At just 13 years old, Danielle Cohn moved across the country from Orlando to Los Angeles to try to convert her massive social media following into a music career.
The teen currently has nearly 10 million fans on the popular tween app Musical.ly and 1.8 million followers on Instagram. She entered 2018 attracting major partnership and brand endorsement deals with brands like Samsung, Six Flags, and Live Nation, to name a few.
Along for the ride is Jen, Danielle’s 34-year-old single mother, who’s been able to quit her teaching job and her night shifts as a cashier to become Danielle’s full-time “momager.”
The family’s journey began when Danielle was 11. Jen told BuzzFeed News she worked long hours at two jobs to provide for her two kids, Danielle and her older brother.
“We weren’t rich or anything, so we had one phone,” Jen said. “I worked two jobs, so when I would work at night, I’d leave the phone with the kids.”
During one of those nights, a then–11-year-old Danielle found herself on Instagram and learned about an app called Musical.ly.
The app allows users to upload short videos of themselves lip-synching along to popular songs, and then share them with other users.
In 2016, she recorded and shared her first 15-second lip-synching performance to the app.
“I didn’t really like it in the beginning — it was kind of dumb,” Danielle said of Musical.ly. “But it wasn’t about making videos. I thought it was cool to lip-synch to the songs, so I started doing it a lot.”
Danielle eventually produced enough videos on the app that she frequently topped the Musical.ly leaderboard, and soon organically drew a million followers to her account (she now tops 10 million). Her videos also became more and more produced.