26 January 2024

Sabrina Bahsoon, AKA Tube Girl, on finding confidence, TikTok stardom and running with the stars

After being plucked from the TikTok periphery just six months ago, Sabrina Bahsoon, the social media star behind the viral “Tube Girl trend” tells HUNGER about finding confidence, her modelling debut and that time she was recognised by Penn Badgley.

There are a lot of responsibilities that come with being known as “Tube Girl”. You can never, and I repeat never, be caught catching the bus. Minding the gap at all times is a must. Oh, and you will have to respond to being bombarded in the street when someone spots you and asks: “Omg, are you that Tube Girl?” Luckily, though, TikTok star Sabrina Bahsoon is more than happy to oblige.

It was only in August 2023 when Bahsoon was affectionately anointed “Tube Girl” by the internet. Her first viral video sees the effervescent 23-year-old dancing in a Central Line carriage to Nicki Minaj’s verse in David Guetta’s ‘Where Them Girls At’; her long dark hair blows in the wind Beyoncé-style, thrashing against the red metal poles and royal blue decor. As she sways her hips in front of dozens of irritable commuters – few look up from their phones to catch a glance – Bahsoon’s energy pierces through the otherwise dreary feeling in the air. 

Sabrina wears jacket by WHISTLES, dress by PAUL AARON and TOHO BEADS, and earrings by KINKS LAB.

Mere weeks after going viral, that audience made up of drained commuters was swapped for glittery crowds at fashion week. Bahsoon was walking runways across Europe: Mac Cosmetics in London, where she walked alongside the likes of Twiggy and Munroe Bergdorf; Christopher Cowan in Paris, where she was gifted an after-party dress by Cowan himself; then onto a content filming meet-cute with Gossip Girl star Penn Badgely at the Valentino SS24 show. And in the following weeks, she filmed videos with singers Troye Sivan, Omar Apollo, Aquaman’s Jason Maoma and social media star Bella Poarch.

Bahsoon’s eyes light up now as she reels off these starry names as we talk over refreshments at her HUNGER shoot. Being approached by Badgely at the Valentino show was a highlight. “The whole time I was jobless before my first video went viral, I would just watch Gossip Girl every single day with my little sister. So when we were at the same event and he came up to me…. That was pretty crazy,” she recalls now through a permanent smile; her diffidence a reminder that it was only six months ago she was plucked out of the TikTok periphery. “I was concentrating so much because I wanted to make really good content. I didn’t think anyone would recognise me as well. Then Penn comes over and is like ‘Hey, are you that girl on the tube?’ I was like bro! Don’t talk to me right now… I might actually throw up!” Bahsoon lets out a tiny excited squeal and continues. As it turns out, Badgely had recorded his very own rendition on the “Tube Girl trend” – a TikTok sub genre based on Bahsoon’s videos that has more than 85 million views on the platform.

The social media star now stands before me atop a red velvet upholstered sofa at London’s Moth Club, a sticky-floored music venue in Hackney. She’s not long off the plane from Los Angeles, where she had been for another shoot. Today, an elegant, camera-ready Bahsoon wears a black beaded dress overlaid with a corset and long trench coat; her hair slicked back into a high bun sealed with lashings of gel. Thick strokes of dark liquid liner are painted across her eyelids. 

Born and raised in Malaysia to a Lebanese father and a Malaysian mother, Bahsoon was encouraged by her family to pursue an academic career. At 16, she relocated to London to study for her A-Levels and went on to study law – a degree she wasn’t enthralled by – at Durham University, while tutoring maths to GCSE students and working in retail on the side.

Sabrina wears dress by ELLIE MISNER, earrings by XHENXHEN and shoes by OTTENGE.

Around the time that her first video went viral, Bahsoon says she felt directionless in life. “I was jobless,” she tells me, having now slipped off her dress and into a baby pink Juicy Couture tracksuit. She had finished university, quit her retail job and spent most of her days watching Badgely, in Netflix’s You, skulk around the Upper East Side on telly. “For the first time in my life, I had nothing lined up… but I thought, this is the only time in my life where I can actually try and do something that I love.” She had heard the audio for ‘Where Them Girls At’ and instantly had an idea, but when her ad hoc camera crew didn’t come together, she had to rethink. “I have like two friends in London, and I asked them to film me but they said no,” she says. “And that’s what made me figure out how to film myself.” Recording on the Central Line was a no-brainer, she says, and the 0.5x camera effect? Well, that’s a Generation Z thing. And so Tube Girl became Tube Girl.

