With a social media following of close to 700,000 viewers, some might have guessed that the talented Christopher Staples of Estill Springs was destined for bigger things.
However, Staples, a 33-year-old college student, was as surprised as anyone else to be selected from among other TikTok dancers to be included in a worldwide commercial promoting the return of Applebee’s Oreo shake.
“I had no idea at all that Applebee’s was looking for candidates for a commercial,” Staples explains. “I just got an email out of the blue from the people who work for Applebee’s.”
Staples said he started creating TikTok videos two years ago as a joke and as a way to showcase his love of singing, which he says has been his “absolute favorite hobby since he was a little boy.”
Many of his TikTok videos feature him singing and dancing to older music, “to remember when music was music, as he puts it.”
For anyone not familiar with TikTok, it is a social media platform where anyone can create short videos to make others laugh or to spread news or just connect.
Staples told the Herald Chronicle it was a surprise to be discovered for the commercial on his social platform. He explains how Applebee’s contacted him.
“I was super busy trying to get things ready for the fall before my college classes started up and before substitute teaching this fall,” Staples said. “I was just scrolling through my emails and an email popped up that said, ‘I hope this finds you well.’”
Thinking it was a scam since he didn’t know anyone who talks like that from this area, Staples pondered whether to open the email.
He was glad he did, however, as it was from an advertising company called Catch and Release, which scouts out talent for commercials.
“He [advertising executive] was super-friendly and down to earth and we emailed back and forth and then the magic happened,” Staples said.
While he certainly didn’t expect his Applebee’s TikTok dance to go that far, Staples said at first he had not even planned to do that particular trend on his platform.
“I don’t necessarily do trends all the time,” he explained. “I make up my own version of stuff, but I did the Applebee’s dance trend because my followers kept begging me to do it.”
The 30-second commercial features the song “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes, who sings about date night at Applebee’s.
Once the song went viral in a big way, Applebee’s decided to do a commercial using some of the best dance videos found on TikTok.
Participation in the commercial entailed signing a contract.
“I signed for a one-time compensation because there were several [other TikTokers] they could have asked, but they asked me and that can lead to other opportunities,” Staples explained. “And I absolutely love Applebee’s. I always have.”
About midway through the 30-second ad, the Oreo shake is featured along with Staples, who is standing in the middle of his front porch shaking his hips and swirling around like whipped cream on top.
After several more dancers are presented, Staples is again shown doing the famous “Bernie” dance and kicking up his legs (his signature move on TikTok), to end the commercial.
The fact that Staples presents genuine enthusiasm in his dance may well have been a deciding factor in his selection for the commercial.
Staples is now a bit of a celebrity in these parts and beyond.
One of his neighbors did a double-take when she passed Staples outside one day and stopped to ask if that was really him on the commercial. It was she who called to inform the Herald Chronicle.
Staples’ other acquaintances, including his family, co-workers at Kroger where he works as a cashier, fellow college students, friends, teachers and young students have questioned him.
“When my dad saw it, he said, ‘Oh my goodness! That is definitely my son!’” Staples said.
As a substitute teacher at several of Franklin County schools, Staples is well known to young and old.
“Every school I’ve been to, the students call me ‘Mr. Applebee’s’ now and I can’t help but laugh,” Staples said.
One teacher he substituted for saw the commercial first and messaged him at 6 a.m. saying, “I know it’s early, but have you seen that you’re on TV? I about passed out when I saw it!”
One Huntland elementary student saw Staples enter the school and shouted to his mom saying, “Mom! Mom! That’s Mr. Chris! Play the song and tell him to come here!”
Staples then went into the classroom.
“The student started doing the dance right then, or his version of it. But he wanted me to see it so bad,” Staples said.
Friends also tease him about the commercial, saying things like, “All those TikTok’s finally paid off, huh?”
Recently, a homeschooled student saw the commercial and blurted out to her parent, “I know him!”
Staples said when they asked how she knew him, the girl replied that he was her counselor at church camp.
Another coworker teased Staples that she almost threw her back out after watching him and trying to copy his dance moves. But he doesn’t mind the teasing and even welcomes it.
“The commercial is worldwide, which is even more shocking because my followers in Canada have been messaging me, letting me know they saw it,” Staples said.
Keeping spirits up
Even though he leads a super-busy life, Staples sees his TikTok platform as essential in keeping his spirits up as well as others’. And he knows how important that is.
“I have suffered from depression since 2013, because I lost both my grandmothers two weeks apart in September of that year,” Staples explains. “And then I lost my mother two months after that, so I know what it feels like to be really sad. I don’t want anyone to feel like that, so I post positive, inspirational messages every day on my social media, Facebook and Instagram.”
Another way he uses his talents is in creating music. His music is under the name Chris D. Staples.
All 15 of his songs are on all digital platforms with his most popular song being titled “I Do.”
“It is a song I wrote for my future spouse whenever I get married,” Staples explains. “I wrote it, however, for anyone in love and who wants to sing to their significant other.”
To explore his music, search for “Chris D. Staples” on Facebook or visit his Instagram account, @the_staples_center.
Staples also invites readers to follow him on social media and message him or email him at email@example.com.
Staples will begin teaching fifth graders at Huntland School starting next month through April 2022 as part of working toward his teaching degree in elementary education.
He is set to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in May 2022.
“I enjoy teaching and seeing students learn, which is why I’m in school to be an educator. I hope to work in the Franklin County School System when I graduate,” he said.
In the meantime, one might wonder if Staples will be spotted again soon on the big screen.
“I have no idea, but I will keep making TikToks and hope to get discovered again,” he said. “I will continue using my platform to spread positivity and love and just try to make people smile, especially in dark times.”