One day in 2020, a 29-year-old woman named Christina Najjar stepped onto what felt like a conveyor belt. It was a fairly short ride to the other side and when she stepped off, her hair was better, her skin was shinier. She wasn’t Christina anymore. She was Tinx, a bonafide social media star on the hottest new social platform, TikTok, with more than 1 million followers hanging onto her every word. Everyone wanted her at their party, to sample their new product, to hold up her iPhone and say their name. She used to fangirl over Tom Ford on Twitter, now she was getting an invite to his runway show during New York Fashion Week. Within six months, The New York Times highlighted her appeal for “all generations,” Coveteur called her “the influencer to end them all.” She had more brand deals than she knew what to do with and more money than she had ever dreamed of. She had transformed, she thought.
But when you reach a certain level of notoriety online, nothing is a given. In April 2022, old—and she openly admits—abhorrent tweets on her personal Twitter account were uncovered and splashed across the tabloids, endlessly dissected on Reddit and social media platforms, and drove thousands of ill wishers into her DMs. The same places where she was once lauded as the girl everyone wanted to be were now minefields. She apologized, but it was too late to stop the negative headlines and thousands of hate messages and comments. Tinx was, to use internet parlance, swiftly canceled.
This could have been the point where she called it, or at least, took her foot off the gas so as not to rile up the people who, she says, threatened to come to her home and kill her, among other things. But there’s no way to reap the rewards of influencing and not be held accountable for the mistakes you’ve made in the past and could make in the future. Many people may have decided that’s wasn’t worth it, and Najjar could have hung up Tinx and all her associated baggage and gone back to being Christina. But she kept going.
While it may be rare to achieve the type of overnight fame on social media that Najjar has, it’s much harder, and even more rare, to keep that initial momentum going for the long haul. Tinx is no longer TikTok’s It Girl. Depending on what corners of the app you lurk in, that honor belongs to Alex Earle or Sofia Richie. But Najjar says she is ready for this next chapter. If she wants to build a sustainable business from her social media platform, and she is emphatic that she does, it’s time to reintroduce herself.
“I had the big TikTok moment,” she says. “Now I have these new projects I’m passionate about, I feel a little bit more grown-up. I think that my community sees that and that’s where I am now.”
Before the Twitter drama, Najjar had been writing The Shift, a self-help and women’s empowerment book aimed primarily at her millennial and Gen Z audience, which comes out today. Now, as she sets her sights on the future, the book is a clear line in the sand directly pointing to where she sees her career going next: taking the relatable, honest, confessional persona she has built for herself online, and turning it into a way to help other women become more self-possessed and confident. She full-throatedly believes it is her calling.
“I had no concept that you could actually care so much about people that you’ve never met,” she tells me. “I had no concept I could have such a connection with these women. And I am utterly obsessed with them. Everything I do is for them. And that is the most fulfilling aspect of my life, period.”
Let’s go back to the beginning, to the part when first she stepped off that conveyor belt. Because when it was good, it was really good. It was early 2020, and Najjar felt lost. She’d spent nearly a decade trying to build her dream career. First, after graduating from Stanford, she tried working in fashion, then got into freelance writing. She began to dream of becoming the millennial Andie Anderson, and enrolled in graduate school in New York for fashion journalism.
“I really, really enjoyed the content creation aspect,” she says. “I loved the feedback.”
Najjar was consumed by the feelings that came with connecting with other young women who were facing the same dating dramas, life questions, and insecurities that she was. But after years of building her contacts and writing article after article, she still didn’t feel like her writing career was where she wanted it to be. She moved to Los Angeles for a change of pace on her 29th birthday in September 2019, and promptly lost her steady job because she had failed to inform them she had decided to move. She tried freelancing and consulting, but as the months ticked by, she felt “wildly depressed,” and like a “complete failure,” she wrote in The Shift.
“I was just like, I’ve really messed up this time,” she tells me. “I moved for like the third time in my twenties…all my friends are getting married and have amazing jobs at tech companies. And I’m, like, flailing.”
