I sit in my room on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, scrutinising my face on Zoom as I wait for Kacie to join the call. I have followed Kacie’s instagram for months. While I was studying Italian in Florence over the summer, my feed flooded with restaurant recommendations and ‘La Dolce Vita’ captioned videos. Kacie’s skits stood out to me the most. Her funny and relatable ‘culture shock’ series on TikTok are what brought her social media stardom, but she is adamant that navigating her new online presence was not effortless. “Nobody writes a guidebook of what to do when you go from having zero eyes on you to millions. It’s so beautiful in one way. I was suddenly connecting with people all over the world … but after the culture shock series, I was getting 50,000 followers overnight.” Hate comments were overwhelming. “I cried everyday for a week.”
Kacie was a stranger to social media stardom until moving to Italy in 2021. Having grown up in Michigan, she moved to New York City at age seventeen with the dream of dancing professionally. “The midwest is known for its innate kindness, in the sense that people are very humble. Then you get to New York and people are very blunt and direct.” I ask which region had more influence on her. Launched head-first into a new pace of life, Kacie thrived off NYC’s multicultural bustle. Her adventurous online presence comes from a decade of building a career for herself in one of the world’s most frenetic cities. “New York is a city where anything can happen, and it’s beautiful in that way. You go from zero to a hundred very quickly.” This intensity, however, coupled with the toxicity of the performing arts industry, pushed Kacie to the edge. Marketability can compromise creative expression. As Kacie says, “an industry run by those with numbers in mind.” Enveloped in dance and five other jobs to support herself, Kacie was burnt out: “I’d grown to hate the industry so much that I was starting to lose my love of dance.”
COVID-19 was the silver lining. With theatres shut down and audition rooms empty, it was a time of re-evaluation. Having met her boyfriend Dario whilst travelling in Italy, moving to another country was on the cards. She is passionate about taking on challenges and taking yourself outside your comfort zone. “I believe in myself that I can do hard things. Life is too short not to do scary shit.” It was within her first week of living in Italy that Kacie picked up TikTok. What started as a fun pastime in mandatory quarantine grew overnight into an influential platform, sharing cultural differences and travel tips. Yet online hate is inevitable. Many comments attacked Kacie’s intelligence because she was American. “I made a promise to myself early on that I didn’t want to curate anything. I gradually realised that I was never going to please everybody.”
Kacie describes moving abroad as learning how to ‘do’ life all over again. Simple things that you wouldn’t think twice about doing in your own country, suddenly become overly complicated. “I didn’t know how to schedule a doctor’s appointment or where to buy a birthday card.” Transparent with these struggles on social media, Kacie makes them opportunities for humour. Living abroad is not all excitement and novelty. Homesickness often comes with a good dose of guilt. There looms an expectation that one should always be ‘grateful’, Kacie tells me, which is unrealistic.
‘Do the shit that scares you’ is now the catchphrase of Kacie’s travel business, Kacie Rose Travel. A far cry from the Broadway stage, Kacie now hosts group trips, taking people from all over the world through various regions of Italy. I ask which trip has been the most memorable. “My first ever group trip. I was so nervous, I felt so much anxiety. I thought it was a mistake. They knew it was my first group trip and they embraced it, they ran with problems and they were so kind and supportive. At the end of that week everyone was standing in the hotel lobby crying whilst saying goodbye to each other. I was shown such beautiful support by people I didn’t know a week beforehand.”
I was interested to ask Kacie how she feels her brand combats negative stereotypes of Americans being insular and untravelled. “If you live in the middle of America, to get to the East coast it can cost $400. Let alone travelling overseas. Most Europeans don’t understand what life is like for the average American. What I aim to do is open up those doors and share another perspective. Understanding and appreciating those of other cultures is the number one tool we have to respect.”
Kacie’s career versatility is a perfect example of embracing the unexpected. I ask her for any advice she may have for students wanting to expand their circles and discover life in other countries. She says that we shouldn’t become wrapped up in one sole ‘purpose’. The world is too wide to settle in one place with the same job your whole life. “You’re allowed to have other hobbies and interests. It’s ok to pursue multiple things. As humans, we all want the same things, we just achieve them in different ways. And you will never understand that until you travel.”