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Tunnel Girl: A Full Breakdown On TikTok’s Viral Construction Controversy

Tunnel Girl: A Full Breakdown On TikTok’s Viral Construction Controversy

From a nine-month world cruise to an (alleged) 59 million-dollar wedding, almost anything can go viral on TikTok. 

While the formula for TikTok virality may be challenging to discern, one thing is clear— TikTok users tend to favour people and content that is out of the ordinary. With over one billion users worldwide— all from different walks of life— there is definitely no shortage of this kind of content. 

Since last year, TikTok users have been following along as @engineer.everything— real name Kala—builds a tunnel underneath her house. Joining the ranks of “Tube Girl” and “Couch Guy,” she is now affectionately known as “Tunnel Girl.” 

Kala first announced the project in October 2022, and her regular updates have earned her a loyal following. 

“I am about to embark on a new and complex project. I am planning to construct a storm shelter off the side of my basement,” she explained. “It is going to take a lot of work to make this happen, and I will be posting updates.”

Since then, she has been committed to sharing videos of the process— posting everything from drilling into walls to pouring and testing concrete to extracting rock. 

While many users have enjoyed following Kala’s journey, others have started questioning her qualifications and whether she has procured the appropriate permits. 

Though Kala has provided little insight into her personal life, she did admit that she lacks the formal training for this renovation. For instance, after posting a video setting up the electrical conduits underground, TikTok users urged her to seek the help of an electrician. Kala made a video in response, explaining how she remains committed to educating herself about each aspect of the renovation.

“I realise that I don’t know much about electrical and it is not something to play around with. So, I’ve decided to listen to the experts and have professionals do the work for me…That is what I would have said if I was anybody other than me…” Kala said, before launching into a montage of her conducting research for the project. 

While she may not have worked in construction, many TikTok users assumed she was an engineer— thanks to her username. However, NBC News reports that Kala has “no formal background in engineering.”

“She said she studied business and finance in school and has spent most of her professional life working in information technology — but that her passions lie in civil and mechanical engineering,” Daysia Tolentino writes for NBC News

Aside from her professional history, many internet users don’t believe her project is legal and are skeptical about whether Kala can just dig a tunnel in a suburban area. As a result, viewers across TikTok and the r/TikTokgossip subreddit have started speculating about the legal process. 

“I work in mining on the regulatory/environmental side, and my husband works with building codes, and we’ve talked about this at length,” Reddit user jordan1195 writes. “[Kala is] looking at a boatload of fines and potential prison time.”

However, in Kala’s conversation with NBC News, she assured readers that the project complies with “the rules for building emergency shelters in her local jurisdiction.” She did not mention if she had been granted any permits. 

In a turn of events (that simultaneously surprised no one), Kala’s project has since been shut down. 

On December 29, Kala announced the shutdown in a skit. Viewers watched as Kala spoke on the phone, attempting to schedule a visit from an inspector to assess her property. She then included a voice-over conversation, mirroring the exchange between herself and the official conducting the project inspection.

“So, they did give me a stop work order and are requiring an immediate evaluation by a professional engineer,” Kala told her followers in the same TikTok. 

She then shut down any “rumours”, claiming that her tunnel extends beyond her property, confirming, “It is constructed entirely below the slab of my house.” 

“It shouldn’t be too hard to get the permits and approval… so we will be working on that,” she concluded. 

Since Kala started posting about the project, many viewers have expressed concern for her physical well-being. But as her “tunnel system” became more extensive, users also began worrying about her neighbours’ safety. 

Some have even accused Kala of building a “sinkhole” in the middle of the suburbs.

“I have had thoughts on this situation for a long time, the major overwhelming thought being how f—ing pissed I would be if an amateur was literally putting a sinkhole under the house next door,” a TikTok user named Jackie says. “When you live in a neighbourhood, and you live in a community, you have to do neighbourhood and community things to an extent… and one of those [things]… is not f—ing the whole neighbourhood up by putting a mine underneath your house.” 


I feel like I live in an alt universe with this opinion #tunnelgirl

♬ original sound – Jackie

A quick scroll through Jackie’s comment section shows that Kala has many loyal supporters. These users continue to defend the creator, even in response to (often valid) criticism and concerns. 

“Stop being jealous. Build up other women, and don’t tear them down. She knows more than most in the biz as an amateur,” one user writes in response to Jackie’s TikTok. 

“i stand with tunnel girl ✊️,” another adds. 

Screenshot via TikTok

TikTok user @thesolarboi— real name Derek— has become one of the most vocal supporters of Tunnel Girl. While some on the platform raised questions about Kala’s competence, Derek has continued to endorse her decision-making and general approach to the project. 

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“We are now assuming that Kala is the bad guy and everything she did is wrong and irresponsible. I will not stand for this Kala slander, and no, I don’t know her personally…” he said in a video that has accumulated over 600K views. “From what I have seen of Kala on TikTok, she is one of the most fastidious people in terms of learning and redoing things properly if she realises she did something wrong.”


Stitch with @Jackie I shan’t be a party to sitting by while these takes get spread to the wild blue yonder tunnelgirl kala suburbanmine hottakes

♬ original sound – derek the solarboi ⚡️

He also had the chance to talk with Kala directly, hoping to dispel any “rumours” swirling around the app— mainly about whether her neighbours knew of the project or not.

“I don’t know where y’all are getting the idea that Kala is tunnelling in under people’s houses; she is not doing that. In her latest video, she clarified that everything is under the slab of her own house,” Derek explained. “She is great with her neighbours; she said her neighbours are very harmonious… do you think her neighbours are blind [to the construction]?”

While Derek had the chance to chat with Kala, he didn’t seem to verify any of her claims with her neighbours. But Aura Bogado, a senior reporter and producer at The Center for Investigative Reporting, did. 

She first tracked down Kala’s neighbourhood, finding out that “almost all of her neighbours are Central American migrants or first-generation immigrants.” Bogado then contacted Kala’s neighbours, revealing “not one knew about this tunnel project.”

“They’re really worried about their health and their safety,” Bogado explained. “They talked to me about noise… and shaking… that they didn’t realise where it was coming from.”

She went on to note that several neighbours were afraid to report the noise, concerned about getting involved with authorities and ultimately being deported. 

“The power dynamics between Kala and her neighbours are wildly imbalanced,” Bogado concluded. “This tunnel isn’t really only about a tunnel. It’s about more. It’s about race, it’s about representation, it’s about privilege, it’s about boundaries, it’s about equity or the lack thereof.”

Former Tunnel Girl stans are now flocking to the platform, realising that accepting Kala’s statements at face value didn’t provide the complete context. Many users, including Derek, have since thanked Bogado for her work.


#stitch with @derek the solarboi ⚡️ Kala’s neighbors didnt know—and she flaunted that for her audience. #Kala #TunnelGirl #migrants #equity

♬ original sound – Aura Bogado

All that to say, the Tunnel Girl saga reminds TikTok users that virality doesn’t mean legitimacy. 

The short-form video app has fostered an environment where users tend to view things as black-and-white, quickly picking sides without doing any background research. Ultimately, blindly supporting Kala left many users unaware of the broader context. 

As TikTok democratises viral fame and turns “ordinary people” into influencers, it is becoming increasingly clear that we shouldn’t separate online personas and their content from the real world. This is particularly important when the majority of TikTok users choose to rally around a certain creator. 

At the time of publication, it appears that Kala has not resumed construction on the tunnel.

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