Calling all the Karens: Student reaches half a million TikTok followers


Rachel Rudisill

Junior Gillian Mains practices a Tiktok at Bradley Fair on Sept. 28. Currently, Mains account ‘lttlebean’ has over half a million followers.

Junior Gillian Mains is just like every other college student, except with 500k more TikTok followers.

She studies elementary education while dealing with nagging customers working a part-time job in customer service. These people are what Gen Z likes to call Karens and Kens. Mains decided to call them out as ‘lttlebean’, her username on TikTok.

After a long shift of dealing with up to four or five Karens a day, Mains would turn to her family and friends to vent. However, after she decided her friends and family members were tired of listening to her excessive vent sessions, she decided to turn her frustration to the social media platform TikTok.

Mains attended Kansas University for her freshman year before transferring to Wichita State. Like all colleges around the country, KU shut down at the height of COVID. Students, like Mains, were allowed to live on campus, but they were stuck in their dorm rooms. With all of the free time on her hands, Mains decided to spend that time figuring out what her angle would be as ‘lttlebean’.

“I tried doing transition videos, I quickly learned I can’t do those,” Mains said. “I’m very bad at that. Then, afterward, I was like, ‘Ok, well I could try dancing videos, I can dance.’ That was also a bad idea, I cannot dance.”

After more brainstorming, Mains decided she could incorporate her love of retail-related ranting onto TikTok by calling out all of the Kens and Karens she meets at her job. She began by calling out her first manager, she duped ‘Lauren.’

“Everybody was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I had a manager like that,’ so I got to see all these people commenting and telling me about their similar experiences,” Mains said. “I’m so glad that other people have those experiences, and it’s not just me. After that, I just kept posting story times. I’ve worked there for four or five years, so I just have stories upon stories upon stories.”

To ensure she keeps her job, Mains keeps where she works a secret. Even some of her closest friends do not know where she works. All of the names, food items and phone numbers, Mains explained, are completely made up; however, all of the scenarios are true.

“I just kept posting and all of a sudden, I had 10,000 followers,” Mains said.

Mains said she never expected to gain the following she has today. In two years, Mains accumulated 583.9k followers.

Mains posts her content about three to four days apart. Each of her videos are about three minutes long, but it can take up to an hour to record and edit the videos.

“The amount of times I’ll redo something just because I don’t like the way it sounds or I don’t like the way I said it is unreal,” Mains said. “Most of the time, I talk too much where I’ll over-explain my videos and I have to delete the clip because that makes no sense to anybody.”

With the amount of followers Mains has, hate comments are unavoidable. Even though some internet trolls may not like the content Mains produces, she does not let that break her spirit.

“I usually laugh at them,” Mains said. “I’m more just like a kind of kill ‘em with kindness kind of person.”

Frequently, Mains comments hearts on the hate comments and the user will delete their post. 

“I’m very careful about what I say and don’t day to make sure I don’t offend anyone,” Mains said. “The internet is a very temperamental thing, so you just have to be careful about what you say because it’s out there forever.”

Even though Mains has over half a million followers on TikTok, she lives sort of a Hannah Montana lifestyle.

“Having TikTok is a lot of fun, but you have to realize that it doesn’t really change your life that much,” Mains said. “It’s really cool and you meet a whole bunch of people, but at the end of the day everything stays the same. I wasn’t popular in high school. I was really nice and everybody knew who I was, but they weren’t super eager to talk to me. Having a following has not changed that. Even in college, you sit in your class and you’re like, half of these people don’t know who I am, and the other half don’t care who I am.”

After college, Mains is unsure if she will continue to make her Karen videos. She explained how she might evolve her page to post funny content about the funny things her students say, or if she works a part-time job over the summer, she might continue her Karen videos, but ‘lttlebean’ might retire, and Mains is fine with whatever decision she makes.

Mains said she has always known she wants to pursue education. She was the go-to person in her friend group for tutoring and extra help. If she needs to give up TikTok to pursue her dream, she’s willing to make that sacrifice. 

“At the end of the day,” Mains said, “fame and being popular on social media doesn’t change who you are as a person.”