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TikTok didn’t invent the concept of fame, it just put the process of achieving it into hyperdrive. All it takes is one clever dance or one hilarious skit and you’re no longer sharing videos with just a small cadre of close friends, you’re performing for an audience of millions.

Even if you don’t realize it while scrolling through videos, TikTok dangles a carrot in front of your face, almost begging you to make a run at achieving superstardom. Sitting at home in rural Idaho, Zack Lugo heeded the call and started posting skate videos, chasing that dream of fame and fortune.

It didn’t take long for Lugo to learn that not every success story happens overnight.

“I started TikTok as a skateboarding account and it ended up never doing well,” he explains. “I don’t know why they never pushed it, TikTok just didn’t want to push it. So I started going on to different content—acting, skits, a little comedy, dancing—and that stuff did much better. I stopped focusing on the skating posts and moved to that, finding I really enjoyed it so I kept with it. I just kept with it.”

Aided by the countless hours of boredom he found growing up in a small town, Lugo had the drive and determination required to become a rarity among his TikTok peers—a creator who didn’t break out overnight. Lugo never had that. He just kept grinding and trying new things, and each time he fell down, he got up and tried again. The same way he learned how to skate.

While TikTok’s magical algorithm might not have appreciated Lugo’s skateboard videos, it loves the skater’s mentality he’s applied to content creation.

“The weird thing is that most content creators on TikTok have that one video that blew up and it gives them their platform in a way,” Lugo says. “I never really had that crazy video, at least not until recently, but I had already built my platform. I just stayed posting consistently and getting decent views for, like, a year and a half. It helped me in the long run because some of those people who have that one viral video, it’s harder for them to actually keep their account going.”

Photos by Dylan Perlot

Photos by Dylan Perlot

Steadily Lugo has been able to build a fanbase of over 10 million folks eagerly awaiting his next video. The subject matter varies from video to video, the lone constant being the cheerful positivity radiating out of Lugo. Some creators try so hard to look like they’re having a good time it gives new meaning to the term cringe. Not Lugo. His smile is effortless and his laugh is natural, almost like he enjoys creating videos.

It’s remarkable how plastic TikTok has become in such a short time, with creators forcing collaborations with each other in order to build their following. Lugo just doesn’t want to be a part of that game.

“I don’t really like to collaborate that much because, one, I’m so busy,” he says. “And two, I like to keep it real. I don’t want to come across as wanting to use somebody. Those videos you see of me with other people, it’s just me with my really good friends. And all we’re doing is just having fun. We post bloopers all the time, you can tell it’s a good time, we’re laughing all the time. It’s just fun, it’s not really, ‘Oh, we have to do this…’”

Photos by Dylan Perlot

Photos by Dylan Perlot

Of course, since Lugo has made TikTok his career, there are some exceptions that need to be made in order to pay the bills, like doing promotions. But it’s a small price to pay to keep living in Los Angeles, hundreds of miles and a world away from Idaho. He has found that there are few greater motivators than the prospect of having to trade in the bright lights of Hollywood for… potatoes?

“It’s a little bit of motivation, but I always push myself every day,” he says. “One of the quotes I live by is ‘Never Settle’ and I have it tattooed on my chest. My mom always told me to not settle for the things that you have but also be grateful for what you have. But I definitely don’t want to go back to my hometown. The drought there, it’s dangerous [laughs].”

The idea of leaving home resonates strongly enough that Lugo incorporated it into both his favorite ink and his nascent fashion brand—Runaway Kid. The inspiration comes from a song by iann dior (who you’ll find an interview with elsewhere in this issue) and Lugo has the words scrawled onto his forearm.

“‘Runaway Kid’ is not really a popular song, but it’s my favorite song,” he says. “It talks about running away from your hometown and the toxic people in your life. And never going back. Runaway Kid has a lot to do with whatever’s going on in your life that’s holding you back from your goals and how you’ve got to learn to run away and never go back.”

Photos by Dylan Perlot

Photos by Dylan Perlot

Things are popping off for Lugo right now across all of his various hustles. Beyond the already mentioned TikTok career and fashion brand, he’s also moved over to Twitch where he’s running a successful Pokémon shop. He just signed to his first modeling agency, and he’s also considering a move to acting.

For someone so young with his star on the rise, it’s refreshing to hear Lugo speak about what the future may hold. He understands that this likely isn’t going to last forever. He follows the advice of his mother to a T—never settle while always having gratitude. That advice helped him get to where he is and he certainly doesn’t forget it.

“My main, main goal is to financially support my mom for the rest of her life,” Lugo says. “That’s the main goal. I don’t really care what I’m doing, I can adapt very easily, but yeah. That’s my goal.”

Photos by Dylan Perlot

Photos by Dylan Perlot