Emmanuel, viral emu on TikTok, Twitter, adapting to “new life of glory”

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Emmanuel, arguably the most famous emu in the world, was staring deeply into the phone camera with his reddish brown eyes. He looked, at best, slightly curious.

“Hey, The Washington Post is on the phone,” said Taylor Blake, whose family owns the roughly 5-foot-8, 120-pound emu, as she called her black-feathered friend. “They would like you to comment.”

Emmanuel the emu has become a star of Knuckle Bump Farms TikToks. Taylor Blake, whose family owns the farm, helped moderate Emmanuel’s interview. (Video: Annabelle Timsit/The Washington Post)

We wanted to know how Emmanuel felt about being a viral sensation. Millions of people have watched videos of the giant bird strutting around as part of Blake’s TikTok videos, uninvited and oblivious to everything going on around him. In some cases, Emmanuel attacks the phone while recording – by pecking the device on the ground – and he constantly interrupts the social media content creator’s educational videos about animals and life on the farm.

In the videos, we hear Blake, 29, scolding the emu, 7: “Emmanuel, don’t do that!” The goods are coming, says Blake.

In their first joint interview, Emmanuel watched our Zoom call, then Blake, then away from the screen. He declined to comment.

“Emmanuel is just kind of a down to earth guy,” Blake told the Post. “I don’t really think he cares [about being famous].”

Blake says fame won’t change Emmanuel: “I’ve spoken to him about it a few times, but he hasn’t really had much of a reaction. I think he’s just… adjusting to this new life of glory.

Emmanuel may not care about his newfound fame, but netizens do. The TikTok videos posted on the account of Knuckle Bump Farms – Blake’s family farm in South Florida, where she and Emmanuel live – each garnered tens of thousands of likes.

“I would watch this 24/7,” Scottish comedian Janey Godley wrote when she shared the video on Twitter on Saturday.

A video, in which Blake calls Emmanuel by his full name – Emmanuel Todd Lopez – has been viewed more than 2 million times.

Emmanuel has become a symbol: Of challenge. Of audacity. “Becoming ungovernable. Be the Emmanuel you want to see in the world. one book author tweeted.

And Blake herself is linked to many people on social media – representing those who are just trying to get things done amid the chaos of life. Some parents have compared his futile attempts to persuade a giant bird not to do something – and watch helplessly while Emmanuel, as Blake puts it, chooses “violence” anyway – with the attempt to raise an all- little. Some teachers said it reminded them of unruly classrooms.

“It’s otherworldly. It’s magical,” wrote one Twitter user. “I love the way she tries to reason with animals, and they just won’t be reasoned with,” wrote another.

Blake, who has been raising Emmanuel on the farm since 2015, was shocked and somewhat “overwhelmed” by the success of her Emmanuel videos. She attributes it to the fact that people need a distraction and a reason to smile – as the news cycle is dominated by the war in Ukraine, deadly heat waves and other grim stories.

Blake describes her videos as “fun, lighthearted content, where you don’t have to worry about politics, you don’t have to worry about all the terrible things going on in the world right now.”

Blake grew up near his grandparents’ farm and developed a deep love for animals as a child. She’s been professionally creating social media content since 2013. After a brief stint in Los Angeles, she moved to Knuckle Bump Farms with her girlfriend to help Blake’s aging grandparents care for their animals full-time. .

She started posting videos with animals – cows, donkeys, ducks and, yes, emus in the plural – in 2018. Her reasoning: “The world is dark and animals bring joy to everyone. They’re funny, they’re entertaining.

The first time Emmanuel interrupted her while she was shooting a video on the farm, Blake was irritated and didn’t post it. About a month later, she was watching the video again on her phone and found the interruption amusing.

“I just posted it, without thinking about it,” she said. It “completely spiraled from there”.

Blake says Emmanuel’s interruptions aren’t staged. He has a real “camera obsession” – and “an obsession with me. …No matter where I am … ​​he always has to be right next to me.

Emmanuel doesn’t seem to feel the same way about the other emu on the farm, Ellen. She is his least favorite creature on the property, Blake says.

Instead, Emmanuel prefers the company of a little donkey named Rose. Ellen also interrupted Blake’s TikToks to look curiously at the phone – as did Princess, an affectionate deer, and Regina, a curious rhea. But no one has taken off online like Emmanuel.

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Knuckle Bump Farms specializes primarily in miniature cattle. Emmanuel and Ellen were adopted by Blake’s grandmother from another farm in 2015 and have been raised as pets ever since.

“They were about a foot and a half when they first came in,” Blake said.

And while Blake shares the highlights on her family farm’s TikTok account, she says “what you see online is literally maybe 2% of the ensuing chaos” there.

Now, Blake hopes to leverage Emmanuel’s social media stardom to sell merchandise with his face on it to benefit Knuckle Bump.

She also has long-term ambitions – maybe even a TV series starring the giant bird, she says. While wild emus tend to live five to 10 years, Blake says, in captivity they can live up to 20 years. Some emus are even known to live up to 60 years old. Emmanuel is “in excellent health,” says Blake.

“There’s a bright future for Knuckle Bump Farms and for Emmanuel and for all the other animals, and I could see it was going really, really far,” adds Blake. “I’m just super happy to be in the game.”

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