Sabrina wears top and skirt by SUSAN FANG and shoes by D'ACCORI.

Sabrina wears jacket by Milo Maria, necklace, corset and skirt by T LABEL and shoes by D'ACCORI.

Looking back at those first videos now, though, Bahsoon notices something different about herself. “I look awkward when I watch them back – I was kind of shy about it.” In fact, Bahsoon says she was shy for a long time – aside from putting on performances from the comfort of her own bedroom as a child, or enlisting her younger sister as her personal photographer – she remembers being insecure about expressing herself and would often hold herself back. “I would just keep things to myself. Growing up in Malaysia, you think a lot about your community and what your community thinks of you. I would do a lot of things, captain of my sports teams and like, vice captain of my [school] house… but like, I think that putting myself out there was something so difficult for me.” 

Sabrina wears dress by BUERLANGMA, earrings by XHENXHEN JEWELLERY, and shoes by KALDA SHOES.

When she arrived at Durham for University, Bahsoon didn’t feel noticed by her peers. “In Durham, I didn’t feel beautiful. Nobody hit on me. Nobody wanted anything to do with me. It was very hard for me to convince myself that I was beautiful in that kind of space where there isn’t huge diversity.” After two years of harbouring these thoughts while at Durham, Bahsoon had a mini-revelation in her final year – one that might be at the very core of her “Tube Girl” ethos. “I always had self doubt, but then I realised I need to sit and think [that I’m hot] for myself or no one else is going to. Like…I know I’m hot – I don’t give a fuck if anyone else in this room thinks I’m not.”

Sabrina wears dress by TILLY GRACE COX, bra by T LABEL, earrings by KINKS LAB and shoes by OTTANGE.

She subsequently got involved with the University fashion show as a model (unbeknownst to her that she’d be doing the real thing six months later). “Durham could be such a closed-minded place… I kind of just wanted to act however I wanted to act. That fashion show helped me just not care about what other people think.” When Bahsoon strutted down that catwalk wearing a brown ruched mini dress, she surprised onlookers. “I don’t think people saw me as a creative person before,” she says. But her friends were cheering her on from the wings. “My friend was like, ‘Bitch! You’re a natural model, you should do this for real!”

In the six months that Bahsoon has been “Tube Girl”, however, rumours have surrounded her meteoric rise. How can someone so normal acquire a manager, publicity team, and meet-ups with Troye Sivan, all in the last financial quarter of a year? According to sceptics on social media, there’s only one reasonable explanation for this: She’s an industry plant. “Everyone thinks I’m an industry plant!” Bahsoon half laughs, half sighs. It’s something she wholeheartedly denies. “Literally, ask my tutoring students… they knew who I was before this. They can testify to when I had to cancel my tutoring sessions, because I was supposed to carry on with them this academic year.” What did she say? Sorry, I’m hanging with Penn Badgley now? “I literally messaged my students and was like ‘yeah sorry, I had a career change’. Only one of my GCSE students I was tutoring was like wait… ‘Are you Tube Girl?!’”

Secretly, Bahsoon always knew something resembling this Tube-Girl-sized stardom might come her way…eventually. “I thought it would happen… but not in this way. I always told my parents I would be a rockstar [but] I still haven’t processed how fast everything has grown.” She does hope, though, that her “IDGAF” mantra will rub off on others, and that her confidence-building tips are something she can impart on other young women who watch her videos. “Once I read my comments and this girl was saying ‘I can’t even scratch an itch in public… How do you do that?’ I’m like babe, scratch that itch! Like, you’re itchy? Why are you putting yourself into an uncomfortable position just because you’re scared of what others are going to think,” she says. 

Bahsoon has learnt first-hand, from dancing in carriages full of sweaty commuters, that people are often more concerned with themselves. “Like, if you watch the background of my videos, there are a couple of people looking [at me] but honestly, everyone else is not fazed at all,” she says. “You can do the most outrageous shit like dancing on the tube and no one will care… so just live your life!”

  • Deputy Editor and Producer Nessa Humayun
  • Writer Ellie Muir
  • Production Assistant Emma Christopher
  • Photographer Joseph Clarkson
  • Photo Assistant Joseff Williams
  • Stylist Magda Kaczmarska
  • Glam Nency
  • Hair Kieron Justin Fowles using Color Wow, Oribe, Dyson Hair Pro and ghd Hair

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