Jessie Zhang (BC ’23) raises money for Australian volunteer firefighters the best way she knows how — Tik Tok. 

“I’m astounded that this is a real thing that is happening.” said Jessie Zhang on Saturday afternoon, as she performed a dance to a song called “Lottery (Renegade)” by K Camp for 1 hour and 35 minutes straight on Low steps. This viral activity is better known as “Renegading” by Tik Tok users, and traditionally the dance lasts for only about the first 15 seconds of the song.  

This event was a fundraiser for the Australian Rural Fire Service, which supports the volunteer firefighters combatting the Australian bushfires. For every 3 USD that people donated to this cause, Jessie would Renegade for one minute. Overall, she raised over 441 USD (about 659 AUD). The donors were mostly Columbia and Barnard students, with support from some of Jessie’s friends from high school. 

I asked Jessie how this event came to be. Renegade is the only Tik Tok dance that Jessie knows; she said “a 14-year-old taught [her] over break”. She proudly told her friend Vivian Qiu (CC ‘21), the organizer of the event, that she could perform this dance for a really long time. Vivian, a native of New Zealand, suggested that Jessie do this a fundraiser to support the fight against the Australian bushfires. 

As we watched Jessie, she repeatedly asked us to not tell her how much time had elapsed, for fear that she would get weary before she had completed. “Are you tired? Think about how tired the firefighters are”, Vivian retorted. Jessie’s energy never wavered, whether it was minute 4 or minute 40. I interviewed her while she was dancing, and she also chatted with her audience about her calc classes and campus culture. 

I asked Jessie what the future holds, in terms of Tik Tok fundraising, and Internet virality in general. She is a member of the Columbia group “Tik Tok for a Cause”. (Some of her friends from this group stopped by to encourage her). You can find her on Tik Tok under the username @lillclementine. She frequently contributes content like “Ivy Leagues as Phineas and Ferb Characters” to Columbia meme pages on Facebook. She is a truly multi-dimensional creator. 

Jessie finished her final Renegade amidst the cheers of her supporters who immediately hugged her. I have never seen such a look of elation and pride. Although her methods may have been a bit unconventional, Jessie Zhang made a difference. Perhaps, Renegade fundraising will become the next big thing in the world of philanthropy. 

The dancer herself, via Eliza Staples