"My channel isn’t just me saying 'hi I have one leg' – it's about other aspects of my life too."
If you’ve been on TikTok recently, you’ve probably seen a hilarious young Irish woman with white hair in space buns, dressed as a nun pop up on your feed. Sound familiar? That’s Ruth Codd, a make-up artist and barber using her account as a sounding board for her comedic takes on religion, style and diversity.
Ruth might have gained over half a million followers almost overnight but she insists she’s not famous (we’re not so sure). Nor is she yet in the business of branded content; instead using her large online presence to amplify disability awareness with humour and a twinkle in her eye.
Via FaceTime in London, we chat to Ruth in drizzly Dublin about her dark humour, the real reason Trump hates TikTok, and why she won’t be joining a Hype House anytime soon.
With over half a million followers and 12 million likes, some would say you’re TikTok famous. Do you think of yourself as an influencer?
No, I hate the word influencer! I just take the piss on the Internet. I don’t really influence anything I don’t think, as I shouldn’t! When people ask me what I do I say I’m a make-up artist and a barber.
You’re known for your unapologetic honesty: drawing on your own experiences and encouraging others to be who they are. Was this always your intention when you started posting?
I’m a big believer that you should be yourself. Especially since my amputation – it gave me the confidence to be myself. I suppose it’s my intention because I think it is very important. When you stand out as a teenager, it’s a bit of a curse because you’re picked on. But then as you get older you realise the more you stand out, the more opportunities you get, the more you get remembered, the more that comes your way. Life sometimes can beat it out of you a little bit, so it’s important not to lose that but unfortunately a lot of people do. That’s why TikTok is so great, it is ok to be kind of weird and quirky. I love TikTok because it’s just loads of adults just being really weird, and no one cares if they’re not funny, you just put up whatever you want.
In your videos you discuss your experiences as an amputee, using both humour and the hashtag #disabilityawareness. Why do you think TikTok, specifically, can educate people on these issues?
It has unintentionally turned into an educational app. People explore a lot of bad experiences through humour. I suppose I’ve got quite a dark sense of humour but it just shows people that it’s a normal thing to talk about. My amputation is a little part of me, but I still have other things going on. My channel isn’t just me saying “hi I have one leg” it’s about other aspects of my life too. It’s refreshing for people to see that if something goes wrong it’s not the end of the world. Life can leave you behind if you don’t learn to adapt. I wasn’t willing to be left behind, I had too many things to do!
TikTok definitely seems to be schooling people. Do you think that’s because it has fewer boundaries than other platforms?
Yeah, people are just so themselves on it. No way would I put a joke on my Instagram story before. TikTok has taken the polish away from social media and has made it a bit more real, I hope that it moves into other apps too. I’m sick of seeing influencers in Bora Bora living perfect lives, no one normal lives like that.
What’s the weirdest comment you have ever received?
Someone messaged me on Instagram like “if you took your prosthetic leg off and whacked someone across the head with it are you technically kicking them?” I think about it a lot because I still don’t actually know the answer. I get a few pervy people as well obviously, some kind of niche fetish – bit weird.
TikTok has gained a lot of press as a space for Gen Z activism. Kind of on that note, why do you think Trump wants to ban it?
It has nothing to do with the app stealing information, the app takes as much information as every other app we use. It’s because he’s mad that TikTokers ruined his rally and that the app is so anti-Trump, it’s very liberal. TikTok is a lot of negative press that he can’t control, that he can’t call fake news, that’s the real issue there.
If you were based in the US and TikTok did get banned, would you move over to another platform?
TikTok is the perfect app, I don’t think any app will ever replace it. I just enjoy TikTok so much so if TikTok did ever go away, like Vine, I’d probably just take a step back from social media because it wouldn’t be the same anymore. Like I set up a YouTube channel and I still haven’t really started uploading.
Who are your top three favourite TikTok accounts?
@.baby.frogs, she followed me a week ago and it was the highlight of my TikTok career. @iamtabithabrown and my friend @pixiepie because she was the first friend I made on the app.
Have you made a lot of friends on the platform?
She’s the only one really. I tend to stay away from the Hype Houses. I’ve been contacted by a few pages and groups of TikTokers and I’m like “nah”. TikTok is not the place for elitism, I think all those houses need to go away. TikTok is about being weird and not having to fit in. By creating a Hype House you’re just making the cool gang, which is what everyone on the app came to escape from, basically.
Like what you’ve read? Follow Ruth on TikTok.
2 September 2020