ThreeSixty Journalism: How a TikTok creator uses her platform for comedy, social change

5September 2020

Kat Curtis’ more than 1.5 million TikTok followers are certainly familiar with her weird food combos (most recently Ramen and Sour Patch Kids), her one-eared cat, Uno, and her often repeated phrase, “It’s underfilled!”

What started out as a made-up word used to describe the lack of product in chip bags soon became Curtis’ catchphrase, and she began to apply the word to more serious issues, such as the treatment of people with disabilities.

“The way people treat disabled people is underfilled,” Curtis said in a TikTok conversation with her friend Toby, who has cerebral palsy. The two discussed the unfair stigmas faced by people with disabilities and Toby’s feelings regarding the issue.

For Curtis, making people laugh has always been a passion. She started her career in journalism, then quickly shifted into digital media. When TikTok first appeared on her radar, she saw an opportunity to further pursue comedy.

TikTok’s main demographic is Gen Z — defined as people born between 1995 and 2010. According to Statista, 37% of the app’s United States users are between ages 10 and 19. Curtis’ most responsive audience skews even younger.

“The ones that are literally trying to call me on Snapchat right now are like 9 to 12,” Curtis remarked.

Recently, Curtis has been creating more serious TikTok videos about the circumstances affecting her audience. For example, she documented herself getting tested for COVID-19 (twice). She wanted to destigmatize the process.

“I didn’t want people to be scared,” she said.

Curtis also attended Black Lives Matter protests in her Los Angeles neighborhood.

“It’s the right thing to do. It’s documenting history,” she said about posting footage from the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody. She also posted a video with a piece of paper taped to her wall that said, “The way we treat Black people is underfilled,” the same text that is currently in her TikTok bio.

Curtis said she finds content creation fulfilling, but she also feels the weight of responsibility that accompanies such a large platform.

“You feel like a viral junkie,” she said. “And I think you have to fight that and remember the reason you’re there in the first place.”

Using humor and accessible language such as “underfilled,” Curtis has been able to present serious information in a way that is easily digestible to her young fans, as well as her usual funny and funky content.

“I know I provide something that doesn’t scare 9-year-olds but can also be informative,” she said. “I have the flexibility to give a gentler voice.”

Curtis’ Instagram stories are filled with animated renditions of her created by fans. Archived videos show her enthusiastically meeting grinning supporters, shouting at the camera, “These people are not underfilled!”

It’s clear she has a passion and knack for creating content that spreads positivity and joy to a younger generation.

You can follow Curtis on TikTok and Instagram at @thekatcurtis.

ThreeSixty Journalism

ThreeSixty Journalism is leading the way in developing multicultural storytellers in the media arts industry. The program is a loudspeaker for underheard voices, where highly motivated high school students discover the power of voice and develop their own within ThreeSixty’s immersive college success programming. Launched in 1971 as an Urban Journalism Workshop chapter, since 2001 the program has been part of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas. To learn more about ThreeSixty Journalism, visit threesixty.stthomas.edu.

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5September 2020

Kat Curtis’ more than 1.5 million TikTok followers are certainly familiar with her weird food combos (most recently Ramen and Sour Patch Kids), her one-eared cat, Uno, and her often repeated phrase, “It’s underfilled!”

What started out as a made-up word used to describe the lack of product in chip bags soon became Curtis’ catchphrase, and she began to apply the word to more serious issues, such as the treatment of people with disabilities.

“The way people treat disabled people is underfilled,” Curtis said in a TikTok conversation with her friend Toby, who has cerebral palsy. The two discussed the unfair stigmas faced by people with disabilities and Toby’s feelings regarding the issue.

For Curtis, making people laugh has always been a passion. She started her career in journalism, then quickly shifted into digital media. When TikTok first appeared on her radar, she saw an opportunity to further pursue comedy.

TikTok’s main demographic is Gen Z — defined as people born between 1995 and 2010. According to Statista, 37% of the app’s United States users are between ages 10 and 19. Curtis’ most responsive audience skews even younger.

“The ones that are literally trying to call me on Snapchat right now are like 9 to 12,” Curtis remarked.

Recently, Curtis has been creating more serious TikTok videos about the circumstances affecting her audience. For example, she documented herself getting tested for COVID-19 (twice). She wanted to destigmatize the process.

“I didn’t want people to be scared,” she said.

Curtis also attended Black Lives Matter protests in her Los Angeles neighborhood.

“It’s the right thing to do. It’s documenting history,” she said about posting footage from the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody. She also posted a video with a piece of paper taped to her wall that said, “The way we treat Black people is underfilled,” the same text that is currently in her TikTok bio.

Curtis said she finds content creation fulfilling, but she also feels the weight of responsibility that accompanies such a large platform.

“You feel like a viral junkie,” she said. “And I think you have to fight that and remember the reason you’re there in the first place.”

Using humor and accessible language such as “underfilled,” Curtis has been able to present serious information in a way that is easily digestible to her young fans, as well as her usual funny and funky content.

“I know I provide something that doesn’t scare 9-year-olds but can also be informative,” she said. “I have the flexibility to give a gentler voice.”

Curtis’ Instagram stories are filled with animated renditions of her created by fans. Archived videos show her enthusiastically meeting grinning supporters, shouting at the camera, “These people are not underfilled!”

It’s clear she has a passion and knack for creating content that spreads positivity and joy to a younger generation.

You can follow Curtis on TikTok and Instagram at @thekatcurtis.

ThreeSixty Journalism

ThreeSixty Journalism is leading the way in developing multicultural storytellers in the media arts industry. The program is a loudspeaker for underheard voices, where highly motivated high school students discover the power of voice and develop their own within ThreeSixty’s immersive college success programming. Launched in 1971 as an Urban Journalism Workshop chapter, since 2001 the program has been part of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas. To learn more about ThreeSixty Journalism, visit threesixty.stthomas.edu.

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