Ask Charli D’Amelio about her meteoric rise to fame, and she’ll tell you it was all a lucky accident.
Almost overnight, the two sisters garnered millions of followers and became, at one point, two of the highest-paid and most influential content creators on the platform.
“I think every day it was kind of waking up and being a little bit confused and wondering, ‘But when’s it all going to stop?’” Charli says. “There was no way to understand what was happening at the time because it had never happened the way it did on TikTok. It was just a very weird time.”
But their success can’t be completely chalked up to chance. With a father who worked in brand marketing for the clothing industry and a mother who is a former model, one could say the two were primed for a brand-focused platform such as TikTok.
“I think this started from our childhood,” Dixie says. “The biggest thing our dad would say to us is protect your brand and how are you going to grow that?”
“The biggest thing our dad would say to us is protect your brand and how are you going to grow that?”
It was sage advice that helped turn Charli’s and Dixie’s videos into a multimillion-dollar business and helped them spin off their own brand company.
“I think even though we didn’t know we were going to start a brand company, from the beginning, we knew something more was going to come. My dad was just always really good at looking at the long term and setting us up for life instead of just, ‘Make as much money as you can with your 15 seconds of fame,’” Dixie says.
At the time of writing, Charli is the second-most followed TikTok creator with 151.2 million followers. In 2021, she made $17.5 million from sponsorships, according to Forbes. She was invited to compete on Dancing With the Stars, and Dunkin’ Donuts, her favorite coffee chain, named a drink after her.
“I think even though we didn’t know we were going to start a brand company, from the beginning, we knew something more was going to come,” Charli says.
“I think even though we didn’t know we were going to start a brand company, from the beginning, we knew something more was going to come.”
Meanwhile, Dixie, who has 22 million followers, has spun her TikTok fame into a pop music career, releasing her first two albums in 2020 and 2021. In 2021, she toured with the Jingle Ball concert alongside megastars such as Ed Sheeran.
Together, the sisters have worked with high-end fashion brands such as Prada, Puma, and Burberry; created a miniseries for Snap called Charli vs. Dixie; and launched a clothing brand, Social Tourist, in partnership with Hollister. Their combined earnings in 2021 were $27.5 million.
But that was just the beginning. That same year, the entire family debuted the first season of their reality show, The D’Amelio Show, on Hulu. The third season of the show premiered in September 2023.
More recently, the family has harnessed the girls’ success to launch their own branding company. D’Amelio Brands launched in 2022 with an initial seed round of $6 million. To date, the company has launched a line of women’s footwear, a skincare line, and a fan merchandise company.
They’ve also started their own VC company that focuses on minority- and women-owned businesses.
We sat down with the whole family to learn how they’ve done it all—and where they plan to go next.
The Power of Authenticity
Ask many successful content creators about their strategy, and they’ll lay out a detailed content calendar filled with posts that fit their audience profile and are scheduled for release at optimal viewing times.
For the D’Amelios, however, that was not the case. The plan was to have no plan—and according to them, that was one of the major contributors to their success.
“I think it was actually the lack of strategy that kind of intrigued people a little bit,” Charli says. “The fact that all of this happened so quickly. And, you know, there’s no guide; there’s no rule book; there’s no way to do or not to do this.”
Especially in the beginning, Charli and Dixie didn’t post consistently. Rather, they posted when inspiration struck them and didn’t force posts when they had nothing to post about.
By doing so, they created a more authentic feel to their content and began to build that much sought-after trust from their audience.
“I think our biggest thing is, especially now that we’ve been working on creating content for such a long time, we do it when we are fully ready to. That’s what we’re going to do. Because I feel like people can tell, and they get bored if you seem uninterested,” Dixie says.”People can tell, and they get bored if you seem uninterested.”
“People can tell, and they get bored if you seem uninterested.”
Most of their content, she admits, is made in the middle of the night, when she says they have the most energy and are feeling a little silly.
Charli, meanwhile, calls herself one of the least consistent creators on social media. She may not post for a while before inspiration strikes her, and then she posts several videos at once.
Doing it that way, she says, gives her the freedom to create without feeling forced, and it helps prevent burnout.
“It’s not going to come to you every single day at the same time,” she says. “When it’s time to make videos, you have to really move with yourself.”
Charli points out that it would have been impossible to have any kind of strategy, even if they wanted to. TikTok, after all, is still a new platform, and its users—who tend to skew younger—are hard to pin down.
The pair’s mother, Heidi D’Amelio, still isn’t quite certain how Charli and Dixie garnered so much appeal in the early days. With no content or growth strategy and having done no audience research, they both still managed to pull in millions of viewers a day.
“I remember Charli sat and ate a bowl of soup. It wasn’t even live. It was just for a TikTok video, and she was gaining a million followers a day. There was a trend,” Heidi says. “I don’t know how many of these same exact videos Dixie did where she’s just staring right in the camera. Didn’t do anything—a million followers a day.”
Resonating With Their Audience
Soon, major brands were courting Charli and Dixie, hoping the sisters would endorse their brands to their millions of followers.
Here, too, the sisters’ commitment to authenticity played a huge role in the brands they chose to work with—and the success of those endorsements.
“I’ve just noticed with my own people that support me … the best brand deals and the best products that I’ve pushed that have gotten the best feedback are the things that they see me using every day when it’s not ‘hashtag ad’ or they have seen me wear this for years,” Charli says.
She points out that her audience is very good at sniffing out a fake endorsement. In fact, she likes that about TikTok users because it pushes her and other creators to endorse only the products they can genuinely get behind.
“The audience on TikTok, they like authenticity, and I feel we’ve done a really good job promoting things that we like,” she says.
Launching Their Own Brands
There’s nearly nothing predictable about social media fame except the certainty that it won’t last forever. The family decided to leverage their celebrity and build a more lasting business by starting their own branding company. Just this year, the company launched D’Amelio Footwear.
“Everything was on the table—or a lot of things were on the table,” Marc says. “And it just so happened that someone we knew had a long history in designing women’s footwear. And I was a firm believer that we didn’t just want to slap our name on something or do it as a licensing deal—that we actually wanted to do that heavy lifting.”
While some brand companies might release multiple random products just to get out in the market, the D’Amelio family has been more deliberate in their choices. The products had to feel as authentic as the content that helped them build their brands.
“A following doesn’t always translate to sales,” Marc says. “Fans don’t always buy products. And I think what we’ve learned and what we’ve always known from the beginning is to create something that is high-quality and is a real brand.”
For Marc, footwear was a natural progression of the sisters’ online brands, something that fits well with not only Charli’s and Dixie’s followers but the followers Heidi was building, as well.
“A following doesn’t always translate to sales.”
The D’Amelios have learned that if they want full control of the success of their brand, they have to put in the work. That includes everything from owning their direct-to-consumer (DTC) initiatives to reaching out to retailers and attending trade shows.
Working with retailers rather than selling DTC gives them a more accurate picture of order quantity and helps them collect feedback on their inventory.
In the few months they have been on the market, D’Amelio Footwear has been featured across social media and in major fashion magazines. They have launched exclusive pop-up stores in select malls, as well.
But the real thrill has come from seeing their shoes on the street.
“I was walking in LA, and I saw someone wearing D’Amelio Footwear,” Dixie says. “Just seeing someone wearing something that we created as a family with our last name on it just brought me so much excitement and joy. I think that’s the coolest thing about doing the brands because you get to share your start-to-finish creative ideas.”