thousand followers and a total of 17.4 million likes across all of her videos. 

Newcom recalls gaining a large following on TikTok back in 2019 after posting a video doing a viral trend. She attracted 17 thousand followers and since then has grown more and more. 

https://www.tiktok.com/@kenleenewcom/video/6758263488222661894

Her social media presence is compiled with videos about being an athlete, her belief in Jesus, her workout routine, what she eats in a day and more. Occasionally, she will also post a fun dance or throw in some random clips from her life. Her page goes to show that work doesn’t always have to be serious.

An added benefit to her life online is the brands she has worked with, and the money she earns from her posts. Some brands she has collaborated with in the past include Too Faced Cosmetics, Pink Lily Boutique, Princess Polly, 1st Phorm and many others. 

Although her life through a phone screen looks amazing and happy, Newcom says at times it can be quite the opposite. 

“It can get so mentally and physically exhausting and draining,” Newcom said.

On top of this, she also faces hate comments daily. 

“It can get so toxic. I’ll post a dancing video and people will comment ‘Jesus wouldn’t approve of this’ and that is something that really fires me up inside,” Newcom said.

Besides the inevitable scrutiny she receives, Newcom tries to steer clear of the comment section when she can and keep a positive mindset when it comes to her role on the internet. 

“I like to say that I’m just a regular student-athlete that has TikTok and posts videos just like everyone else does,” Newcom said. 

Amongst the lucky few is junior Grace Turner. Known online as @amazing_grace_1, Turner competes in pole vault and high jump for the WKU Track & Field team. Her account has reached 283 thousand followers with 10.6 million likes. 

Like Newcom, Turner uploads videos varying in many different topics. Her fame first arose from pole-vault videos, but she is now most known for the videos she posts about braiding her hair in athletic type styles. 

@amazing_grace_1

#greenscreen WHAT DO YALL THINK ABOUT IT? #BrowFitness #fyp #foryoupage #MakeSomeoneSmile #pinteresthairstyles #girlfitness #braids #lmk

♬ Hood Baby – Kbfr

“When the pandemic started, I couldn’t post pole vault videos anymore so I started just videoing how I would braid my hair,” Turner said. “I was stuck in my room too much at home during quarantine like everyone was so I need to find something else to do.” 

During the time when she started posting these videos, Turner says she saw her follower account almost double in size, growing from 100 thousand followers to 200 thousand. 

Turner’s hair-braiding series includes dozens of posts in which she shows how she styles her hair for that day. According to her page, the amount of likes these receive can range from one thousand to 100 thousand. 

One of the younger TikTok stars is freshman Kenadee Coyle, also known as @kenadeexcoyle. Coyle, a right-side hitter for WKU volleyball, says she first randomly blew up on TikTok after posting a clip reading text messages between her and mother back when the app first arose in popularity. The video has now grown to surpass four million views and 800 thousand likes. 

@kenadeexcoyle

reposting bc i did not go through intestinal hell for y’all to let this flop #fyp #resolutionunlocked #expectationvreality #goodbye2019 #foryou

♬ original sound – Kenadee Coyle

Coyle continued to increase her presence by posting whatever she thought her audience would enjoy, including videos of her doing makeup, rating prom dresses and anything else that was trending at the time. 

Although she loved posting and creating, Coyle did suffer a lapse in her posting when her duties as a student-athlete during volleyball season took over. 

“Right when I got here I became so busy with volleyball that I kind of forgot to post and lost my motivation for it,” Coyle said. “Now I have started to gain it back, and I’ve started posting consistently again.”

Today, Coyle has shifted her mindset and even recently changed her major to social media marketing. While she is currently focused on performing well on the court and having fun, she also has her eyes on the future, hoping to have a career in curating social media. 

“It’s something I think I’m good at, just having an eye for trends and stuff like that,” Coyle said. 

Sports Reporter Lynda Eernisse can be reached at [email protected]