Then, the pandemic hit. Alone and sad in her apartment, Najjar felt she had nothing to lose. So, she downloaded that app all her friends were telling her about: TikTok. She posted her first video in April 2020.
“Not to be dramatic, but I knew the moment I hit record that this was what I was put on earth to do,” she writes in The Shift. “And everything in my life had, strangely, prepared me for it…I definitely never pretended to have all the answers, and regularly prove that to this day. But I think if something I say can help someone skip over weeks wasted worrying about a guy, then I’m living my life’s purpose.”
Why did Najjar get so big, so fast? An early profile dubbed her TikTok’s “big sister” (which, cringe, she says now) but the cutesy label does give insight into her appeal. From her first video she has been an open book, a raw, real, confessional person who is willing to turn all of her ups and downs, mistakes, dating woes and wins, and personal revelations into content. For many young women (and also, she says, women her age and older), she has become a guru into how to live your best life. Not a perfect life, but a fulfilling one
Najjar isn’t the influencer who posts a euphemistic and light caption about a breakup, she’s the influencer who posts a video of herself nearly live reacting to discovering her boyfriend is cheating on her. She laughs at herself, poking fun at her online dating escapades and awkward moments. She shares her reality TV takes, random musings, and easy life and beauty hacks. Her videos make her followers go, “wow, that is so me.” Sometimes, they can almost be like group therapy sessions. In a recent video, Najjar asked her audience what the worst thing a partner has ever said to them was, sharing her own. The comments were filled with replies from women sharing painful and embarrassing anecdotes, with Najjar responding to many with words of encouragement.
“This is really vulnerable and I appreciate it. Thank you for sharing with the girlies,” wrote one commenter.
Along the way, Najjar also built a very distinct personal brand, which has had an impact on TikTok trends at large. That tiny mic thing everyone does now? She did it first (she says she will take “quiet credit” for the trend.) Everyone’s now obsessed with “stealth wealth,” a trend Najjar has been highlighting for years in her “rich mom starter pack” series (she doesn’t take credit for stealth wealth trending, but says everyone has always loved “to know how rich people live,” which helped her series become a success).
Najjar credits the fact that she was nearly 30 when she hit it big on TikTok to her ability to turn her rapidly growing platform into a business very quickly. She knew she had found what she wanted to do, she said, by June 2020, immediately hired a manager and began building a business plan, and by January 2021, was influencing full-time. She also began writing what eventually became The Shift.
“I told my manager as soon as I got him, I was like, that’s the goal, I want to write a book so badly,” she says. “As I started to develop my content and kind of really work my audience and figure out what was hitting and what I enjoyed making, I was like, oh, it’s gonna be about self-esteem and in the context of dating.”
Then, the cancellation. In April 2022, journalist Sophie Ross posted an article titled “We Need to Talk About Tinx’s Old Tweets,” putting into the record gossip which had already been floating around the internet. People had gone searching through Najjar’s Twitter account and found things she had written from 2012 to 2020 that were, in her words now, “truly abhorrent.” In the older tweets, she was fatphobic (“Kim Kardashian is so fat I don’t know what to do with myself” “fat people at Coachella lol”) and just plain nasty, calling Tori Spelling “ugly.” In 2020, Tinx had “liked” tweets that were calling for California to ease up on COVID-19 restrictions, and some that were sympathetic to Boris Johnson, the conservative then-leader of the UK. In 2016, she tweeted: “that liberal echo chamber y’all.” Ross speculated that perhaps Najjar was more conservative-leaning than her followers would believe, adding it’s also possible her views had changed since she wrote the tweets.
In an apology posted shortly after, Najjar attributed the older, fat-shaming tweets to her own insecurities as a twenty-something. “I hated myself and had a bad relationship with my body,” she writes. “I tried on many hats, one of which was a mean tweeter to get a laugh.” The Cut noted at the time the statement didn’t address the 2020 political tweets in the statement, but she did eventually in an Instagram AMA and does again in The Shift, blaming her mental state during lockdown. “It was a strange time, and I coped by doom scrolling, not realizing I was engaging with hurtful, harmful, and flat-out fake news content,” she writes. “I deserve to be taken to task for that. Adding to misinformation, xenophobic thought, or divisive rhetoric is inexcusable, and I will always be ashamed of what I did.”
