Nic Kaufmann has endured a searing ascent through the ranks of social media influencers, now residing as one of the most adored and eagerly watched content creators out there. Known for his innovative style that pushes the boundaries of what’s expected from TikTok stars, Nic has been a breath of fresh air since he burst onto the scene in 2019.
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Photography: Anthony Giovanni
Fashion: Edwin J Ortega
Grooming: Elie Maalouf
Cinematography: Sasha Rodionov
Production Assistant: Andrew Barrios
Words: Jake Wright
Nic Kaufmann has endured a searing ascent through the ranks of social media influencers, now residing as one of the most adored and eagerly watched content creators out there. Known for his innovative style that pushes the boundaries of what’s expected from TikTok stars, Nic has been a breath of fresh air since he burst onto the scene in 2019. On the day of our chat, he’s fighting a grueling case of jetlag, after flying back to Munich the night before, bringing to close a lengthy stint in LA. His trip saw the influencer venture to Coachella, whilst he rented a house in Bel Air with ten other creators, bringing further depth and variety to his output. But he’s certainly not limited to the realms of making videos, on Instagram he’s also known for his ability to question gender norms through his outfit choices, and ultimately his love for the essence of style has seen him work with luxury staple heads: Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Prada.
Nic has had quite a unique journey to where he is today. Growing up in Singapore with German and Indian parents, he didn’t exactly have a conventional upbringing. The southeast Asian country is known for its multi-cultural society, where multi-racialism is enshrined within the national constitution. Every citizen is equal, and therefore they enjoy some of the highest standards of living in the world - with GDP per person at a world-leading level, alongside life expectancy. However, for a teenager, it might appear as an idyllic place to find yourself, but such a place can have an element of shelter around it, which perhaps doesn’t reflect the reality of the world outside. “It's very safe, very clean. But at the same time, I feel it's like a little bit of a bubble because it's too safe, too clean, and too perfect.” He proclaims, “So you sometimes don't make the experience that you should be making as a teenager. Like experiences that make you street smart or, more aware of who you are. I had a big culture shock when I started traveling as a teenager to other countries and realizing how different life was there.”
However, his time in Singapore certainly had a personal impact and it helped mold Nic into the gracious and kind person he is today. When manners are ingrained into you throughout education, it becomes second nature, and from the moment we started talking, the influencer struck me as one of the most courteous individuals I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. He’s self-aware, observant, and knowledgeable of the areas in which he excels, and also where he could improve. All the while though he magnifies the importance of people you encounter in life and how being kind is the least you can do. “I had a lot of influence from a lot of different cultures throughout my childhood. There is also a very random mix of countries.” The influencer states, “But I feel like it made me more international and more open-minded to other cultures, other countries, and especially more tolerant to other people in general.”
The influencer decided to move to Germany when he finished high school at 17. Given his German heritage, it only made sense to make the most of their free university educational initiatives. At the time, Nic had no idea what he wanted to do as a career, he just knew subjects that he was really interested in. A self-titled ‘Shy’ and ‘Introverted’ kid, who loved to play video games, he was instantly drawn to computer science – on paper, not the most creative course in the world. However, learning the ins and outs of that world would eventually pay dividends as a content creator. “I was building robots. I was on a robotics team. I did all my high school or high school projects about robotics.” He explains, “So based on that, the obvious choice for me was to study computer science. I loved coding. I loved just being on computers in general, logic sequences and everything.”
Studying computer science gave Nic a totally different outlook on social media and the manner of content people respond to. What a lot of aspiring Influencers don’t tend to realize is that platforms like Instagram and TikTok are built to push certain content to the forefront and therefore a lot of videos get lost in the rather overflowing field. Nic however got a firsthand insight into this area, and it’s been something he’s been keen to harness within his material. However, with so much knowledge of social media’s algorithm, comes some conflicting thoughts, as the content you’re drawn to making, isn’t always the content you’d like to create. “I view things very logically and rationally and from an algorithmic standpoint. I learned a lot about how algorithms work, how social media platforms work.” Nic proclaims, “Which definitely is helpful, but at the same time, it sometimes isn't because the way that TikTok algorithm works is, it's very repetitive. It sometimes leads you into just posting the same content over and over just because the algorithm prefers it. You have to be careful with using the algorithm.”
