A TEENAGER WRITING an autobiography seems a little presumptive. Especially an 18-year-old TikTok star and budding “social influencer.” But it turns out that in spite of her youth, Brownsburg native Avani Gregg already has a lot to share.
Gregg started posting videos while still in middle school. Mostly, they were quirky, amateurish affairs of her dancing while wearing oddball, self-done makeup. But there was a method to her madness. When she wasn’t practicing gymnastics (which was a lot, because she was a Level 9 athlete, the second highest in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics Program), she churned out three or more videos a day, convinced that one of them would blow up.
That happened on June 1, 2019, when Gregg, dressed in regular clothes, uttered the phrase “clown check,” and then smash cut to herself wearing macabre, over-the-top clown makeup and lip syncing “Hokus Pokus” by Insane Clown Posse. It raked in 48 million views, and the girl from Brownsburg was on her way. She now has around 35 million TikTok followers, received the 2019 Shorty Award for TikToker of the Year, and was named one of Forbes’s “30 Under 30” in social media.
She has also authored her own autobiography, Backstory: My Life So Far, which drops this month.
“Everyone thinks they know everything about you since you are on social media, and there are a lot of assumptions about me,” Gregg says. “I wanted to write an autobiography to clear up some of those assumptions.”
Her life so far hasn’t been all product endorsements and celebrity parties. Gregg aspired to become an Olympic gymnast, but a back injury ended that dream in July 2018. Also, her friends seemed less than enthused about her sudden fame, harassing her about it both online and in person. So she and her family moved to Los Angeles, where Gregg completed high school and signed on with Hype House, a communal space where she and other top-tier influencers collaborate and grow their brands. She spends six to eight hours a day just working on new video clips.
Not that she isn’t still getting crap from people. Back in the day, when she first tasted internet fame, she was known for her garish makeup and weirdo clips. So much so that she was called Clown Girl. Now, she’s more polished. Check her recent TikTok offerings and you’ll find her makeup tutorials and her personal look far more professional. This seems to grind the gears of certain followers on TikTok, who see her transformation as a sellout.
“The toughest part is being judged by others at all times,” Gregg says. “Either they love you or they hate you. There’s no in between.”
Career wise, she’d love to expand her repertoire. She acts in an online series called Chicken Girls and hosts a Facebook Watch show, Here for It. But her first love is still makeup and clothes. “I would like to have my own makeup and fashion line,” she says. “That’s where my passion is. But I also want to continue with acting. I don’t want to be put in a box.”
These days, Gregg makes it back to Indiana only a few times a year. When she does, it’s to visit family—and to eat at her favorite Zionsville sandwich shop, Sub 16. And she has some advice for teens currently dancing on TikTok, hoping to duplicate her fame: Be yourself and try to have fun.
“I didn’t go into it knowing I was going to be an influencer,” Gregg says. “I did it because I enjoyed it. I didn’t care if anyone liked my content or not. I did it only for myself.”