“What’s a video that lives in your head rent-free?” 

For anyone who’s been on TikTok in the past month, the sound of 25-year-old Jess Marciante’s voice is probably Pavlovian at this point. Her simple question prompted users to “stitch”—a feature on TikTok where you can reply to a video by cut-and-pasting a select few seconds of it before your own video—with their answers. For Marciante, who is a YMCA teen program coordinator in Florida, the video living-rent free in her head is Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber almost kissing while “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen plays in the background. Their friends—a gaggle of fellow Disney stars—pull them apart. 

Marciante’s question seemed to scratch an itch people only just realized they had: We all have that bit of pop cultural ephemera that’s taking up space in our brain, and here, finally, is a chance to share it. 

“I'd wake up and it'd be like 500 mentions and I'd be like, ‘What is going on?’” Marciante, who chatted with me over the phone, says about opening TikTok after she made her video in December. While it didn’t take right away, within days the video became a staple of a recent trend, seemingly inspired by Twitter, to prompt other users to stitch answers to questions. The difference between TikTok and Twitter is that TikTok kicks off every stitch with the face and voice of the original video creator over and over again. So now, there’s a whole gaggle of previously unknown TikTokkers who are now known solely for appearing in countless stitches.

“The funniest thing is people are always like, ‘Oh, you seem really nice and all, but I hate that I see your face all the time,’” Marciante says. 

Marciante went viral once before with a video about Animal Crossing that she made with a friend, but the reach of that single video was nothing compared with the many she’s now stitched into. TikTok is an outlet for her love of video editing and photography, but she’s unavoidably now known as the “rent-free” girl. (Her current bio: “I already paid my rent.”)

“Everyone had been saying ‘rent-free’—like, I didn't make the phrase ‘rent free,’” she says.

Not that any of this is bad. While it’s not the fame she expected, she is inspiring  people to make their own videos and memes about her, and even the official Netflix account stitched her video.


happy two year anniversary to this scene 👁👄👁 #fyrefestival #netflix

♬ original sound - Netflix

“I like the ones making fun of the whole rent-free thing, or that I'm the thing that lives in their head rent-free,” she says. “There's one that was like, ‘Who is she? Who is her agent? We work for her.’ And that one, that one makes me laugh.”

Recently, though, her original audio was taken down due to copyright issues. Marciante jokes that it was TikTok’s way of finally killing the trend—not that it did. Marciante just uploaded the video again with the musical part removed. 

“People were like, ‘Why did you take the sound down?” she says. “I was like, ‘Guys, I didn't!’ I brought it back because people still wanted to stitch it.”

She does expect to eventually move on from this. One day. Hopefully.

“I'm excited about it because I want to be making videos,” she says. “This feels like it could be a good start to get people to look at things that I actually, you know, put time [into]. I would love [my viral video] to be something I worked hard on and edited and filmed on my camera, but instead it was a funny thing of me laying on my bed with my phone.”