But creator Caleb Simpson prefers to offer a more realistic look at the lives of “everyday New Yorkers” with his popular apartment tour video series.
“I’ve always wanted to try to show New York in a way that people feel like they’re there,” said Simpson, who has about 8.4 million followers across TikTok (where he has 6 million), YouTube, Facebook and Instagram combined.
In the videos, Simpson, 30, spotlights small studios, artist lofts, multimillion-dollar city homes and everything in between. Each short video shows Simpson approaching a person on the street to chat about their rent, asking if he can see their apartment and then taking a tour of them.
Describing himself as the “MTV Cribs” of this generation, Simpson said, referring to the popular early-2000s documentary: A TV-style show that featured tours of the private homes of celebrities.
Simpson said his goal isn’t just to entertain audiences — he also wants to create content that he finds satisfying.
The creator, who first exploded onto TikTok in 2019, had a number of hit videos ahead of his apartment tour series, including pizza reviews, photography tutorials, and comedy sketches. But he was “fatigued by the style of content” he was making.
So he took about a year off from content creation and worked at media company NFT Now. In 2021, he’s back on TikTok with a renewed sense of motivation.
He said, “I realized that what really mattered to me was human connection, the ability to identify with other people’s stories.” “Then what was really beautiful about this series is where you get to, like, really elevate other humans and show their story or even show their talent to the world.”
This is why viewers will see a wide variety of people and spaces, shaded throughout the video series.
Some of the videos feature celebrities like “Shark Tank” judge and business tycoon Barbara Corcoran, showing off their lavish residences. “You’re the man, the apartment man,” she said as she greeted Simpson.
Other videos introduce viewers to unfamiliar faces, like Tomo Delaney, who gave Simpson a tour of his soon-to-be home. Delaney’s wife, Freya, has had Covid a long time ago and lost her job. He said that the family cannot maintain their current housing situation. “Freya seems to be getting better, but it’s crazy. I mean, I’ve been a single dad for two years,” Delaney told Simpson in the video.
Simpson said he usually finds themes for his apartment tours using a person-in-the-street approach, looking through suggestions in his direct messages and reaching out to fellow creatives to collaborate.
“I don’t want to focus solely on celebrities or social media stars because that’s not real or tangible,” Simpson said. “And I think the everyday human being is just as interesting, if not more interesting, because it’s more relatable.”
On Monday, Simpson had two rounds of apartments on opposite ends of Brooklyn: one in Midwood, a quiet neighborhood at the south end of borough, and one in East Williamsburg, a busy uptown neighborhood.
Although he often gets nervous entering other people’s homes, Simpson said he tries to treat new people like old friends so they can open up. He never knows what to expect.
“I think one of my superpowers in this world is that people feel really comfortable around me,” Simpson said. “And I’m able to bring out a good side of their personality. So for me, in order to do that, I need to be really present and in the moment, you know, just as it is with them.”
While outside Donyale Werle’s home in Midwood, a man stopped by to ask Simpson, “Are you from TikTok?” Simpson answered yes. He said that such moments have happened quite often lately.
Werle, a Tony Award-winning landscape artist and set designer, isn’t on TikTok herself. But her friend from high school, who’s based in Chicago, is — and she suggests Simpson give a tour of the Whirl house. Then the two called to coordinate a tour date.
The creaky single-family Werle house was built in 1915 and is filled with trinkets: pin-up animal heads, ceramic figurines, antique toys, and a chandelier. The house is eclectic, extreme, and the exact kind of quirky house that could make it to someone’s TikTok feed.
Upon his arrival, Simpson gives Werl a rundown of how the operation will work. He tells her that first he enters the house again with his rolling camera phone. Then Werle is supposed to talk to Simpson about the house and about herself.
“This is the most homely house I’ve ever lived in in New York City,” Simpson said, after Wehrle showed him old Valentine’s Day cards her grandmother had laid out for her.
Simpson’s next stop was the East Williamsburg home of Sandy De Jesus.
De Jesus, owner of social media marketing agency Go Anomalous, has already been featured on Simpson’s TikTok and Instagram. However, they decided to meet again to produce a longer video for YouTube. They were joined by Diego Oliverio, Simpson’s friend and occasional videographer.
De Jesus, who grew up in Copper Park homes and is a first-generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic, said he wanted to expand on his story in a longer interview with Simpson in an effort to reach more people.
Cooper Park Homes, a public housing development, consists of 11 multi-family apartment buildings built in 1950. De Jesus’ three-bedroom unit has square rooms and mostly white walls, although some are still painted navy Since his mother lived there. There are screens and recording devices everywhere, which is an appropriate setup for someone who works in social media.
Since posting the first video featuring him, de Jesus said he’s received messages from people from similar backgrounds that the video resonated with them.
“A lot of people from neighborhoods like this… can feel certain goals or certain possibilities are out of reach,” said de Jesus. “I was like, you know, if they can see the apartment, they can hear my story. I’ve lived here most of my life. And it got me really excited about letting [Simpson] And seeing the story of the difference we can make together.”
Simpson has big plans for the series’ future.
He said he will visit other major US cities in the next few months. Next, he wants to take the series abroad to Japan, China and parts of Europe.
“It’s going to be a really fun few years,” he said. “I am so excited about it.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com