However, Nic has been keen to avoid that trap of stifled creativity, instead maintaining his own personality and personal touch on each video. Even though the artist instinctively knows that in so doing, certain videos will be less successful. In a perfect world, these platforms wouldn’t be built in this manner, because it puts people in uncomfortable territory. Perhaps it’s the downside of knowing too much but also in Nic’s case – given his success in exploiting the algorithm – it’s a case of don’t bite the hand that feeds you. “I've always been very creative. I've always had a mindset that at the same time, I should be posting videos that the algorithm favors but I also want it to be my account.” He describes, “I find it very fun to make cool content. So, I will always post videos that I think are cool, regardless of whether I think they will do good or not with the algorithm. So, I've always just had like two sides of it, basically; my own content, which I've always been very creative with, and then that content, which was meant to grow the account.” But in the wider community, many creators suffer mentally from the strain and pressure of feeding an algorithm and creating content that you just don’t want to do. What is widely seen as a dream job is seeing a spiraling negative effect on those trying to make it.
Entertaining hundreds of thousands of viewers daily doesn’t come easy nor does it necessarily come naturally to many, so I wondered if Nic always had ambitions of being in such a position. Well, like many teenage guys, he aspired to be a gaming content creator early on, but at the time he lacked the skills necessary to make those videos visually enticing. Therefore, he clearly wanted to share content with others, but it was the moment he learnt more about the kind of career that would be expected in the world of computer science that made him look outside the box. Ultimately, he wanted to be in a line of work where he wasn’t restricted and could ultimately be his true self and be happy within that space. “I always had a big issue with working for a large corporate brand, especially once I started studying computer science. Like in the computer science world, you end up being a code monkey for some huge corporation.” Nic proclaims, “The thought of that just seemed so dystopian and sad. I really tried everything to get out of that. Entertainment is definitely like a place where I feel much more comfortable and where I feel like I can properly express myself and be the person I want to be.”
However, he never imagined that it would spiral quite in the manner that it has. Initially, Nic started posting funny videos privately on TikTok as a joke, but out of nowhere one public video soon went viral and racked up over 50 thousand views. A couple of weeks later, that number was blown away by a separate piece of content that surpassed 600 thousand. It was a rather insane and totally surreal achievement quite so early on and proved that his content had an eager audience out there. It gave Nic a sense of belief that there’s a sense of longevity to this potential career and an area in which he could flourish. “600,000 views at the time was really crazy. Now three years later it's become pretty normal.” The content creator explains, “I jokingly said to my friends ‘Watch this I'm going to blow up on Tik Tok and drop out of university.’ And I never actually expected it to happen. I just would say it as a joke because at the time a lot of teenagers were trying to make the term ‘TikTok famous.’ I didn't finish my university degree. But when I finally dropped out, I was actually very surprised at how quickly things developed.”
University was a polarizing experience for Nic. There was a language barrier - with German being a second language - a lack of social life, as he’d just moved to Munich and the vast difference in which you’re taught as a student compared with Singapore, each proving to the influencer that it wasn’t worth persevering. When the pandemic struck, he moved back to Asia, which proved to be a convincing factor in dropping out. But it was in the post-pandemic world where his content really began to prosper. Once the world re-opened, Nic was able to create content alongside friends that supported his vision.
