Millionaires: Rachel Chaleff says “never, ever be afraid to be your most authentic self”

By 05/10/2024
Millionaires: Rachel Chaleff says “never, ever be afraid to be your most authentic self”

Welcome to Millionaires, where we profile creators who have recently crossed the one million follower mark on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch. There are creators crossing this threshold every week, and each of them has a story to tell about their success. Read previous installments here.


Rachel Chaleff was missing a sense of community.

She'd had minor motor tics all her life and hadn't thought too much of it, because tic disorders run in her family. But, when she was 13, she went through a period of trauma, and experienced a rapid onset of Tourette syndrome. It was a yearlong process to get diagnosed, and though she did therapy to help manage her tics, they were getting worse. Chaleff pulled out of traditional school and was homeschooled for the rest of middle and high school.

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While that was a better move for her education, it was also lonely.

Until Chaleff joined TikTok.

“I'd never felt a sense of community in my entire life until joining social media,” she says. It was during COVID, and in the midst of TikTok's growing popularity, Chaleff began posting videos about her life. At first they had nothing to do with Tourette's.

“I posted a video of myself in a cute outfit, and some people saw it, and someone asked me for a video of my hair. I took a video of my hair, and that was the first time I posted myself talking, and I was ticcing,” she says. “That video blew up, not just because people like my hair, but also because they had a lot of questions about, ‘What is going on here? Why are you making those noises?'”

Chaleff “realized this was a great opportunity for me to do something good,” she says. “I've always had a desire to inspire others, to help others, and this is when I knew I had the opportunity to educate about my disability.”

That video took her from 50 followers to 10,000 in a single day. Not all of the responses to her content were kind-she still deals with people accusing her of faking her disability, or making other ableist comments-but she was determined to keep posting. She made videos every day after her online high school classes, and by the time she graduated high school, she had hundreds of thousands of followers across TikTok and Instagram.

Instagram was where she ended up being contacted by Fanfix, a creator monetization/membership platform that Chaleff now credits for “helping me get a lot further with my career.”

“Fanfix is really cool and distinct in the way that with my other platforms, it feels like I'm on a stage presenting myself to millions of people, but with Fanfix, it's like a more intimate one-on-one dinner party setting where I get to be more personal with my followers. I love connecting with people in that way,” she says. “It's been a truly amazing experience for me.”

Now, Chaleff is one of Fanfix's top earners, the platform says, and is working with its parent SuperOrdinary on some upcoming projects (no spoilers). She's also built her TikTok following to 2.8 million and her Instagram to 330,000 people.

Check out our chat with her below.

@rachelchaleff Replying to @flomagicia IG: @rachelchaleff #tourettesawareness #fyp ♬ original sound - keet !

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

B-ru: To start us off, imagine somebody's reading this and they don't know who you are, they've never seen your videos. Give me a little bit of background about you, where you're from, and how you got started on social media.

Rachel Chaleff: My name is Rachel Chaleff and a lot of people know me as Keet. Most people know me for spreading awareness about Tourette syndrome. My path to becoming a creator was actually totally unintentional. Before this, I was just a very- I wouldn't say normal student. I actually didn't go to school. I had to start homeschool because of my disability. I was pretty isolated before I started social media and everything. I downloaded TikTok. I think it was during the pandemic era.

I posted a video of myself in a cute outfit, and some people saw it, and someone asked me for a video of my hair. I took a video of my hair, and that was the first time I posted myself talking and I was ticcing. I even mentioned in that video that, “Oh, my hair looks horrible today because I've been ticcing.” That video blew up, not just because people like my hair, but also because they had a lot of questions about, “What is going on here? Why are you making those noises?”

Some people thought it was cute, some people thought it was funny, some people thought it was weird, and some people thought it was fake. I realized that this was a great opportunity for me to do something good. I've always had a desire to inspire others, to help others and this is when I knew I had the opportunity to educate about my disability. I took it and I started replying to comments with videos answering their questions, and all took off from there.

B-ru: How old are you?

Rachel Chaleff: I'm 18.

B-ru: How old were you when you started TikTok?

Rachel Chaleff: I think I was either 14 or 15.

B-ru: Pretty early. Got it. You were homeschooled also through high school?

Rachel Chaleff: Yes, all throughout.

B-ru: So you started a TikTok account. People start following you. People start asking you for more content. What did it look like for you in terms of your daily schedule? Did you commit to making content pretty regularly or how was that working for you?

