Duke alumna turned internet sensation Serena Kerrigan, Trinity '16, returned to campus on Thursday night to share her college memories and all kinds of advice to Duke students, as well as Shooters II Saloon owner Kim Cates.
Sophomore Natalia Hauser and junior Benjamin Chipman moderated the event.
Kerrigan gained popularity through her creation of the first ever Instagram Live reality show. The show, “Let’s F***ing Date,” streamed her virtual blind dates with 50 men in 2020, accumulating over five million views and the title of the Today Show’s “quarantine’s new must-watch.”
With over 456,000 followers on Tiktok and 157,000 followers on Instagram—on which her bio is “I’m the Queen of Confidence, and I saved you a seat at my throne”—Kerrigan’s online dating show has surely been a success, in addition to her card games inspired by the show. Her motto, “Do it for the plot,” encourages her followers to make bold choices, adding excitement to the “plot” of life.
Kerrigan went by Serena F***ing Kerrigan throughout her four years at Duke as a way to “create this new persona” that embodied her confidence. When she entered Duke as an 18-year-old living in Gilbert-Addoms, she was “very insecure,” and thus SFK began as an inner dialogue—something she would tell herself in the mirror. She pointed out that we are often quick to console others, despite being so tough on ourselves.
“It was a character that I played,” Kerrigan said. “That’s what SFK does. She makes the ordinary—not that [Shooters II Saloon] is ordinary—extraordinary. She makes the sidewalk a red carpet. She wears a ballgown to the frat party, and I did that three times.”
Kerrigan loved her time in college and was excited to be back in a lecture hall, which she joked she did not spend much time in while she was a student, referencing a “failed Rocks for Jocks test.”
After graduating from Duke with degrees in Visual Media Studies and English, she worked at Refinery29, before eventually quitting during the pandemic and becoming an independent content creator and confidence coach full-time.
In the Q&A section of the event, students wanted advice for their own boy troubles and asked Kerrigan about some of her craziest stories from college. Other audience members were aspiring content creators themselves and were curious about how to deal with scrutiny from people who don’t understand the industry.
Kerrigan encouraged these students to not let others’ scrutiny affect their own self-worth. “People say ‘You’re ugly.’ Well, I’m literally gorgeous. Thank you,” Kerrigan said. “If they’re … talking about you … you’re doing something right.”
She also advised against Duke students following the “traditional” path to investment banking just because that path is most advertised here, noting her best friend who was “miserable” working at a bank post-graduation.
“Everyone that I know who went into the very popular Duke thing, ended up leaving and following their passion, and that’s okay,” Kerrigan said. “The one thing that we never get back is time, and we spend the majority of our lives working, so make sure you’re using that time to your value and doing what you love.”
“Follow the passion, not the money, and the money will come,” she continued.
Next steps for Kerrigan include spending some time in upstate New York to write a comedy television show with herself as the lead. But before then, she will be in Durham this weekend, returning to her favorite spots from when she was at Duke, which according to SFK, is “the best place on the f***ing Earth.”
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Madeleine Berger is a Trinity senior and an editor at large of The Chronicle's 119th volume.