Updated: May 4
Social media influencing has become one of the most desired career paths for millennials and Gen Z. Some people work so hard at planning content, being aesthetic, and creating captivating storylines that will keep their audiences engaged, but for some people, it's as easy as being brutally honest and helping other people. Accidental influencer Keith Lee has amassed a huge following and has quickly become one of the most popular food critics on social media in a very unconventional way.
In 2021, Keith Lee was training and fighting in Las Vegas, Nevada under a contract with Bellator, an MMA promotional company. Keith was a great fighter but was struggling with the more social aspect of fighting, He was bad with interviews and interacting with people due to his social anxiety, so he turned to social media as a way to help him learn how to be more comfortable talking in front of a camera. As an MMA fighter, he has a 7-5 record, but coming off a loss in August 2021, Lee was dropped from his promotional contract and forced to find another way to provide for his family. Fighting is already a difficult career to make money through because you get paid when you fight so after losing that contract, Keith was determined to find a way to make money on his own, money that nobody could stop from flowing in so he could support his wife and daughter.
He had been on social media for a while using it as a way to practice speaking to the camera, so he had a bit of a following, but after losing his contract, he decided to start making videos on Tiktok. He was making family content of his wife and daughter and as a foodie, he started making cooking videos that started to gain some traction. Things started to grow when he would go viral often for documenting his wife's crazy pregnancy cravings. Ronni was expecting and would send Keith out to grab the most outrageous things from the store or cook random dishes. After a few viral TikToks, he was offered an opportunity to appear on the popular Youtube channel People vs Food. With that platform being so huge, Keith decided he needed to figure out a way to capitalize on the appearance and that's when he decided to do food reviews. For the months leading up to his video on People vs Food, Keith would visit local restaurants in Vegas and rate them.
His 1st viral food review happened in 2022 when he went to 303 Food Truck. They had a cheesecake sandwich that people were asking him to try. He took a trip to the restaurant, tried the sandwich, and did a review. Within 24 hours, the video garnered more than 6 million views and by the next day people were lining the parking lot where the food truck was stationed to try their food. The lines were so huge that local news outlets caught wind and came out to cover the food truck as well. This would be the beginning of what Tiktok now refers to as the "Keith Lee Effect." People began tagging Keith in videos or reaching out to him via email or social media to get an opportunity to be featured in one of his reviews. He continues to acknowledge that when he goes to a restaurant, it is for the genuine support. He never notifies a business of when he's coming, he tries to go undercover and if he is caught he demands to pay for his food even if they insist on giving it to him for free. He lets these businesses know, that in his reviews he is going to be brutally honest, and will admit when he thinks a product is worth the try even if it isn't his cup of tea.
The "Keith Lee Effect" has been an incredible blessing for a lot of business owners and brands and Keith remains so humble and grateful to God for the platform he has created that is saving businesses and changing lives. Frank Steele of Frankenson's Pizzeria was one of the lucky ones to have a Keith Lee video change the trajectory of his business. With well over 30 million views, that one video from Keith revived his 30-year dream. His business was on the brink of closing due to the inability to pay rent but after the review from Keith, traffic has been nonstop and people are traveling from all over the world to try the food that was rated a 10/10 on Tiktok. The owners of Aroma Latin American Cocina were also considering closing the doors of their restaurant due to lack of business, but after a video from Keith, they have seen a dramatic influx in business that has changed their lives.
Follow Keith on Tiktok here
Follow Keith on Instagram here
But he doesn't just support brick-and-mortar businesses in Vegas, he also buys from small online businesses as well. Cocoa Asante is a chocolate company that sources its chocolate from Ghana. Keith stumbled upon them online and placed an order unbeknownst to the owner. Within 45 minutes of posting his review, the chocolate company had completely sold out and made $24,719 in 24 hours according to Ella, the brand's owner. They had to open the site to make presales available in order to keep up with the demand. In a TikTok response, Cocoa Asante owner Ella announced that she would be retiring from her position as a teacher since she can now afford to pay herself from the business with the drastic increase in website traffic and sales that she's garnered since Keith's viral video.
Aside from spotlighting small businesses, Keith was able to pull in a HUGE partnership with the Chipotle franchise after reviewing a "menu hack" that was sent to him. Yet another viral video and demand from all his supporters prompted Chipotle to create the limited edition "Keithdilla", a custom quesadilla with steak, fajita veggies, roasted chili-corn salsa, sour cream, and a special chipotle honey dipping sauce. The meal is now available on the Chipotle app for a limited time and has created a paid partnership between Keith and the Mexican food giant.
Keith is the type of influencer that we love to see. There's no drama or scandals attached to his rise to fame. Just an amazing man with a heart to help people and provide for his family. While food reviews and content creation has become a big part of his everyday life, he is not done in the MMA arena. Expect to see 1 or 2 fights from the professional fighter within the year as he is actively training and preparing for that next opportunity. As for food, follow him to see what other businesses he can transform and the possibilities of a Keith Lee Food Tour in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Follow Keith on Tiktok here
Follow Keith on Instagram here