ROME (AP) — The king of TikTok, Khaby Lame, finally has another title: Italian.
The 22-year-old influencer, who ranks as the most popular TikToker with 148 million followers, took the citizenship oath on Wednesday in Chiavasso, a municipality outside Turin, according to the local government.
Lame moved to Italy from his native Senegal as a child, but has only been granted citizenship now due to Italy’s strict citizenship laws.
His situation – and that of thousands of other young people born in Italy or raised there by non-Italians – made headlines after Lame became TikTok’s most followed creator in June. Attention to the “Italian King of TikTok” highlighted that he was not actually Italian.
In response, Italian Deputy Interior Minister Carlo Sibilia tweeted on June 24 that Lame’s citizenship application had recently been approved.
“Dear @KhabyLame, I wanted to inform you that the decree granting you Italian #citizenship was published at the beginning of June by the Ministry of Interior. Soon you will be contacted by the local office informing you of your oath. Good luck”, Sibilia tweeted.
Reassurances suggested that Lame’s application made its way through the pipeline through normal procedures and received no special treatment due to his newfound TikTok fame.
Under Italian law, children born to non-Italians and raised in Italy can apply for citizenship in their 18th year, a regulation which critics say discriminates against thousands of culturally Italian children but which are denied citizenship.
Critics say the law hampers integration and leaves some children stateless.
Center-left lawmakers in Italy regularly try to change regulations to grant citizenship earlier. In the United States, for example, children born on American soil obtain American citizenship regardless of the nationality of their parents.
But the Italian right has long insisted that citizenship should only pass through Italian bloodlines. The most recent proposal called for allowing children of immigrants who were born in Italy or arrived before the age of 12 to apply after completing at least five years of schooling in Italy.
The town hall of Chiavasso filmed the short ceremony in which Lame became Italian and asked him what had changed.
“It’s not that before, before signing, I didn’t feel Italian, so very little has changed,” Lame said. “But now I’m officially Italian, on paper.”
Lame rose to fame on TikTok with charming videos of his reactions to everyday life in which he never says a word. His followers grew during the pandemic, when he was laid off from his factory job and used the extra time he had to create and upload more videos.
When asked how her life changed from a poor childhood to world fame, Lame said her family was poor but happy during her childhood and nowadays, “It’s a different reality, it’s is completely another world.
“Which I’m not used to yet, but I’m gradually adapting,” he said.
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