LOS ANGELES – This wasn't the first time Shay Rose went viral.
But it was the biggest.
In her 21 years, the social media star — Shay Rose is a pseudonym — has built a mammoth following on TikTok and Instagram with handmade whimsical costumes that re-create looks from Disney princesses to Lady Gaga.
When the pandemic began, Rose moved from the UCLA dorms back in with her family in Orange County. As cases climbed in September, she wondered: "Wouldn't it be nice to have your own social distancing bubble?"
She had plenty of pink tulle on hand, and besides, wouldn't it be fun to make a dress with a 6-foot radius?
By the end of November, the finished project had racked up 3.9 million likes and 16.8 million views on the social media platform TikTok. It took two months and more than 350 feet of tulle but, as Rose speculated on Instagram, sometimes creating is rewarding. Other times, it can be exhausting. And sometimes it's both.
"Virality is really just what people want to see," Rose told The Times. "For me, it's making the stuff that I'm curious about and the stuff that I want to make. Usually people want to see it too."
Of course, she qualified, there's a lot more to a viral secret sauce than that, including the behind-the-scenes technicalities, formatting and editing of content. Rose joins a wave of teens and 20-somethings who dedicate themselves to creating — content, clothes or both.
"But in the end, it's just like: If you make stuff that you're curious about, there's usually a niche for it," Rose said. "Other people are curious about it too."
Luckily, she lives in sunny Orange County, because the dress was so enormous (12 feet in diameter with a 113-foot surface area) that she had to work on it outside. The design breaks down into two pieces, the bodice and the base; the latter includes a PVC grid for the dress to sit on, complete with wheels.