Shabaz Ali has amassed 1.5 million followers on TikTok by mocking wealthy individuals. He goes by "Shabaz Says" on social media and can often be found lounging in bed, wearing bright hoodies, and insulting viewers by referring to them as "povvo," a British slang term for poor people.
Ali's online persona has been dubbed "the CEO of 'I'm rich, you're poor'" due to his videos that satirize the lavish lifestyles shared by some on social media. His goal is to highlight how these individuals are detached from the millions of people who are struggling with rising prices. In his videos, Ali reacts with shock to one influencer buying a $550 dog collar from Gucci or another claiming to spend $2,000 a month on designer glass bottles of water from Norway.
Despite his online fame, Ali is a 30-year-old high school chemistry teacher from Blackburn, in northern England. He explained that during the lockdown, one of his students recommended TikTok, which led to him recording videos in his free time.
After appearing on a reality TV show called "The Circle" in 2021, Ali began to focus more on his social media accounts, particularly TikTok. While his laid-back style had earned him almost 500,000 followers by 2022, it was only when he started targeting rich people that his following skyrocketed to over 1 million.
According to Ali, the idea behind his satirical videos is that rich people have so much free time that they can spend it making multiple flavors of ice cream, unlike those who have to work for a living. He believes that people in positions of wealth should be more responsible and considerate of others during the current cost-of-living crisis, where some people are going hungry while others are indulging in luxury.
As a teacher, Ali witnessed the impact of government spending cuts on students and saw firsthand how some of them were living in poverty. His experiences have influenced his videos, and he believes TikTok is the ideal platform to address such issues in a comedic way. One of his videos features a woman who paid £70 ($82) for designer cookies from Dior, prompting Ali to react with disbelief.
Ali's popularity has grown rapidly on TikTok, and his fans include singer Lily Allen. Some have even offered to pay him to promote their lifestyles on his page. However, Ali has no plans to become an influencer himself and intends to continue teaching. Although he earned just £28 ($33) from 177 million views on TikTok in December, he is exploring other social media platforms that offer more lucrative opportunities.
Ali also believes that the era of the influencer is coming to an end, with many people seeking authenticity and credibility over staged, picture-perfect lifestyles. Some have even taken up "de-influencing," challenging the hype surrounding trendy products.