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TikTok star Caroline Ricke’s Rich Caroline persona could be called spoiled, stuck-up, and stupid. A young heiress who spends her days traveling, dressing extravagantly, and flaunting her wealth while evading her bills, she epitomizes American materialism and cluelessness. Not only that, but Rich Caroline is also a champion of misinformation — the more outlandish, the better. Among the comments she delights in stirring up are “wait are u actually married,” “im starting to believe she really goes to harvard,” “oh…this is heartbreaking,” and “I DONT KNOW WHATS REAL.”
What does Caroline Ricke, creator and star of @richcaroline, have to say to these criticisms of her persona?
“You’re right. I literally hate her.”
Ricke has entertained and misled millions as her alter ego Rich Caroline, who first shot to fame on YouTube with her “HARVARD ACCEPTANCE REACTION” video but now regularly attracts millions of views on TikTok. Boasting a Y2K aesthetic, airheaded puns, and a stunning sense of self-confidence, Rich Caroline has been favorably compared to Elle Woods, Lizzie McGuire, and Cher Horowitz.
Rich Caroline has lore, though. Aside from being a pampered princess, her character flunked out of her Harvard biomedical engineering program, dealt with her egotistical mother’s divorce, and has just tied the knot. Her vanity, irony, and style delight many, embracing today’s “hot girl” culture of half-serious overconfidence. Ricke expertly employs both comical exaggeration and natural acting, puzzling both random viewers and long-term fans.
“I think it’s hilarious. I think the more people that don’t get it, the better,” she said.
In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Ricke appeared as her real self to discuss her life behind the camera. Having sustained her Rich Caroline front online, Ricke has received a lot of hate comments — even fans who meet her in real life expect her to be rude. However, the persona offers a barrier between online criticism and Ricke herself, who is funny, but clearly friendly and grounded.
“[Rich Caroline’s] videos, I think, just got crazier and crazier. I started out making normal content, but I’m like, ‘no one wants to watch this.’ I literally live in Ohio and I’m in college, like I’m so boring,” she said.
Ricke brainstorms, writes, and edits her content with her brother, Phillip C. Ricke ’24, who is a current senior at Harvard. He has been her primary writing partner since they were teenagers. After choosing a topic for a video, they separately write their own jokes and keep the ones that get a laugh out of each other. Ricke’s hilarious parents make their way into her work as well — Ricke’s mom, who appears in some of her videos, recently wrote up a script for Ricke to use as she likes.
“Humor was just such a big thing in our household. We would just laugh all the time. When we would want to cry, we would just laugh,” Ricke said.
Having grown up in a “very normal, big family, traditional household” with strict parents, it was in her private school classmates that Ricke found inspiration for her rich girl character. In fact, the hilarious portrayal of Rich Caroline’s life depends on its distance from Ricke’s everyday reality. Still, Rich Caroline’s humor and style stem from Ricke’s own creative genius, feeding into the merging of their personalities over time.
“As I’ve grown up, I’ve been able to grow up with my character,” Ricke said.
It seems that Rich Caroline has become more and more relatable as a result: Judging from her comment sections, she is more beloved than ever. The inside joke built by Ricke’s continuous satire — as well as her habit of responding to her comments with more TikToks — helps her connect with her audience. Yet getting validation through the internet is a double-edged sword: Gaining confidence from positive comments opens up the possibility of losing it through negative ones. According to Ricke, it’s best to not take anything too seriously, and laugh whenever possible.
“I used to take things so seriously and it was just so, life was so much harder to live. Obviously, bad things happen and then you’re like, ‘fuck.’ But at the end of the day, when bad things happen to me, I’m like, ‘well, this is really funny,’” she said.
To maintain balance, Ricke also avoids recording herself outside of making TikToks, though her passion for fashion carries through to her day-to-day life. In high school, during a recovery period after breaking her back, Ricke spent days studying trends and niche fashion. Her penchant for thrifting anything colorful, weird, or funky developed into her signature style, which is not to be mistaken for just Rich Caroline’s costume. In a similar vein, Ricke also loves DIY art —furnishing her apartment is her latest project. Ricke even studied business and fashion in college, and said she might have worked in the fashion industry in another timeline.
In this one, she hopes to translate her comedic chops into long-form content for TV someday. Besides childhood shows like “Lizzie McGuire” and “Modern Family,” Ricke cited comedians Nathan Fielder and Aubrey Plaza as influences, whose personas — like Ricke’s — leave viewers suspended in disbelief. As Ricke’s humor evolves from punchline-heavy skits to situational comedy, she dreams of someday creating a TV series for Rich Caroline and exploring her life with more depth.
Long-term goals aside, Ricke is enjoying the spontaneity of content creation, from a comedic riff-off with singer Halsey to being zipped into a wedding dress by strangers at Goodwill. Whether producing, consuming, or finding moments of comedy in everyday life, Ricke lives through laughter.
“I love laughing. I basically only consume funny content. When it comes to TV shows, I have to be laughing,” she said. “It’s hard for me to pay attention if it’s serious and there’s no jokes, ’cause I’m like, ‘what is the point?’ I thought the whole point was to laugh at it.”
—Staff writer Isabelle A. Lu can be reached at email@example.com.
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