A ‘Polar Express’ Character Comes to Life


“Oh my God! You’re the woman from ‘The Polar Specific,’” a vacationer yelled at Nia Wilkerson.

Wearing a pink nightgown, Ms. Wilkerson was dancing in entrance of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Heart in Midtown Manhattan for a TikTok video.

Over the course of the following two hours on Monday afternoon, dozens extra individuals stopped and stared. A lot of them filmed her from afar or requested to take selfies together with her.

“Wait, are you actually the woman from the film?” a passer-by requested.

The reply to that query isn’t any. Ms. Wilkerson, a senior at St. John’s College in Queens, was 3 years previous in 2004, when “The Polar Specific” was launched.

The film, a field workplace hit directed by Robert Zemeckis that was based mostly on a kids’s guide by Chris Van Allsburg, has lengthy drawn criticism due to its model of motion-capture animation, which provides its characters an eerie, zombified look.

Ms. Wilkerson, 22, mentioned that ever since she was an elementary college pupil in Woodbridge, Va., individuals had been telling her she seems like Hero Woman, a personality within the movie who’s also called Holly. Later, a highschool crush identified the resemblance.

“That was heartbreaking,” she joked.

Since then, Ms. Wilkerson, who stands 5 foot tall, has come to embrace her digital doppelgänger. That is the fourth vacation season she has spent making TikTok movies within the guise of Hero Woman. Every year, her reputation has grown. She now has almost a 250,000 followers.

Ms. Wilkerson mentioned she received the concept after seeing one other lady on TikTok cosplaying because the character. “However she didn’t actually seem like her,” she mentioned.

In “The Polar Specific,” Holly wears pigtails and a patterned pink nightgown. Ms. Wilkerson goes with a variation on the search for her TikToks.

“It’s a seasonal gig,” she mentioned, including that she was not too long ago swarmed by individuals in Elmo costumes whereas making a video in Occasions Sq..

Accompanying her on Monday had been a number of of her St. John’s classmates, who acted as her unpaid movie crew. “My friendship is my fee,” Ms. Wilkerson joked, including she had purchased the group meals on the campus eating corridor throughout the weeks of filming.

She used to endure from social nervousness, she mentioned, however her TikTok alter ego has helped her overcome it. “Nobody in New York cares,” she mentioned. “I might by no means do that wherever else.”

Ms. Wilkerson, who’s learning tv and movie at St. John’s, has discovered methods to revenue from her quarter-hour of seasonal fame. She participates in TikTok’s creator fund, a program that the corporate makes use of to pays sure individuals who make movies for the platform, she mentioned. Musicians have reached out to her about making movies, she added. Her price is about $250 per video, she mentioned. Outdoors of the vacation season, she makes movies on different matters, however her views drop off precipitously.

Whereas many of the suggestions has been optimistic, Ms. Wilkerson mentioned she now not learn the replies to her movies, after having seen too many racist feedback. Nonetheless, there have been upsides to her social media fame, like a current collaboration with @jerseyyjoe, a well-liked TikTok creator recognized for his dance strikes who typically makes movies dressed as Hero Boy from “The Polar Specific.”

After a day of taking pictures, Ms. Wilkerson and her mates mentioned their upcoming remaining exams whereas ready for an F practice on a subway station platform. Ms. Wilkerson talked about an earlier subway video, throughout which she had by chance kicked a passenger.

After boarding a rush-hour practice automobile, they wriggled into formation to movie one other TikTok. One among Ms. Wilkerson’s mates, Amanda Gopie, 20, pointed at an indication that learn: “Don’t be somebody’s subway story. Courtesy counts.”

“That’s you,” Ms. Gopie mentioned, to laughs from the others within the group.

Because the F practice rolled towards Queens, Ms. Wilkerson and her mates recorded themselves singing “When Christmas Involves City,” a tune from “The Polar Specific.”

“The very best time of the 12 months, when everybody comes house,” Ms. Wilkerson started.

As her mates joined in to type a shaky refrain, a number of riders perked their heads up in recognition. One informed the singers to work on their pitch. The group determined they’d strive one other take.



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