Eli Rallo’s ‘I Didn’t Know I Needed This’ book launch brings TikTok to life
10 mins read

Eli Rallo’s ‘I Didn’t Know I Needed This’ book launch brings TikTok to life


On Tuesday, Dec. 12, TikTokker Eli Rallo‘s debut essay collection, I Didn’t Know I Needed This: The New Rules for Flirting, Feeling, and Finding Yourself, came out. To celebrate, she hosted the first of a 13-city tour of the I Didn’t Know I Needed This live show at Sony Hall in New York City. 

Before the 25-year-old influencer known for her detailed rules for every situation under the sun took the stage, the crowd — mostly women in their early 20s, nearly all conforming to the dress code prescribed by Rallo on her Instagram story: “a pop of pink” — sat at tables chatting, drinking cocktails, and leafing through the bubblegum pink hardback book. 

“The atmosphere is so safe,” Meghan Rupnik, a 22-year-old technology consultant who came from Chicago to attend the event, told me. “People are talking to each other, which is not very normal at other events.” 

Rupnik returned to reading the preface, but over the course of the live show, Rallo never read from the book, spurring the question: If you’re a famous TikTokker, how much does the book matter?

Before the clusters of fans in pink-hued outfits took over the space, I met Rallo in the basement. Sitting in a chair in an outfit matching her book — pink tube top, red yoga pants — while getting a full face of makeup done, she immediately complimented my bright purple sweater and black-and-white turtleneck. “You look like a journalist. It’s giving Rory Gilmore!” she exclaimed.

Proud friends and family dressed to the nines flitted in and out of the room as she answered my questions in her characteristic rapid-fire clip.

Rallo first rose to TikTok fame under the username @thejarr for posting videos of her repeatedly filling a jar with mismatched food, like Cheetos, M&Ms, Swedish Fish, cashews, and Reese’s Pieces. Her bubbly personality caught on with users, and she pivoted to posting feel-good advice in viral rule videos. One of her first rule videos, posted in 2021, was “rules for a first date.” She suggests viewers “pregame with 1.5 glasses of red wine” and “wear a Canadian tuxedo.” The format took off and requests flooded her comments. She’s since tackled everything from “rules for liking yourself a little more” to “rules for going back to school.” I previously criticized the rules trend for aiming to make the individual universal, but Rallo’s audience appears to have found resonance with her advice — her TikTok boasts over 790,400 followers.

Rallo explained that when she started her TikTok she was in journalism school at Columbia; she didn’t see the TikTok translating into anything. “I thought, I’m eventually going to get my book deal through being a serious journalist, and TikTok will be something fun that gives me spark, spunk, and a little flavor on the side.”

Gretchen, a 23-year-old in New York City working in entertainment, discovered Rallo through her rules videos. “She’s very relatable and embraces the theater girl. We all could probably picture ourselves being friends with her,” she told me. “A lot of other creators, you enjoy their content, but don’t see yourself actually having a conversation with them in real life.”

On Instagram, Rallo frequently does AMAs (ask me anything) where she gives her followers direct advice. “Instagram is more of a positive safe space, because people that don’t follow you can look, but it’s mostly people that chose to be there,” Rallo explained to me. “TikTok can be a cesspool, and I don’t want to bring people’s personal lives into that space.”

She approaches these interactions as if she’s the “number one fan and advocate” of the person asking for advice and also likens herself to the roommate you aren’t close with who can give you an outside perspective — although your roommate knows you, and she doesn’t.

When I asked why she feels qualified to give advice — a common criticism she receives — she interrogated the premise of the question. “What gives your mom the qualification to give you advice when you are hysterical and you don’t know what to do? She’s a person that you respect and trust and has your best interest at heart,” she replied. “No one is qualified to do anything until they do it, other than, like, surgery.”


No one is qualified to do anything until they do it, other than, like, surgery.

It’s the rules concept and her experience giving advice over Instagram Stories that she’s repackaged into a book. She signed the book deal with Harvest Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, in April 2022. Rallo didn’t know if her community would be interested in her writing, but she had faith. “I…approached it with hopes that, because we all gathered here with a shared interest of my content, that I can really tap into what it was that enticed them to my Instagram or TikTok in the first place and relay that in a longer, different format,” she explained.

Each essay begins with a list of rules and is followed by the personal experience that led her to those guiding principles. The first chapter, “Rules for Being Single,” includes advice like, “GIRL BOSS BUCKET LIST — you have so much time. USE IT,” “Simple: Lie. Make up fun personas in the bar when you talk to strangers,” and “Be intentionally SELFISH.”

She documented the process of writing the book on TikTok and referred to it as “killing two birds with one stone” by using videos about her writing as her content for the day and getting her audience invested. 

Mae Sharaf, a 22-year-old auditor with PricewaterhouseCoopers who lives in Brooklyn, likely wouldn’t have picked up an essay collection like Rallo’s without the context of her internet persona: “I don’t follow any other writers that are creators, so it was interesting to see it actually being written. It’s so cool to have seen the whole process through the content and then to be able to read it.” She’s followed Rallo since the jar days, and immediately felt a connection with her because they are both gluten-free. 

But as a woman online, with devoted fans comes equally devoted haters, something Rallo is familiar with — there is an offshoot of r/NYCInfluencerSnark dedicated to her. After struggling with that reality as a “positive vibes gal,” she’s made peace. “At the end of the day, these people are literally paying my bills,” she says. “It’s the equivalent of walking up to the person you hate most in the world and saying, Can I please pay your rent? Why would you ever do that? You wouldn’t, because you protect your peace and your boundaries. It’s just silly and stupid to me now; I’m almost thankful for them, like, you guys are paying my rent and that’s so embarrassing for you.”

Eli Rallo and Hannah Burner on stage.

The game of “Slay, Nay, May.”
Credit: Marisa Silva

At the event, when Rallo finally took the stage in a red dress, she allowed her fans to be a part of the book in a way you usually wouldn’t, presenting her work as a shared accomplishment. The crowd roared.

The event featured special guests, like fellow TikTokkers Hannah Berner and Timm Chiusano, who gave advice with Rallo. But rather than engage with Rallo’s book by reading from it or referring to topics discussed in it, they focused on bringing the TikTok feed to life by leaning into the lowest common denominator of girl content, focusing on the kind of trends that overtake heterosexual women discourse — like men thinking about the Roman Empire.

Hannah Berner came out for a game of “Slay, Nay, May” centered around things men might do, and whether it’s a yes, no, or maybe if faced with it. Nearly every prompt (for instance, “If he takes you on a first date to Cheesecake Factory”) had already been discussed ad nauseam on TikTok and involved the gender essentialism popular on the platform. Later, Rallo’s best friend, Veronica Risucci, came out for “Smash or Pass” internet moments; she and Rallo decided whether they would have sex with an internet moment (including beaten-to-death moments like couch guy and West Elm Caleb) or pass.

Instead of presenting original book content, or really talking about the book at all, Rallo and her guests leaned into recycled TikTok jokes which hinged on a familiarity with the reference as a comedic Pavlovian response. It felt like watching TikTok in real life instead of something uniquely offline — but the crowd loved it, cheering and shouting out their own answers for Slay, Nay, May and Smash or Pass. While the book was the reason we were all there — a cause for celebration, a rallying point of an online community — the true central focus of the night was the shared language and cultural caches of the corner of TikTok Rallo and her viewers inhabit.

In keeping with that, instead of concluding the night traditionally with reading a passage from her published work, Rallo chose to read an essay exclusive to the live show. It was on the power of being a part of an audience, reiterating our centrality to her TikTok career and, by proxy, her book. She knows she needs us.





Source link