Accidentally famous

Maize High grad goes viral

Written by Amy Palser

What does it take to become TikTok famous? Preven Christon doesn’t know the answer, but the Maize High School graduate has managed to rack up millions of views on the video-sharing social networking service and even gets recognized by strangers when he’s out and about in Wichita.

“I’ve been at stores and stuff where people will be like, ‘There’s the TikTok guy!’ Some of them want to take a picture with me,” Preven said with a laugh. “I never really wanted it, but I got tons of followers out of nowhere — which was crazy to me, because I did it kind of as a joke.”

If you’re one of the 800 million active users worldwide, then you already know that TikTok is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy, talent and informational videos. The app has been growing steadily in the past couple of years, but it really took a jump during Covid-19 as a source of entertainment during quarantine. In fact, the app had 315 million downloads during the first quarter of 2020.

Preven said his TikTok journey started at the end of his junior year in 2019 when Maize High School included a TikTok challenge alongside the annual talent show. “Me and my friend decided to try it out, so we made a TikTok outside. They put it up on the Promethean Board in front of everyone, and everyone started to like it and we got in the finals. So we made another one and everyone loved it and we won a prize.”

Preven thought that was the end of his TikTok renown, until a few weeks later when he opened the app again and was shocked at what he found: His video had garnered 50,000 views. A few months later Preven and another friend made a funny video and posted it after some encouragement from friends. “We posted it for fun and it started getting hundreds of thousands of views. It didn’t feel real, because we did it as a joke — and it went viral,” he said.

Today Preven has 280,000 TikTok followers and has had 6 million total likes. While most people might know TikTok for the dancing videos, Preven stays away from choreography and sticks to comedy. “Personally I’m not a good dancer myself, but I love doing skits and funny stuff with my friends.”

To date, his top-viewed video, which was the mannequin challenge with the Maize High School football team, got over 1 million likes and 11 million views. It was a spur-of-the-moment TikTok Preven decided to make while the team was suited up for a photo shoot. Preven said that was another video that he hesitated to post thinking it wasn’t that great — “but it just blew up and had 600,000 likes in a day or two,” he said.

Preven said he loves TikTok and it reminds him of the now defunct Vine app, where users could post seven-second-long looping video clips. “I used to always watch videos on Vine,” he said. The majority of TikTok users are between the ages of 10 and 29, and Preven said it’s definitely the younger crowd that recognizes him from TikTok. After Maize High football games, where Preven played wide receiver, kids would approach him asking for a picture or wanting to make a TikTok with him, including kids from other schools.

Preven’s mom, Elena Perez, said even she was approached by kids at her son’s games in regard to his TikTok fame. When she’d hold up the giant cardboard cutout of Preven’s head, kids would come by and want to take a picture with it because they recognized him as “the TikTok guy.”

But despite the attention in the last year, Elena said her son is “a very humble kid” and never talks about his success. “I literally hear stuff from other people,” she said. At the SPLURGE! photo shoot, in fact, it was a friend of Preven’s who was there that told Elena her son had won “best smile” in 6th grade and then again his senior year. “I had no idea — Preven never told me!” she said with a laugh.

Elena said Preven has a compassionate spirit and wants to help people. On a vacation to Mexico with another family a few years ago, the group became lost and ended up in a very poor neighborhood. The neighborhood kids ran up to Preven and his friend and began interacting with them, and the two Maize boys were shocked at how little the kids seemed to have. So the pair used their vacation money to buy the children toys and shoes, and later returned to the neighborhood to pass out the gifts. “He’s a great kid, he really is,” Elena said.

Preven received a full-ride scholarship to play football at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri this fall. During his senior year at Maize, he had over 1,000 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns and over 50 catches. He was nominated both his junior and senior years for the Wichita Eagle’s All-Metro high school football team and was chosen to play in the 2020 Kansas Shrine Bowl.

Preven said he grew up playing football with his older brother, Dominque, who is six years older. “I was always outside playing football,” Preven said. “Ever since then I loved it.” He started on a third-grade football team when he was in first grade — which was kind of intimidating, he remembers, especially for his first team experience. But Elena said her son is a natural athlete and did great.

With just the three of them at home, Elena said Dominque was like a father to Preven and encouraged his football career. “He’s one of the main reasons I kept playing,” Preven said of his brother. “He buys me everything I need, like cleats and stuff. Besides my mom, he’s my No. 1 supporter.”

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