This piece is part of our FTWtoday Q+A series. Do you know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.
1.7 million. That’s the number of followers Stephen Austin, aka Old Man Steve, an 83-year-old local resident, has on TikTok — not to mention the 31+ million likes that his videos have earn since he started his account in late 2019.
As one of the older + wiser members of the Gen Z-saturated app, we chatted with Old Man Steve about his experience on TikTok and what it’s like being a local celebrity. Here’s what he had to say.
How did you get started on TikTok?
My nephew told me, “Steve, you need to try TikTok.” Well, I didn’t know what TikTok was, so I checked it out. I’ve been doing YouTube for probably 12 years — a long time just, undiscovered. I’ve probably done 900+ videos on YouTube over the years.
Creating content on TikTok is a little different from YouTube. How did you get started?
I just start looking and try to figure it out. I’ve always been very curious about electronics stuff. I try to read a lot, Google a lot, or YouTube [when I have questions] — you can find anything on YouTube.
How do you film your content?
A lot of people on these apps have somebody filming them. But, you know, I’m by myself, I don’t have anybody to film me. I’m not the only one [that films alone], but it does limit some of the things you can do. So I have a tripod or I use my phone to film like you do nowadays. You can just lean your phone up against the wall — you don’t really need fancy equipment. I also have lighting and backdrops that I’ll use sometimes.
Do you like doing any of the TikTok trends?
Sometimes I will do the dancing trends, but I don’t do all the trends that the young people are doing, so I do my cooking show — Cooking with Steve. The reason I started doing the cooking was because most people were dancing or doing lip syncing, and I didn’t. I didn’t fit into that niche. So I thought, “Well, I’ll make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and call it cooking.”
I was even invited to be on the Rachael Ray Show in 2020. I made some special hors d’oeuvres for her — saltine crackers with cream cheese, peach preserves, and blueberry jam. I was also featured in Newsweek with several other 80-year-old TikTokers.
What’s it like being a TikTok celebrity?
I have very devoted fans — mostly young fans — and they refer to me as “grandpa” or they say that they want me to be their grandpa. I’ve never had any bad experiences [on the app], so I’m thankful for that. Fans will comment and say that if they’re having a bad day, I make them smile. It really touches me and makes it worthwhile.
Ok… we have to ask about your hats. How many do you have?
Well, I probably have 100+ now. I match them with my shirts and it gives me something fun to do. One of my favorite [outfit] combinations is my light green hat and light blue shirt.
(We wore this outfit for our interview.)
What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m part of the Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth and I really enjoy that. I also go on fun senior trips with The Link Event & Recreation Center. There’s typically a group of about 12-15 of us and we’ll go to places like the zoo or museums.
Apart from his adventures with his friends, Old Man Steve gives his followers an inside look at his daily life in and around Fort Worth.
We saw on your TikTok that you were at the Fort Worth Stock and Rodeo. Did you enjoy that?
Oh, yes. I had a great time and I was recognized by one of my fans when I was ordering a hamburger and we ended up making a TikTok together. I also got to take some selfies with people.
This article was co-authored by FTWtoday intern Hailey Lyon.