27-year-old businesswoman dating man who's 54 earns R72 000 a week counselling other age-gap couples
In November 2018, social media influencer, Sophia Spallino (27) from Louisiana, USA, was surprised when entrepreneur and Sillybandz owner, Robert Croak (54) from Ohio, USA, began following her on Instagram. So she messaged him.
After a few days of messaging and getting to know each other, they connected and began FaceTiming each other every day for a month. Then when they decided to meet and Sophia took a flight to meet him for their first date.
They have since become smitten with each other and are planning on getting married and having children. Sophia decided to share their love story on Instagram with her 26,500 followers who have been supportive of her relationship.
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As a teen growing up in the fine jewelry business, I thought @sillybandzonline were annoying and not “real” jewelry. ?? God totally has a sense of humor. It doesn’t have to be “real” jewelry to sell millions of packs! ?? I met the inventor of #Sillybandz over a year ago...and even though everyone thought @robertcroak was “too old for me” (yeah, he is over 25 years older)...He broke down my walls and opened my heart again. We are the happiest humans on earth. Thanks for making me the most blessed and cherished girl in the whole world, Robbie?? #agegap #agegaplove #agegaprelationship #loveislove #soblessed #tiktokcouple #youdeserveit #somuchlove
In October 2019, despite initially not seeing the hype of TikTok, Sophia was encouraged by Robert to set up a TikTok profile and share ‘silly’ videos of herself to increase their following. Sophia and Robert have since collaborated on various quirky videos; with one of her personas being a ‘gold digger’ who ‘snatches a rich man’ (Robert).
She has since garnered over 84,000 followers, received 1.6 million likes and had over 10 million views.
In 2019, as her social media accounts gained popularity, she began to receive numerous messages from other couples in age gap relationships who were seeking advice. Robert encouraged her to turn this into a career as he felt it was cutting into their time together, so she began to research into coaching for couples in March 2020.
She is now doing five to ten sessions a week, and earning £3,256 (about R72 000). “About six months ago, I was afraid of TikTok. Even as a twenty-seven-year-old, I felt the app was for kids and I could never gain momentum on it,” Sophia says. “But Robert encouraged me, as he always does, and said, ‘This app was made for your personality. Show the world your silly side, the stuff your Instagram fans don’t see, the part only I see — and everyone will love it’."
“I really didn’t want to waste time learning how to use the app with editing music, text, and transitions, etc., if I was only going to fail. Over the next couple days, I spent a little less time helping him with all of his branding projects (my ‘real job’) and devoted eight hours a day to learning the app and making videos."
Now that all the hard work if paying off Sophia is glad that she gave it a go. “For the most part, I really pride myself on being an authentic influencer. However, with my job, because of the growing success of TikTok and being in a successful age gap relationship that's not a sugar dating relationship, a lot of girls, at least ten to twenty girls in age gap relationships messaged me every day asking for my advice."
“I was giving this advice for free and it was taking hours of my time, so Robert suggested that I should look into life coaching and I devoted a lot of time to study. I specialise not only with age gap and relationship woes but helping and consulting [with] them via TikTok, so my coaching service has sort of become my way of making money through my platform,"
One post can bring her up to ten people who want to pay to talk to her. “On Instagram, I share a lot of personal development and spirituality posts, as well as vlogging our age gap love in the stories. But on TikTok, that’s where the party is at because we make a fool of ourselves and jokes about our age gap."
“One of my TikTok personas is the iconic ‘gold digger’ who snatched the rich ‘Sillybandz man’. Yep, Robert is the inventor of Sillybandz, and the teens on TikTok love them. Because of Tiktok, Sillybandz is making a huge comeback with millions of views on the @SillybandzOnline account that I manage."
Sophia says she enjoys acting the gold digger parts in her videos but she always tries to share that it’s not their reality. "We aren’t in a ‘sugar relationship’. We work together and are building the rest of this empire together as a team," she says.
“Robert has so much fun making TikTok skits with me. Our favourite ones are voice-overs with children’s voices where he acts like a parent trying to coax me into calming down or giving me directions. It’s just hilarious to play on the ‘He’s too old for you’, and ‘You must have daddy-issues’ comments. I am definitely struggling emotionally with all that our society is going through; but when I get sad, we break out the phone and make TikToks, then end up laughing our butts off in the process," Sophia says.
"Robert and I hope and pray that there can be an end to all this coronavirus-pain in our world, but until then, I hope I can at least make you smile with our TikToks.”
Do you have an age-gap relationship? Tell us about it here.
Story courtesy mediadrumworld.com / @SophiaSpal/ Magazine Features
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