Meet TikTok's Gay Bestie: Luke Franchina
Listen to this episode
What do pop stars Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift have in common? A content creator and comedian named Luke Franchina.
Now, that’s probably not where you thought I was going with this, but hear me out—there is a multitude of answers to this question seeing as how the two celebrities are best friends. However, the commonality I’m alluding to is the viral video created by the pair via Taylor Swift’s TikTok account, where she lip-synched to Luke’s trending sound, “Oh no my bestie is a bad b”. Naturally, this TikTok received millions of views due to Swift and Gomez’s celeb status and all-around adorable friendship. In fact, it is Taylor’s most-viewed TikTok to date but what was wonderfully unexpected was the sudden increase in visibility for the sound’s creator.
Recognized for his giddy giggles (which he often refers to as “laughing in gay”), positive affirmations, and helpful relationship advice, Franchina has established himself as TikTok’s official gay bestie. With more than 3.5 million followers, Luke has not only built a community of besties around the world but has also secured several partnerships with some of the most recognizable brands in the nation. I had the pleasure of interviewing Luke to learn more about his life, journey to becoming a content creator, and the community he has built.
Family, Career, & Coming Out
Before becoming the self-dubbed CEO of Dumping Them, alluding to the often straightforward but necessary advice he gives to his friends on the Internet and in real life, Luke was a Cleveland-born, Florida-raised child of a minister. Growing up in a predominantly Christian Italian family, he didn’t always feel that he had the space he needed to explore his identity.
“We spent a lot of my childhood moving from city to city and half the time we lived out of a camper because we had a traveling puppet show ministry. I never really had good roots anywhere until we moved to Florida. After we moved, it was kind of like a reset. We still went to church but were nowhere near as religious as in Ohio. Fast forward and my dad went from making almost no money to making lots of money. My parents divorced when I was around 12 years old and my dad moved to Italy while my mom stayed in Florida. When everything was happening, I was very depressed and actually turned to my computer to help me cope. That's when I learned how to code and I actually built my first website, sold it, and had funds to pay for my first car and part of my college”, says Luke.
Realizing he had an interest in computers, Luke, who is now a software developer in addition to a content creator and influencer, studied Information Technology at the University of South Florida College of Engineering. During his academic career, he opted to work a full-time job at a law firm and completed his degree by taking night and online classes. Although he had been thriving in academics and his profession, there was still something missing.
“I always knew there was something different about me and as I got older, I realized my attraction to men was something I couldn’t hide any longer. I was very deep in the closet and pretty much hated myself for it. I always said I would never, ever come out. That was a lie, obviously. I met my now husband on the sidewalk outside of a gay bar. He was playing Jenga and asked if I wanted to play a round with him and his friend. We went on our first date that next week and moved in together a few months later.”
Now, out and proud, Luke is stepping into an era of authenticity and doing so with compassion. Anyone that stumbles across one of his TikToks will be sure to have an experience that’s reminiscent of talking to a trusted, close friend.
Besties, Brands, & Being a Complimentary Ass B*tch
At first, Luke had been making videos in a more casual fashion but one day decided to establish his niche, which he calls “being a complimentary ass bitch”. His style combines motivational speaking and positive affirmations with a tone and voice that I can only describe as if Lady Gaga and Fred Rogers had a baby.
Last year, his first mega-viral video, in which he first used his now-infamous “dump him” catchphrase, gained quite the reach with more than one million views. With that kind of visibility, one would think that the video required a storyboard and production studio. However, what the internet proves time and time again is that the most simple content—often inspired by our everyday experiences—performs the best. Case in point, Luke’s inspiration for the video was a real conversation he had with a friend about their on-and-off-again boyfriend.
“My friend had called me about her boyfriend and was going on about how terrible he was. They had broken up about three times before and I listened to her every single time, but honestly, I had enough at that point and was super frustrated. I told her that it was obvious he wasn’t going to change so I just kept telling her to dump his ass. We both laughed but then I told her I was serious. She went silent for a moment and then said she was going to. That was January of 2021 and she hasn’t spoken to him since. After that call, I decided to film my first dump his ass video and post it. I checked my TikTok hours later and bam—my follower count had grown by 80 thousand. I was in shock!”
For Luke, building a community was intentional. His followers, predominately women and/or queer people, are more than just TikTok users—they’re his besties. Drawing inspiration from his own life, Luke strives to create a space where his followers can feel empowered and confident.
“I want people to realize the power they have within themselves and to also be proud of who they are, who they have been, and who they are becoming. I want them to know they are worthy—of life, happiness, and the best. I want them to feel safe because, to be honest, that safety is something that I have craved for most of my life.”
Since Luke started creating content and a presence online, he has been able to establish a relationship of trust with his community; so much so that many of his followers have even submitted confessions and secrets to him via his Instagram Story. The submissions range in levels of chaos which include someone sharing that they like the smell of their own armpits and others admitting to extramarital affairs. Now, you may be wondering why anyone would share this information (albeit anonymous) on the internet? Well, when you’ve established a brand based on trust and authenticity, people feel inclined to share because they feel safe and comfortable doing so.
