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We asked Emmanuel the TikTok-interrupting emu about his sudden fame

Taylor Blake and Emmanuel the emu. (Courtesy of Taylor Blake)
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Emmanuel, arguably the world’s most famous emu, stared deeply at the phone camera with his reddish-brown eyes. He looked, at best, mildly curious.

“Hey, The Washington Post is on the phone,” said Taylor Blake, whose family owns the roughly 5-foot-8, 120-pound emu, as she called to her black-feathered friend. “They would like you to make a comment.”

Emmanuel the Emu has become a star of Knuckle Bump Farms’ TikToks. Taylor Blake, whose family owns the farm, helped facilitate Emmanuel’s interview. (Video: Annabelle Timsit/The Washington Post)

We wanted to know how Emmanuel felt about being a viral sensation. Millions of people have watched the giant bird strut into the frame of Blake’s TikTok videos, uninvited and oblivious to anything going on around him. In some cases, Emmanuel attacks the phone while it’s recording — pecking the device to the ground — and he constantly interrupts the social media content creator’s educational videos about animals and farm life.

In the videos, Blake, 29, can be heard scolding the emu, 7: “Emmanuel, don’t do it!” Merchandise is coming, Blake says.

In their first joint interview, Emmanuel stared into our Zoom call, then at Blake, then away from the screen. He refused to comment.

“Emmanuel’s just kind of a down-to-earth guy,” Blake told The Post. “I don’t really think he cares [about being famous].”

Blake says fame isn’t going to change Emmanuel: “I have talked to him about it a few times, but he hasn’t really had much of a reaction. I think he’s just … adapting to this new life of fame.”

Emmanuel may not care about his newfound celebrity, but people on the internet do. TikTok videos posted on the account of Knuckle Bump Farms — Blake’s family farm in South Florida, where she and Emmanuel live — have each garnered tens of thousands of likes.

“I would watch this 24 hours a day,” Scottish comedian Janey Godley wrote when she shared the video on Twitter on Saturday.

One video, in which Blake calls Emmanuel by his full name — Emmanuel Todd Lopez — has been viewed more than 2 million times.

Emmanuel has become a symbol: Of defiance. Of audacity. “Become ungovernable. Be the Emmanuel you wish to see in the world,” one book author tweeted.

And Blake herself is relatable to many on social media — representing those just trying to get things done amid the chaos of life. Some parents compared her futile attempts at persuading a giant bird not to do something — and watching helplessly while Emmanuel, as Blake says, chooses “violence” anyway — with trying to raise a toddler. Some teachers said it reminded them of unruly classrooms.

“This is other-worldly. It’s magical,” one Twitter user wrote. “I like how she tries to reason with the animals, and they just won’t be reasoned with,” wrote another.

Blake, who has been raising Emmanuel on the farm since 2015, has been shocked and somewhat “overwhelmed” by the success of her Emmanuel videos. She attributes it to the fact that people need distraction and a reason to smile — as the news cycle is dominated by the war in Ukraine, deadly heat waves and other grim stories.

Blake describes her videos as “fun, lighthearted content, where you’re not having to worry about politics, you’re not having to worry about all the terrible things that are going on in the world right now.”

Blake was raised near her grandparents’ farm and developed a deep love for animals as a child. She has been creating social media content professionally since 2013. After a brief stint in Los Angeles, she moved to Knuckle Bump Farms with her girlfriend to help Blake’s aging grandparents care for their animals full time.

She began posting videos with the animals — cows, donkeys, ducks and, yes, emus in the plural — in 2018. Her rationale: “The world is dark, and animals bring everyone joy. They’re funny, they’re entertaining.”

The first time Emmanuel interrupted her as she was filming a video on the farm, Blake was irritated and didn’t post it. About a month later, she was re-watching the video on her phone and thought the interruption was funny.

“I just posted it, not thinking anything of it,” she said. It “completely spiraled from there.”

Blake says Emmanuel’s interruptions aren’t staged. He has a genuine “obsession with the camera” — and “obsession with me. … No matter where I am … he always has to be right next to me.”

Emmanuel does not seem to feel the same way about the other emu on the farm, Ellen. She is his least favorite creature on the property, Blake says.

Instead, Emmanuel prefers the company of a little donkey named Rose. Ellen has also interrupted Blake’s TikToks to stare curiously at the phone — as has Princess, an affectionate deer, and Regina, a curious rhea. But no one has taken off online quite like Emmanuel.

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Knuckle Bump Farms mostly specializes in miniature cattle. Emmanuel and Ellen were adopted by Blake’s grandmother from another farm in 2015 and have been raised as pets ever since.

“They were about a foot-and-a-half tall when they first came,” Blake said.

And while Blake shares the highlights on her family farm’s TikTok account, she says “what you see online is literally maybe 2 percent of the chaos that ensues” there.

Now, Blake hopes to leverage Emmanuel’s social media stardom to sell merchandise with his face on it to benefit Knuckle Bump.

She has long-term ambitions, too — perhaps even a television series featuring the giant bird, she says. While wild emus tend to live five to 10 years, Blake says, in captivity, they can live 20. Some emus have even been known to live to 60. Emmanuel is “in great health,” Blake says.

“There’s a bright future for Knuckle Bump Farms and for Emmanuel and for all the other animals, and I could see this going really, really far,” Blake adds. “I am just super stoked to be along for the ride.”

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