Rachel Chaleff: At first, it started as more of a hobby. If I saw someone I wanted to reply to, I would just put some makeup on, post a video, put it out there. I was going viral very consistently. It felt like every single video I posted started getting hundreds of thousands of views, into the millions. I was like, “Whoa, there's such a high demand for my content.” I started to become a lot more passionate about it. It became a part of my routine. I did homebound learning, where I had one-on-one classes with the teachers from my district.

I had virtual classes, one-on-one classes with my teachers at home. Right after my classes, I would just go shoot TikTok videos later in the evening, and I would post them as consistently as I could, a few times a week. It just kept growing from there. It just felt like it was never-ending. I shot up from 50 followers to 10,000 in a day. 

B-ru: Oh, that's amazing.

Rachel Chaleff: It was crazy.

B-ru: That's huge growth. Were there specific types of videos that you noticed tended to do really well? I know you said basically every video is going viral, but were there any particular videos that you noticed were doing extra well?

Rachel Chaleff: Yes. Videos where I had tics that were more on the comedic side or the shocking side. If I ticced something vulgar or something that just happened to have good comedic timing, that's usually what went viral. I also noticed that a lot of videos that did well for me were ones where I would respond to comments that were a little silly or ridiculous or even rude. I would just deal with it in my own way. I would take that as an educational opportunity, or I would take it as an opportunity to be a little funny. That's usually what would blow up.

B-ru: I've spoken to a couple of other creators with Tourette's, and they've all struggled, especially with people claiming that they're faking their disability. It seems to be a very common trend in internet commenters. 

Rachel Chaleff: Everyone on the internet apparently has a PhD in everything. I don't want to encourage these people to continue to harass people with disabilities and say that they're faking, but I almost have sympathy for them. I understand why they may think that I'm a fraud because the concept of Tourette's, especially me having coprolalia, which is where I have obscene tics, which only 10% of people with Tourette's have, it's difficult to grasp. Why can't you just be quiet? I don't know. My brain is just wired this way.

It's very interesting, but that's why I take everything as an educational opportunity because I really do just believe that these people don't understand, and that's okay. They shouldn't be mean about it, but I understand the confusion.

B-ru: I'd like to back up a little bit and talk about how you originally got diagnosed, if that's cool.

Rachel Chaleff: I started having tics… I don't remember. I think my tics got worse when I was 13. I've had minor tics my entire life, but they were mainly motor tics. Motor tics are physical tics that just happen, like muscle spasms, for example. I would have them in my face or my neck or even in my arms a little bit. Nothing very noticeable. Tic disorders do run through my family. When I was 13, which is not an unusual age, by the way, for Tourette syndrome to fully develop, that usually happens in early teen years. I believe I was around 13.

B-ru: What's the reason for that timing?

Rachel Chaleff: That can be due to a lot of different factors. It can be environmental or just genetic, and mine were both. I endured a lot of trauma at that time in my life, and it was also a genetic thing, so my onset was quite rapid. My parents already knew what they were dealing with, as my dad has a tic disorder, my brother does, and even my grandmother does. I just happen to have it more than the rest of them. 

I was taken to a doctor, and they told me, “It's probably Tourette's, but we can't technically diagnose you until a year out.” A year later, I went through CBT, cognitive behavioral intervention therapy. I went through that where they helped me manage my tics. After a year, I was officially diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. Before then it was just labeled “tic disorder,” because they can't diagnose it unless you've had it for a year. 

I'm very lucky to have had parents who already knew what was going on. A lot of people do not have that advantage, but I did, and I'm very grateful for that and for the fact that they listened to me and they actually helped me out.

B-ru: That's huge. I'm really glad to hear that you had a family who was experienced and was able to manage your support needs and be really supportive of you. I know you graduated high school. Do you plan to go to college? Do you plan to do content? 

Rachel Chaleff: For college, as I said before, I hadn't actually gone to in-person school in a really long time. I did decide to try out college. I went to college for part of a semester in New York City, and I realized this was not working out for me, at the moment at least. It was quite difficult for me to manage just me personally with Tourette's and also being autistic. That is not the case for everyone. Some people who have these disabilities are totally fine when they go to college, and that is great. I think that we should not continue this stigma that disabled people can't do anything but for me, it wasn't working out. 

