Twenty years ago, landing a role on Nickelodeon or Disney Channel was the peak of success for any aspiring child star. For 23-year-old Teala Dunn, it was just her first act. The YouTuber and TikTokker had roles on The Naked Brothers Band, Are We There Yet?, and Dog With A Blog in the early 2000s, around the same time she uploaded her oldest available YouTube video: a homemade music video set to Ke$ha’s “Your Love Is My Drug.” 

“Oh my God, [it’s] super embarrassing,” Dunn says when I remind her of these videos in a recent phone call. “It's so cringey, but I was just a little teenager, you know?”

From there she began posting set tours, song covers, and vlogs, which have now earned her over one million subscribers on the platform. 

“When I started to get recognized more from doing YouTube than acting, that's when I realized, Oh my God, this is big,” she says.

But if you discovered Dunn this year, it was probably from her TikToks. Actually, one TikTok, which became a huge meme.

@ttlyteala

Someone please teach me

♬ original sound - TTLYTEALA

“Fun fact—actually really, really sad fact,” Dunn says, turning around to face the pool at Clubhouse, the Beverly Hills content house she joined over the summer. “I can’t swim.” 

The video has been watched 25 million times, racking up duets and comments inspired by the way Dunn not-so-subtly shows off her bikini-d butt as she turns to the pool.

“I literally uploaded that video thinking absolutely nothing of it, and then just kind of went about my day,” she says. “And then the next day it had like, I think 14 million views or something crazy. And I was like, wait, what? And then I just kinda kept up with it.”

Dunn has been posting riffs on the meme ever since, and getting prominent creators like Bella Thorne and Willy Wonka in on the fun.

But I wanted to know some other fun facts about Dunn. Ahead, we discussed her 10 years on the internet, the pressures of public life, and the special project she has up her sleeve. 

What has it been like growing up on the internet?

The best part is that I can look back and watch all the memories of me going on vacation with my friends or learning how to do my makeup or my first boyfriend tag and stuff like that. Because at the end of the day, you can't get those times back, and it's really cool that all those times were documented. I think that the issue is people judge you and critique every little thing that you do without realizing that, you know, I'm putting a small percentage of what I want people to see online. And they just think that they know you. 

How do you cope with the pressure of living your life so publicly?

Having a great foundation and support system really keeps me grounded. My family is absolutely incredible. They've always just supported my dreams and always told me to do whatever I put my mind to and keep me really grounded. When I have big successes, they still keep me a hundred percent humble. And when I get a lot of hate, they're like, “Just don't worry about it.” 

You’ve become a big phenomenon on TikTok this year. Do you identify more as a TikTokker than a YouTuber?

I still love YouTube. It's hard to post daily with YouTube just because I'm on so many different platforms. I think it's just important for me to just kind of do it all. I don't want to just do one thing. 

Are there any projects outside of TikTok and YouTube that you have planned?

I'm focusing on my acting career and I'm working on a clothing line ... maybe  ... soon.

How has the pandemic affected your career?

I feel like it's been pretty good for me. I was able to rediscover myself and my creativity. And luckily right now I live in a content house. So it's kinda cool to just collaborate with my roommates. I'm constantly surrounded by creative people. 

What is living in Clubhouse like?

Every single day is so different from the last. I'll wake up one morning and  the house is completely quiet, then I wake up the next day and they're doing a slip-and-slide in the backyard. 

And finally, I have to ask: Do you know how to swim yet?

A lot of people were creating rumors saying that I could swim the whole time, which just was not true at all. I still do not know.