To achieve such popularity alone is incredibly challenging, and with his post-pandemic creative community, there was an air of freshness to Nic’s content and a space in which he could truly utilize his knowledge of the algorithm. This was something that was evident across his socials throughout the month of April, when he ventured to LA with German internet sensations, the Elevator Boys. For those unaware of the guy group, they consist of five influencers – Bene Schulz, Jacob Brutt, Julien Brown, Luis Freitag, and Tim Schaeker. Much like Nic, they’ve blown up in recent years and despite being close friends, he hadn’t seen them in quite some time. A rare coincidence saw their calendars align and thus, the perfect chance to create nonstop content for close to two weeks. “I've been really close friends with them. I've basically seen them blow up and get famous. Now they're on late-night shows and on magazine covers.” Nic states, “So, we were all in LA at the same time for Coachella. And I asked them like, hey, if we would all get an Airbnb together, we could get a really, really nice one. So, then the 11 of us or 10 of us split a really big Airbnb in Bel Air. It was only possible because the cost of it was split over like 10 content creators, otherwise, that place would have been way too expensive.”
During his time on the West Coast, he had the opportunity to go to Coachella for a mix of work and pleasure. For Nic, his expectations were high, and his time there didn’t let him down, as he proclaims: “I had an amazing Coachella experience. I met so many wonderful people. I saw so many great sets. And it was good to finally put an experience to the reputation.” The influencer cited the headline set of The Weeknd x Swedish House Mafia as the standout highlight, particularly how the vocalist’s songs were remixed into a whole new dance space. However, the festival at times left him feeling conflicted, especially when compared to his experiences on the other side of the Atlantic at Tomorrowland, where it felt like everyone was there for the music and to let themselves go. “I had this issue at Coachella that I found that the crowd sometimes wasn't too energetic.” Nic explains, “Like, I'm from Europe and in Europe, we like parties, we party hard. So, I was always there in the crowds, I was like screaming the songs at the top of my lungs with other artists. And everyone was just filming. And that always disappoints me.”
The time Nic spent in LA offered him an insight into the city's unique lifestyle and made him ponder over living there in the future. Although, compared to his home in Munich, the differences were massive. Referring to the southern city in Germany as a smaller version of London, except cleaner and more punctual, LA then, with its 12 million residents – ten times as many as Munich – perhaps offered a bit of a culture shock. From the inability to walk anywhere, to the nightmare traffic, LA and Nic weren’t a match made in heaven, but then again, for content creators, it’s a city that offers endless possibilities, so never say never. “There's a lot of opportunities. And there's a lot of cool people too, because the whole social media industry ends up there.” Nic states, “At the same time. That's also a bad thing. Because there are a lot of very weird people in LA. And sometimes I felt my most uncomfortable. The city is very slow and different from European cities, where everything is close by and fast. So, it's definitely a very big lifestyle change. I couldn't see myself living there. But I definitely think it's a very unique place.”
What I noticed when speaking with Nic, was just how self-aware he was, particularly when it came to avoiding situations where he isn’t comfortable or where he couldn’t succeed. It’s a great quality to have and one that’s seen him effortlessly move between creative worlds, excelling in the fashion world as well as content creating. It was when Nic was in his late teens that his passion for style came to the foray. Although it was brought to light in rather unique circumstances. The influencer grew up with his mother, as his parents were divorced, and given the circumstances, Nic had to turn to the internet to learn how to do essential tasks that many young men face. It was within that deep dive that a whole new world appeared and he was instantly hooked. “I learned how to shave, I didn't know how to tie a tie, it was all from YouTube.” He explains, “There's this whole niche of content creators on YouTube that made content for young guys on how to dress like this. I learned a lot from them in the beginning and they got me into fashion. Then I realized there was a whole different side of fashion which was like really crazy with unique pieces that are very expensive from the huge designers.”