But the scandal was already burning out of control. Followers expressed disappointment that they felt the tweets showed a new side to Tinx, which was different from the person they thought she was. People on Reddit encouraged people to unfollow her en masse, TikTok creators posted videos declaring “I’m Unfollowing Tinx.” Some of the criticism was measured and thoughtful, and fans expressed real hurt that someone they admired would say those things. Others were more extreme. Najjar writes that people posted her home address online and threatened to kill her. Her position on the controversy is that while she deeply regrets what she said, she doesn’t think what she did warranted that level of vitriol. She feels frustrated that the flagged tweets could outweigh all the good things she feels she has said online.
“It was such a dark time,” she says. “Like, I honestly barely remember it. It was so bad. I just remember feeling I had no hope. I just wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for my family. It was so, so hard.”
What pulled her out of it, she says, were her followers who stuck by her.
“I also got a lot of messages from my community saying…We’re here for you. Please don’t take this to heart,” she says. “It brought me so much closure in my community because it made me realize there are these wonderful people out there who care about me.”
That’s what’s kept her going. Because Najjar isn’t just paying lip service to the idea of being a role model for young women and creating community, it is one of her truest and most deeply held goals. Her “life’s purpose,” she writes.
In reading The Shift, it is something about her that maybe stands out the clearest. Najjar has found deep fulfillment in trying to help other women find empowerment, and she feels intensely devoted to her community. The world parasocial relationship is often bandied around these days as a negative pejorative for crazy stans, but many people feel extremely connected to people they have only “met” through a screen, and can feel real, meaningful community. That relationship also goes both ways. As fulfilling as a parasocial relationship can be for the follower, it can also be just as fulfilling for the creator. Taylor Swift gets just as much from the Swifties as they get from her, and Tinx describes her followers as “the reason I get up in the morning.” It’s what’s kept her moving forward in this career after so much backlash.
“More than anything, I do this job because I want people to have a space where they can take a break and feel seen. I simply want to share what I’ve learned and distill some collective wisdom that women can pull from in difficult or confusing times throughout their lives,” she writes.
The first order of business is The Shift, a manifesto to the Tinx way of living. Najjar hopes that by reading her book, her followers will also “shift” their mentality, to live a more confident and fulfilling life.
“As women, we need to be laser focused on what makes us feel fulfilled and happy,” she writes. “The Shift is a simple way to slightly change your thinking and flip the unempowering scripts that so many of us fall prey to.”
What Najjar is laser focused on now is this work, and it feels good.
“There’s a time when you first become an influencer where it’s crazy, it’s insane,” she says. “Everybody wants to take you to lunch, everybody wants you at their party, people are throwing money like crazy. And you can be really fucked up in that. And I totally was. And then it’s like, if you can make it through that and you can make it through the inevitable cancellation and come out the other side and have your friends, your family, and things that you love to do…now I’m almost restarting, in a way.”
Re-starting with The Shift feels great, and she says she now feels more grounded and focused than when she first became Tinx.
“I’d honestly been thinking of quitting the whole business altogether,” she writes. “But then I realized it would mean giving up on helping people. It would mean throwing away the only thing I’d found that gave my life real purpose.”
Thus far, her next chapter seems to be just as fruitful as her first. The day before we spoke, she had been a guest on Watch What Happens Live, she recently launched a hot sauce line with Tabasco, and is about to embark on a multi-city book tour. It seems the fans aren’t giving up on Tinx, either.
“I want these people to stay with me forever, hopefully,” she tells me. “And I wanna add more people to the party.”
Stephanie McNeal is a senior editor at Glamour and the author of the forthcoming book Swipe Up for More!: Inside the Unfiltered Lives of Influencers.