The hottest trend on TikTok is celebrity lip reading.
@ninacelested #duet with @celebsbase WHO do you think they are talking about?! 🤭🤨 p.s. I can read a possible name at the beginning but I’m not going to reveal it🤐 #lipreading #lipreadinggirl #lipreader #oliviarodrigo #irisapatow #lipreadingcelebrities #celebs #lakers #whatdoyouthink #tea #celebritytea☕ ♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show
- Lip reading is a technique of understanding speech by visually interpreting the movements of the lips, face, and tongue when normal sound is not available. The hashtag #lipreading has over 351 million views on TikTok.
- @ninacelested — known as “the lip reading lady on TikTok” was one of the first content creators to popularize the skill on social media. Users send Nina requests to interpret conversations when celebs are not miked up. In a video posted on January 19, Nina revealed that she had seen an increase in followers.
- Correspondingly, there has been a surge of interest in celebrity lip reading in 2023. On Jan 7, a silent video of newly elected Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy confronting Republican Representative Matt Gaetz on the House floor amassed 4.4 million views on Twitter — with good and intentionally bad lip readers all attempting to decode the conversation
- On January 21, TikToker Bella Tanner went viral with her video lip reading Kendall Jenner’s negative comments about Dubai at Beyonce’s concert in Atlantis. On January 30, amateur lipreader @life_with_matt also went viral when he translated an “argument” between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez at an afterparty.
- In recent months, lip reading has crossed over from TikTok into mainstream media. The Daily Mail commissioned professional lip readers to translate Tom Brady’s “furious phone call” on February 3 and Prince William’s words to Prince Harry at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in September.
- Our obsession with lip reading was fully revealed in the media coverage of the Grammy Awards on February 5 — most prominently with the online scrutiny of the tense conversation that was filmed between Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. TikTok users also attempted to lip-read the dialogue between Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Jay-Z as well as Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly at the ceremony.
- Lip reading had real-life consequences for Diplo when viewers speculated that the DJ shaded Beyonce when she won a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album: mouthing “they bought that.” Diplo had to respond and clarify his alleged comments.
- On March 27, @ninacelested lip-read an enthusiastic conversation singer Olivia Rodrigo had with actress Iris Apatow at a LA Lakers game. According to the lip-reader, Rodrigo was telling Apatow about a guy that was texting her.
Why it matters
- TikTok has changed how the media reports on pop culture and responds to it. With the rise of celebrity lip reading on TikTok, mainstream media publications are increasingly acknowledging the skill and turning it into news.
- In recent years, lip reading has also been steadily gaining more credibility and importance. Lip readers were enlisted by U.K. authorities to study footage of soccer fans shouting alleged racist abuse.
- Director Peter Jackson used lip readers to give a voice to First World War soldiers in 100-year-old silent film footage for his 2018 documentary They shall not grow old.
- For humans, lip reading is still an unreliable art. Even professional lip readers can only figure out only 20% to 60% of what a person is saying.
- But artificial intelligence (AI) could form the future of lip-reading. According to an Oxford University paper, AI can lip-read with over 95% accuracy.
Update 03/27/2023 by Pesala Bandara: Information on Olivia Rodrigo added.