Khaby Lame, who this year was crowned the most-followed person on TikTok, has been granted Italian citizenship after moving to the country from his native Senegal as an infant.
Lame, 22, best known for his droll and completely wordless reactions to internet “life hacks”, took his oath of citizenship on Wednesday (17 August) in Chiavasso, a municipality northeast of Turin, the local government has said.
Lame’s skyrocketing to stardom shone an unfavourable spotlight on Italy’s very strict citizenship rules and the government’s treatment of the thousands of other young immigrants who were born in Italy or raised there by non-Italians.
Responding to the sudden rush of attention over the matter, Italy’s deputy interior minister, Carlo Sibilia, said in a now-deleted tweet on 24 June that Lame’s citizenship application recently was approved.
“Dear @KhabyLame, I wanted to let you know that the decree granting you #Italiancitizenship was issued in early June by the Interior Ministry. Soon you will be contacted by the local office notifying you about your oath. Good luck,” Sibilia tweeted at the time.
According to Italian law, children born to non-Italians and raised in Italy can apply for citizenship in their 18th year, a regulation that critics say discriminates against the many children who are culturally Italian but are denied citizenship.
Lame, who has also kept a hold of his Senegalese passport, told reporters he felt “very proud” of the citizenship and felt “a great responsibility for the oath” he took.
“It is not that before, before signing, I didn’t feel Italian, so very little has changed,” he said. “But now I am officially Italian, on paper.”
Asked how his life had changed as a result of his newfound TikTok stardom, Lame said his family was poor but happy during his childhood, whereas now, he said: “It’s another reality, it’s completely another world which I am still not used to, but I am gradually adapting.”
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