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

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Remark

Emmanuel, arguably the most famous emu in the world, stared deep into the phone’s camera with his russet eyes. He looked a little curious at best.

“Hey, The Washington Post is on the phone,” said Taylor Blake, whose family owns the approximately 5-foot 8, 120-pound emu, calling out to her black-feathered boyfriend. “They want you to comment.”

Emmanuel de Emu has become a star of TikToks from Knuckle Bump Farms. Taylor Blake, whose family owns the farm, helped facilitate 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 stepping into the frame of Blake’s TikTok videos, uninvited and oblivious to everything going on around him. In some cases, Emmanuel attacks the phone while it’s recording — he picks up the device on the floor — and he constantly interrupts the social media creator’s educational videos about animals and farm life.

In the videos, Blake, 29, can be heard berating the emu, 7: “Emmanuel, don’t do it!” Merchandise is coming, Blake says.

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

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

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

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

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

One 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 defiance. From dare. “Becoming ungovernable. Be the Emmanuel you want to see in the world,” a book author tweeted.

And Blake herself is recognizable to many on social media – she represents those who are just trying to get things done amid the chaos of life. Some parents likened her futile efforts to persuade a giant bird not to do something—and watch helplessly as Emmanuel, as Blake puts it, chooses “violence” anyway—to trying to raise a toddler. Some teachers said it reminded them of unwieldy classrooms.

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

Blake, who has been raising Emmanuel on the farm since 2015, is 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, light-hearted content, where you don’t have to worry about politics, you don’t have to worry about all the horrible things that are going on in the world right now.”

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

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

The first time Emmanuel interrupted her while she was filming a video on the farm, Blake was annoyed and didn’t post it. About a month later, she watched the video again on her phone and found the interruption funny.

“I just posted it, I didn’t think so,” she said. It “completely spiraled from there.”

Blake says Emmanuel’s interruptions weren’t staged. He has a real “obsession with the camera” – and “obsession with me. … Wherever I am … ​​he should always be right next to me.”

Emmanuel doesn’t seem to think the same about the other emu on the farm, Ellen. She’s 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 stare curiously at the phone – as did Princess, an affectionate deer, and Regina, a curious rhea. But no one has become as popular online as Emmanuel.

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Knuckle Bump Farms mainly specializes in miniature livestock. 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 five feet long when they first came,” Blake said.

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

Now Blake hopes to use Emmanuel’s social media fame to sell face-on merchandise for the benefit of Knuckle Bump.

She also has long-term ambitions — maybe even a television series featuring the giant bird, she says. While wild emus typically live five to 10 years, Blake says, they can live to be 20 in captivity. Some emus have even been known to live to 60. Emmanuel is “in good health,” Blake says.

“There is a bright future for Knuckle Bump Farms and for Emmanuel and for all the other animals, and I saw this go very, very far,” Blake added. “I’m just super excited to ride.”


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