How Carter Gallo and his family navigate social media fame

CHARLOTTE — In the era of social media, anyone can go viral in an instant for pretty much anything. For Charlotte Country Day senior Carter Gallo, it was a video of him washing his hands with toothpaste in 2019 that skyrocketed his career as a TikTok star.

Two years later and Carter has since amassed 1.1 million followers and 60.3 million likes on TikTok, an app where he posts acting skits, lifestyle videos and funny clips of him and his friends. He has his own agent, accountant and lawyer to manage business deals and recently came out with a line of merchandise.

In June, Carter embarked on the Boys of Summer Tour, where he and other social media influencers travel the country meeting and greeting their fans. They’ll make a stop in Charlotte on Aug. 5 at the Neighborhood Theatre.

But behind every young actor, teen pop sensation and 17-year-old TikTok star is a family simultaneously trying to navigate their child’s sudden rise to fame. So what do Carter’s parents, Mike and Michelle Gallo, think of all this?

Of course, they were surprised how quickly Carter gained popularity on the app but said it was the fans who took a little getting used to. Michelle said her son is recognized nearly everywhere he goes, including the airport and even on vacation at EPCOT.

“These girls are just screaming his name and coming up asking for pictures,” she said, adding that Carter is much more reserved and humble in person than on social media. “At the end of the day, he’s really just a normal 17-year-old kid with the same insecurities as everyone else. He just happens to make funny TikToks.”

Mike and Michelle Gallo have been supportive of Carter’s social media career from the start, even flying with him and other influencers to Los Angles to collaborate with other creators. They see it as a learning experience and a crash course in business and marketing since Carter is at the table for every deal he considers.

“If he’s enjoying it and he’s starting to make money off it, obviously we support it, but we want him to think about his future and what’s next, not just today,” Mike said.

Carter said he’s already learned a lot, specifically what makes a good brand deal and how much his promotion is actually worth.

“In this industry, there’s a lot of people that want to take advantage of you and use you for promotion,” Carter said. “It’s hard for a 17-year-old to say no to a couple hundred bucks for a brand deal, but it’s about holding out for bigger deals and knowing what you’re worth.”

Carter’s parents put all of his earnings into an investment account and have been teaching him the importance of having his money work for him instead of blowing it all at once. Michelle said their family values experiences and spending time together over materialistic things and they believe they’ve instilled those values in Carter, too.

Like any parent, Mike and Michelle just want to protect their son and make sure no one takes advantage of him. That’s why they research every business opportunity Carter gets and ask a lot of questions. They have the final say in what he can or can’t do and that goes for his TikTok account as well.

"If I see a video and somehow it rubs me the wrong way, that might be a reason I ask him to take something down,” Michelle said. “Maybe it’s the words or offensive language, but it’s very rare that it happens.”

Over one million followers on TikTok is a lot of people who think they know Carter Gallo, but even Carter admits he’s not as outgoing as he seems online. His parents describe him as an easy-going, approachable, relatable and happy kid who loves to have fun and be around his friends. He’s also a talented pole vaulter — he placed first in the state tournament in May — who gets his energy from other people and is always down to have a good time.

“From the moment he was born, he’s always had a smile on his face. He’s always smiling, always laughing and he’s a well-liked kid,” Michelle said. “Everybody always likes Carter and he likes everybody and that’s why we have to protect him because he tends to see the best in everybody.”

But even with hundreds of thousands of fans, there’s still an ugly side to social media. Carter’s parents said they’ve been surprised more so by the negativity Carter receives from his classmates than users who post negative comments on his videos. They encourage him to focus on the people who like him and remind him he’s making them smile.

“If he knows he can make people happy by putting out a goofy video on TikTok, he thrives on that and it gives him the energy to go do another one,” Michelle said. “He handles a lot of things in stride and we have a lot of family conversations, which seem to help.”

Carter said he’s used to the negativity by now and tries to not let it get to him.

“I put myself in front of millions of people and not everyone is going to be a fan of what I’m doing, but there’s enough people that support me that it keeps me doing what I’m doing,” he said.

Still, Mike and Michelle keep tabs on the comments and frequently check in with him to make sure he’s still having fun.

“We tell him life is every day and if you’re not enjoying it, then don’t do it,” Mike said. “It’s not worth it.”

For now, Carter said he’s enjoying TikTok and being in front of the camera. He said the Boys of Summer Tour has been a lot of traveling and he misses his friends, family and his bed, but he’s having a blast. He’s getting to see the entire country — Los Angeles has been his favorite — and is honing his public speaking and communication skills, as well as gaining stage presence.

He said the best part of the tour has been getting to meet all his fans.

“When you get to see all the positive feedback and all the support, it’s just really rewarding,” Carter said.

Carter’s parents aren’t sure how long his social media fame will last, but they’re glad he’s capitalizing on the moment and getting his foot in the door of the entertainment industry. Carter has told them he wants to be a game show or reality TV host down the road.

“No matter what happens, he’s got a great start on life and he certainly has a heck of a story to talk about,” Michelle said.

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