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Emmanuel, emu viral on TikTok, Twitter, adapting to ‘new life of fame’

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Emmanuel, emu viral on TikTok, Twitter, adapting to ‘new life of fame’

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Emmanuel, arguably the most famous emu in the world, has red-brown eyes staring deep into the phone camera. He looked, at best, a little curious.

“Hey, the Washington Post is calling,” said Tyler Black, whose family owns the roughly 5-foot-8, 120-pound emu, who called her black-feathered friend. “They want your comments.”

Emmanuel the Emu has become a star on Knuckle Bump Farms TikToks. Taylor Blake, who owns the farm, helped facilitate the interview with Emanuel. (Video: Annabelle Timsit/The Washington Post)

We wanted to know how Emmanuel felt about what it was like to be viral. Millions watched the video of the giant bird swaggering into Black’s TikTok video frame, uninvited and unaware of anything going on around him. In some cases, Emanuel would attack the phone while it was recording — pecking the device to the ground — and he kept interrupting social media content creators’ educational videos about animals and farm life.

In the video, Black, 29, can be heard scolding a seven-year-old emu: “Emmanuel, don’t do this!” The merchandise arrives, Black says.

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

“Emanuel is just a down-to-earth guy,” Black told the Post. “I really don’t think he cares [about being famous]. “

Blake says fame won’t change Emanuel: “I’ve talked to him a few times, but he hasn’t really responded. I think he’s just… adjusting to this new life of fame.”

Emanuel may not care about his newfound celebrity, but people on the internet do. TikTok videos posted on the Knuckle Bump Farms account — Blake’s family farm in South Florida, where she and Emanuel live — have garnered tens of thousands of likes each.

“I’ll be watching 24 hours a day,” Scottish comedian Jenny Godley wrote on Twitter on Saturday when she shared the video.

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

Emmanuel has become a symbol: rebellion. bold. “Get unruly. Be the Emanuel you want to see in the world,” one book author tweeted.

Blake himself is associated with many people on social media – representing those who are just trying to get things done in the midst of a chaotic life. Some parents compare her futile attempts to persuade a giant bird not to do something — helplessly watching Emanuel choose “violence,” as Blake puts it — to trying to raise a toddler. Some teachers said it reminded them of unruly classrooms.

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

Blake, who has been raising Emanuel on the farm since 2015, was shocked and a little “overwhelmed” by the success of her Emanuel video. She attributes it to the need for distraction and a smile — because the news cycle is dominated by war in Ukraine, deadly heat waves and other grim stories.

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

Blake grew up near her grandparents’ farm and developed an interest in animals from an early age. She has been creating social media content professionally since 2013. After a short stay in Los Angeles, she moved to the Knuckle Bump farm with her girlfriend to help Blake’s elderly grandparents take care of their animals full-time.

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

When Emmanuel first interrupted her while filming the video at the farm, Blake was annoyed and didn’t post it. About a month later, she rewatched the video on her phone and found the episode amusing.

“I just posted it without thinking about anything,” she said. It’s “completely circling from there”.

Black said Emanuel’s interruption was not staged. He has a real “camera obsession” – and “me obsession”. …wherever I am…he always has to be by my side.

Emanuel doesn’t seem to feel the same way about Alan, another emu on the farm. Black said she was his least favorite creature.

Instead, Emanuel prefers the company of a little donkey named Ross. Ellen also interrupted Blake’s TikToks, staring curiously at the phone — as did the soulful deer princess and the curious rhea Regina. But no one took off online like Emmanuel.

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

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

While Blake shared the highlights on her family farm’s TikTok account, she said “what you see online may actually be 2 percent of the confusion that comes with it.”

Now, Blake hopes to use Emanuel’s social media stardom to sell merchandise featuring his face to benefit Knuckle Bump.

She also has long-term ambitions — maybe even a TV series featuring a giant bird, she said. While wild emus tend to live five to 10 years, in captivity they can live up to 20 years, Black said. Some emus can even live to be 60 years old. Emanuel is “in good health,” Black said.

“Knuckle Bump Farms and Emmanuel and all the other animals have a bright future, and I can see that’s really, really far away,” Blake added. “I’m excited to go for a ride with me.”

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