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October 21 2021 3:21 PM ˚

Sabuhait: From ‘outsider’ to viral sensation

Social media influencer Seifaldeen Abu Hait has reached social media fame for his relatable comedy sketches. (Photo: Handout from Seifaldeen Abu Hait)
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AMMAN — Seifaldeen Abu Hait, a 20-year-old Jordanian Chinese content creator, has amassed over 2.5 million followers and 42 million likes on TikTok.اضافة اعلان

Social media influencer Seifaldeen Abu Hait has reached social media fame for his relatable comedy sketches. (Photo: Handout from Seifaldeen Abu Hait)

Growing up in Jordan, Abu Hait, better known by his TikTok handle @sabuhait, felt like an outsider. He experienced racism in the classroom, which took a toll on him as a child.

“When I was a child, I would sometimes even be embarrassed to go out with my mother, because she’s Chinese,” he told Jordan News. “I used to hate that I am half Chinese, because of all the teasing. I felt different because of how I look on the outside, I (experienced) some sort of discrimination, a bit of harassment and bullying in school.” Nevertheless, these challenges, Abu Hait said, helped build his character.

Abu Hait, who is half Jordanian and half Chinese, poses in front of the Amman citadel. (Photo: Handout from Seifaldeen Abu Hait)

“With time, maturing, and growing up, I realized it wasn’t a bad thing. I’m not the person in the wrong here. I didn’t choose to be half Chinese, and I didn’t choose the way I look,” the social media star said. “Those people who harassed and bullied me, they’re in the wrong. Honestly, I have no hate for them, (but) all the love. I’m sure they grew up to be better people — as a matter of fact, every bully I had, in the end they turned out to be my friends.”

When Abu Hait first started using the video-sharing app TikTok, he centered his content on the unique aspects of growing up half Chinese in Jordan. But he never wanted to be stereotyped as the “Chinese guy on TikTok,” he said, adding that being a “Chinese person on TikTok is not a personality trait, and that’s why I diverged into making comedic sketch videos.”

Despite this, Abu Hait would face abuse purely due to his race. “The jokes weren’t really funny, they just wanted to get a reaction out of me and I’m the sort of person who doesn’t like to address drama, but sometimes I feel like I need to.”

Abu Hait refused to let the racist comments hold him back. His most viral series “Hayat ma3 a5 93eer (Life with a younger brother)” blew up on TikTok and pushed him to make more videos. “I posted it very late, so I didn’t expect it to do well or get a lot of views. The next morning, it hit a million views, and it just kept going up from there.”

Abu Hait’s comedic content focuses on what growing up as a member of so-called Generation Z was like as well as memories from the 2000s. “I would say it’s relatable in a sense for teenagers, children, and could be relatable to adults, young adults and what they went through or grew up with, and sometimes I put in here and there the fact that I’m mixed, because people ask me to do it. It’s for everyone. I don’t choose a specific audience, I like to make everyone happy.”

The creator has also struggled with the high expectations that come with social media success. “For a while, it got to my head that I need views or followers, which was a bad time for me. Then I realized that’s not the point of it, the point is to make content you love.

“Whether it’s good or bad, you did it, even if it gets 10 views and you make 10 people laugh, I think it’s worth it. That’s my aim when I post videos: I want people to feel good, to look at my videos and be like ‘that happened to me too.’”

The TikToker is always up for a challenge and willing to go the extra mile for his audience. “I’m a lot more comfortable speaking English and I started on TikTok speaking English, but I realized the audience for English content is very limited in the Middle East.” This pushed him to start making Arabic language videos to appeal to a wider audience.

Abu Hait pointed out the difficulty of trying to cultivate an audience in the Middle East. “I think being a content creator, actor, singer or any sort of art(ist) is hard in the Middle East. When you open your ‘For You page’ on TikTok in Jordan, you’re going to find a mix between Arabic and English content. But if you’re in the US or Canada, (English creators’) content gets pushed around.”

Despite his rising popularity on social media, Abu Hait doesn’t think TikTok changed his life at all. “I think my life is still the same. I still wake up late sometimes, I still get scolded by my parents sometimes, and I still go out with my friends. The only difference is that I sometimes get recognized, that’s all. I don’t see myself as someone famous or as an influencer.

“I’m just someone that makes videos and hopefully makes people laugh and feel recognized.”

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