When most of us picture corporate America, we imagine a sea of faceless suits drinking espressos, standing in dimly lit elevators and tapping at their watches as if time itself were an unruly intern in need of a proper telling off. Often a derogatory phrase, we tend to associate these morally ambiguous workers as masterminds in overworking their staff, underpaying their employees and ultimately ruining the lives of so many ordinary citizens.
While it may seem like an unfair judgement, we’ve been fed a stream of TV series, movies and books which all push the idea that these people don’t know how to have fun, don’t cultivate a positive work environment and aren’t the kinds of individuals we could ever relate to. We’ve even created online subcultures and (often derogatory) trends such as girlboss, boyboss and hustle culture to strike fear in us and make us contemplate the ways in which corporate environments have deteriorated our mental health.
However, one particular online creator has been on a mission to officially break the fourth wall and bust some myths about work culture. Introducing Corporate Natalie, a TikTok creator and prolific Instagram poster who shares daily work-orientated comedy sketches online to entertain audiences and remind us all that our careers don’t have to be a constant source of stress or fear—rather, they can be a prime opportunity to poke fun at a fellow co-worker without it spiralling into a human resources nightmare.
SCREENSHOT was lucky enough to chat with Natalie over Zoom, discuss her content and find out how her online persona helped spawn an entire genre of TikTok comedy surrounding work life.
TikTok is often celebrated for being the launch pad for so many of our favourite online creators, and Natalie’s story is no exception. That being said, when the content creator first dipped her toes into the video-sharing platform, her intention was not to form an immediately identifiable brand. “When I first started I was just Natalie. I had no intention of becoming Corporate Natalie. I just downloaded the app, in fact I was actually a TikTok hater to begin with, and didn’t want to waste time on the app. I thought it was silly, but then I downloaded it and started making videos.” We’ve all been there.
“From the day I downloaded it, I started creating. I wasn’t just a viewer, I was so excited to start making videos. To begin with, nothing to do with corporate really, maybe a few videos, and then it took off into that niche which the algorithm put me into, which I love. It was new and exciting at the time and it just took off because no one was making fun of corporate America—everyone was so afraid of losing their jobs and poking fun at it was exciting,” Natalie continued.
Her public brand is part personal and part reserved and she’s designed it this way for a reason. “Unlike other creators and influencers, I am very private—it’s probably the corporate professional in me. I like being behind this character and that it’s not my first and last name, it’s this character I’ve created and curated. What I show on Corporate Natalie, I have control over. It doesn’t have to be every aspect of my life, it’s this one avenue of corporate life that I show.”
We also spoke about the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic massively altered people’s mindsets when it comes to content creation, both as a hobby and as a career—and also, how big companies began to come around to the idea of having a far less restrictive digital footprint.
Natalie explained: “Since the pandemic, the whole view of content creation and having a personality at work has shifted. There was so much fear and the power was in the hands of the employer. In the past I had to go through all of these social media meetings where they’d say ‘Don’t attend a rally with our company’s shirt on’ and ‘Don’t do X, Y and Z’ and I’m sure there are companies that still do that, but now having a big platform is so exciting.”
As the creator explains, the pandemic in many ways helped transform companies’ mindsets in regard to online content. It helped place far more power back into the employees hands and tipped the scales. While pre-pandemic she would’ve never felt comfortable having this kind of public following, now, Natalie says it’s a major asset when it comes to interviewing for prospective corporate positions. Having a gen Zer on your side can work wonders.
“It opened an avenue where anyone can be a creator. We would have never gotten to this point of the common creator—you don’t have to be this famous influencer or celebrity, you can be anyone and your video can still go viral,” she emphasised.
In fact, more so than ever, we’re seeing people being the most receptive to content creators who are everyday, ordinary people. The most followed creators on TikTok include the D’Amelio sisters, @homm9k, and Khaby Lame—all unknown individuals who found their niche and popularity on the app.
Natalie also stipulated that the very nature of TikTok lends itself to this kind of online success and relatability which a lot of gen Zers can appreciate. “It encourages a very casual vibe where you can post a video that someone might not be comfortable posting on their in-feeds or Reels because with Instagram, we’ve just grown up with this curated view where you don’t want a casual poor quality video on there—that would ruin your aesthetic.”
Despite attempts to create more authenticity online with apps such as BeReal, TikTok remains one of the only platforms still celebrating those raw ‘in the moment’ clips. “I think people still really do care about how they are presenting themselves on these other platforms, whereas with TikTok, it’s sort of an experimental platform where you can have a username which isn’t your name, you can post videos—it just feels very, well, I would say welcoming.”
