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Reesa Teesa Is a Born Storyteller

In less than a month, Tareasa Johnson went from being a regular Atlanta woman to an internet celebrity. Johnson, known online as Reesa Teesa, went viral in February for her wildly popular 50-part TikTok series, “Who TF Did I Marry?!?” In the story, shared in 10-minute increments that spans more than eight hours, Johnson recounts in detail her six-month marriage to a man who she says turned out to be a “real pathological liar.”

Since first posting the videos on Feb. 14, Johnson has accumulated over 400 million views and grown her following from around 8,000 to 3.6 million on TikTok. She’s opened up about her relationship on Good Morning America and The Tamron Hall Show and spoken out about her hopes that her story will inspire others to not ignore red flags and get out of toxic relationships. On Tuesday, she signed with leading talent agency CAA for representation.

“It’s exciting and a little scary,” she says of the newfound fame. “It is a little difficult to go to the grocery store or even the Atlanta airport. I’m taking it with grace and humility.”

“Who TF Did I Marry?!?” took off within a few days of Johnson’s first batch of posts. “It was getting a lot of attention and traction. I didn’t know it was going to do that,” she says. “Typically, the scroll time on TikTok is about six to 10 seconds. But there was no way to tell this story in less than 10 minutes in just one part.”

Her instinct to take her time in telling the story paid off. Those following along quickly became obsessed with finding out more about her relationship with a man Johnson nicknamed "Legion." In the videos, Johnson alleges that he lied about being the vice president of a condiment company; the amount of money he had; being able to afford houses and cars; details regarding his family members, and much more. After uncovering more lies, including about previous marriages and a criminal record, Johnson kicked Legion out on his birthday, she said.

Read More: Every Development Since Reesa Teesa’s ‘Who TF Did I Marry?’ TikTok Series Went Viral

Johnson's engaging storytelling style and conversational tone garnered a wide audience. She filmed the beginning of the series while driving to work. “I filmed it during my rush hour commute to my job—which is about an hour and 10 minutes.”

Online fame has come with positives and negatives, she says, and she was not fully ready for the latter. Though Johnson did not reveal Legion's real identity, internet sleuths were able to uncover it and one TikToker even interviewed him. He’s denounced her version of the story, refuting her claims and sharing his own version of what happened between them.

But Johnson is focused on what comes after “Who TF Did I Marry?!?”

“I want to make sure that I can get this story, this experience out to as many people as I can,” she says. “Help as many people as I can.”

TIME: Is there anything about putting the story out that you would have done differently?

First, I would have done everything in my power to upload all 50 at one time, instead of in batches. I would have taken a little bit more time to be very careful on what information I released. This was done very natural, so there were mistakes that were made. I did say people's real names. I would have tweaked it a little bit to safeguard the people who were involved in the story.

You became a highly sought after content creator almost overnight. I can only imagine that’s overwhelming. How have you been able to deal with it all?

I’m doing everything I can to take it in the stride I’m most comfortable with. I have not quit my day job. I'm still going to work. I'm holding on to that bit of normalcy. I’m trying to be grateful instead of shying away from this. But it is very surreal. This is a very surreal moment for someone who did not see this coming at all.

What would be the best way to adapt your story: A documentary because there’s more to tell? A television show so that you have enough time to tell the full scope? Or a movie, a sort of one and done sort of deal?

I'm open to anything and here's why: I see the benefits in each one. I can see the benefits of making this into a book—a book can be translated into however many languages, reach however many people worldwide. I can also see the benefit of it becoming a movie, it can reach people worldwide and people can go and see the story.

There are layers to the story. I initially started this story and told my experience. But since then, other people have come out also with [their own] experiences. So it's almost like this story can be a catalyst for even more things.

It was just announced that you signed with CAA. How will that help you in the next phase of your career or plans to make more content in the future? 

I'm in the process of scheduling meetings to get to know the team, and for the team to get to know me. It's just about me being able to say exactly what I told you: I want to be able to take this story to an even bigger platform.

You told The Cut you earned $5,000 from the series, through TikTok’s Creator Fund. Given the hundreds of millions of views your videos got, that total seems low. How do you feel about the way your content was monetized on TikTok?

When I released it, I was not in the TikTok Creator Fund. I didn't even find out about the fund until around filming part five or six. So I applied to be in the fund and I got approved. It does not count for the videos that I had already published. It only counts going forward, and then it only counts eligible views. So it is a strict guideline that they have, which is fine, because my purpose was not to get money off of it. But when I saw the amount of money that people were speculating I got, my initial reaction was ‘where's this money?’ Because I assure you it's nowhere near that amount.

Your ex-husband, Legion, has spoken out since people found his identity and publicly. How have you been processing that part of it?

This kind of goes back to knowing that I put this on social media, so there has to be a level of ownership that I had to have. I’m the one that told my story. I'm the one that told my experience and I told it on a very big platform. No, I didn't think it would take off. But I knew that if enough people saw it and they were interested in finding him, they would. I think the part that was a little surprising was the exposure. It seemed as if people were giving him a platform.

TMZ reported he was considering legal action against you. What do you make of these threats?

If he does, then that's a choice that he makes. Certainly I will be more than ready to fight it, tooth and nail. Everything I've said I can actually backup and verify.

Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com and Andrew D. Johnson at andrew.johnson@time.com.