Then a broke student, Nic could only admire such luxury brands from afar, but his life quickly changed when he met German fashion influencer Caroline Daur. The two connected through his agency and she offered him a firsthand glimpse into the world of luxury fashion by assisting him with access to the Hugo Boss fashion show in 2020. Prior to then, he’d purely worked in e-commerce, but the experience was a gripping one and it was a world he wanted to throw himself into. Since then, he’s gone on to work with Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Prada, which is an eye-watering array of brands to have on your portfolio. Now as a content creator, fashion has become an integral part of his day-to-day life and all you have to do is take a glimpse at his Instagram to see just how important style is to Nic. In no uncertain terms, working so naturally within the industry is a dream come true. “I haven't really gotten over the shock of it yet. It's very surreal, the experiences have been very unique.” Nic proclaims, “I'm incredibly thankful because these really aren’t the experiences a normal 20- or 21-year-old was making, and I as a computer science student three years ago, could never have imagined myself in this position now. I met Kim Jones in December in London, at the Dior Show, I shook his hand, I was starstruck. I was like, ‘What is going on? Like, how has my life turned into this?’”
The further Nic has delved into the fashion world the more he’s embraced who he is and the style that makes him feel most comfortable. In the process, the influencer has continuously blurred the lines of gender identity and rebels against the age-old expectations of men. Whether it’s by wearing a skirt in public or modifying a dress for a Hugo x Russel Athletic collaborative show, Nic portrays a message of freedom to his fans. It’s brave, but it’s also powerful and such confidence has come from years spent in the public eye and consequently no longer caring what people think. It’s a position that many infamous musicians have held in the past, including the likes of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, two figures Nic highlights as key inspirations in his life. “There’re so many expectations of men that I feel are so unnecessary. I feel like a lot of it puts a lot of pressure, especially on young men, to act a certain way. So, I tried to publicly show my indifference to these societal norms, as a way to motivate or inspire other young guys to just feel more comfortable in whatever they like, and their preferences.” He explains, “There are a lot of guys who wouldn't feel comfortable wearing a skirt or a crop top and just feel pressured into not doing what they really want to do by society. And I feel like that can have a very negative impact on someone's life and their mental health.”
However, in projecting such an image, people have started to make assumptions about Nic’s sexuality. For some reason, as humans, we just have to label people, we can’t ever just let them be happy in their own lane. He’s been called bisexual, homosexual, and asexual whilst rumors have spread about secret relationships between his fellow content creators. Initially, rather instinctively, he felt compelled to correct people, but that can be a tiring thing to do for someone with such a large following. Sadly, it shows the worst side of the internet and social media where people can so easily make such unsupported claims, and if enough people see it, such a label sticks. His approach now to such trolls shows how he’s matured over the years, whilst also showing a headstrong attitude to who he is, and he won’t change for anybody. “I'm a straight heterosexual guy. I don't want people to think when I wear a skirt, that it's just because of a sexuality thing or something like that. Just wear whatever you want, be comfortable wherever you are.” Nic states, “I'm completely fine with assumptions about my sexuality or whatever because, at the same time, I completely understand where it's coming from. I don't like to hide my sexuality, but at the same time, you can't correct everyone on the internet. People will always try to convince themselves or convince others that ‘you're still in the closet’ and you still ‘haven't come out yet.’”
Without a doubt, Nic’s ascent to where he is today has come through his loveable persona, who hones an intelligent mind that knows a great deal about social media’s algorithm, and perhaps above all, an incredible work ethic. When all those traits come together, it’s a recipe for success, but by no means has this happened overnight. Nic’s certainly aware of that and he’s incredibly humble and appreciative of the position he’s in today, although he’s certainly still hard on himself daily, as he explains: “I'm the kind of person who always feels like they're not doing enough or haven't done enough. When I take a day off, I feel bad about it. I want to keep living the life that I'm living, keep making these experiences, and the only way to do it is to keep working hard.” Such an approach will see him continue his ascent through the social media world. What I found most endearing was the approach he takes to the content he makes and the image he projects. Everything is done to have a positive impact, from his hilarious TikTok videos to his open-minded approach to fashion, the message is always there to be yourself - and why shouldn’t we?