If this were the beginning of one of those Hollywood interviews that Emily Uribe riffs on daily on TikTok to hundreds of thousands of viewers — always starring herself, with an affectionate hyper-precision just this side of parody — this is how that might start:
Long before her breakout, Uribe, the 21-year-old star of such videos as "me pretending I'm being shady on a red carpet to a co-star who trashed her time on our show" and "me pretending I'm a musical guest on an SNL season finale doing promos," was just a middle school student in Salinas, California, who wanted a bunch of backup dancers for her talent show performance of Victoria Justice's "Freak the Freak Out."
"I was always a show off as a kid," Uribe says now.
"I wanted to be seen, is one of the things I wanted to feel when I was young. And now I'm getting to do it on a much bigger scale," she says, "and I'm so, so happy."
That is what Uribe-the-actress would say — and it's also what Uribe from real life tells PEOPLE about her own blossoming career as a performer.
In reality, there are two Emily Uribes: The version on TikTok, who has nearly a million followers amassed thanks to a string of viral videos recreating all kinds of specific celebrity/media interactions … and then there's the Uribe who created her.
The second Uribe, the real one, is a college student living in Salinas, her hometown. She hasn't even been on TikTok for two full years. But she came to the platform with a lifetime of love for the very things to make her successful there. "I loved taking pictures as a kid, I loved being in front of the camera," she says. And she's a fan — not just of the Marvel movies and One Direction and Dua Lipa and Florence Pugh but of the whole tangled web of media appearances they all make.
Uribe says she grew up watching Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon, Despierta América and El Gordo y la Flaca. She didn't realize it, but already she was taking notes. ("I would just watch these celebrities when I was younger, like, 'Huh' … The way they talk is really interesting.")
Courtesy Emily Uribe Emily Uribe
This, then, may be considered her origin story: In the spring, Uribe was in the break room at her day job in retail feeling a little burned out on her TikTok in general. The account she had started in March of 2020, in the early days of the pandemic shutdown that sent her home, "wasn't making me happy anymore or making me fulfilled," she says. She first got popular posting a lot of fandom content as an "update account" for One Direction, sharing sometimes minute-by-minute posts about the band's latest news or sightings.
That day in the break room, Uribe saw someone else post a "POV" video (shorthand for skit-like shorts) and she remembers thinking "[that] looks really fun."
She made just one — a 20-second video where she pretends to be an actress at a press junket — and then she was surprised at its success. So she kept going.
"I said, 'You know what, I could pivot.' "
Some seven months and 100-plus videos later — and with 720,000 followers and counting — that's what she did.
"It's been very positive, which I'm grateful for," Uribe says, though she adds that she doesn't care about the numbers. "I just want the people who react to them to enjoy them."
The videos are very specific, with setups like Uribe being asked about her character's styling as she eats a wing on Hot Ones — or she's on a Zoom interview with a costar who just spoiled a major part of their upcoming movie.
The niche-ness makes it all the more charming to reporters at entertainment magazines like this one, but plenty of other users have been hooked. That faux-Zoom POV, for example, has nearly 4 million views while the Hot Ones video is just behind at 3 million.
Really is it that surprising? Uribe asks. People tell her in the comments: I like to pretend I'm hosting a podcast when I'm in the car or I like to pretend I'm being interviewed. Maybe it's a bit of the same feeling that gets meme'd as "main character energy." Everyone gets a turn as a star.
TikTok is a perfect space for this, the way it can make mainstream anyone's passion for anything as long as it can also be made into a bite-sized video.
Uribe, a former psychology major, understands all that: She's a student of the form — the tics and tricks celebs pick up in their media training; the familiar twists and turns of a late-night interview and that very particular Graham Norton thing where he mixes a whole "Brady Bunch" of different personalities together for each episode. Or how, say, Ellen DeGeneres loves to scare her guests.
Uribe keeps up with it all, including the "Gossip Girl of 2021" — DeuxMoi, which posts all kinds of anonymous (and unconfirmed) showbiz tidbits on Instagram.
"It still feels like I'm still a fan and I am such a fan girl of so many actors and so many people in Hollywood that when I watch them I'm back to being 13 years old, freaking out and geeking out," Uribe says.
She says her videos come from that same place of passion: They're mostly improvised from various rooms of her house, accessorized with props or other flourishes as needed. (She'll upload three or four daily, if she's in the mood.)
What TikTok has really taught her, Uribe says, is how to better see the road to an acting career, which she calls "the end goal of all this."
It "is a really great gateway to everything," she says. "You're able to network, you're able to get really great info."
"I always knew I wanted to act but I didn't know where to exactly start," Uribe says, sounding just like the celebrities she's always watched. "And now that I'm on TikTok, I've gotten a better understanding of where to start."
(As an aside, she says, her parents, both Mexican immigrants, aren't totally sure what to make of her social media success or her future plans while Uribe studies entertainment and media at California State University, Northridge. Her mom wonders how to explain it: "She says, 'I'm just going to say you're going into production.' ")
But Uribe doesn't just want to stop with acting. She'd like to star in a whole range of projects. She'd like to produce.
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She's on her way. She'll be shooting a pilot next summer in Atlanta, she says, and recently was offered what she calls a "dream journal" opportunity about which she can't yet say more.
"Once I start working, I really don't want to stop," she says.
She's making headlines. One day, who knows.
"I used to dream of going to Comic-Con as a kid, and I'm really hoping that when I go to Comic-Con for the first time ever it'll be to present something that I'm in."