Clad in a black zip-up jacket, a pinstripe button-down and classic dad jeans, Chris DalCeredo, 49, is one of the most unlikely Nicki Minaj stans you’d find on TikTok. But when this middle-aged father, dressed like he stepped straight out of 2003, expertly lip-synched to Minaj’s verse in “Megatron,” it gave him the honorary title of TikTok’s DadBarb.
Chris doesn’t know what this nickname means. “I don’t understand what the Barbz are,” he tells me. “I mean, I know Micki Minaj.”
“It’s Nicki,” his son Thomas, 18, interjects.
Chris’ wife, Pauline, 48, reminds him, “You like ‘Starships’ very much.”
Chris concedes he’s probably heard a Minaj song or two. But he doesn’t identify as the main Barb of the DalCeredo family. That’s undeniably Thomas.
Nicki Minaj stans, known as Barbz, are having a moment on TikTok. Barbz4Bernie are pushing progressive social change, and a clip from Minaj’s appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race has become a popular meme.
Then there’s Chris’ son Thomas DalCeredo, a longtime Barb. Teens with the highest TikTok follower counts (new celebrities like Charli D’Amelio and Chase Hudson) tend to collaborate with creators their age, but Thomas collects his 94,000-plus followers with the help of his family.
It’s not quite TikTok fame, but it’s not every day you find a white suburban family from Westchester County, New York, gleefully lip-synching to Minaj’s aggressively sexual verse on Kanye West’s “Monster.”
“They always say that in order to really start to grow on TikTok, you have to find your niche. I love that my niche is making videos of my family,” Thomas tells MEL.
Thomas first proposed a family lip-synch to “Skinny Legend Anthem” by Ava Louise, featuring Pauline in a faux-fur-lined coat holding up a bag of SkinnyPop Popcorn and Chris with windblown hair à la Beyoncé.
His parents indulge their son’s video requests with a few ground rules. “They both refuse to say the lines with curses or phrases like ‘sucking dick,’” Thomas says. (Pauline explains, “I’m a teacher.”)
The DalCeredos hit their stride with a family lip-synch to Minaj’s verse in Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up.” The video has nearly 418,000 views on TikTok. They’ve since tackled Minaj verses in “Roman Holiday,” “Starships” and YG’s “Big Bank,” among others. Their most successful TikTok, to Minaj’s “Megatron,” has over 788,000 views.
Instantly, Chris became the fan favorite. He isn’t on social media at all, so it’s news to him that somebody would tweet, “The dad from that family of Barbz is so fucking hot.”
Chris shoos away the adoration, attributing any internet obsession to his son. But Thomas pushes back, saying his parents are into it — after all, they chose to get out of their quarantine pajamas and dress up in black-tie attire for several TikToks. “What else are they gonna do on a Sunday when we’re at home?” Thomas says.
As a teen, Chris would record Monty Python parody skits with his friends. He sees some of himself in Thomas’ penchant for TikTok, even if Chris doesn’t know what the “For You” Page is. “I’m very happy for Thomas that this is happening,” he says. “At his age, this would probably have been the platform we used.”
Some dads would shy away from public displays of camp and effeminacy. Not Chris, who tosses dollar bills while his son grabs his chest and daughter twerks. “It’s not even a conscious thought about whether to do it or not. It’s just what we’ve always done together,” Chris says. Thomas and his sister, Julia, grew up dancing and playing music, and to them, TikTok is the modern adaptation of their home videos.
The DalCeredos’ short videos can be a lot to take in, inviting endless questions. Like, why are there so many playbills hung on the wall in the living room? “It’s a combination of all the shows we’ve ever seen,” says Thomas, who plans to go to college for musical theater in the fall. “People are like, ‘That makes so much sense now. Dramatic.’”
Thomas records the mini music videos with Julia as his assistant director. She recently graduated from the University of Scranton, where she studied electronic media. Recording is usually a 30-minute process: Thomas instructs his family on what to wear, where to stand and how to understand Minaj’s lyrics. “Tell me what Nicki Minaj is saying, because it’s like a foreign language sometimes,” Chris says.
Who takes the longest to feel their Nicki Minaj fantasy? “Me, probably,” says mom Pauline. In a family full of performers, she’s the least comfortable in front of the camera. It’s a surprise twist, considering she’s the family’s original Barb: Pauline first heard 2012’s “Starships” in a kickboxing class, and she would play the Minaj classic in car rides around town when Thomas was young. “The song would come on, and he always danced and sang from when he was little,” she says.
Has it grown competitive for the family? Silence befalls the DalCeredos. Then Julia says, with a chuckle, “I’m a little jealous. I’ll admit to that. I go through all the comments and love to see what people are saying.”
But any pressure among the cohort is in good fun. Thomas says they’re not trying to capitalize or monetize any growing TikTok fame, at least not yet. For now, the videos are a way for a family to bond while enduring the coronavirus pandemic. Chris is a physical therapist, still commuting to work at a nearby hospital. “Coming home to look forward to doing this is a good outlet,” he says.
Changing into whatever outfit Thomas has assigned and lip-synching a Minaj verse exuding self-assurance is a chance to momentarily feel less stressed about the state of the world. Pauline says, “For that period of time, I forget that we have this plague happening, really. It’s like a vacation for our hearts, ya know.”