Right now, I am studying Mandarin at a private language institution in Long Island just to keep myself doing something. I basically create content full-time now. Actually, Fanfix has become my greatest source of revenue, with people subscribing and all of that, it's really helped me out with my financial freedom.

B-ru: Yes. I would love to talk about that. You're the first Fanfix creator I've spoken to, that I know of. I'm very curious how you got started with Fanfix and what that platform is like compared to platforms like TikTok or Instagram.

Rachel Chaleff: Yes, of course. They had actually reached out to me via Instagram. I spoke with some of the people who run Fanfix, and I started my account. It's been amazing for me. This is the first time in my life where I finally… I know this is so much deeper than some people might realize, but being disabled, I was always so, so afraid that I would never have a steady income. I would never be able to work a job full-time.

I've tried so many things. Some ignorant people mistake that as being lazy, but it truly is a struggle for me. Now I finally am experiencing financial freedom through Fanfix. Fanfix is really cool and distinct in the way that with my other platforms, it feels like I'm on a stage presenting myself to millions of people, but with Fanfix, it's like a more intimate one-on-one dinner party setting where I get to be more personal with my followers. I love connecting with people in that way. It's been a truly amazing experience for me.

B-ru: For anybody who's not familiar with Fanfix, what does the average day look like for you in terms of engaging with followers, posting content?

Rachel Chaleff: On Fanfix, this is basically my opportunity to actually engage with my followers one-on-one. I'm able to message them privately and they also get to see posts from me that they would never see on any other platform. It's basically just that's where I share my exclusive content and I get to be more personal with anyone who wants to get to know me better.

B-ru: You do a lot of educational content around Tourette's. Do you foresee that being your niche moving forward?

Rachel Chaleff: That will always be a part of my content. I very highly value education. I would always love to keep that as a part of what I do. I also greatly value helping others. I am working on expanding my content in terms of things more related to commerce and beauty, makeup. I have people always asking me about my outfits and my makeup and my hair, and I love it. I love that stuff. I like to have fun too. I am not just my disability and I want people to know that. I am a person in all those things. I'm working on expanding my content.

B-ru: Any cool projects you can talk about? You said you're getting into commerce more. Are you looking at making your own line of anything, any products or merch?

Rachel Chaleff: Yes. At the moment, I am currently working with Fanfix's parent company, SuperOrdinary, and I have posted myself onto TikTok Shop, which has been amazing. It's such a cool way for people to now buy whatever they want, typically for a cheaper price too. I've been really enjoying doing that. In the future, I would really love to have my own brand. I definitely see that as something that will come as time goes on.

B-ru: Working with TikTok Shop, are you putting products into your videos and doing affiliate marketing?

Rachel Chaleff: Yes. It is affiliate marketing. Basically, I get to choose the products that I love and trust and want to promote to my followers because I'm not a gatekeeper. I always want to know what influencers are using, what works for them. I also very strongly believe in authenticity, and I get to choose products that I want to promote, and that is so awesome. I love it.

B-ru: I've heard TikTok Shop payouts are insane for affiliate marketing. They're very high compared to other affiliate marketing methods.

Rachel Chaleff: For sure. Yes.

B-ru: How long have you been doing that?

Rachel Chaleff: I just started. I actually posted my first TikTok Shop video few days ago. I think it's the second video back on my account right now. I don't know. It was fun to make. I love doing that stuff that's more fun, beauty content, whatever. It's been going well, and I will be creating more in the very, very near future.

B-ru: Back to Fanfix, it seems like they're really working closely with you on a personal level.

Rachel Chaleff: Oh, for sure. Honestly, I am so grateful for everyone at the team at Fanfix. They have helped me out so much more than anyone else ever has. As much as I do want to give myself credit for being where I am, they have helped me out a lot getting further with my career. The team is very personable and everyone I've met is just so affable. I don't know. I love it all. I've been very happy since joining.

B-ru: The people who come to your page on Fanfix, do you feel like they have a deeper connection to you and your content outside of Fanfix as well? Do you think it really helps build that community affinity cross-platform?

Rachel Chaleff: Oh, for sure. For sure. People who are subscribed to my Fanfix definitely have a much closer connection to me than others do that just follow me on my regular social media platforms. Basically, they get to see more of me and my everyday life. I even started posting a little bit more vlog-style content on Fanfix. We get to chat, which is so much fun.

B-ru: Yes. It's interesting that you're doing vlog-style, using that platform for vlog-style. Normally we see people get started on TikTok and then they go to YouTube to do vlogs. It's interesting that Fanfix is working for you in terms of vlogging as well. Have you thought about trying streaming at all?

