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Mon, 05/15/2023 - 13:54

Kalea likes to stay busy. She waits tables, models, sells her own jewelry and stays on top of school as a political science major. Kalea’s cats also stay busy — they entertain their 1.3 million TikTok followers and 229K Instagram followers.

“In 2021, I was bored and made a TikTok account just because I thought it was something to do,” recounts Kalea. “The second video I posted got 3.2 million views.”

A month later, when Kalea offhandedly posted an old video of her cat that has since received some 65 million views and 13 million likes, she realized this was more than a product of boredom.

“Immediately I had brands reaching out to me and I realized I had no idea what I was doing — I was googling everything, trying to figure out what my rates should be and trying not to undersell myself.”

Today, content creation for @chonkandbeans is nearly a full-time job for Kalea, complete with brand sponsorships, fanbases and networking with fellow catfluencers that offer support and guidance through the (occasionally toxic) world of online pet stardom.

“It’s not ‘me’, so it’s nice in that way — I don’t take any negative comments to heart and my cats don’t know any better,” says Kalea of the pressures of amassing such a large following.

She’s also found that, though time-consuming, catfluencing suits her schedule as a student.

“I’ve had so many different jobs with set schedules, and now I can work on campus or in coffee shops making my cat videos. It’s been a blessing.”

Despite Chonk and Beans’ sudden rise to fame, their consistently high-performing content and the steady growth of their following is no accident. Kalea is clinical in her approach, constantly doing market research to break down other successful videos and studying their structure.

“It’s always about the hook,” says Kalea. “I see a lot of analytics where people stop watching after the first two seconds — you need a good start, but the finish has to pay off.”