A 19-year-old from Mansfield with a huge following on social media is spreading a message about coronavirus, encouraging people to wear masks and protect themselves.
"I really hope people are taking this seriously and being safe,” Parker James said.
James and other social media influencers are paid an average of $5,000 by the Texas Department of State Health Services for their work and access to their followers, the department said.
It’s part of a $6 million public relations budget, which also includes television and radio advertising.
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James has more than six million followers on TikTok, the video app wildly popular with young people.
"I guess you can say I'm an influencer,” James said. “I don't really like going by any of the terms people give me. I'm just a guy."
He attended Travis Fine Arts Academy in Fort Worth before working on videos full-time and growing his business. He’s also a musician in two local bands.
James started making videos with friends at the age of 11, he said, when he lived in California.
He focused more on his passion after a surfing injury that required physical therapy, he said.
He politely declined to talk about how much money he makes now but does acknowledge he’s doing well financially for a 19-year-old.
He gets paid by businesses to talk about them but most of his videos aren’t sponsored, he said.
For him, it’s more fun than work.
"It's definitely a job that I enjoy," he said.
James created his own electronically-altered character named StEvEn and plays both himself and StEvEn in his videos.
"The way coronavirus is transmitted is through the eyeballs, the nose holes, and the mouth," he said in the video. "The best thing to do after touching something is wash your hands."
It’s an important message, especially for an audience that may not watch the news very often.
"I have a platform where I have a lot of younger kids on there,” he said.
The virus affects James too. He mostly stays at home. His father is recovering from a bout with cancer and is immune-compromised.
James said he plans to make a career as an influencer – even if his demographic grows older with him.
He added he also looks forward to playing with his bands more often as soon as it is safe.
"This whole coronavirus craziness is going to be over before we know it,” he said in the video.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.