With 1.6 million followers, you'll find Coy Bundy hanging in the Sway House (via green screen), getting Likes from Nicki Minaj, selling her own merch, and hitting the woah in a recent TikTok ad campaign. But Bundy isn't another high schooler who moved into an L.A. collab house when she started gaining fans — she's a grandma, aka @GrannyCoyBundy, who lives in Iowa. Below, Bundy, 46, tells Bustle about breaking into Gen Z's territory.
This sounds bad, but I honestly think I'm on TikTok for eight hours a day. It's my news, entertainment, it's everything I do. It's a break from all the crazy stuff happening offline.
It started on Dec. 31, when I shared a video from TikTok — which my niece introduced me to a week earlier — on Facebook, saying, "2020 is going to be nothing but positive vibes. I'm just having fun." Of course, no one knew what would happen, but I'd decided to forgive everyone who'd hurt me in the past and stop being angry.
I didn't even know TikTok was a place for Gen Z. When I went on, I saw what I did as a kid — lip-synch, wear makeup, dress up, dance — and thought I'd have fun with it. Being able to fulfill my childhood dreams on an app that didn't exist when I was younger is what helped me figure it out, and fit in.
For the first few months, I did POVs, skits, and anime. I didn't think I had a shot at trending dances until I came across Charli D'Amelio on my For You page. I thought, "I know what she's doing. I can learn from her." I started duetting her at 2x speed, which is slower. Then, her mom, Heidi, commented and followed me. That made me feel like I was doing something right, so I learned more.
Everyone thinks my followers came from a viral video, but in all honesty, it took close to thousands of videos to build my fan base. I have fans from every genre of my videos — anime, singing, dance. To me, going viral means your video spreads across platforms. My dance to the "Savage" mashup in April was the one that went wild — it has 5.9 million views on TikTok. Someone saw my TikTok on her For You page and shared it on Facebook. Her post blew up and someone put it on Instagram. A boy showed his mom and she sent it to Shade Room. Then, with my permission, they posted it.
That got my name out to the kids. That's what led to my "granny" name on TikTok, too. Kids commented, "Come get your grandma" and "Good dance, grandma." I was like, "Chill, I'm not old enough to be your grandma." I am a grandma, but my four granddaughters are under 5.
I try and keep my page very kid-friendly. But there's certain things I'll tell my followers and certain things I won't. You can't come to me and ask me about the birds and the bees. I'm not your mom. I'm not your grandma.
In June, Tina Knowles shared my "Savage Remix" dance. I cried. I thought, I'm just some woman from Iowa who figured I didn't have anything else to give to the world because I'm old. I was just supposed to be this mom who took care of her kids. That's when I knew everything was changing.
I've been in this little box of what older women are "supposed" to do. I'm Gen X, and throwing it back and shaking our rump isn't considered "ladylike." So I get nervous about posting dances like the "WAP" one. But I had fun making it. I first saw it on my For You late at night and jumped up to do it. My son's face was like, "Mom, what are you doing?"
I get so many comments, but I try to answer the first 10 to 20 and Like more later because I want kids to feel special — hearing from someone with a blue checkmark is like talking to Santa for them. I usually only see negative comments when my followers argue with someone. Then I'll use my grandma voice if it's gotten serious or remove the bad comment. Political comments make me nervous because they come in with a vengeance. My son was on my Live after Ahmaud Arbery was killed and someone commented, "I heard Black men like to jog." I knew where he was going with that. I blocked him right away and deleted the comment.
Nobody's too old for TikTok, but you are too old to hate.
At one point, kids were commenting, "You're better than Charli!" I love Charli, so I duetted her "Paparazzi" video, saying, "I'm her biggest fan. I'll unfollow you if I see anything negative about Charli." She commented with hearts. She gets so much hate for just being a kid.
What really gets me is when an adult yells at a child for being a child. If you clap back at a kid, they're going to come in full force at you with all their friends. You could get canceled so fast. Nobody's too old for TikTok, but you are too old to hate.
Miscommunication happens in the comments constantly. And if it's at the expense of a kid, you have to be the bigger person and remove it. You can't control what anyone does on the app, only what you put out.
Gen Z is unstoppable. They're not playing when they're passionate about something — like what they did before Trump's rally. I don't see many young people on my For You anymore — it feels like they separated us. I have another profile so I can see Charli, Addison Rae, Noah Beck, and new dances. I hope the merger resets the algorithm.
I used to be a customer service representative, but I couldn't work when COVID hit. Money from gifts on my Lives was feeding my family at first. I'm so appreciative that we're back on our feet now that I give money from Lives back to my followers as a thank you. I'm a full-time social media influencer now.
My goal is to help people deal with online bullying — I've always been an advocate for that. A lot of the gang violence in my city started from cyberbullying. I used to pass out flyers and talk to people, and I've written two books about getting kids out of bad situations.
TikTok has shown me that the kids that I grew up with aren't the only kids who appreciate me — there's millions of them who love me. Before all of this, I was trying to help kids. TikTok gave me a place to do that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Videos courtesy of @grannycoybundy via TikTok.