The Tube Girl sells confidence – and its audience lines up

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What would it be like to dance without anyone watching – on a train full of daily commuters?

The “Tube Girl”, as she has been dubbed by the Internet, makes you feel like you could be the star of a music video, someone with the energy of a main character or even just someone without the crippling social anxiety of many of his generation. On TikTok, Sabrina Bahsoon’s videos of herself dancing on the London Underground have resonated with an audience who can’t get enough of her confidence.

“I love that you encourage other girls to be confident no matter what [who’s] I watch or what others think,” one fan wrote under a video.

“I hope you know you’re starting a trend aimed at breaking down trust barriers with women everywhere. I literally love you,” wrote another.

In each of Bahsoon’s viral videos, some of which have been viewed 16 million times, her hair flows in the wind as she dances effortlessly to the beats of Raye, Tate McRae, Jazmin Bean and Jazzy. In less than a month, Bahsoon, who just completed her law studies at Durham University in the United Kingdom, amassed over 400,000 followers on TikTok, was invited to collaborate with brands such as MAC Cosmetics and landed an invitation to show at Paris Fashion. Week.

It’s been a summer of “girl” trends, which has made Bahsoon’s rise even more interesting. For fans and media studies experts, Bahsoon’s unique style of maneuvering his front-facing camera is one of the reasons why his videos stand out among the deluge of TikToks created and consumed daily, not to mention his strong sense of confidence and a personal story that fits perfectly with his TikTok. call.

TikTok users, models and comics are now imitating the Bahsoon style from dance videos on the subways of New York, DC, Tokyo, Warsaw and other cities. Part of Tube Girl’s appeal may lie in its subversion of the idea that girls and women, particularly girls and women of color, are conditioned to believe that they should take up as little space as possible , according to some experts.

“We’ve seen progress in terms of gender norms, but we’ve also seen regression,” said Ashleigh Wade, a professor of media and African American studies at the University of Virginia. “Sabrina’s videos may appeal to people who think that if they take up space in public, they risk scrutiny and criticism.”

Bahsoon, 22, grew up in Malaysia with a Sierra Leonean and Lebanese father and a Malaysian mother. Growing up, Bahsoon always told her mother she wanted to be a rock star, she says.

“I knew I wasn’t a business girl,” she told the Washington Post. “I just had to get my law degree before I could land here. »

About a month ago, moments after handing in her final paper for law school, Bahsoon broke down. They were tears of relief, she said. She finally feels free and autonomous.

“I remember thinking, it’s the only time in my life where I don’t have anything else planned,” she said. “So either I commit to making myself truly happy by pursuing my dreams, or I will never be happy and I will always feel like this.”

Almost all of her law school friends spent the summer finding jobs while she constantly had to explain to her family that she should follow her dreams by working in music and fashion.

“Even if people love you, they may still doubt your biggest dreams,” she said. “You have to believe in yourself, there is nothing more important.”

Bahsoon has been recording herself dancing on trains since last year, but it was only last month that she conceptualized her jerky camera moves. She tried it first at home, then on the London bus and finally on the train. It was how she caught the wind on the train that became the key factor, she said.

Bahsoon jokes that part of her confidence comes from being a little “delulu” – Internet slang for delusional – but “knowing what you want and realistically recognizing your abilities” has been part of it. important part of his journey.

Its virality is not a coincidence or an isolated case, she said. When she decided to give her creative career a chance, she began to think more deeply about the music she listens to, how rhythm influences her and her camera’s movements, and how how the clip should be styled. “Then I just follow the music,” she said.

Bahsoon will continue to follow music until she is able to carve a place for herself in the world of music and fashion.

For Carrie Rentschler, a professor of communications studies at McGill University, Bahsoon’s videos “exude a kind of confidence that other people aspire to and want to be a part of,” she said.

TikTok is all about imitating and remixing different videos and styles, she said, adding that part of Bahsoon’s feat is getting others to create videos in his style.

“Her strong self-esteem really shines through the camera,” Rentschler said. “And that’s what attracts people.”

Wade, however, notes that so far, most of those who have joined Bahsoon have been people presenting as women with a similar body type. “Exhibiting self-confidence might be more difficult for people whose bodies don’t adhere to normalized beauty standards,” she said.

For Bahsoon, accessibility and inclusion have always been important, she said, and it’s one of the reasons she ended up filming on public transportation.

As the #tubegirleffect spreads, Bahsoon will continue to dance on the tube and make his videos. After all, she spends over an hour commuting every day.

“The embarrassment isn’t real,” she said. “At the very least, you can’t let this get in the way of your dreams.” »

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