In the spring of 2019, Alicia McCarvell lost her job.
On the brink of turning 30, she found herself spending a lot of time on TikTok — a social media video app created by Chinese company ByteDance, which the U.S. president has been threatening to ban over national security concerns.
McCarvell spent hours scrolling through an endless timeline of short videos before she decided to make her own.
The third video she made went viral, with millions of views in a number of days. She woke up one morning with 54,000 new followers.
"I was like, oh, now I have to be funny. I have to think of other things for me to create," she said. "Right away, I was like, 'OK, let's do something with this.'"
Now, the Halifax woman shares her humour, messages of body positivity and snippets from her "crazy life" to 1.1 million people on TikTok.
"It's overwhelming to think that in a year this is what I've been able to create and the people I've helped along the way. So it's a big deal," she said.
McCarvell's videos can include anything from highlights of her day, workout routines, dancing in her office and day trips around Nova Scotia — but there is almost always an element of humour.
She said she wants her videos to give people a break "from whatever it is that they're going through."
"I want anybody from anywhere in the world to come onto my page and laugh and feel like they can relate and that they've got someone else in the world who's going through very similar things as they are," she said.
The videos often feature appearances and smirking eye-rolls from her husband, Scott McCarvell, who she said took a while to get onboard and required "a lot of bribery" to be in the videos at first.
"But she gets me in a lot of them now," her husband said, chuckling. "I actually don't even have the app."
While McCarvell said she's made some close friends through the app and loves interacting with her followers, the fame also comes with an onslaught of hateful comments, often directed toward McCarvell's physical appearance and her relationship with her husband.
"He's extremely physically fit and I'm a plus-sized woman. So it's not what you would normally see and we get a lot about that," she said.
"But I'm very confident in myself, my relationship and who I am."
Many of her videos also respond to the negative comments she receives online, which McCarvell said is important to set an example for younger women on the app who may take the criticism more personally.
"The shape of our bodies is just one part of who we are and I think that's what a lot of women struggle with. Whether it be your size, being too thin, being too large, having cellulite, having thicker thighs," she said. "We put so much power in the words of strangers."
McCarvell said after losing her job, she coached herself to write something that she loved about herself in a journal each night, which she said built up her confidence and allowed her to see that there is more to her than just her physical appearance.
"So many things got better because I was focusing on the good parts of myself than on the things I felt were negative."
McCarvell said her followers are mostly women, anywhere from teenagers to women in their 60s, and that she hopes people will learn from her experience when it comes to gaining confidence.
"If someone else can listen to my deeper side of my TikTok and start to change their inner dialogue a little bit, that's what's the most addictive part for me." she said.
McCarvell said hitting 1 million followers earlier this month was an emotional moment. She and her husband livestreamed as it happened and McCarvell said she was "just bawling."
But she said no one on the app knows where she's from and when people see her around Halifax, they often tell her they had no idea she's based in Nova Scotia.
"So it's kind of cool in that way to put my province and my city on the map," she said.
"Being able to walk through my community now and have people stop to talk to me or take pictures, I feel like such a dork, but I thoroughly enjoy it every single time."
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