My 16-year-old daughter has four million followers, dropped out of school to be a full-time influencer and can afford her own house. But there’s a dark side to her fame too…

r/BreakingNews24hr - My 16-year-old daughter has four million followers, dropped out of school to be a full-time influencer and can afford her own house. But there's a dark side to her fame too...

My 16-year-old daughter has four million followers, dropped out of school to be a full-time influencer and can afford her own house. But there’s a dark side to her fame too…

Directly after we meet, 16-year-old Ami Charlize will be chauffeured from her home in Essex to Simon Cowell’s London mansion to film TikTok videos with the mogul documenting his search for a new boy band. She’s still a bit hoarse after a night at Wembley singing along to Taylor Swift (she’ll be seeing her twice more as a guest of corporate hospitality).

Ami (her real name is Amelie Hobson – Charlize is her middle name) began posting videos online when she was nine. Now she’s one of Britain’s most successful social-media stars with a lucrative full-time career.

She has more than 3.4 million followers on TikTok, another 676,000 on Instagram and 362,000 on Snapchat. She hosts a podcast, is an ambassador for clothing brand Pretty Little Thing and is now publishing a book, My World: Challenges, Changes and Chasing My Dreams. As her mother Dawn Hobson, 52, says, ‘She’s just leading an amazing life.’

Mindful of the envy it provokes, Dawn won’t say exactly how much her daughter earns from ads and brand endorsements on her channels. Ami recently told her 346,000 YouTube followers, ‘I haven’t £1 million in my bank account… I don’t personally think I’m rich.’

Ami, aged five, in her first school photo

Still, clearly, she’s doing very well. Her father Mark, 53, who built up a water-treatment business so successful he retired at 50, looks after her earnings. ‘For now we’re investing it,’ says Dawn.

‘We were thinking we could buy her a house for £200,000 to £300,000 but you get stamp duty paid for your first house so she should do it when she’s older and buys the house she really wants to live in. That would save her a lot. We don’t take a penny from her, though.’

Ami is inundated with freebies from brands that want her to promote them. ‘We’re self-made, we grew up with nothing,’ Dawn says. ‘So we’re always saying to Ami, “Be careful, don’t show everything you’ve been given, because what most people earn in a year, you can earn with one brand.”’

Yet there’s still envy. At school Ami was bullied. ‘A lot of girls didn’t like that I was doing well on social media,’ she says. ‘I was always scared: “Is this the day I’m going to be beaten up?” I’d see nasty things written about me on walls. Once, at netball, girls started throwing balls at the back of my head. I had my group of friends, but I felt no one was on my side.

I’d end up texting Mum, “I’m ill, I need to go home.” Sometimes I’d just walk out. It wasn’t lessons I wanted to miss, it was playground time.’ Maybe life would have been easier if she’d quit social media? ‘The teachers said that,’ says Dawn. ‘But it was the only part of Ami’s life she absolutely adored. Why take that away from her?’

We’re sitting in the Hobsons’ spacious kitchen. The open patio doors display a vast lawn, being mowed by a robot. The family’s staffordshire bull terrier Hugo and later their XL bully Bluie greet me excitedly, then settle down for a snooze on the sofa.

Ami is in a crop top, black jeans and full make-up, her long blonde hair (boosted by extensions) bouncing over her shoulders. She’s chatty, friendly and extremely confident.

Ami now has a full-time career as an online influencer

Dawn gave up her job with a City investment bank to become a full-time mother after her second daughter Georgia, now 23, was born. There is a legal requirement for children under 16 to be chaperoned on the likes of photoshoots and meet-and-greet sessions with fans at places such as shopping centres, so until last year Dawn would accompany Ami to such events.

Now her daughter is older, she increasingly goes to work alone, or accompanied by one of her management team, especially to evening events where, if alcohol’s available, she has to wear a wristband to show she’s under 18.

A keen child dancer, Ami began using social media to promote herself. Encouraged by her older sisters Robyn, 27, who works in digital marketing, and Georgia, who edits her videos, both of whom also have large social-media followings, she began uploading clips of herself lip-synching to sad songs. ‘I’d make myself cry by putting VapoRub under my eyes – probably not healthy. It was fun but I never dreamed it could be a career.’

Gradually, her videos became funnier and aged 13 she hit a million TikTok followers, with some clips being viewed more than ten million times. Children adored watching her simply chatting about her life – for example, describing her skincare routines. ‘I don’t think anyone younger in the country was as hardcore [about regularly posting] as me.’

Dawn monitored Ami’s social media accounts strictly. You can understand her anxiety – her Instagram is full of pictures of her looking often much older than her years, posing in revealing outfits and bikinis. ‘She was getting 200 messages a day and I was checking them,’ says Dawn. ‘I deleted any [inappropriate] pictures from men.’

Severely dyslexic, Ami left school after GCSEs (she failed all apart from maths, English and sports studies). ‘It was a hard decision,’ says her mother. ‘My eldest daughter went to university, and it’s not like I was saying, “Yeah, drop out of school!”

I worried Ami would miss out on making new friends but then I thought about the time she tried to join a netball club and couldn’t make friends, because people were either in awe or mean to her. I thought, “What if she goes to college and it’s the same?”’

They decided to give full-time influencing a go. The authorities strongly discourage leaving education before 18 and monitor children who do, to ensure they’re filling their time purposefully and are not being exploited by their parents. ‘The council do ring regularly to make sure she’s still on track, not being pushed by us to earn money,’ says Dawn. ‘I’m like, “She’s really happy, doing what she wants to do.”’

Ami is making new friends through work – although she’s wary. ‘I sometimes spoil my friends too quickly and that can end up being thrown back in my face,’ she says. Between 12 and 14 she had a boyfriend, Alfie, and fans who had followed the relationship, predicting they’d marry, reacted angrily when they split up. ‘I was petrified having to break the news to them.’

Now she tries to keep relationships private. ‘I didn’t show the face of my last boyfriend but my followers zoomed in on a shot of his watch and worked out who he was from looking at posts I’d liked from someone wearing that same watch.’

There is a growing movement to ban under-16s from owning smartphones, with studies linking their use to anxiety and loss of concentration necessary for learning. Ami had her first one at ten, which she thinks is about the right age, if parents supervise.

‘Parents should know better than letting their six-year-olds on TikTok,’ she says. ‘You can be exposed to so many dangerous things on there and you can’t scroll back to know what they’ve been watching. But there are pros as well as cons. I wouldn’t have enjoyed school so much if I hadn’t been able to make TikToks with my friends.’

‘Social media [companies] should be more responsible,’ Dawn says. ‘I’ve reported so many things – we’ve had our address leaked everywhere online, but they don’t do anything.’ She is clearly proud of her daughter – she just wishes Ami would wear less lipliner and go easy on the fake tan.

‘There’s orange all over the toilet seat,’ she sighs, and continues, ‘We’ve just got to make sure she stays grounded. But I love this little journey I’m on with her.’

Ami’s book, My World: Challenges, Changes and Chasing My Dreams, will be published on 18 July by Ebury, £16.99. To order a copy for £14.44 until 21 July, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK delivery on orders over £25.

 

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