Who needs tickets to a West End show when there’s a chance you might experience a world-famous live performance right there in your Tube carriage?
Sabrina Bahsoon has had no need for such a grand stage on her journey to musical stardom, having transformed the most boring part of most people’s day into a song-and-dance spectacle that made her an overnight celebrity.
The 23-year-old took TikTok by storm in August with the first in a series of videos showing her dancing and miming along with various viral tracks while on the Tube – a picture of care-free self-confidence in an environment where the majority are horrified by the mere prospect of accidentally bumping someone’s shoulder.
Sweeping her phone around with enough vim and vigour to make Christopher Nolan blush, often adding yet more cinematic drama via wind from any nearby windows, her clips have amassed hundreds of millions of views, earned her a legion of fans, and inspired similar performances on other public transport networks around the world.
‘I just decided to go for it’
“It’s hard to register and process how big this has got,” she says.
“In the moment when it was happening though, I knew I had to take the opportunity head on and see what I can do with the chance I was given. I just feel incredibly lucky and grateful.”
Before she became Tube Girl, the Durham law graduate – originally from Malaysia – was a part-time maths tutor applying for summer internships in the music and fashion industries.
A keen TikTok user, she started experimenting with making music videos by dancing in her living room, using her phone’s different camera lenses and shifting perspective to find a unique look.
She settled on the ultrawide setting, which captures her from a strikingly distorted, zoomed out 0.5x view.
“I tried at home, then on the streets and buses,” she recalls.
“One day I was on the way to my friend’s house, felt the wind on the Tube and thought it could be cool to try it. The video sat in my drafts for a while before I just decided to go for it and post.”
‘Show others your true self’
She’s now performed not just on London’s Underground, but New York‘s equally iconic subway. Her fame’s led to brand deals, too, including modelling Hugo Boss fashion on – where else – a Tube platform.
The #tubegirl hashtag has 1.8 billion views, while #tubegirleffect – used by those inspired to put on their own public transport performances – has more than 358 million.
For fans commenting on Bahsoon’s videos, it’s the sheer audacity of the performances that make her such a star.
It might not get everyone up dancing on the Tube, but her confidence is inspiring all the same.
“I hope you know you’re starting a trend to break confidence barriers with women everywhere,” says one.
“I literally love you.”
Others have said the ever-growing library of Tube Girl videos help them combat their own anxieties and lack of self-confidence, encouraging them to let their hair down more (whether they’re next to a Tube window or not).
Of course, with this being social media, those who are less keen aren’t shy of commenting either. Dissenters have accused her of attention seeking, ruining other people’s commutes, or just being a bit cringe.
Tube Girl and her supporters have no time for them. If her fame has taught her anything, it’s that people should embrace what makes them unique.
“Finding out what you love to do and is unique about you is important,” she says.
“And not being afraid to show others your true self.”
But despite the recognition, she’s hesitant to describe herself as “famous”.
Her friends and family keep her humble, though she does “appreciate it when people come up and say hi”.
Of course, the nature of TikTok and the internet means stars of today can very quickly become yesterday’s news, potentially usurped by anyone with enough self-confidence and a new idea.
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Like Bahsoon’s first Tube performance, someone out there may have a life-changing hit sat in their drafts.
“Don’t overthink too much and put yourself out there,” she says to would-be TikTok stars.
“You need to accept the idea of being seen before you want others to see you.”
Consider me inspired. I wonder if Kent Fastrack Bus Boy is taken…