Serena Shahidi, also known as @Glamdemon2004, has become one of the most recent victims of TikTok teens’ fervent cancellation of influencers. She’s since deleted the culprit TikTok, in which she critiqued women who derive their sense of self from their appearance: “Who cares? Spell ‘pharaoh.’ Tell me what the FTC does,” she challenged. Despite the controversy, most of her TikToks aren’t so far off base. Sure, she pretends to gag when her date tells her that he makes less than $400K a year, but it’s not pure classism—it’s partly because he voted for Trump despite not making enough to benefit from Trump’s tax plan.
Shahidi’s reign over TikTok, Twitter, and now Apple Podcasts is impressive, mostly because despite being “soft-cancelled” she still has an army of girls (“Glam Demonators”) hanging on to her every post. There’s even a Twitter account dedicated to explaining the political nuances of her tweets. For Lithium’s “Destroy” issue, I interviewed Serena about modern feminism, gendered dating dynamics, and regret. Take what she said with a grain of salt; she hadn’t taken her Adderall yet.
Lithium Magazine: Does it concern you that your TikTok audience is statistically more impressionable thanks to their age?
Serena Shahidi: A little bit. I don’t think my audience is as young and impressionable as a lot of people on TikTok are. I try to be somewhat intentional with what I post, and I don’t want to encourage mistakes that young women are prone to make. Luckily, I have an audience that’s kind of in on the joke—not an audience that takes everything I say very literally.
Lithium: Until you got canceled.
Shahidi: Yeah! When my videos reach a different crowd, when they get on Twitter, that is no longer the case. (Laughs.)
Lithium: How closely does your online persona align with your real-life personality and beliefs?
Shahidi: It lines up [better] with my beliefs of what young women should be seeing and what I think is funny within the context of TikTok and the times I am posting in. The last thing young women need is another goddamn self-deprecating female comic who is just talking about how fat she is and how much of a slut she is.
Lithium: If there’s one lesson you’d want to impart to young women, what would it be?
Shahidi: Never lower your standards, and never sacrifice your beliefs or who you are as a person for what’s popular or what people around you are doing. I think the real test of somebody’s strength as a person is: can they hold onto their belief in something when no one around them believes the same thing?
Lithium: You’ve received backlash for saying that men should pay on dates with women. Can you expand on why you feel that way?
Shahidi: In a relationship between a man and a woman, the man is already benefiting from it so much more than the woman. Even anecdotally, you can see what marriage does for men versus what it does for women. It is clearly more beneficial for men to be in a relationship. I think because of inequality, a man who cares about you and wants to date you should want to make the dating experience better for you, because he knows life in general is not going to be that kind to you. I know people like the idea of equality, but I think it’s so telling that their solution for equality is immediately that women need to spend more money on men.
Lithium: I think the idea behind women wanting to split a check is so that they don’t feel obligated to the man they’re on a date with.
Shahidi: If he feels entitled to anything from you because he paid for your $40 meal, that’s either a problem with him or a problem with you— that’s not a general dating thing.
Lithium: You’ve always joked about being “cancelled.” When it actually happened, did it go as you expected?
Shahidi: It was on par for the course. I joked on my podcast that everyone was texting me like I was on suicide watch. Sure, it sucks to see thousands of people dogpiling onto you, but people want to feel included in something, and they want to have a public internet victim of the day.
Lithium: How did that experience augment your view of cancel culture?
Shahidi: I guess it just confirmed my belief that things like that are inevitable, temporary, and meaningless. All the creators and friends that I really admire, who I know would call me out on my bullshit, told me that the video I was getting soft-cancelled for was not bad and not mean. That’s really what matters on the internet: what do the people that you really care about think?
Lithium: I also think I’d be more likely to support the cancellation of somebody based on their actions than their words.
Shahidi: I feel that way about apologies. I hate that the apology video is part of the influencer experience now. I honestly think the expectation should be either stand by what you said or shut the fuck up and donate money.
Lithium: Following your “cancellation,” do you expect to change anything about your online persona?
Shahidi: Nope. (Laughs.) I’ve always attempted to ride the line of satire and reality. I knew a lot of people would confuse that with my actual character, or they would think it’s completely satirical, neither of which is exactly what I had in mind. I don’t really care as long as they’re entertained, and I’m getting either money or attention out of it.
Lithium: Do you think being genuine is a strength or weakness in a person?
Shahidi: I think it’s a bit of a character flaw of mine that I usually regard as somewhat of a weakness. I acknowledge that that’s not a healthy thing to think, but I still think it on many levels. It’s important to be somewhat in between. Being genuine all the time and not being able to make a joke indicates a lack of intelligence and a lack of fun. You just don’t seem like a fun person—you’re not likable. But when you’re joking all the time, you unintentionally stir the pot, even though you’re just expecting to give everyone a good time.
Lithium: I somewhat define being genuine as having your guard down and the alternative being living in a persona. With those definitions, does your answer change?
Shahidi: I think having somewhat of a persona is important on the internet. I think it’s important to have a persona that’s separate from who you are as a person.
Lithium: I can see that, because if your validation is derived from the internet, and you’re being genuine on your platform, it’s more dangerous to your sense of self.
Shahidi: Yeah. Imagine me being flamed by thousands and thousands of people, and I’m being genuine… Like, I would have killed myself. It’s impossible to express the entirety of who you are as a person and what you believe on social media— that’s just not what it’s designed for.
Lithium: Do you think having that persona on the internet bleeds into your real life? Do you find yourself using it as a guard during moments when you feel uncomfortable?
Shahidi: I think we are all putting on personas even in real life, so I might as well be putting on a show. I’m definitely someone who is generally uncomfortable being genuine—commitment issues, I don’t like having serious conversations, et cetera et cetera. It’s definitely something I rely on, but I would rely on anything really because I hate being personal.
Lithium: Does your dating life reflect your TikTok takes on men’s income brackets?
Shahidi: I showed my friend a picture of a guy I was seeing recently, and he looked at it, looked at me, and said “I’m glad you practice what you preach.” I don’t want to encourage young women to date the way I date—I guess I kind of encourage it in many ways, but I don’t want to get too detailed in the toxicity and insider trading, so I don’t post everything. (Laughs.)
Lithium: How would you characterize your type?
Shahidi: I like guys who read a lot, and I like guys who are off of social media, partially because I’m on it so much. The internet can really shape someone, and I want to date someone whose opinions aren’t from the internet.
Lithium: How well do online creators and influencers, yourself included, straddle the line between accurately depicting their lives and performing for better content?
Shahidi: I think it’s always surprising the extent to which people perform for the internet, and I know it’s me saying that. I’m genuine in that I’m always trying to make myself laugh. I’m not trying to convince people that I am the richest person, with the tiniest little 8-inch waist. I feel like every time I’ve gotten a grasp on how much people care about their social media presence, how much they change things to appeal to people on social media, I hear some other shit or I learn about something new my friend does to look cool online.
Lithium: Do you have any regrets?
Shahidi: No. I care more about being entertaining, doing something for the girlies, than I care about the opinions of random people on the internet. That’s always going to be my value, and that’s not going to change, so I might as well keep fucking up.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
By Aashna Agarwal