*Trigger warning - discussions about eating disorders*
Navigating life in your early 20s can be a daunting prospect – especially with societal pressures and social media.
Enter Eli Rallo – a 24-year-old living in New York City who has gained a devoted online following with her friendly and unbiased counsel to her sisterly list of rules on dating and self-care along with her desire to connect with her followers.
(She’s basically everyone’s internet best friend at this point).
Soon, Rallo’s pearls of wisdom will be available in book format as she is set to release her first book called I Didn’t Know I Needed This, later this year and she chatted to Indy100 on what readers can expect as well as her meteoric journey so far.
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Like most of us who were bored and stuck in our homes back in 2020, Rallo decided to post on TikTok during the pandemic under @thejarr – an apt name for her satisfying videos where she would fill a gallon-sized jar with an array of snacks, a childhood activity that she “didn't mean for it to go viral.”
But while people came for the tipping of tasty treats, they stayed for Rallo’s exuberant personality which came across virtually when chatting with her on Zoom.
“I think that it's special, that there was a time carved out for a lot of people to explore things they're passionate about online, but it's like a shame that it had to be during the pandemic that gave us that opportunity,” Rallo told Indy100.
As her following continued to grow, Rallo kept up her jar videos but branched out to create content she is passionate about ranging from dating, entertainment, beauty and daily vlogs and ended up leaving her full-time job in October 2021.
Some of Rallo's popular videos include her set of rules for different situations such as "rules for a first date,” “rules for a reputation era” (Swifties if you know, you know), and “rules for liking yourself a little more.”
Who doesn’t love a good list? It's clear viewers certainly do:
One person said: “This is an iconic rules list wow,” while another person said: “Wait but this is genius.”
“I love your lists so much, top tier personality,” someone else commented.
Despite having 662,500 TikTok followers and 110,000 on Instagram, it would be easy to think Rallo is a smaller creator due to her openness and wanting to connect with her followers in a way many big influencers don’t typically do.
For example, in each of her videos, she always announces her Instagram DM’s are open to chat and her constant engagement has built a solid community that she "truly and deeply cares about."
"When I post about something, they'll open up a dialogue with me too. So it's definitely a two way street, which I would love," Rallo said.
"I engage with my followers on a daily basis whether that's in the comments in the DM's or on stories, and a lot of times I get this thought in my brain like, 'Oh, some of the more successful creators are like so intangible, so intangible,' but I think what makes me special is that I am tangible."
This attitude arguably has captured the online zeitgeist in terms of people wanting to see content that is more relatable on their feeds such as first-hand story times, and day-in-the-life vlogs rather than the lavish lifestyles of big celebrities such as The Kardashians.
Other creators who - like Rallo - have also bucked this relatability trend in their content include Emma Chamberlain, Elyse Myers, and Kristen Titus.
"Being real is the new cultural currency as today’s influence comes from the authentic ideas and imagination of everyday people," said Sofia Hernandez, TikTok's Head of U.S. Business Marketing.
Although people may view Rallo as relatable, she says it's not something she's going out of her way to be.
“I think there's this idea online of relatability, it's a really difficult conversation and topic to breach because I have never claimed to be relatable once in my life,” Rallo said.
“I would say that, for the most part, I'm not relatable I come from a very privileged family background, the privileges that I have in my life - whether it be white privilege, or thin privilege, or pretty privilege, class privilege - all those things they greatly play into my lived experience."
The Columbia University alumni who has a master's degree in journalism went on to say how she is "so grateful," that people relate to pieces of her, but explained:
“I think when people project relatability onto you, it gets conflated with other people saying that you've presented yourself as someone relatable when you're simply not.”
A close connection with her followers perhaps also stemmed from Rallo being open about her mental health and binge eating disorder, which was spurred on when a follower commented on one of her videos that she was experiencing the same thing.
"I had this moment where I was like, 'Am I going to answer this comment and help this person and give them advice or just like make them feel less alone? Or like am I gonna ignore it?' And I made the decision to just dive in," she explained.
"I don't remember really why I made that decision, but I think it felt like the fact that it was going to more people felt less scary than telling someone in my personal life if that makes sense."
When it comes to looking after her mental health, Rallo notes the importance of therapy and believes it's something we should all be constantly seeking.
"Instead of waiting for me to feel bad enough to call my therapist again, I'm always seeing her because I just know that it's mitigated for me and I'll feel the best I can feel," she said.
"I really do believe that like, we need to make the therapy as accessible as possible because I think everybody should be in it," and stated how pricey this is in the US and so she uses her platform to share mental health resources to help.
With her successful online presence, Rallo is looking forward to detailing her life experiences in book form with the release of her debut narrative non-fiction collection of essays I Didn’t Know I Needed This: Rules for Falling Into and Out of Sex, Dating, Love and Ghosting that are "all about navigating the dating world in your 20s," and based on her "Rules" TikTok videos.
"What I wish I had back then [at the time of the experiences] was the ability to have a space to think and talk about these topics, whether it's romance, or love, or dating or sex or, you know, pleasuring yourself or menstrual cycles, or breast reduction, surgeries."
Given the personal perspective and subject matter, she described how "sincerely scared" she is about the book's release.
"I think it'll be like giving a piece of my heart to a lot of people for them to hold in their hands and all I ask is that they are gentle with it."
True to her content style, Rallo has brought her followers along with her through the "natural" writing process as she posted daily vlogs about the book but it wasn't all smooth sailing.
"The most difficult part was reliving experiences that I didn't realise would still feel a bit raw," she admitted, feeling upset at her previous self for how she felt and the choices she was making.
So what message does Rallo want us to take from her book?
"As young women, I think we're told that we have to become and be a certain thing and that's just like a load of s***," she said. "It's entirely made up."
"I just want people to feel influenced to be the brightest and most authentic and most vulnerable version of themselves, in love and in life - when they're by themselves in their bedroom and when they're with a romantic sexual partner or friend or family member."
As someone in their early 20s, it takes a lot of confidence to be candid online as well as dishing out life advice to people virtually.
"So people always ask 'What gives you the agency to give advice?' and the answer is nothing like literally nothing," Rallo said. "I did not wake up one day and be like, 'I'm gonna go give advice online.'"
The New Jersey native does credit the "theatrical spaces" she grew up in for developing her wisdom along with being "observant person" that made her "very empathetic," she also mentioned those followers who initially reached out her for advice on social media.
"I started using the Instagram question box feature when I hit 10,000 followers thinking that the girls would be pulling up like, what product do you use in your hair? Where's your sweater from?
"And they weren't. They were like, What do I do if I bled all over this guy's sheets? How do I tell my parents that I'm bisexual? What do I do when my roommate hates me? How do I handle the XYZ thing? And I was really overwhelmed
"I felt really lucky. I was like, 'Wow, these people are looking at me, like the best friend,'" Rallo shared, as something she "doesn't take lightly."
Rallo's debut book, "I Didn’t Know I Needed This" from HarperCollins lifestyle imprint Harvest will be released in Autumn 2023.
Listen to Rallo on her Miss Congeniality podcast available on Spotify and Apple Music.
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