“My hair tutorial went viral overnight”: How 16-year-old Destinee Wray gets millions of people to watch her TikTok videos
When I was growing up, I didn’t see any influences in pop culture with curly hair, so I wanted to put out social media content that would inspire other girls with hair like mine. I posted my first hair video on Instagram in November 2018; I had recently done my big chop, which is when you cut off all your hair to start fresh and embrace your natural curls. My username, Draco Dez, comes from my nickname on the track field: Draco is a type of gun, so I’m fast like a bullet, and Dez is because of my name, Destinee.
My first hair tutorial on Instagram got 10,000 views in a week. From there, things blew up. I was posting hair videos once a week, and I would do Instagram stories every day. By December 2018, I had worked my way up to 30,000 followers on Instagram. Six months later, I expanded to TikTok because anyone can make videos on there without a bunch of equipment.
As soon as I joined TikTok, it was insane. Two months in, I had 100,000 followers. I started posting videos with tips for hair growth, along with new hairstyles to try out. People struggle with curly hair because they don’t know their hair porosity, which is how your hair absorbs or retains moisture. Viewers were so grateful to find someone who could show them what to do, and even parents with curly haired kids were thanking me for my videos.
@draco.dezi know allot of you guys can relate ##foryou ##foryoupage ##canada♬ original sound – nightmraes
In May 2019, I posted a video that shows the struggles of dealing with curls, like when your mom combs your hair and it hurts so bad. Overnight, it got 200,000 views. I woke up the next morning and I was like, Did this happen to me? My most successful video has almost three million likes and more than 19,000 comments. I had just cut bangs, which is unusual for someone with curly hair. Everyone was amazed by that.
My parents are so supportive. For my first video, my dad helped me set everything up, stacking books on a desk so I could prop up my phone. Even before I reached 5,000 followers on Instagram, my mom bought me a ring light and a tripod. I mostly film in my bedroom; before coronavirus, I filmed at school when I had free time.
I’m gaining followers so fast. It’s unbelievable. In January 2020, I did a meet-and-greet with other creators at the Eaton Centre. I got there two hours early because my friends and I wanted to get food. When we went down the escalator, there were 15 girls running up to me. Then, in the food court, I was approached by a five-year-old girl, who was with her mom and a younger kid in a stroller. We took some pictures and we made a TikTok together. She was super-shy, but she told me she loved my videos. When I got to the spot for the meet-and-greet, the place was packed. It was insane. I was going down the escalator, and people were screaming my name.
In February, I hit one million followers on TikTok. Everything still seems unreal. I have sponsorship deals from hair companies like Hairfinity, which is a big one for me because I’ve always wanted to use their products, but they’re super-expensive. When they reached out to me, I was like, This is cool. I’ve also worked with another hair company called Aussie and the makeup brand Nyx. I’m not making money off TikTok yet—it’s not monetized the same way YouTube is. But when you go live, there’s an option for people to send you “gifts,” so you can make a bit of cash. The most I’ve made is around $400 (U.S.) in an hour. Recently, I was on an eTalk segment about TikTok. It was the very first time I was on TV, and it was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done.
Since the pandemic hit, I’ve been expanding to different platforms. I’ve been filming more YouTube videos; I can do more with an eight-minute video on YouTube than a 30-second TikTok. I have 35,000 followers on YouTube now, and I’m making top-knot tutorials and testing out hair wax products. I’m branching out on Instagram as well, trying to reach more beauty and makeup followers. I just did a video for Sephora last week.
I still try to post on TikTok at least once a day. School used to get in the way, and I had training for track five times a week before school. Now I have plenty of time. It’s taken some time to get used to no school or practice. It’s a big change and I’m adapting to it. But the good news is that my followers have become much more active online in the past few months. I’ve noticed more views, more likes, more follows. I was averaging about 60,000 to 80,000 views for each TikTok; now it’s more like 160,000.
When I graduate high school, my goal is to create content full-time. I want to start my own hair company and make products that people with different hair types can use. I haven’t really planned anything for the near future, but if the virus continues through the summer, I’ll be in my room, filming more videos.
—As told to Andrea Yu