How TikTok turned a Georgia teen into a model

Hannah Schlenker's ad for the Aerie Crossover Leggings. Submitted photo. She holds an ice cream cone.
Hannah Schlenker’s ad for the Aerie Crossover Leggings. Submitted photo.

Morgan Westemeier
Oxford Stories

SOUTHERN STORIES – In the last couple of years, the social media app TikTok has grown exponentially, and some have created successful careers by using it.

Hannah Schlenker, 19, is a model for the company Aerie, who launched her modeling career by making a short TikTok to Justin Bieber’s song “Drummer Boy” in November 2020 while wearing the Aerie crossover leggings.

“I have no idea what happened,” said Schlenker. “I was just messing around, and the next thing I knew, I was famous. I had some videos get a lot of views before, but never that much.”

Schlenker grew up in Georgia and attended Mill Creek High School. She was on the cheer team and enjoyed spending time with friends in her free time. She said growing up with only her mom and sister was challenging. Her twin, Hope, also has a high TikTok following.

“I wouldn’t say I never wanted to be a model,” she said. “I just never thought of it before. I didn’t think it was possible for me.”

Hannah Schlenker, 19, is a model for the company Aerie. Submitted photo.She has purple hair in the photo.
Hannah Schlenker, 19, is a model for the company Aerie. Submitted photo.

Schlenker thinks it’s funny that one of her videos blew up. She was just trying to get in the Christmas spirit while waiting for dinner.

“It was almost Christmastime,” she said, “and I was trying to get in the mood. ‘Drummer Boy’ was a popular song on the app at the time, and I loved it when I was a kid.”

Today, Schlenker has 864.2k followers on the app, and the video has 7.9 million views. She said when she first posted the video, she almost deleted it until she saw her views growing at an insane rate. She said it was because of how slim her waist looked while wearing the Aerie leggings. Within hours after the TikTok was posted, the leggings were sold out in almost every color and size on the Aerie website.

“Y’all, these leggings are a lifesaver,” she said. “They make your waist look 1,000 [times] smaller. Promise my waist doesn’t look like that without the lines facing in,” she commented under her TikTok when she saw people write that they were buying them.

Schlenker’s TikTok fame came when the COVID-19 virus was starting to become a serious topic throughout the world. During this time, especially when quarantine started, she said she made a lot of silly TikToks.

“Quarantine was very hard for me,” she said. “I am an extrovert and thrive in social situations, so I was going crazy. Making silly TikToks was just a way to communicate with my friends and something to spend my time on.”

After her TikTok caused the leggings to become popular, Aerie reached out to Schlenker for a partnership.

Hannah Schlenker, 18, is a model for the company Aerie. Submitted photo. She is standing in a yellow field with her arms out.
Hannah Schlenker is a model for the company Aerie. Submitted photo.

“I literally could not believe it,” Schlenker said. “When I saw their comment and DM, I thought I was being pranked.”

Schlenker now attends Kennesaw State College in Georgia and is a fashion marketing major. She works with Aerie as a model, designer and helps market their clothing. She loves getting involved in the company’s branding.

“Honestly, I was so embarrassed when I first saw myself on the store wall,” she said. “I had never seen such a big picture of myself. My friends always send me pics of myself when they see me in the store.”

Mia Dyn, a close friend of Schlenker and University of Mississippi student, said she was also influenced to purchase the leggings.

“When I first saw her TikTok, I bought the leggings right away because they were only like $30,” she said. “A couple of months later, I went in, and she was on the wall, and the leggings were almost twice the price.”

Maddy Lohman, a longtime family friend of Schlenker, is happy for her success.

“Hannah has always been the life of the party,” she said, “and not to mention, an amazing friend to me. I could not be happier for her.”

At the time of this interview, Schlenker was looking forward to traveling to Miami for a spring pool party event held by Aerie where she would promote the brand. All proceeds from the event will go to a Miami-based nonprofit called Style Saves, she said.

“I love that I don’t just make TikToks and pose for photos,” she said. “Aerie has given me opportunities of a lifetime that actually makes a positive impact on the world.”

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