culture

Unpacking the Appeal of Tinx, Tik Tok’s Big Sister

Meet Tinx the Resident Big Sister of TikTok
Courtesy of Tinx.?

Each coast has its signature influencer restaurant. In Los Angeles, it’s BOA Steakhouse, where you can find 16 21-year-old TikTok stars dining any day of the week. In New York, it’s somewhere like Catch Steak (don’t forget to post a video of you cracking open your dessert!). In these places, you know what you’re getting and who you may see. So when a popular internet personality suggests somewhere outside of those parameters, it can be a little surprising. On a recent Tuesday, Christina Najjar, better known as Tinx, suggested lunch at a rather staid steakhouse in Tribeca, catching me by surprise. But I trusted her. Because she’s Tinx.

Najjar, 30, is a Los Angeles–based content creator, most popular on TikTok, where she has 1.2 million followers who tune in for her pithy pop-culture commentary, daily vlogs, and, most crucially, her recommendations. She has a bowl you can order through the Chipotle app (named the Tinx bowl), a signature sippy cup from Simple Modern, and a smoothie named after her at the bougie Los Angeles grocer, Erewhon. She also freely dispenses dating advice, notably her “box theory” of relationships, which says that when you meet a potential romantic partner, they immediately assign you to a category from which you can’t escape. Relatability is an old script for influencers, but Najjar has managed to break through the massively saturated market. When I asked a friend of mine and a fan of Tinx’s to explain the appeal, she said, “She makes being basic okay.”

We’re at this steakhouse, Wolfgang’s in Tribeca, because it is home to one of Tinx’s favorite salads: the Beverly Hills chopped salad with chicken, dressing on the side. “In a non-ironic way, I love really good salads, and I have lists of this, which is kind of why we’re at this weird steakhouse,” she said, dressed in a look she had previously described on Instagram as “rich TriBeCa mom” (tan wide-leg pants, sneakers, a black baby tee, a pink cardigan slung over her shoulders, Prada bag). Her sartorial character for the day—extremely specific types are one of the pillars of the content she creates—she said, “grew up on the Upper East Side in a huge town house with three live-in staff; always fancied herself a bit of a rebel, but what that actually entailed was smoking cigarettes with her French tutor…” Her nails are painted different shades of neon, and her phone case is almost an identical replica of her Instagram avatar: pink with TINX in white block text.

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Tinx’s confidence begins with the moniker. When she was young, Najjar watched All I Wanna Do, the 1998 comedy starring Gaby Hoffman, Kirsten Dunst, and Monica Keena as Tinka Parker, a troublemaker who could talk to boys. Najjar adopted the name Tinka as her more confident alter ego, which led to Tinx.

Najjar grew up in England with American parents, where she attended an all-girls school before heading to Stanford University. After college, she started working in retail, for Gap Inc., Banana Republic, and Poshmark, before going to Parsons for a master’s degree in fashion journalism. She worked as a freelancer, writing confessional pieces like, “I Attempted to Go on a Different Date Every Week for a Year—Here’s What Happened” and “I Had a Massive Crush on My Trainer—It Didn’t End Well.” “They were the sort of articles where I was falling on the banana peel and telling the joke, that was always my schtick,” she said, referencing a Nora Ephron aphorism. “I love the idea of other people learning from my mistakes.”

But these days, she’s not so much describing her mistakes as prescribing a way of life—albeit with a strong dose of satire. “So you just married an ‘art collector,’” she said in one of her “rich mom starter pack” videos, “and he’s insisting you move to the West Village. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you what you need to fit in with the other West Village rich moms,” she chirps into her black lapel microphone. “[You have] a standing reservation at Café Cluny, where you sit with your other rich friends and pretend to be appalled that Zoom preschool is $30,000.” The West Village mom needs a Sculpt Society membership, and a Lingua Franca embroidered sweater. In Palo Alto, California, she’ll need a Patagonia fleece and “some sort of ugly Chanel that zips. Because you’re practical.” Real cow’s-milk cappuccinos (“because you’re a WASP”), Van Cleef & Arpels necklaces, and an affair with the Soul Cycle instructor Connor are essential in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Najjar’s tone lands somewhere between awe-inspired and vicious, loving and skewering. But her videos have become about more than just shrewdly identifying geo-specific status symbols. On Instagram, Najjar will often caption her outfit pics with long backstories of the rich mom she’s channeling that day, characters that sometimes come to her as she’s freewriting in the morning. “I am gently, lovingly making fun of all these things, but I enjoy them and love them too,” she said. “You can enjoy really expensive rosé and Ganni sweaters and Erewhon, but also know it is what it is.”

