SINGAPORE – With his thick wavy hair, boyish and ethnically ambiguous face, and dreamy deep-set eyes that seem to change colour depending on how they catch the light, Nic Kaufmann is one of the lucky ones when it comes to winning the genetic lottery. And he knows the fact well.
The 21-year-old TikTok star, who is of German and Singapore-Indian descent, has parlayed his good looks into a formidable social media presence on the digital platform, amassing more than 20 million followers who lap up his lifestyle and fashion content.
“I am super privileged,” he admits. “I know that looking good is part of the reason I have been given many of the opportunities I’ve had, and that there are people out there who could have done 10 times the amount of work I have and still not be where I am today.”
But being good-looking is only one part of the equation. The rest, he says, really depends on how much one wants it, and how hard one is willing to work. “There will always be someone else who is younger or better looking or has a fitter body than you,” he muses. “So you have to always think of how to work the opportunities you’ve been given to play to your own strengths.”
Kaufmann has been engaged by international fashion brands such as Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton to create creative content for them. To him, it is akin to how a salesperson sells a product in the store or an engineer thinks of ways to design the best cars.
“Basically, you are coming up with new and interesting storylines to sell a product, and you have to think of the best possible ways that will make you stand out from the rest. Every video is like a product that you have to sell, so you have to make them different and exciting. Otherwise, why would people want to watch your content?” he says.
Growing up in a multiracial country, he was always interested in different cultures. It is something he leverages in his video content to give himself an edge over the hordes of social media influencers that rule the platforms.
Attending Overseas Family School in Pasir Ris, where he went through the International Baccalaureate curriculum, has been instrumental in his personal development. The programme, he explains, focuses on open-mindedness and being respectful, along with the standard academic subjects.
“At first, I didn’t quite understand why I had to sit through that. It was only recently that I realised it’s shaped me into who I am. And it is the reason I can meet anyone from anywhere in the world, get along with them, and work with them.”
Currently living in Munich, Germany, where he has been based for the last four years, Kaufmann’s foray into social media stardom was almost accidental.
“I started making random videos for TikTok about my daily life in Germany, and my first two videos just blew up,” recalls the social media star who left Singapore in 2018 to study computer science at the Technical University of Munich.
That first video was a simple one – a close-up of Kaufmann’s face, where he looks lost as he is sitting in a train, listening to the announcement in German. When asked for his thoughts on why the video was popular, he says it was probably because the subject was something many people living in a foreign country would find relatable.
“To be honest, while I love computer science, I was feeling slightly depressed. Being in a new country, I didn’t know many people, and I didn’t have much to do. I started asking myself if this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he adds.
He found solace in creating videos for social media, and subsequently recognised the potential in making a career out of it. When opportunities to make money from content creation for social media started coming in, he decided to drop out of university to focus on this new career.
He is quick to acknowledge that he was fortunate to have the support of his parents. One piece of advice he holds dear to his heart came from his late father, Mr Christian Michael Kaufmann, an engineer who mostly worked as director of sales at various tech companies.
But life as a content creator is not always a bed of roses. While it has allowed him to travel around the world and work with brands many can only dream of, Kaufmann acknowledges that his jam-packed schedule means that it leaves him little time for other personal pursuits.
His private life is his career. In the last three years, building his career has taken centre stage, and vacations have been relegated to the back seat.
“I always have this mentality that I can take the breaks later, you know? So unless I have dedicated a specific time off, it is hard for me to just hang out with my friends or make a trip home to visit my family in Singapore. I still have yet to take a long break,” he says.
That is, until now. At the time of this interview, Kaufmann was back in Singapore to attend the funeral of the man he had looked up to as his hero. His father suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 53.
Kaufmann revealed that he had made plans for a two-week holiday in Singapore earlier this year to visit his family, whom he had not seen in three years due to the pandemic. The plan was postponed due to a job commitment that saw him flying to a different country.
It turned out to be a decision he would regret. It was an emotionally expensive lesson to learn, he says, adding that if he had taken that break and returned home, he would have been able to spend time with his father before he died.
“My dad had always been my biggest supporter, and he’d always understood why I had to sacrifice my ‘holiday time’ to build my career. So, yes, I am sad and still grieving, but I also know he will always be there for me in spirit,” he says.
Still, he has vowed to ease up on the pace and be less hard on himself when it comes to his work. Family has become a priority now. His mother, Ms Nikita Kaufmann, works in hospitality consulting, and he has two younger sisters, Kiana, 20, and Sophia, eight.
Kaufmann is currently working on building a career outside of just being a content creator.
He has discovered that he loves entertaining people: He is now working on making music and has recently started vocal training.
“Now that I’m making my own money and have financial freedom, I think I am ready to make my own music. It is something I’ve always wanted to do. So look out for my next move.”
This article first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, the leading fashion glossy on the best of style, beauty, design, travel and the arts. Go to harpersbazaar.com.sg and follow @harpersbazaarsg on Instagram; harpersbazaarsingapore on Facebook. The October 2022 issue is out on newsstands now.