Who is TikTok’s Liver King?

Brian Johnson is jacked. Incredibly so. Cartoonishly so. Johnson, aka “the Liver King” has been muscling — quite literally — his way into user’s video feeds across TikTok lately. He’s lifting weights, sleeping on wood planks (in his mansion), he’s simulating prehistoric “hunts” and — above all else — he’s trying to get you to eat raw meat.

While humans have been consuming raw foods for all of history, raw food advocacy has seen a recent uptick in recent years, with celebs such as Heidi Montag touting the diet’s supposed benefits, including providing enzymes “lost” through the cooking process — although there is no current, peer-reviewed science to back up said claims. The Liver King’s advocacy goes beyond just the occasional —or even weekly — plate of steak tartare, however.

Johnson advocates an entire “back to nature” philosophy, dedicated to a style of “ancestral living” supposedly based on the diet and habits of primitive man. He even refers to his many dedicated followers as “primals”. His videos, almost all of which have hundreds of thousands and even millions of views, feature his over-the-top workout regimes, his “simulated” primordial hunts, self-help positivity messaging, and of course, meals that often cross the line from gustatory to disgust-atory, including raw bull testicles, animal organ smoothies, and his trademark — one entire pound of raw liver and sea salt ingested daily.

And, not surprisingly, Johnson uses his now well-established platform to hawk his own brand of supplements — how our primal ancestors had access to them is anyone’s guess — that go hand in hand with “ancestral tenets” as eating “naturally” and going to bed early. Follow the routine, Johnson implies, and you just may find yourself looking down on a sculptural eight-pack set of abdominals all your own. Start with liver, get some really good sleep, move like Liver King, eat like Liver King, shield like Liver King. Live like the ancestral man, and you’ll have the hormone profile that’s double or triple of the manicured modern man.”

Claims like this are hardly a rarity on TikTok. Although the platform is far better-known for its popular dopamine-inducing and time-wasting dance craze and challenge videos, the so-called wellness industry has taken to the format practically en masse. Scroll through any given user’s feed, and you’ll find at least one video extolling the benefits of frozen honey, rice water hair baths, push-up challenges, or dry scooping your protein powders for every five videos of zoomers dancing to “Corvette Corvette.”

However, eating a mostly raw meat diet isn’t exactly common sense, “hormone profile” or no. Whatever devotees of the extreme diet might claim, there is little to no hard data that proves raw meat is in any way more beneficial for you than cooked meat, and raw meat is most definitely a breeding ground for potentially harmful food-borne pathogens. Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter can all be found in raw meat, but are generally destroyed by cooking processes.

The Liver King is definitely a standout in a crowded field; his New Agey ancestor worship helps allay the bro-ness that hampers a lot of insanely over-muscled wellness creators on the app. And his relentless positivity — well-tempered, with a “by your bootstraps” capitalist tinge — makes him more approachable than many of the “woo woo” body, mind, and spirit types as well. It’s a combo that has made Johnson one of the platform’s stand-out successes. He has over 1.8 million followers thus far, and counting. Not bad for a lifestyle entrepreneur who, only seven months ago, had little digital presence whatsoever.

Johnson’s approach to the platform was navigated by his PR firm, 1DS Collective, a management agency that specializes in branding through social media. Johnson approached the firm to develop his brand and create businesses based on his “ancestral tenets” philosophy. “Brian Johnson AKA Liver King has made a fierce debut across social platforms this month. Led by yours truly, the team at 1DS Collective. It’s been an honor to set the stage for Liver King,⁣” 1DS wrote in a September 2021 Instagram post.

Although TikTok has spread both Johnson’s message and his sales, he is adamant that isn’t his main focus. “I don’t give a shit if I change one person’s life,” he told Buzzfeed News. “I give a shit about changing millions of lives. The narrative we’re faced with today, whatever’s happening mainstream, is not working. I’m convinced there’s a better way to do life.”