TikTok’s Famous ‘Island Boys’ Encourage Army Recruitment in Cameo
The “Island Boys”, TikTok personalities who went viral for their widely derided freestyle “I’m An Island Boy”, appeared in a recent Cameo encouraging viewers to join the US military.
The US military banned TikTok on government phones in 2019, citing security concerns, and recruiters are also not supposed to use the app for recruiting purposes on their personal devices.
That hasn’t stopped recruiters from promoting enlistment on TikTok, with the Island Boys Cameo marking the latest example of Army recruiters using online platforms to reach young people amid a national labor shortage. work.
Brothers Franky and Alex Venegas, known together as the Island Boys, appeared last week in a video posted to TikTok by Orlando Tamez, a Texas-based army recruiter. Tamez used Cameo, a shoutout app that lets fans pay stars for personalized videos.
“Big thanks to Staff Sergeant Tamez, you are changing lives, donating $50,000,” says Alex Venegas in the Cameo shared by Tamez.
“Giving bonuses? Paid vacation?” adds Franky Venegas.
“And free college, no money,” they both say.
It’s unclear how much Tomez paid for the video, or if it was paid with Army funds. Tomez and a U.S. military spokesperson did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
The Venegas brothers’ management team also did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
The video has already made its rounds. On the r/Army subreddit, one user commented, “Amazing. I didn’t think things were that difficult.
“The Island Boys” charge $135 to $180 for a personal use video on Cameo
The Island Boys are an odd choice for influencer marketing, given their reputation online.
The brothers first gained prominence online in a TikTok video posted in October 2021, in which they styled a song that repeats the phrase “I’m an island boy.”
The video quickly went viral online, with some TikTok users mocking the video by posting their own imitations of the brothers’ spiked hairstyles and artificial Caribbean accents. The Cuban-born Venegas have previously been criticized for their cultural appropriation of Afro-Caribbean aesthetics and the use of racial slurs in their other songs.
Franky, who also uses the name Kodiyakredd, and Alex, who also uses the name Flyysoulja, released the music video for “I’m An Island Boy” in December 2021, inspiring a new wave of memes about them.
The brothers have since capitalized on their viral fame on Cameo. They charge $135 to $180 for video for personal use and $600+ for video content for business.
The Venegas brothers also discussed their previous criminal charges related to burglary, robbery, auto theft and drug possession. In an October 2021 episode of the “No Jumper” podcast, they said they both spent time in jail.
Earlier this month, Franky Venegas was accused of domestic abuse by his girlfriend Montaisha Shanell, who made the allegations during an Instagram Live session and in a post before deactivating his account. Shanell did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
Last week, TikTok star Bryce Hall announced he could fight the brothers in a boxing match after weeks of online feuds, although he tweeted that the fight “could distract” from the allegations against Franky Venegas.
Army recruiters often use TikTok. But it’s frowned upon.
The U.S. military has traditionally recruited youth through public high school outreach.
Branches of the armed forces are increasingly using social media to encourage recruitment, especially in recent years.
In 2020, both the US Army and Navy created esports teams and began streaming video game content on Twitch as part of its outreach strategy.
That same year, Twitch cracked down on the US Army account, which advertised giveaways in its live chat. The links would direct anyone who clicked on them to an army recruitment form. New recruits can’t enlist until they’re at least 17, but Twitch’s minimum age to use the platform is just 13.
TikTok’s minimum age for an account is also 13.
It is deeply concerning that military recruiters willfully use a social media platform identified as a clear national security threat. I urge you to take decisive action to end this practice immediately.
-Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in a December 2021 letter to US Army Secretary Christine Wormuth
Following Pentagon guidelines, the US military banned the use of TikTok on government phones in December 2019, citing security concerns on the Chinese-owned app. Kelli Bland, director of public affairs for the US Army Recruiting Center, told Defense One that recruiters should also not use their personal phones to promote recruiting on TikTok.
“As per our policy, recruiters are only allowed to conduct official business using government devices, so at this time they should not use TikTok for recruitment purposes, either from their government or of personal devices,” Bland said.
In a December 2021 letter, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., urged Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth to disclose the percentage of Army recruiters using TikTok on their personal devices to promote recruiting. Rubio also asked him how the military discouraged the use of TikTok on personal phones.
“It is deeply concerning that military recruiters willfully use a social media platform identified as a clear national security threat,” Rubio wrote. “I urge you to take decisive action to end this practice immediately.”
Military recruiters like Tamez are still using TikTok to encourage recruiting. The tag #recruiterlife, widely used by recruiters in the armed forces, has 66.8 million views. Related tags #armyrecruiter have 31.5 million views on the app, and #navyrecruiter has 16.6 million views.
Hiring managers also hope to entice people with bonuses. In January, military recruiting officials announced that new recruits were eligible for bonuses of up to $50,000. The incentive, for qualified recruits who enroll in certain career paths and accept six-year active-duty enlistments, is intended to attract the “same talent” that private companies seek.