Meet Adam Waheed, the influencer and comic helping Black Lives Matter protesters — and kids across the globe — in his own way.
Imagine you’re at a protest, doing your thing, perfectly happy with the water supplies and endless amounts of licorice and chips provided to you when suddenly, you notice a man with perfect hair in front of you.
And because he’s COVID-conscious, he’s respectfully wearing a mask.
Oddly, it seems to be a mask of his face.
And then he offers you a slice of delicious pizza.
In most scenarios you’d politely deliver the hard pass. Who is this person? Where did he get that mask? Is this a thing now?
And seriously, how does his hair look like that?
But these are not normal circumstances, so go ahead and take that slice. The man handing it to you is Adam Waheed, better known as AdamW, if you don’t mind, a social media influencer you may not have heard of despite his enormous presence on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, where he has amassed over one billion views.
Online, Waheed regularly delivers short, well-produced comedic scenes exploring themes like revenge, love and the struggles of trying to take a leak at a gas station. His popularity has scored him sponsors from Walmart, T-Mobile and Lyft.
Offline, he dedicates his time to giving back in delicious ways, both here in L.A. and across the globe.
But it wasn’t easy. When Waheed first flew west from New York to make it here, nobody was interested in a trim, jovial comedian with Egyptian roots. He says that during his first year here, he couldn’t even get an audition.
“I was actually super depressed, and I was going to move back to New York and live with my mom,” he says. “And I saw these guys making little videos online.”
He studied their technique: the comedy, the editing, the production design.
“I would download videos from other influencers and just watch them a thousand times,” he says.
His first video took five months to produce — shot on an iPhone and delivered to his 300 Instagram followers at the time.
About a third of them watched it. That’s when he says he was ready to throw in the towel.
“I’m wasting my time. I’m wasting my money. I’m not even making money,” he recalls saying.
But a cross-country plane ticket cost more than what he had in the bank. So he decided he would stick around to the end of the month and keep working as an assistant. And since he was staying put, why not shoot a few more videos.
His fourth video ever got 1,000 views several hours after he posted it. The next morning, it had been seen by over 400,000 people. Who loved it.
“I was like, what the fuck happened last night?” It turned out several big Instagram accounts reposted his video, as did rapper Ludacris.
“I was like, this is it,” he says. “I’m famous. I’m quitting my job and staying here and doing this full-time.”
His next video got 2,000 views and humbled him “real quick.” But he kept going. His subscribers grew, and by his 10th video, he reached 1 million views.
Influencers started collaborating with him. Brands started working with him — and paying him. “I didn’t even know what branding was,” he says. “Pay me? I would have been happy with a hat.”
Waheed not only got hats, but he also got cash; he got his own house, and then he got representation. The guy who was this close to heading home now had Creative Artists Agency working for him.
Waheed did a few things with his financial windfall: He and his business partners bought Dough, a pizzeria on Sunset Boulevard, and he built a school in Bali.
The Adam Waheed School is an elementary school for 195 underprivileged children. Waheed and the charity community Karmagawa fronted the whole thing in collaboration with the Bali Children’s Project. He was even able to fit the school with computers, books and games. And it’s beautiful.
When he posted about it and told his followers that they could chip in if they wanted to, he raised more than enough to pay for the school in no time. But his fans kept donating. They kicked in money for backpacks and supplies for the kids.
“This village doesn’t have a lot of buildings,” he says. “So this is more than a school. It can provide emergency shelter, and they hold town meetings there. My audience is really large, and they do want to participate, they do want to join a good cause. It’s a blessing.”
Meanwhile, back in L.A., he attended BLM marches and rallies and got inspired.
“I asked, what could I do more than just post about it and spread awareness?” he says. “Especially for the people who are on the ground for hours and hours. I was only out there for four hours and I thought, damn I’m hungry. That’s kind of how the idea came about.”
The idea was to use his newly purchased pizza joint and take freshly baked pies out to the people. How many pies? $10,000 worth.
To add to the excitement, he asked some of his successful friends to help pass them out. They all said yes.
“It was just cool to see this big group of influencers, actors and comedians going out and handing out pizzas to everybody,” Waheed says about social media stars like King Bach, Hannah Stocking and Anwar. “Maybe a lot of the marchers stayed out longer because they were full. I know I was ready to go home when I got hungry.”
Waheed says he wants to keep on doing good deeds with his newfound fame and fortune. But when he does it, he wants to keep doing it in person.
“I want to see their faces,” he says. “I want to see it happen in real-time. Buying a car or buying the most expensive thing is a good feeling, but it’s nowhere near the feeling of giving hundreds of kids an opportunity. That feeling is 20 million times better than any car or watch.”