IT'S the dream gig for millions of teenagers across Britain – living rent free in a lavish mansion… in exchange for sitting on social media all day.
Yet the nine residents of the UK’s first TikTok ‘creator house’ – based in Hadley Wood, north-west London, on a road where the average house price is over £1.6million – insist their charmed life isn't without its challenges.
While the cool young influencers can throw lavish parties and even get swept up in inter-house romances, they stress they have to work round the clock for their millions of followers- and brave vicious trolling over their looks and 'hot' boyfriends.
The Icon House was opened last year by businessman Elad Panker, whose company receives all the money earned by the residents of the seven-bedroom, three-storey house.
The group is made up of Callum Martin, Flynn Quarchioni, Marii King, Brooke Tatchell, Ryan Snellings, Shannon Williams, Amelia Stuart, Jason Mwenya and Joe Mapait.
And, in return for them spending their days posting selfies on Instagram, and making at least 14 viral videos on TikTok a week for the account’s 1.1million followers, he gives them a cut of the proceeds made from sponsorship deals, arranges advertising collaborations, and, most importantly, pays their rent.
'People think what we do is easy – it's not'
As we arrive at the huge gated mansion at 10am, the residents – all aged between 19 and 21 – are sitting down for their daily morning meeting with Elad, and getting a McDonald’s breakfast delivered.
Taking us through a day in the life, Flynn, 21, says: "In that meeting, we'll be toldwhat we've got to do for the day. Usually, we've got to do TikToks for the Icon House, and make posts each day, all together.
"We've also got to make our own individual TikToks, and we've got YouTube videos to make, as well as promotions for other brands – and, obviously with social media, we post on our personal Instagram Stories throughout the day."
The Bournemouth boy adds: "In between that nine to five, we'll have lunch and then after that, it's free time. That's when I usually smash the gym."
That free time is also when the group can throw parties at the mansion, and go out drinking – but they have to let Elad and their management know first.
"We can have friends round for parties and stuff like that, but we just have to give notice," explains Flynn. "Family can come whenever. Elad said our family is his family so it's pretty open. But if we have any friends over, we have to let everyone know."
But, while it seems the youngsters are living quite the charmed life, they're quick to insist it’s harder work being an influencer than it sounds.
Amelia Stuart, 19, moved from her family home in Surrey for the Icon House, and was originally working for Harwoods selling expensive cars.
The stunning blonde started making videos in lockdown and quickly got popular – likely due to her model looks – now boasting over 124,000 followers on TikTok.
And she’s adamant that making these short clips takes a lot of effort, with one video – which can last up to three minutes – taking up to three hours to make.
She tells us: “I think people perceive it as we literally just put a camera up to our face, make a video and upload it. And it's easy.
“But I think what they forget is behind that, if it doesn't get approved by the brand, we have to redo it.
“If we do a transition wrong or we get the lighting wrong, or anything, we have to do it again!”
'I'm used to trolls – their hate is just sad'
And while there’s tons of glamour and luxury that comes with being in the Icon House, it brings the inevitable trolling too.
One of the worst hit is Marii King, 21, who gets constant comments about her trademark bushy eyebrows.
But she just brushes it off, and insists she grows from the negativity.
“I’m used to hate,” the Law graduate tells us. “I've had it before about the way I look. It is what it is, but because I'm confident in who I am, and the person that I am on the inside and outside, it doesn't bother me.”
Marii – who moved from Greece to the UK to be fostered when she was young – continues: “I feel bad for the people who do have time to put comments like that out. It's quite sad.
“Being a kid in care, it's quite tough, and I’ve had to grow.
“A lot of my growth came from negativity and people seeing that I just persevered, so I’m grateful for that.”
Jealousy from girls over 'hot' boyfriend
As one half of the Icon House’s resident couple, Shannon Williams, 20, from south Wales, has also found herself getting lots of online hate – although mainly from “jealous” girls who wanted to be with her boyfriend, Ryan Snellings, who has 2.1million followers on TikTok.
The pair met through the app, and Shannon freely admits that she wouldn’t have her 556,000 followers without him.
She tells us: “When we first got together, he was the boy that everyone wanted. And then for him to go and get a girlfriend, everyone hated on me so bad.
“It was awful, and I would read through every single comment and take it to heart and it upset me at the start of it.”
19-year-old Ryan, whose most-watched TikTok has 24million views, adds: “There'll be a lot of girls in my DMs, sliding in and trying to get my attention and I'm not having it.”
The Slough-born lad continues: “I've been in the industry a lot longer than Shannon, so I give her advice on what to do, with the trolling.
“I'll just be like, ‘Head up, keep going, you're doing best, you're gorgeous.’
“She was so shy when I first met her. And from then to where she is now, she’s completely changed.”
More romance on the cards?
When you put a bunch of hot, young singletons into a place like Icon House, sparks are always going to fly.
And, as we chat to the group of influencers, it becomes very clear that Shannon and Ryan aren’t the only couple in the house.
Flynn Quarchioni, 21, smiles: “Two are together already and there's another two, but I'll let them tell you about it…”
Ryan adds: “We see sly things now and then, but we can't comment on that.”
When we sit down with Amelia and Callum Martin, 20, and ask them whether there are any budding romances in the house, they seem very coy.
Amelia giggles: “No, let's move on. Next question.”
Whether there are romances or not, it’s clear that this group of youngsters have lots of ambition.
Life after the Icon House
So what do they hope life after Icon House brings?
“For me, personally, I enjoy making TikToks, but I don't have the goal of being a big influencer,” Flynn tells us. “I do like social media, but at the same time, I would literally delete it tomorrow.
“I'd rather it lead on to other things like modelling, acting, maybe even music.”
Marii finishes: “I'm not too sure where it takes me but I'm grateful for wherever it does.
“I've met so many cool people. This house has so many cool personalities, and I'm really happy that we're all together and we all connect in that way.
“So I'm just hopeful that it will all go in a positive direction. That's all I can ask for.”
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