The Wildest: “Alyssa McKay Is a Shining TikTok Star”
Alyssa McKay hit TikTok stardom when she was 18, as videos of her lip-syncing to scenes from Mean Girls and Pretty Little Liars first started to go viral. Since then, her following on the app has ballooned to over 10 million, with two million subscribers on Snapchat and more than one million on YouTube (not to mention another 20.8k on Instagram for her adorable Miniature Dachshund, Ayla Rae — more on her later).
Like many Gen Zers who have masterfully and impressively lip-synched their way to TikTok fame, McKay attributes her success in social media to her authenticity. But it is the scripted work she produces for the apps, particularly her rich-girl character and her raps, that really vaulted her into the social media stratosphere.
Alongside her TikTok success, McKay has long harbored dreams of a career beyond the phone screen. Before she found stardom on TikTok, she made her film debut in the 2018 critically acclaimed feature Leave No Trace, which shot in and around her hometown of Portland, Oregon. The film’s success led to more auditions for McKay, but bookings were hard to come by, especially close to home, where acting jobs are few and far between to begin with.
After college — McKay has a degree in communications from Portland State University — she decamped for the East Coast, buying a house in New Jersey, 90 minutes from New York City and 20 from her longtime manager, Brian Nelson. “He built my career up from nothing. When I met him, I was losing followers. I was just this 19-year-old posting on TikTok, and he helped me stand out,” she says of Nelson, who she says has been a “father figure” in her life.
Nelson was also instrumental in helping McKay pursue her dreams beyond TikTok. He set her up with Buchwald, one of the top agencies in the country, and he was on the call with her when she first met with the producers of the hit scripted podcast The Royals of Malibu. A member of Diversion Audio — the team behind Royals — knew McKay from TikTok and reached out about her auditioning for the role of the series’ host. The role in question was a minor part McKay describes as similar to the voice of Gossip Girl. Nelson pushed for McKay to be allowed to audition for the podcast’s lead, Ella Sinclair. Three days later, she found out she had booked the part.
“It’s a big deal,” she says. “And I firmly believe it is really different from all the other scripted podcast shows out there. It’s a mix of Euphoria and Gossip Girl. Perfect for the Gen Z audience.” (For those who are still entrenched in Serena van der Woodsen’s world, here’s your intel that HBO Max’s reboot features characters who would consider Blair and Chuck out-of-touch millennials).
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