Sahana Kargi’s viral South Indian beauty tips launched her career as a content creator and increased her income exponentially.

Sahana Kargi makes nearly $100k per year by posting relatable beauty content

Sahana Kargi’s viral South Indian beauty tips launched her career as a content creator and increased her income exponentially.

Sahana Kargi has nearly 1.5M followers across her My Pawfect Family accounts on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, where she posts hair and beauty content. 

Kargi first got on social media three years ago to casually post videos of her exotic pets—hence the animal-themed handle. She started on YouTube, where her sugar glider and rabbits were the stars.

“I was nervous about showing my face, so I cropped all the videos,” she says. Still, her content garnered 2,000 subscribers, all of whom were very, very attached to her animals.

“It’s a small number, but on YouTube, communities are much more tight-knit,” she says. “They knew all my pet’s names, asked a lot of questions…they were really involved.”

Two years into posting content, she started to share more on TikTok and Instagram.

“The further I got into those exotic animal communities, the more I realized that it wasn’t a great space,” she says. “People were showcasing their pets in bad conditions, so I shared ways to take care of the animals.”

As she got more comfortable on the platform, her face made more appearances alongside the animals—and so did comments about it. “My comments were full of questions about my hair and skin,” she says. “I hadn’t been talking about anything related to beauty. It came out of nowhere.”

At the time, though Kargi had around 50,000 followers, she started to pull away from a public persona. While comments were positive, she still took hits to her self-esteem every time she opened the app.

“I got wrapped up in comparing myself to everyone else,” she says, “I just did not feel good about myself.”

Her TikTok was basically inactive when she replied to a comment about her hair in a spur-of-the-moment decision. “I posted about using grapeseed oil to keep your hair healthy—it’s a technique that a lot of Indians use,” Kargi says.

Then, she boarded a flight. When she landed a few hours later, she had over 7 million views—and a new audience.

“I got so many video responses and comments of girls saying, ‘I could never have hair like that,’” she says. “I’d become someone making other women feel bad about themselves! When I filmed, I was having a great hair day. It was super styled, and I filmed it at a flattering angle.”

The view count also came with a spike in followers, enough that Kargi realized she had the unique opportunity to command a lot of attention. She continued making content on TikTok, returning to her exotic-animal niche but intermittently mixing in beauty posts. The catch? No filters, ever.

“I was put off from the beauty community initially because I felt like a lot of those creators were conceited and out of touch,” she says. “I decided if I was going to step into that niche, I wasn’t going to drop my values. I never edited my appearance in a video … and I still don’t.” Kargi also decided that she’d film videos when she felt like it, not when she thought she looked her best.

Within two weeks of the first viral video, her second video to blow up—this time at 10 million views nearly overnight—was again in the beauty niche. Finally, her decision was clear: she needed to pivot.

Kargi has spent most of 2022 slowly transforming her accounts. She was intentional with her rebranding, switching not from the animal to beauty niches but instead making herself the center.

“My community was always mostly women and girls,” Kargi says. “I needed to find a way to bring everyone along with me, and I realized that the things I’m interested in are the things my followers are interested in, too—whether that’s animals, hair, and beauty, whatever. I made the transition into becoming my own brand when I realized just being myself was enough. I’ve become my own content.”

Overall, the shift was met with an overwhelmingly positive response. In the last few months, she’s climbed to over a million followers on TikTok, all begging for Kargi’s advice.

Kargi isn’t a trained esthetician, nor does she hope to be one. Right now, she’s in her senior year as an applied math major at the University of Utah, working a research job and thinking about graduate school. 

Lack of professional experience hasn’t curbed her growth—in fact, Kargi thinks it’s what launched her.

“I’m not trying to be relatable,” she says. “I think I just am relatable. That sounds so obnoxious, but I really can’t think of another way to put it. I’m not getting ready to attend an LA event, I’m getting ready for an 8 a.m. math final.”