This kind of chatty starter pack style has gone bigger than Tinx, with more than a few accounts using the same tiny microphone and cadence to talk about hating the Hamptons, how to order at a super-fancy restaurant, or hyper-specific status symbols. Whether or not Najjar was the first person to use a tiny microphone in her videos (she probably was not), she’s inextricably linked with it. Her own bio reads “POV: ur the oldest girl on TikTok & u live in Los Angeles.” And certainly her success is partially age-specific—especially on an app that’s primarily associated with Gen Z. On Instagram, a majority of her audience is between 25 and 33, but she said on TikTok it’s much broader than just her generation. “Millennials love a list, they love a starter pack, and I found a lot of camaraderie and success with that kind of content because there are other people my age on the app,” she said. “Not to say I haven’t learned so much from Gen Z. They terrify me, but I don’t want to be on the cheugy side of TikTok. I like being the awkward elder millennial for Gen Z’ers. ”

No matter the age, being an influencer entails sharing a lot of your life with thousands or millions of strangers. The rich mom videos take a long time to produce, but perhaps the most time-intensive part of Tinx’s content are her all-day Instagram AMAs, in which she’ll answer questions from her followers on Mondays and Thursdays. Some questions are as quotidian as “How do you do your laundry?” Others are as personal as asking her if she has Hashimoto’s disease (“I do and I see all the DMs about it trying to figure out how to be helpful to all you guys who have it too”) or how she handles anxiety. (Tinx has a long note on her phone titled “Tinky’s Anxiety* *first & foremost get help when you need [sic]. I have seen a therapist for years and take medication as needed.”) She also fields a lot of questions about botox, which she is a proud proponent of. “I’ve never been so busy and I’ve never had a job that’s so 24/7,” she said. “I like it that way. It feels natural for me to share everything with my followers on Tiktok and Instagram. But it means literally every time anything happens to me I tell them.”

This plays into the big sister of it all; she knows, and will tell you, the best way to order at Chipotle, what she likes at the Kardashian’s favorite salad joint, and how to deal with rejection. What she’s less sure about—like with the best way to do laundry or how to talk publicly about Hashimoto’s—is either laughed off or discussed in a vulnerably nebulous way that conveys, I’m learning. I’m trying. Maybe she’s just a little ahead of the process than you are.

It’s easier to play that part when everything’s going okay—your star is rising on TikTok, say—but recently Tinx went through a breakup: an event that defies any Insta-friendly gleaning. She was dating someone, known just to her fans as YG (standing for “Young Gemini,” not the rapper). On June 18, she posted a message to TikTok saying: “I was going to post a vlog today telling you all how madly in love with my boyfriend I am,” she said. “But today I got a horrible message, and if you have received one of those messages, you know exactly how it is.” Her fans joined her in processing the breakup.

With her long list of likes, specific orders, and strong eye for status symbols, Tinx is a certain kind of approachable tastemaker. Small, seemingly insignificant objects take on an outsized importance in Tinx World, like the sippy cup. “It makes me so happy, and I literally get hundreds of pictures a day of people holding their cups, people out in public will wave them to me,” she said, pausing before adding, “You need the cup. You have to get it.” Her sense of style is similarly approachable. “[My style is either] rich mom, I am Gia, or sweatpants or workout gear,” she said. “Adam Sandler is someone I think a lot about when I get dressed. How big can my T-shirt be; how long are my shorts? That’s very accepted in California too.” Remember her whole thing about the banana peel? The day after our interview, she posted a selfie on her Stories, taken from a low angle that said she was “fondly remembering I told a fashion editor my style icon was Adam Sandler yesterday.”