It all started with a socially distanced visit to drop the weekly food shop to his gran, Phyllis. And so far it’s led to a massive social media following that many celebrities would be jealous of and a guest appearance on Good Morning America.
Twenty-year-old Lewis Leigh’s TikTok career kicked off last year as millions of users flocked to the app for some entertainment during lockdown. Nandos worker Lewis had been posting videos on the app since December 2019, but it was in April 2020 when things started to really take off.
“That is when I uploaded a video with my Nan which went absolutely viral. It got onto Good Morning America and from there it just went everywhere,” he said.
The video shows Lewis with 78-year-old Phyllis in the background at her doorstep, dancing along.
“It was mad. I wasn’t getting that many views before I uploaded that video. It just blew up. I was ringing my Nan,” he said.
“When I rung her and told her first it only had around 1,500 likes and she loved it but then when it was going up she was like ‘Oh no, I am in my dressing gown, all these people are going to see me in my dressing gown’. I was like ‘Don’t worry Nan it is a lovely dressing gown’.”
Lewis is one of a number of young Welsh people who are seeing their content explode on the relatively new app, including Katie Pearce, who went viral when she created a video about not understanding how money or wind worked — you can read our interview with her here.
He admitted that Phyllis, who lives alone and is part of Lewis’ bubble, now loves it and looks forward to visits where they can make Tik Toks together. It is also proving to be a good escape, given she has barely left her house for the last year.
F ind out what’s on in your area with your post code:
“She loves it now, she asks about it all the time. Sometimes if we are making something and she says its a bit difficult I say come on its a good bit of fitness for her,” he said.
In a more recent video, Lewis and Phyllis answer a fan’s question: “Tall boy, or tiny nan?”
The duo joke in the video that the answer is tiny nan, and Phyllis admits she is about 4 foot 10 inches, adding: “I’m shrinking.”
She was also involved in a Just Eat campaign with her grandson for a recent Valentine’s Day promotion.
“I was sitting there with my nan and they were sending me voice notes for her to listen to, and she was like ‘I haven’t done any work for 25 years, now I’m doing this’,” he laughed.
Lewis has also worked with brands such as Sports Direct and Just Dance, and said brand collaborations are the main way he makes an income on the app, but he admitted he has kept his Nandos job, reducing his hours to just four a week and said it is worth it just for the chicken discount.
And Phyllis isn’t the only member of the family, from Merthyr Tydfil, who has been roped into making videos with Lewis. His mum, Ceriann, a barber, and dad Neil, who works in a leisure centre, are both on furlough at the moment due to their workplaces being closed under lockdown.
“Obviously it is not a very nice time to be locked in the house. Lots of people are going through lots of different things,” he said.
The fitness lovers haven’t let it stop them from being active, and are often featured in Lewis’ videos, keeping up with all the dance steps.
“My mother and father love dancing as much as I do. They were both dancers when they were younger,” he said.
“My mother went to Greece and worked as a dancer when she was younger and competed in competitions out there. And my father, he moved to Cardiff when he was 18 and he used to street dance. I think I take it for granted that they will get involved in stuff like this with me.”
Lewis admitted that there was a little bit of stigma when he first started creating videos, adding that people see it as weird, but now that his follower count has hit huge numbers everyone thinks it is great.
Lewis was attending college when the pandemic kicked off last year and decided not to return the recent academic year, hoping that his role as a content creator will open more opportunities for him in the future and turn into a longer career.