Drew Afualo is the “Bloody Mary” of TikTok, if Bloody Mary was known for her charmingly high-pitched giggle and acerbic comebacks.
Deep in the comments of misogynistic posts, which are a dime a dozen on the app, Afualo’s followers have been known to tag her. Say her name one, two, three, four times — you’ll summon her.
But unlike the malevolent character from English folklore,a staple at childhood slumber parties, Afualo is here to help, not hurt. Unless you’re spewing hate, that is.
The 25-year-old Southern Californian, who now has 1.3 million followers on TikTok, is known for stitching videos that are degrading or insulting to women or members of marginalized communities with responses that thoroughly eviscerate the original poster in a systematic and creative way.
“That’s Baba Yaga to u hoe,” her TikTok bio reads, noting her approval of another comparison to a mythological baddie — specifically the Slavic boogeyman character whose penchant for vengeance earned John Wick his nickname in the Keanu Reeves-led movie franchise.
Take one of her first massively viral videos, for instance.
“Why do women always wait till the end of a relationship to be the best version of themselves?” a man asked in a video that has since had its comments turned off.
Calmly, Afualo issued her response.
“All right, I got tagged in it a million times,” she began, before directing her audience to check out a “wonderful, mature” response to the post that another user shared. “I, however, will not be affording him the same kindness.”
She then giggled — a lighthearted, funny laugh that might disarm someone so they think she’s just joking about the storm coming their way — and dove in.
“You filmed this entire video … getting lots of comments that are like ‘so f***ing true bro,’ … and not once did you think, ‘I broke up with her and she’s doing so much better without me,’” Afualo said in the video. “I wonder what that’s about. The math … it’s quite simple. The answer is right in front of you buddy. I’ll give you a hint. Try looking in the f***ing mirror. You were holding her back, that’s why [she’s doing better]. You’re welcome.”
In an interview with In The Know, Afualo said she’s been accused of “sinking down” to the level of the posts she responds to with her incisive comebacks — but her philosophy is simple.
“If you’re bold enough to post it, I’m bold enough to respond to it,” she said. “It’s cool when he does it, but when I do it, I’m a b****.”
To her, the double standard is apparent. That’s why she’s here to dismantle it.
“I just stand up to misogynistic men or bigots in general. I turn the tables on them and make it light and funny,” she said, describing what kind of posts you’ll find on her profile.
If you’re open-minded and treat people with respect, TikTok’s boogeyman promises she won’t come after you.
Afualo said she used to be a lot more “aggressive” when it came to these response videos, but TikTok’s community guidelines, which ban bullying, “choked [her] out.”
“There are certain things I can’t or won’t poke fun at. The furthest I can go is comparing them to something silly. It’s funny, but it’s also a read. I have to be creative,” she said. “Every man on that f***ing app that hates me calls me a fat cow 20,000 times a day, but whatever.”
Afualo’s insults, though sometimes nitpicky drags about height and hairlines, require men to prepare airtight presentations before posting their hot takes. It’s not meant to silence men, it’s meant to make them think: How can I make my argument as solid as possible — in word and appearance — before saying something TikTok’s Bloody Mary can pick apart? Will this be offensive to communities that have this protector waiting in the shadows to appear on my post and dunk on me?
She said that “9 times out of 10,” they just block her and delete the post or turn off the comments. It’s rare, but sometimes the people she responds to even apologize.
“I have a male fan base, too … it’s very small, but a couple of dudes have said … ‘I didn’t realize some of the traits I had were pretty toxic until I watched your videos,’” Afualo told In The Know. “I mean, we love self-reflecting, right? You can always unlearn everything that you learned.”
Afualo’s responses aren’t just for the “bigots,” either. She’s a protector and a fighter, but she’s been an inspiration as well.
“People tell me I give them courage and strength to stand up for themselves,” she said. She arms her viewers with defenses against common or hurtful statements, like recycled fatphobic jokes and makeup shaming.
By placing herself directly between combative users and the vulnerable people they attack, Afualo has made herself the target of a lot of hate. At first, she tried to respond to it all , biting back with her signature wit, but as her platform grew, she couldn’t manage it anymore — not that she really needed to.
“Online, everybody gets brave, right? Because they’re hiding. I’ve said it before, and it’s not a joke — nothing these men can say can hurt my feelings. I’ve heard it all before,” she said. “I will never care what anybody thinks about me if it’s not coming from the people I care most about. I don’t need to weigh my worth with strangers who are never going to mean anything to me.”
She credits her solid familial relationships and the “true, foundational love” between her parents for instilling a sense of self-confidence in her at a young age. She described her mom as “strong and confident,” her dad as “emotionally intact” and said they constantly uplift each other.
“When men are like, ‘where are your parents?’ I’m like, ‘my parents are my biggest fans,’” Afualo said, noting that sometimes people make fun of her for that, but she doesn’t care. “It’s not like I think I’m better than everybody else. I just love myself enough to know that the words that you say to me are not going to affect me.”
When Afualo is at home with her family or hanging out with her boyfriend of four years, she’s still that same person who keeps going viral on TikTok for her verbal beatdowns of bigots. She achieved viral boogeyman status by simply picking up her phone and speaking directly to someone, and that’s exactly how she’s made all of her content since then.
She said she doesn’t find herself being that confrontational in her everyday life, though, because she “doesn’t surround [herself] with people like that” who necessitate such fiery responses. She coats herself in self-confidence, envelops herself with good people and channels that well-grounded power into protecting vulnerable communities in her own unique, feisty way.
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