Rachel Chaleff: Yes, I would love to. Honestly, I would really love to try everything if I can in terms of all these different platforms like YouTube. I know people love Twitch. Then obviously I have TikTok and Instagram, but I want to get it all. I really would love to do that.

B-ru: What's been your favorite part of doing content?

Rachel Chaleff: My favorite part of all of this is, well, the community that I feel. I don't want to say that I've built, but the community that we have built as creators. I've never felt a sense of community in my entire life until joining social media. That's huge. I have people coming up to me in person telling me that they are so grateful for my content and either that they have a disability or their son or their daughter or their friend. They tell me how grateful they are for my content and killing the stigma and helping to educate others and how, even for them, it helped them open their eyes a little bit more. That to me, it's so beautiful and it is so important to me that I make a difference. I feel like I'm finally starting to achieve that. That means the entire world to me.

B-ru: Have you had community members reach out to you who also have Tourette's and are learning more about themselves, and maybe dealing with harassment or negative comments?

Rachel Chaleff: Yes. Actually, I have people ask me very often, “How do you handle this?” It's not easy and that's the truth. When I first started out, I was also quite young and I was dealing with a lot of harassment and judgment from others, and it used to affect me a lot. That's not to say it doesn't affect me now. I'm still a human being. I think the most important thing you can do is focus on the positive, focus on the change that you're making.

It's hard to ignore those negative comments, but I always try to assume the best of people. They just don't know what they're talking about. They're just ignorant. I always hope that one day, maybe if they see my content more often, if they're always interacting and hating, maybe if they see it more often, then they will finally start to become educated and have a change of heart. That's my ultimate goal. You always have to focus on the positives because you cannot let those people drag you down because then they're winning. You don't want to let them win. That's what they want.

B-ru: Yes, it is. You were very young to be handling everything that the internet has to throw at you. I'm interested in the fact that you directly address negative comments because I feel like there's a pervasive attitude of “just ignore them and they'll go away,” but the fact that you use it as educational moments is, I think, a really interesting part of your whole presence.

Rachel Chaleff: I think the reality of it is that they won't go away. There's always going to be someone who has something to say that's negative. I do think that, for the most part, for the sake of our own mental health, I think that we shouldn't always interact with these people and preserve our peace. If I realize that this is an opportunity to actually educate someone or others, even if they might not get it, someone else might. I take that. I take that and I handle it with kindness always, because I always believe that no matter how someone treats me, I will always stick to my morals and be a kind person and actually try to make a change.

B-ru: Perfect. I wanted to talk a little bit more about your Fanfix content, because some of it is risqué, and as someone who's also disabled, I know there can be a lot of stigma about how we can't be sexy. 

Rachel Chaleff: Oh gosh. All the time I have people telling me that I can't have Tourette's or even my autism because I look a certain way, and I cannot believe…The stigma is so ridiculous. I think all people are beautiful, of course, but I love even more to help other disabled people own the fact that we are so beautiful, we are not our disability. I love posting cute photos of myself and I think I'm even cuter on Fanfix. I want to share that. There's nothing wrong in having confidence in yourself and you shouldn't let anyone take that away from you just because they think you shouldn't have that.

I even think that a lot of people almost–and this is such an interesting thing–I think a lot of people actually fetishize the idea of me being so “pure” because they don't see me as other things. A lot of people, they become upset when they realize I'm a whole person who has a lot of different aspects to myself. We're all multifaceted and people forget that. Especially, that's another reason why I love Fanfix, because people get a deeper look at myself. On my social media platforms, they only see this one side of me. That's all they, for some reason, think of me, but I am all of these other things that people have no clue that I am. I love to share a whole different side of me on Fanfix.

B-ru: Is there anything else you want people to know about you? Anything else you want to talk about?

Rachel Chaleff: I don't know if there's anything else I want them to know about myself. I would love to add an extra note and just let people know that, no matter what others say about you, it's hard, but never, ever be afraid to be your most authentic self and put yourself out there because you will help someone else in the end. I feel like I didn't really have that a lot growing up. I love being able to be that person for others. I really hope that I also inspire others who live life differently from the average person, they love to say. I really hope that I'm able to inspire others to be their most authentic self, put themselves out there, and be proud, really be proud of who they are no matter what society wants to push on them.

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