By Jordyn Tilchen
“This is really cool,” 17-year-old TikTok star Chase Hudson said at the start of our call. And if Hudson, who goes by Lil Huddy online, says that an interview with MTV News is cool, it is. That goes for most things in Hudson’s life right now, from his group of wildly popular influencer friends to the bulky silver chains around his neck. After co-founding TikTok’s most popular collective, known as Hype House, in December 2019 and acquiring a whopping 19.4 million followers on his own TikTok account to date, it’s clear that Hudson’s more than just a business-savvy social media star; he’s a full-scale heartthrob.
“I don’t really consider myself a heartthrob,” Hudson said. But that’s exactly what a heartthrob would say. “I barely even consider myself famous,” he added. His legion of teenage fans would argue otherwise.
Trista, 15, told MTV News that she can’t get enough of Hudson’s “bad-boy vibe,” which includes his black-painted fingernails and his metallic, pendant-laden jewelry. “He’s an icon,” said 16-year-old Fedra. Still, Hudson insists he doesn’t feel like a celebrity at all, saying that moving into Hype House, a mansion where 21 well-known influencers gather to collaborate on viral TikToks, combined with recent stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic, means he “doesn’t leave the house that much.”
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If you saw Hype House’s Romeo and Juliet-style balconies and palatial bathroom (where the famous group films many of their dance challenges), you wouldn’t want to leave, either. Hudson developed the idea for the collective — which includes some of TikTok’s top influencers, such as Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, Addison Rae, and more — with co-founder Thomas Petrou. “We both had the same idea,” Hudson said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve wanted to do this for months, years.’ And he was like, ‘Well, cool! I’ve finally found somebody that has the same desires and hopes and dreams in life. Let’s make it happen.’ And then we went out and did it.”
Going out and just doing it — no matter how silly or simplified that concept may seem — is what kickstarted Hudson’s career in the first place. “In seventh or eighth grade, I started having a passion for making videos,” he explained, adding that he and his friends randomly began playing around with the video app Dubsmash and later moved on to the platform Musical.ly, which offered users a place to show off their vibrant personalities and build a substantial following. “I was like, ‘OK, maybe I could take a shot at this and see if girls like me.’” Soon enough, the thirst comments began, and that’s when Hudson decided to test out some solo offerings. “I started posting content by myself and it got a lot of traction. I thought that was really cool.”
But Hudson admitted that the attention he used to get is nothing compared to the dedicated following he’s accrued. “I had one video that got a couple hundred-thousand likes, which was pretty good at the time,” he said. Nowadays, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a TikTok on his account with less than 400K likes and 2.5 million plays.
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Hudson, who grew up in the Central California city of Stockton, said he has never felt this sort of love and admiration before. “Growing up, I didn’t really get any of that appreciation,” he said. “I never felt any of the love.” He did admit, however, that at the start of middle school, he began to notice a few girls developing a crush on him. “That was the one time,” he said, laughing. “The one time I got a little lickity-split of attention before going online.”
High school was much of the same. “I was very misunderstood,” he said. And though he was “popular, in a sense,” Hudson said there were a lot of people who weren’t very nice to him. “I was a very delicate kid and I have a very sensitive heart,” he said. “So a lot of the stuff that people would say, it damaged me.” And now, with millions of onlookers, Hudson’s had to face more negativity than he’s ever experienced before. Some of that was from his own doing. In March, the social media star took to TikTok to apologize for a past video that surfaced of him using a racist slur. “What I said was not right in any way and should not be used by my mouth or anyone else’s,” he said. “I just wanted to apologize to everyone in the TikTok community. I’m sorry. And I wanted to apologize to the Black community as well.”
Hudson’s public apology was met with mixed reactions. In some ways, though, the reactions against this video and other, more general critiques of Hudson have forced him to embrace who he knows he is, and not what the perception of him online might suggest. “No one’s opinion matters but your [own],” he said of what he’s learned from the criticism. “You shouldn’t be focusing on what other people have to say about you. You know yourself, you know your true colors, and if people are telling you what you are and you know you aren’t, it doesn’t matter because you know yourself.”
Even with that knowledge, a platform as large as Hudson’s can be very intimidating. Mostly, he feels a lot of pressure to get everything right. “It puts that thought in the back of your mind, like, ‘Oh, shit. People could be saying this. I don’t want to do this wrong,’” Hudson said. “It’s just a lot of insecurity.” Hudson cherishes the friends who’ve always had his back, even before he had his sights set on climbing the social ladder. “Being the popular kid, I didn’t really care to be that guy,” he said.
Hudson’s disinterest in being the popular guy may have backfired, though. Now, millions of fans drool over Hudson’s sometimes-broody, sometimes-bubbly content, which includes everything from lip-syncing videos to collaborative dance TikToks with other well-known Hype House members. “I think it’s the personality,” he said when asked why he believes millions of young people have taken a liking to him and his videos. When it comes to looks, he said he’s not quite sure what the hype is about. “Whether they find me attractive, I don’t know. I’ve never been in their position.”
Hudson’s “e-boy” look, which refers to the neo-emo aesthetic that blossomed on TikTok and is defined by flashy jewelry and disheveled hair, is part of the appeal. Fedra’s particularly enamored by “his smile” and “his eyes,” but she also loves his style, which is something he’s extremely passionate about. “I love sweatpants and a hoodie, but I [also] like dressing up and looking good.” Lately, you may have noticed an abundance of Von Dutch hats appear in his TikToks, a trend Hudson adopted from rapper Lil Skies. “I got one, and then I got 10.” And just like that, Von Dutch hats, which entered fashion purgatory at some point in the early 2000s, are cool again.
“It’s something about putting a spin on your fashion and [taking] bits and pieces of inspiration and turning it into something that’s your own,” he said, listing A$AP Rocky and Travis Scott as some of his biggest style icons. Hudson’s also been finding inspiration in ripped flannels, Justin Bieber’s Purpose tour phase, and Harry Styles. “Harry Styles is a legend.”
But Hudson’s entire vibe transcends outfits, attitude, and content. Even the slightest gestures play into what makes Hudson a modern heartthrob. “I have a habit of sticking my tongue out,” he said. “It’s a TikTok thing, I think. Maybe girls like it. I don’t know.” There’s also “the wink, [and] something about looking up and down. They love that. It makes no sense to me.”
Whether he understands it or not — or plays coy about not understanding it — Hudson continues to give his followers what they want while pursuing what he wants, too. “I like making edgy content,” he said. “I like looking cool. I like showing off my outfits and listening to dark music that goes along with it.” And even though those types of videos don’t necessarily perform the best compared to his Hype House collabs and off-the-cuff dance videos, they’re his way of staying true to himself. “That’s kind of what I started off doing,” he said. “My content really goes off what my mood is, whether it’s happiness, sadness, or anything in between.”
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“At the end of the day, you want to act like yourself, not somebody else,” he said, imparting advice to aspiring social media stars. “Make it you. Make it authentic.”
This attitude is what keeps fans glued to his videos. “He’s so sweet and funny and looks like so much fun to be around,” Trista said. Fedra agrees, saying that Hudson’s “very different from other guys on TikTok.” With that in mind, Hudson’s already looking for other creative outlets to express himself, with sights on a jewelry line and original music. In a fitting move, he also recently signed with IMG models. “I did something with Fendi not too long ago,” Hudson said, leaning all the way into his dreamy status. “I’m just getting started.”