Kargi is serious about honesty on her accounts. Her “my insecurities” series highlights a different part of her body she’s embarrassed about, from her pores to her two-toned lips.

The difficulty ratches up to new levels when you remember it all rests on the brand deals, a world Kargi says is a lot like the Wild West—especially for viral creators.

They’re often her most popular videos, with an outpouring of comments thanking her for posting, as one commenter says, “things that everyone hides.”

For her, the most important thing was and is representation.

“I want every single person to be able to go online and find someone who looks like them,” she says. “And I’ve found that I’m that for a lot of people. Even in the oversaturated beauty community, there aren’t many South Indians, people with darker skin tones and black hair. I think just looking like myself on my accounts is important.”

But for the 21-year-old, that same relatability factor can be a double-edged sword that also makes the experience isolating.

“Most of my friends don’t have TikTok,” she says. “My account, my growth, my posts, it’s all just never brought up. It’s not important in the overall scope of things, you know?”

Until she signed with an agency in mid-2022, Kargi and her dad managed her finances. “Brands would offer me $100, and I’d just take it,” she says. “My dad would say, ‘’What does it take, an hour to make a video? $100 an hour is pretty good.’”

Today, the deals Kargi signs are negotiated by her agency and usually have at least another zero at the end. On average, she earns $2,000 per sponsored video. At the high end of things, she’ll see $4,000 for a single post.

“My agency doesn’t even consider something under $1,000 now,” she says. “In the influencer world, work like that is considered ‘low paid.’”

Considering she makes $13 an hour at her on-campus job, she says, “that’s a lot of money.” As she watches her peers sit for interviews at prestigious schools and for office jobs, she says the idea of making any serious money so unconventionally is a lot to handle.

“I didn’t anticipate anything like this,” she says. “I don’t think I even wanted it at the beginning. It’s a lot to reconfigure your whole life plan in a couple of months.”

The difficulty ratches up to new levels when you remember it all rests on the brand deals, a world Kargi says is a lot like the Wild West—especially for viral creators.

“At 400,000 followers, I had brands approaching me,” she says. “But it’s really been in the last month that I’ve seen these big numbers. I started to throw out amounts almost randomly … just to see what would happen.”

Ninety-nine percent of the time, those companies said yes.

“I was just playing around, and they were serious,” she says. “‘Yes’ to thousands of dollars for a video I made in my dorm! I’ve realized how much power my voice has. When I promote something, people actually go out and buy it. It makes you think twice.”

Outside of securing brand deals, Kargi produces, films and edits all her own content just like she did at the start.

Plenty of agencies and consultants have handed Kargi advice about how to keep growing.

“Change your username,” she says, counting her fingers. “Let go of only using vegan or cruelty-free products. Partner with companies that aren’t sustainable or women-owned, only film on one background, do more posing and planning for videos, pick and stick to a smaller niche, hop on more of the trends.”

It turns out that ignoring all the above in favor of her intuition has worked pretty well so far.

“I’ve made just under $100,000 this year for a handful of hours of work each week,” she says.

Kargi films three or four brand deals monthly. That income is supplemented with earnings from various platforms’ creator funds (she posts the same content on YouTube shorts, Reels, and TikTok, where she earns around $3,000/month). With the dramatic life shift, Kargi says her day-to-day is pretty much the same—and she hopes it stays that way.

“My income grew so quickly that I didn’t have time to upgrade my lifestyle,” she says. “All of that money has gone into savings!”

Savings for what? She’s not sure yet.

“I’ve decided to take a year to pursue social media as a career,” she says. “I’ve looked back at some of my favorite creators from years ago and seen their plateaus or declines, so I know there’s a good chance that this doesn’t last forever. I’m just trying to ride the wave as efficiently as possible before it disappears.” 

Jacqueline is a Master of Accounting graduate from the University of Utah. Specializing in tax, she's interested in business, government, and the intersection of the two. When she's not studying or writing, she loves to run, play Candy Crush, and read novels.