At some point or another in 2020, TikTok was on the tip of everybody’s tongues. The social app for short-form mobile videos became the center of creativity, controversy and all-around fun. Addicting in nature, and under fire for its security practices, TikTok also became a haven for Black creators, dancers, artists and more. Atlanta Black Star checked in with a set of twins dominating the TikTok industry to get an inside look.
The Stanley twins, Shayné and Zhané went viral with a 40-second dance video to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage (Remix)”. Performing under ‘The Nae Nae Twins’ – a mash-up of the ends of their names — the popularity of their video led them to more than a million followers, advertising, promotional contracts with companies like Genius, and a new career path. But the twins were not expecting the attention at all.
“Our phones were going off, we were like what happened?” said Zhané. “Oh, it’s the ‘Savage (Remix)’ Challenge,” she laughed in unison with her sister. “We did not expect the “Savage” video to go viral at all. We were literally in our loungewear. We didn’t even try for the video, we were literally in our living room, so it was a blessing in disguise.”
Despite their newfound social fame, the Stanley twins are not new to the world of dance, having been dancing their whole lives. “We have a lot of background training in jazz, contemporary, lyrical and hip hop, of course, is our main genre,” Zhané said.
Though they started creating TikToks in quarantine, not too long ago the ladies were on stages behind some of the world’s biggest artists. “Recently, we’ve done a tour with Iggy Azalea,” Shayné said. “We were on tour with her for two years. That was basically our last job before COVID hit.”
Though previously signed to an agency, the twins have been managing their own affairs since their TikTok fame, and learning a lot in the process. “It’s just a different way we have to look at things because usually, we’d be behind an artist or something, but now it’s all about us and we’re actually a brand that we have to represent,” Shayné said. “With the companies reaching out to us, we’re very professional, very humble.”
The TikTok world came under fire earlier this year for having ‘a race problem,’ with accusations that the algorithms favored white creators, and that non-black creators were being credited for the work of their black counterparts. The Nae Nae Twins, however, say that this has luckily not been their experience.
“I feel like our supporters — they made sure. They’ll be like ‘uh uh, Nae Nae Twins.’ ” They said almost in union. “We’re thankful for them because they always give us credit.”
After targeting the TikTok app earlier in the year, in August, President Donald Trump gave executive orders blocking TikTok from being downloaded in U.S. app stores, sending creators into a flurry over what for many had become their livelihood. Although the ban was blocked by a court order, the future of TikTok still seemed dismal, prompting the question of what would happen to creators like the Nae Nae twins if TikTok were to go away.
“We’ve asked ourselves the same thing,” Zhané said. “We’re just going to keep going on Instagram and YouTube because they never fail. We’re going to use our different platforms.”
For other TikTokers in the game, the twins have a bit of advice to share.
“Make sure you read over your contract because that’s a number-one thing that people look over,” Zhané added. The girls cite their mother as having protected them from signing many contracts that were not in sync with their brand.
As for the future, the twins intend to teach. “We’ve talked about a program that we wanted to start for people like us — sisters or twins,” Zhané said. “Our number-one thing is synchronization, so that’s the thing we want to teach to dance partners is that you have to have that synchronization,” Shayné added.
“Timing and being consistent with your content is what’s really going to help you in this TikTok business,” Shayné said. TikTok or not, the twins want people to keep creating. “I just basically want people to create their own opportunities. That’s what we learned, and that’s the number-one takeaway for us,” Zhané said.