On Monday evening, Skylar Krupa, 19, crossed the yard to his grandmother’s house in Thorhild, Alta., north of Edmonton.
His grandmother, Jenny Krupa, was sitting at a table in the kitchen scratching lottery tickets.
“Baba,” he called, using the Ukrainian name for grandmother, “We are going to make a video.”
Krupa was used to her grandson coming over almost daily to film videos for the TikTok account he created for her, called Its_J_Dog.
Teasing her grandson, she faked a fuss, before agreeing.
“Oh okay fine!” she said slapping her lottery tickets down, before laughing.
TikTok is a video-sharing app launched in 2017, but blew up in popularity over the last year. The app surpassed 1.5 billion downloads in November 2019, according to Sensor Tower, an app analytic site.
Krupa’s TikTok account, which her grandson created in August last year, has more than 774,000 followers and millions of likes. The videos either feature her following popular TikTok lip syncs and challenges, or portray her as a sassy grandmother with zero chill.
Her profile reads “I’m 88 and probably have more followers than you,” though Krupa maintains she’s only 87.
Lip syncs take the longest
TikTok videos are often 15 seconds to a minute long, but it takes Skylar Krupa between five to 30 minutes to create them. Lip syncs take the longest, he said.
“It’s very hard for her to say the words at the exact same time as the audio,” he said. “So what I do is, I’ll tell her the words at the same speed that the audio says it and I’ll get her to like say it with me and then I’ll sit there and I’ll go, ‘Okay, one, two, three, go!'”
Krupa films almost everyday except Tuesdays, as he noticed it’s the one day the videos never go viral.
Jenny Krupa is sometimes joined in the videos by her husband, Mike Krupa.
“He wants to be in it too. He pretends that he doesn’t but we know that he enjoys them,” she said.
Krupa has lived next door to his Gido, the Ukrainian nickname for grandfather, and Baba his entire life. Their houses share the same yard.
Krupa started filming his grandmother for Snapchat in 2013.
Last summer, he came across a compilation of what he calls “cringy” TikTok videos on Facebook and decided to create an account for his grandmother because the app, he said, was already saturated with teenagers.
“I just thought it would do well because it’s something different,” he said.
‘Decent amount of money’
At first the account was private and the videos he created were just for family and friends.
But at the end of August, he accidentally posted a video publicly and within a short span of time, it received thousands of likes. “I thought it was wild,” he remembers.
Seeing how popular his Baba’s videos were, he decided to keep the profile public and post content more frequently.
Although TikTok is not as lucrative as Instagram or YouTube, Krupa says he is still able to monetize the account.
“I could definitely see us making a decent amount of money a month off of this,” he said.
Companies or artists who want their content or songs to get more clout reach out to popular TikTok creators. One of them first reached out to Krupa in October, although from that video he only made $50.
Now Krupa has a set rate: $25 per 25K followers. So the more followers he has, the more money he earns.
At the beginning, he would only get requests twice a month but since the end of January, he receives two or three requests a day.
He is also trying to get more people to follow the Instagram account he created for his grandmother, called the_real_j_dog, because “that’s a better way of posting to make sponsored pictures or videos,” he said.
Although Jenny Krupa is now aware of how popular she is, during the first few months she didn’t seem to care, he grandson said.
“At first I would tell her like, ‘Oh, a video just got five million views’ and she’d be like, ‘Okay. I’m going to bingo now,'” he said.