Natalie went on to clarify, “I’ve definitely got hate and it’s been very hurtful in many ways but the nature of TikTok encourages everyone to put themselves out there and I’m so thankful that they liked my videos and it was able to go off in the way that it did.”
Of course, we know that TikTok—while it can provide meaningful communities for some—can also be a highly toxic place at times. Not only can the platform be manipulated by groups or individuals who seek to exploit users, it can also lead to torrents of hate comments and abuse being aimed at creators for no reason other than to cause upset.
Natalie herself has faced vile comments online but, as she told me, she tries to prioritise damage control and knows not to take things too personally. “It’s definitely hard, but for me as a person—quick disclaimer—I have such thick skin, I make fun of myself constantly but it is very ‘dog eat dog’ and if you do want to be a creator, it comes with a lot of criticism, pain and things you didn’t know you were insecure about. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
When in doubt, Natalie always knows she’ll have her family members to turn to for advice—and she’s used this to create a pretty clear set of guidelines to stick to.“I’ve always been taught my whole life, and I think Corporate Natalie is truly a manifestation of this, anything I post, my mom would always be like ‘Your grandma is going to see it, would you be okay with her seeing it?’ and I still agree with that. For me [in regard to her videos], in terms of its appropriateness or if it’s making fun of someone else or tearing someone else down, [you have to ask yourself,] ’Would you want to do that publicly?’ because then you’re going to be torn down for it.”
Natalie also emulates a sense of reason when it comes to her online brand. She’s found a way to marry her corporate brand with genuine personability that really connects with viewers—and at the same time gives her enough distance from any unwarranted criticism.
When asked how she manages this, she explained that her personal brand is mainly built on positivity: “I’m making fun of the state of corporate America and I do try to keep it in the lane of something I’m comfortable with. My parents follow me, my employer sees this, so it’s very important for me to maintain something that I’m proud of. So when I get these hate comments about my face, my voice, whatever it may be, I know to my core that everything I post, I’m proud of and is not fostering a community of hate. That helps me get through, [knowing that] I’m making people smile.”
Naturally, from one TikTok-obsessed gen Zer to another, I needed to know Natalie’s personal favourite content to consume on the app—and she did not disappoint.
“It’s crippling being a creator on TikTok and being on the app so much to create content and then also being fully addicted as an individual user. I love comedy. I think Bomanizer is hilarious, I want to film with him so badly.”
Now, that is a collaboration I would pay big bucks to see. For those of you who haven’t yet been graced with Bomanizer’s videos on your FYP, you’re missing out on some top quality Kardashian-inspired reenactments.
Ultimately, I couldn’t walk away from our chat without asking Natalie for her top tips when it comes to starting your career in the corporate world. Number one on her list? Confidence. “When I joined corporate America, I was working in a Big Four consulting firm and it was so rigid, so structured, so hierarchical. I entered the workforce with this fear of showing my personality or making a mistake, I was so fearful of doing something wrong. And now, even small things like posting videos without makeup on or things that I’ve never done before, it’s helped me grow this confidence through Corporate Natalie.”
Don’t stress just yet, channelling your ‘fake it till you make it’ energy is also just fine according to the creator. “Even if you’re not confident and you’re so scared about not knowing how to use Excel and you’re terrified to ask, just try to be confident and pretend that you do. Truly fake it till you make it, because it pays off and it makes people respect you,” the corporate queen went on to say.
Women have been long underappreciated in the corporate world, and even now in 2022, reports clearly highlight the fact that there is still a major deficit of women in high-ranking positions and leadership roles.
Chatting about her own experiences, Natalie implores women to express themselves at work: “Don’t be afraid to show your personality. It took me six months to tell a joke in a meeting with my team and they were like ‘Wait, you’re kind of funny’ and I thought ‘Yeah, I haven’t even shown you my whole personality because I’ve been so afraid of you.’ Know that you got hired for a reason—never think that you’re less than (imposter syndrome is crippling so try to not let that affect you). Of course, it’s easier said than done, especially for women—you just grow up thinking you’re doing something wrong and really, you’re doing something amazing.”
That’s it everyone, the fourth wall has officially been broken. Corporate America may still masquerade as a faceless suit wearing an Apple watch, but hey, with the help of Corporate Natalie, we are far more likely to get through the working day in a much better mood—although I’d keep the discreet TikTok watching toilet breaks to a minimum if I were you.