TikTok is a place where South Asian fashion shines. (Photo: TikTok/Gaianiwaki)
TikTok is full of new dances, pranks and trends. Each post is anywhere from 15 seconds to 10 minutes – long enough to stick in your head, but still short enough to keep you scrolling for more.
However, the app is more than just entertainment. In fact, it is a platform where many people have found affirming communities full of inspiration, joy and warmth. So many TikTok users have been able to make space for themselves on the app, using it to invest in their own community, meet people, or find inspiration for clothes, food, and art projects.
HuffPost asked TikTok users about the communities they’ve enjoyed finding on the app. Maybe one will appeal to you.
“Outdoor” training for women
Female fitness fans make their presence known on TikTok with short bursts of information as well as realistic fitness goals and activities. And in many ways, the creators of the app have put together an alternative version of health and wellness that has made the outdoors—from sidewalks to hiking trails—seem more accessible and inviting to everyone.
Suzanne Villegas, a sales manager in Diamond Bar, Calif., found a community of other “outdoorsy people” on TikTok that she often looks to for exercise and outdoor activities.
“I like to be active, and I like to seek out new outdoor activities, like a new trail,” Villegas said. “I get so excited to do these adventures on my own – all my saved posts become my ‘bucket list’ of hikes I want to do, workouts I want to try or road trips I want to go on. And I probably wouldn’t have known about these things if it wasn’t for TikTok.”
Queer theory and affirmation
Although the media still lacks queer representation, the people of TikTok have managed to build the LGBTQ+ community there, spotlighting content about queer sex, mental health support, media and fashion. The app gives people access to various queer communities and acts as a space for creative freedom and sharing of resources.
Jessica Harper, a singer-songwriter from Missouri, found validation in her queer identity through the online community of the #sapphic hashtag and beyond.
“TikToks themselves are fun, but seeing everyone engaged in the comments and women loving women makes me happy,” Harper said. “Sometimes, especially as a feminine-presenting bisexual woman, I feel like my identity is being erased by others, or that I’m not seen as queer or queer enough.”
Harper has queer friends in real life, but says she also enjoys seeing the lifestyles of other queer adults and families on TikTok because it helps her envision her own life.
“It’s been so affirming to see the possibilities,” Harper said.
Aastha Jani, a student at the University of Southern California, also follows queer and non-binary creators on the app, citing their videos as one of the things that helped them figure out their gender identity.
South Asian fashion inspiration
TikTok is also a place where South Asian fashion shines. Many South Asians feel different from mainstream media and have turned to TikTok to see their culture celebrated, rather than appropriated, and accurately represented through clothing and accessories.
Misha Hassan goes to queer South Asians’ Get Ready With Me videos, taking inspiration from the way people often mix western clothes with traditional garments.
“I’ve gotten more and more into self-expression through fashion,” said Hassan, a USC graduate. “Putting outfits together makes me feel like I have more ownership over my presentation to the world, so seeing queer South Asian people do the same and style a piece is extraordinarily inspiring and helps me express my identity.”
Likewise, Jani finds validation in watching weird plus-size fashion videos on TikTok.
“It’s a confidence booster to see people like me being strong in their bodies,” Jani said. “I feel safe, validated and secure seeing them.”
“Many people in [South Asian diasporas] whitewashing our culture, which is disheartening,” they added. “It’s nice to see people who accurately represent our culture and can appreciate it. It’s comforting.”
Vegetarian food lovers from every culture
TikTok is also a place for young chefs who are passionate about food in their local community to collect and share the recipes that remind them of their home or upbringing.
For example, Jani finds comfort in watching South Asian vegetarian cooking videos on the app. They look to their feed for fast Indian food, vegetarian snacks and even Punjabi food.
“Even though I don’t have time to make the recipe, I love watching the videos because they remind me of my family back home,” Jani said. “These creators reveal our culture in such a wonderful way.”
Hassan also turns to TikTok for food inspiration, watching creators mix “random” ingredients into regular meals or create something with a flavor profile she hasn’t tried before. She also enjoys watching people cook food from their own counties and sharing the stories and methods behind them.
Hair and beauty inspiration for all skin tones and hair types
TikTok has also transformed into a playground for hair and beauty inspiration. The app’s short videos make learning a new style easier and faster.
Syracuse University graduate Viviana Collymore appreciates TikTok’s minute-long videos and often opens the For You page for curly hair inspiration instead of watching a 20-minute tutorial elsewhere. She often goes to the app to find products or hairstyles to try out.
Jani also uses TikTok for beauty content, especially content created by other South Asian people.
“When I was younger, I followed a lot of YouTube makeup gurus and they were all white. But on TikTok, I see so many other people with brown skin tones recommending brands and products that work on their skin,” Jani said. “The content is niche and aimed at me.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.