Milan Mathew: The TikToker Who Started Expressing Culture Through Clothes

While TikTok is notorious for people showing off their dance moves, ability to lip-sync and play pranks and jokes, some users have also been showcasing their style. 

Milan Mathew is a model based in Houston, Texas, who has always made it a point to put her Indian heritage on display. 

Around the end of June, Mathew took to TikTok and took an already trending concept and gave it a little twist. The original video created by Atikhun Kanjanakaset uses the sound “Hot Seat” by Billies Baby while users who appear to have just woken up sit on a chair and instantly transition into wearing their best outfit. Mathew took inspiration from this and made it so that she transitioned from a western outfit to an Indian outfit to show off her Indian culture. Her video shows her in a western outfit, and then she transitions into wearing a lengha, which is basically a big, puffy skirt with a blouse that’s matching (like a crop top). She topped her lengha off with a lot of ethnic jewelry: a big nose ring, a headpiece and a big necklace. 

Indian girl running in the hallway Photo by Saksham Gangwar on Unsplash

The video currently has more than 9 million views and 2 million likes. Because of all the traffic it has gotten, she made two more videos using the sound and wearing a different lengha each time. Mathew’s idea has inspired other TikTokers around the world to portray their culture through their traditional wear. These countries include Somalia, the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Mexico and more. “I think it was me embracing my culture that made people want to actively and openly embrace theirs too,” Mathew told Nylon in response to being asked why she thought it had caught on so quickly with others. 

Some common themes that are shared amongst all the TikTok users who have followed in this trend are assimilation and cultural disconnection, which finally leads to being proud and embracing your culture and heritage. “I feel like Generation Z is making a positive difference in diminishing racism. This trend has become a platform for education and empowerment through showing perspectives of different cultures and appreciating the beauty of ethnic fashion,” says TikToker, Elizabeth Le.

People of color have been calling out the app for the racism they face on it. In June, TikTok was accused of shadowbanning Black creators for calling out the algorithm-facilitated racism. Some users reported being suspended and outright banned for exposing the inherent racism on the platform. A few weeks after this happened, TikTok pledged that it would be promoting Black creators through an initiative called the Creator Diversity Collective.

The Creator Diversity Collective brings people together from different backgrounds to help ensure diversity, inclusion and representation in Tiktok’s programs and on its platform. “The creators were chosen based on their knowledge of TikTok and their dedication to advocating for a more inclusive platform.” TikTok put out in a statement

The trend that Mathew started is definitely letting people know that they should not be afraid to express their culture. Mathew also has a youtube channel where she makes fitness videos, vlogs, lifestyle videos, clothing haul videos and a bunch of other stuff in between.