It Started With a 7-Up Salad for Viral Video Star Kalen Allen

The Ellentube host on sharing himself, and his reactions, with the world—and one of the biggest talk show hosts

Kalen Allen went from Youtube to Ellentube. JSquared
Headshot of Kimeko McCoy

It all started with a bowl of 7-Up Salad in 2017—a combination of soda, marshmallows, lime Jell-O, cream cheese and a slew of other ingredients—or as Kalen Allen ended up describing “a stomachache waiting to happen.”

A recipe tutorial caught the eye of the Temple University student, who made a cheeky reaction video. You may have seen it. If you didn’t, Ellen DeGeneres and 5.6 million other people saw the viral video.

Soon, the queen of daytime television reached out to him and brought him on the show to offer him a gig. Of course, he accepted. 

If you would have asked him in college what he envisioned fame to be like, the answer would have matched his current job description.

Every single day, I get to be me and I get to share myself with the world
Kalen Allen

“If I were to become famous, I would want to be famous for being a personality, because I know that will never change about me. I am who I am,” Allen said. “I think that is what my job is. Every single day, I get to be me and I get to share myself with the world.”

Before landing a job with Ellen, Allen double majored in theater and film with a concentration in acting while holding down five jobs: manning the front desk at student residence halls, serving as an Amazon Prime student brand ambassador, marketing on behalf of the university film department, co-hosting a campus talk show and standing in as a patient for medical school students. 

It’s no easy feat balancing a traditional 9-5 and going to school, much less hosting a segment on Ellen, but Allen says time management is one of his best qualities.

“I always tell people it was very much, kind of like, a Hannah Montana kind of life,” he said. “I was living this Hollywood life here and then there was this normal life in this other area.” 

Since the 7-Up Salad-inspired Ellen appearance, the comedic star has gone on to host his own series on Ellentube, OMKalen, appearing backstage with celebrities like Lil Nas X and, of course, on his continued reaction videos. 

Over the summer, Allen said he took some time to think about what’s next. Given his comedic background, he plans to rebirth variety shows.

“I have all this training and all these things I’ve studied for so long for that I’d like to put to good use,” he said. 

How He Got the Gig

Allen started reaction videos in 2017, reacting first to a cornbread recipe.

“I said OK, you know what? I should probably make a video to this. I don’t know why I came up with this kind of idea; it just kind of happened,” he said. “When I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t use any of my [phone] apps because they kept crashing because the video had gone viral.”

By the time he reacted to 7-Up Salad, he’d caught the attention of Ellen and got an invitation to the show. She offered him a job on the spot.

Big Mistake

Taking the comment section personally was his biggest mistake, Allen explained.

“I think because of that, I started to become very anxious and I started to become very depressed, and I started to doubt my ability—doubt that I deserved to be where I was,” he said.

Lesson Learned

“I believe that you have to be different if you want to be successful, if you want to stand out, if you want to defy the odds,” he said. “You have to find what makes you unique and you have to give that to the world.”

Pro Tip

“I always tell people, ‘Define what makes you different from the rest and use it to your advantage.’”

This story first appeared in the Oct. 14, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.
@kimekom Kimeko McCoy is a freelance journalist and digital marketer, who focuses on social strategy, newsletters and audience development.