116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — In July, the Evans family was still reeling from the sudden success and controversy they encountered on TikTok, where white parents Ashley and Steven posted playful videos with their adopted Black son, Abriel.
After struggling with infertility, the couple’s rocky experience with adoption resonated with hundreds of thousands of followers. After adopting Abriel, now 2, they celebrated every moment together.
But with the fun, the couple had to learn how to navigate vitriolic comments aimed at them on social media platforms, where their videos were subject to a variety of criticisms from those who didn’t believe a white couple had the best interests of their adopted Black child in mind.
“Slavery,” one TikTok user commented without denotations for sarcasm, conveying to the couple privately that the comment was intended as a joke. But other TikTok users took it seriously, prompting more fiery criticism against the couple.
So the couple responded with a new video: Abe seated in his high chair at an Applebee’s, pulling his parents’ hands back to lovingly scratch his head over and over.
@happilyevansafterr Reply to @bigdaddydedrick you’re right, we are def enslaved to this little dude! 😜 #fyp #reply #babiesoftiktok #parentsoftiktok #viral #follow ♬ Mhm Mhm - Cdot Honcho
“You either laugh about it or you cry about it,” Ashley said in July.
What’s happened since
In the last six months, their TikTok following has continued to mushroom from 880,000 followers to 1.1 million, leading to visibility that has brought them a book deal and allowed Ashley, 29, to quit her job to manage social media full time.
By Nov. 1, Ashley left her job as a licensed practical nurse to manage something that started for fun but grew into a full-time income source, thanks to the TikTok Creators Fund and ad sponsorships.
“I was busting my butt to make a fraction of what I’m making doing social media full time. I didn’t have time to shoot content, work and take care of Abe (at the same time),” she said. “I decided now’s the time to try this out and see where it takes us.”
In August, the family signed with Shine Talent Group, a Los Angeles firm that represents social media influencers. With the help of the agency’s negotiation, the couple now is making sponsored content for household name brands.
“When we signed with managers and they sent us the first negotiation email, I about passed out when I saw the price they were charging,” Ashley said on the realization of how much they had undercharged previous advertisers.
With Steven, 36, working on the creative side to write scripts for advertisers, the couple makes the vast majority of paid content without Abriel in it.
“I have a more creative mindset. That’s why a lot of our videos do so well,” Steven said.
So far, they said, the new job has stayed light and fun. After writing scripts and getting props ready, the couple takes one full day most weeks to shoot all their content. Content is posted throughout the rest of the week on multiple platforms including TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.
Casual TikTok users watch their videos for a quick laugh, whereas the more personally invested Instagram followers tend to require a greater time investment, with posts showing what the family is up to throughout the day. Along with content comes hundreds of messages constantly pouring in.
“We thought it was weird at first,” Ashley said, when an agent sent them a message inquiring whether they’d be open to doing a book.
But they humored the message. After months of meetings, the couple met with the Fedd Agency in Texas on Wednesday to officially start on their first book deal. By the end of this year, the Evanses expect to release their first book narrating their journey through infertility, adoption, social media and family challenges.
Later, the couple has an eye on children’s books with the hope of eventually landing a reality TV show.
“The main goal for us is to do something on TV,” Steven said.
With a broad audience from children to adults, their content has grown to be kid-friendly with a hidden adult sense of humor that appeals to all audiences. With more and more of their lives online, being recognized as social media influencers outside Cedar Rapids has been an adjustment to privacy expectations.
“When we go out, a lot of people recognize us and get pictures taken with us,” Steven said. “That’s weird. We’re just from Cedar Rapids, there’s nothing special about us.”
As they continue the momentum they realized in 2021, the family looks forward to what they expect to be their biggest year yet. Through their platform, they hope to continue spreading messages of inspiration and hope for families who struggled with the same challenges they did.
Along the way, Abe just enjoys being part of the fun, thinking the content they film is just another game as he watches and laughs.
“We have had a lot of opportunities open up because of social media,” Ashley said. “We feel like we have a big year ahead of us.”
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