In 2015, Ariel Martin was just a typical 15-year-old from Southern Florida, going to school and using her phone to text with friends and check Twitter.
But one bored night, she started tinkering with the then-new music video app Musical.ly, that lets users create 15-second lip-synching clips, and dubbed herself “Baby Ariel.” “I never thought it would be anything,” she tells PEOPLEin this week’s issue. “I just shared the videos with my friends.”
“I started to gain a following,” she says. “So then more of my videos got featured on the homepage, which led to a bigger following, which then transferred to my other social media platforms.” In one year, she gained 20 million followers on her various social media accounts, and 15 million on Musical.ly alone. “It’s crazy,” she says. “Life has changed for sure.”
Now she’s launching her own line of Arielmojis, has signed with Hollywood agent CAA, and is rumored to be worth $700K. But the quick rise to fame wasn’t always easy—internet trolls were quick to try and cut her down.
“My fans are the sweetest and I love them so much, but there are certain people on the internet that only give hate,” she says. “At first I didn’t understand why they would say rude things about my pictures. I had a point where it got really hard. At school, people would scream things at me down the hallway. But I just had to get through it.”
For more on Ariel Martin’s life as a social media star, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
To help combat cyberbullying, Ariel has started a movement called #Arielmovement. “I had to start speaking out about it,” she says. “I get messages from fans who have been bullied and it makes me so upset. I want to be there for them, and help talk them through it.”
Ariel, now 16, realizes her overnight fame was insane, and the idea of strangers texting her face with her new Arielmoji’s is also a little crazy to comprehend, but she says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s crazy, but it’s also like, the coolest thing ever.”