It was only a matter of time before Luke began securing partnerships with brands. So far, he has had several, his first being with none other than The International House of Pancakes (IHOP) in which he made a video about short stacks, of course. As a genuine fan of breakfast foods, this felt like a natural collaboration for Luke. In fact, that’s the criterion he has established when considering brands to partner with.
“I won’t advertise anything that I haven’t personally used and I also have to actually like it. There have been a lot of brands who reach out and want to partner, but when I get their product it is definitely not something I would ever use, so it doesn’t work out.”, says Franchina.
He also partnered with EyeBuyDirect for a video skit. As someone who wears glasses regularly, a partnership with the eyewear brand felt natural for Luke.
“I love glasses. I think they’re part of who I am at any given moment. I have a ton of different pairs, so it seemed like a great partnership.”
Luke has certainly mastered the art of using one’s social media presence to build community and brands interested in doing the same with their customers should be taking notes. In a space where creators and influencers alike are fighting for visibility and deals with major brands, that type of genuineness will go a long way.
From The Desk of the Creator
From The Desk of the Creator is an ongoing series in my interviews that includes direct insights from creators on how brands, influencers, and creators can work better together.
- What advice do you have for creators or influencers that are wanting to partner with brands?
When it comes to rates, don’t sell yourself short. You have a following for a reason, so lean into it. I am still working a full-time job outside of content creation, so I can be a bit pickier with what I choose to do and how much I decide to take when it comes to money. Right now, my base rate is about $10,000 per video, but that is because I am privileged enough to make my rates higher. And when it comes to exclusivity, my rate increases even more. It seems to weed out the brands I wouldn’t want to work with anyway. If you aren’t in that same boat, I urge you to be very upfront with these brands in letting them know what you have to offer when it comes to creativity. Sometimes their “perfect campaign” is great in theory, but terrible in execution. Give them feedback on that. Let them know where you think they are missing out on. Also, if there is a brand you really love and are trying to get their attention, start creating content with their products in it but don’t tag them directly in the posts. Let it be more organic. They will see it and reach out if they are interested.
- Which platforms do you feel are the best for creators?
I’d say in the current day, TikTok is great for content creators to reach new audiences, but hard to stay consistent with their following and connect with them. Instagram is better at engaging its current audience, but not too much at expanding outside of that. In my experience, when you post a lot on Instagram, they don’t push you out as much to a new audience, which is hard for content creators to flourish because they truly love pushing out content after content! I see Instagram as more of an influencer platform instead of a creator platform. When it comes to creators versus influencers, I think of creators as people who want to create content because they love creating authentically. I see influencers as people who have it as their job to influence people to do something. I’m not saying creators can’t influence people and influencers can’t create, because they both can, but I just think when it comes down to it, creators create content they believe in and influencers create content they want you to believe in. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one nonetheless.
- How can creators stand out on these platforms?
Honestly, stop trying too hard. None of my content is ever scripted, so I usually just start recording and see what comes out of my mouth (I have like 1,300 drafts of videos that will never see the light of day because of this) but I think it works for me. I do have a notepad where I write down topics, just so I remember them, and sometimes I will reference that. But, overall just try to make content that aligns with who you are. Yes, people will call you cringe. Yes, people will tell you to unalive yourself. Yes, people will tell you to stop. It’s tragic and sad, honestly, but you can’t let the mumblings of the peasantry define how you create. Don’t stop, because on the flip-side; yes, you will have people who love you. Yes, you will have people who stick up for you. Yes, you will have people who need to hear what you have to say at that moment. You can change lives and that is a powerful thing, so make sure you use it for good. Try to work on your usage of “um” and other filler words. It can be distracting for viewers… having a small pause is okay and better than using filler words, but you can edit the video out to erase the pauses as well. Also, please make sure your camera lens is clean and you have somewhat good lighting.
- What have you noticed in the content creation space that you would like to see improved on?
People who create content are humans. We feel emotions and we see what you are saying about us, so please keep that in mind when you are commenting on their body or mental health. Most of us fell into this space (out of privilege & luck, absolutely) without actually having it as a goal in mind, so we are figuring it out as we go along. Interacting in a nice way with creators means the world, so please think about leaving a nice comment or DM to some of your favorite creators, but know that we physically can’t respond to every single one. But, even if we don’t answer, I can guarantee we will see it at some point and smile. For me, it’s been hard to make content creator friends because it seems like some people have ulterior motives (or they may think I do). I really wish there was an easier way for me to connect with other content creators outside of DMing them on Instagram and hoping they see it. I’m notoriously bad at responding to DMs because I get overwhelmed, so I totally can see them getting lost in the sea of requests like everyone else's. I honestly love making friends with people so if I am messaging you it’s because I genuinely want to connect.
What’s Next For Luke & Where To Find Him
On the path to becoming one of TikTok’s most influential creators, connection is the key for Luke as he continues to build his community and partner with brands. Not only is he in the process of working on a top-secret brand collaboration slated to go live at the end of the year, but he is also planning the release of his merch line which he anticipates will be launched sometime in October.
Until then, TikTok’s gay bestie is waiting for construction on his new home to be complete where he will set up a studio to start working on YouTube videos and podcasts. If you’d like to follow Luke and see more of his content, click the links below.